Thursday, December 18, 2008

DIFF 5 – Day 6 Roundup

17th December 2008

Yes, one of them rocked my senses alright. Of the four movies I caught on Day# 6, I can safely say that one of them is now the best movie I have seen this year - not just at the festival, but all year through. I did watch the worst movie of the year too. And quite interestingly, these two movies share a common thread. Yes, it was a day of extremes. Read on about them and two more movie screenings I caught.

Steve McQueen | UK | 2008
96 min

Bobby Sands, one of the Irish political prisoners of the British, leads his group through a series of protests against the Prison and the British as a whole. It culminates with the lot of them going on a hunger strike. Steve McQueen, the director of Hunger gives us enough time and reason to understand the character and the reason behind the protest, until eventually taking us through Sands' harrowing journey of torture, defiance and suffering. But he does so silently. The 96-minute movie hardly has any dialogues, maybe four spoken scenes in all. He instead prefers to show us actions, reactions, and counter-actions. He shows us silent plotting and silent protests. We see the wardens' emotions and the visitors dispair. But we hardly hear any lines. Images of bloody knuckles and nervous riot-police firmly root the movie to a reality that defies disbelief. You have a reasoning behind the purpose (the protests), and hence a concern for the opressed. Effectively, the movie ends up saying so much more than words could have accomplished. But for such word-starved movie, the pivotal scene is the centrepiece 17-minute single-shot dialogue between Bobby Sands and a priest. Before his going on hunger strike, the two have a conversation across a table - the camera sits at a vantage point, fixed for the length of the scene. The conversation, in content, manner of delivery, and specifically it's length, lends such fierce strength to the movie that it transcends wonder and achieves amazement & a hearty applause, and an immersive believability that carries on for the remainder of the movie. Thankfully, it does not overshadow the movie, but rather becomes the integral component to make Hunger one of the best movies of the year.

Kabuli Kid
Barmak Akram | Afghanistan | 2008
94 mins

Such a simple plot, with simple performances and a very simple execution make this one of the easiest screenings to attend. Kabuli Kid is the story of a taxi-driver who one fine evening finds an abandoned baby in his cab. Stuck with a child not his, the movie follows him for the next 2 days trying everything possible to do the right thing: Search for the mum, report it to the police, etc until the issue is finally resolved. Having four daughters of their own and in want of a son, Khaled (the driver) & his wife are also tempted to keep the child for their own. Khaled's father even suggests naming the boy Moosa (Moses, abandoned by mother & found in a basket). Eventually the movie succeeds in simplistically delivering a slice of daily life in Kabul - an episode from an ordinary man's life.

Nandita Das | India | 2008
101 mins

Director Nandita Das' debut feature Firaaq takes place in the aftermath of the Gujarat (India) riots of 2002, a sectarian clash between Hindus & Muslims, and plays out mostly from the point of view of victimized Muslims. A little boy orphaned, an aging Music teacher abandoned of students, a working-class family with a burnt home and a white-collar executive facing his fear of being a Muslim. These chronicles play along the 101-minute run of the movie mostly working as depictions of the different marks of society that the riots had scorched. Among these is a Hindu housewife who is consumed by the guilt of being cowardly and helpless during the events. The intelligent actress that Nandita Das is, she pulls out all plugs to make a preachy movie, and hence sometimes goes overboard with the 'hate' angle. Reality could have possibly been worse, but many-a-times random innocent seeming characters act out in absurd spiteful ways that it becomes a prerequisite for the movie's audience to be aware of the actual riots, its