Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day Twelve - LAST PART Monday, September 1

So ends the festival - not the greatest roundup this year, but some gems. The last feature film below was perhaps one of the best for me, along with Turneja and Back Soon.

O Zi Buna de Plaja (A Good Day for a Swim)

Bogdan Mustata - Romania - 10 min.
Romanian, eng. sub.
So violent and nasty that I wanted to leave the theatre. Three teenage males (supposedly escaped juvenile delinquents from the description, but never identified as such in the subtitles), kidnap a van driver and a hooker, and spend a nice day at the beach torturing and killing them. The sarcasm of the title isn’t lost on the audience, with the nihilism of a Clockwork Orange mixed with the randomness of disaffected Romanian youth in the 2000’s.

Svetat E Golyam I Spasenie Debne Otvsyakade (The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner)
Stephan Komandarev - Bulgaria-Germany-Slovenia-Hungary - 105 min.
Bulgarian, eng. sub.
Cinemoo found that this film was too “discursive” and too long. I enjoyed it immensely. A young Bulgarian guy living in Germany is the sole survivor of a car accident that claims the lives of his parents. His grandfather arrives to help him, only to find out his grandson has retrograde amnesia. A bicycle trip on a tandem bike through Germany and Italy on the way back to Bulgaria, and backgammon lessons taught once again, are the grandfather’s way of helping bring back memories, which slowly come back to him. Ah, backgammon, the in game of the late 70’s and 80’s…I used play a lot...I've seen a bunch of very eclectic, well made films from Bulgaria at the festival in the last five years.

Jonathan's list of the festival winners

Monday, September 1, 2008

Day Twelve - Monday, September 1

Alas, all good things come to an end, and the FFM has been fun. Three films today...

Be Like Others
Tanaz Eshaghian - United States-United Kingdom-Canada-France - 74 min.
Farsi, eng. sub.
To be fair, there are many transgendered people in the world that feel that they were born with the wrong gender, and seek to fix that. This is not a film abou them. This is a documentary about a theocracy that has a solution for the "problem" of homosexuality. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, by stoning or hanging. There’s immense pressure for gays and lesbians to conform, to go underground, by declaring themselves transsexual. The theocracy that is Iran made allowances for people born with the wrong gender, and what this amazing documentary shows is a few examples of young men so desiring to fit in that they’re willing to submit to sex-change surgery so they can be accepted into society. Historically effeminate gay men (who are but a percentage of all gay men ) have been singled out for abuse in a heterosexualist homophobic society, and in Iran it’s not different. Rather than be perhaps marked for death, they risk family disownment and societal rejection as transgendered women, even though some say to the moment of their operations (and even afterwards) that if they’d had the option not to go through with the sex change, they wouldn’t. A very, very sad commentary on the power of a theocracy to arbitrarily dictate who should act and look like whom.

One more short and a feature length to post!

Day Eleven - Sunday, August 31st

Lay Down in This World
Pim Braeckevelt - Belgium - 6 min.
Animated. A guardian angel tries to dissuade a man ready to jump off the roof of a building.

Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes
Peter Rosen - United States - 86 min.
For over thirty years, Keillor’s been doing a live show, the Prairie Home Companion, on NPR (for those who *don’t know, the U.S. public radio network, similar to our Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). [A side note: Stewart McClean and The Vinyl Café is a Canadian writer and show version of Keillor Canada]. Centered around his ongoing stories about characters from Lake Wobegon, a mythical town constructed around his childhood memories growing up Lutheran Norwegian in Minnesota. The show features live radio plays, a concept he gleaned from the great radio shows of the late 1940’s and 50’s, before I Love Lucy grabbed peoples attention away from radio to TV. There’s a complete cast of regulars who travel with him: actors, sound effects people, a band, and the associated production staff. Each show has hand-picked roots style folk music guest performers. He starred in a dramatic film about his show, made by Robert Altman in 2006. This documentary, finished just a few weeks ago, follows Keillor as he travels between shows and his homes in Minneapolis, and New York. Not really a biography, but more of love affair with America, the kindler, gentler one that Keillor seeks out in his audiences across the U.S. I think some of the patriotism rubs my Canadian self-effacing character the wrong way, feeling almost jingoistic, but as Keillor says in the documentary, he feels there’s some good character in the American people, something that’s been lost in the takeover of American politics by “angry people yelling at each other”. I don’t know if Keillor is merely living in the past and choosing to ignore the realities of how social dialogue has changed in the States, or he’s really got a link to a more friendlier side to the American people. 5 million people may tune into his show every Saturday night. How many of those are small town Americans and how many are urban dwellers who find comfort in the stories from the countryside would be an interesting demographic to know. His humour is gentle, witty, and cutting at turns, and regularly turns to the sentimental. Who was it who said that sentimentality is the sediment of emotion? I like Keillor’s work as I’d like a good rhubarb pie (a metaphor that’s in the film), it’s honest, and plain, as a nice change from writing that is all “haute cuisine”. What saves it for me is that he is honestly self-aware of the artifice that he weaves, even in his plain style of story-telling, and he doesn’t hide from it.

El pollo, el pez y el cangrejo real (The Chicken, the Fish, and the King Crab)
José Luis López-Linares - Spain - 86 min.
Spanish, French, eng. sub.
After watching this film (and seeing wonderful homemade paella being made), we went on a quest to find some – I haven’t had a good one in about 25 years, and Jonathan’s never tried it. Montreal is apparently not an easy city to find good paella. Tapas is all the rage now, and is a lot easier to do. A crazy, rollercoaster ride of a documentary that follows the Spanish team entered into the Bocuse d‘Or , the bi-annual French culinary competition that chefs worldwide aspire to win. Named after the legendary Paul Bocuse The title comes from the three ingredients chosen for the 2007 competition – Norwegian halibut and king crab and Bresse chicken (the famous free-range French fowl). I could feel myself getting stressed watching Jesus Alberto Almagro Morales perfecting his timing and technique to deliver exactly identical portions perfectly prepared.

Day Ten - Saturday, August 30

The Heart of Amos Klein
Michal Pfeffer Kranot, Uri Kranot - France-Denmark-Israel - 14 min.
No dialogue
Animated. The life of Amos Klein, big business man, heavily involved in the construction of the Wall separating the Occupied Territories and Israel, former celebrated army veteran ,told in flashback reverse chronological order. How being bullied turns one into a bully is the underlying message.

Hakol Methil Bayam (It All Begins at the Sea)
Eitan Green - Israel - 93 min.
Hebrew, fre. & eng. sub.
Three scenes from a family’s life, seen mostly from the perspective of a young boy. The beach, a high school outing near the beach, and the third around the family apt. and the nearby hospital. Still trying to figure out what to say about this one, other than a nicely rendered wistful look at a family's emotional pain.


Joseph Bakhash – United States – 15 min.
The story uses the conceit of an imagined future first done in An Incident at Owl Creek Brigde. A prisoner is repeatedly brutally tortured to coerce a confession. Freed and exonerated, he seeks out revenge, but he’s got a deadline...

Turneja (The Tour)
Goran Markovi_ - Serbia–Bosnia-Herzegovina - 106 min.
Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, fre. and eng. sub.
This had to be the best film we’ve seen from a dramatic standpoint, even though it’s a tragic-comedy. A troupe of down on their luck theatre actors, mostly has-beens reliving their former days of glory, decide to travel from Belgrade (Serbia) to Srobrodan, Crotia, unwittingly, just during the siege of that town, on the promise of making some money. Naïve and self-centered, they quickly find themselves in the middle of a war, with hardly anyone interested in what they have to offer. Only by their former fame and complete stupidity do they manage to escape being shot or blown to bits. A wonderful Balkan twisted tale of the inanity of war and hatred. With plenty of swearing in Serbian and Croatian (oh, how that takes me back to when I worked with Yugoslavs, to date myself a bit ;)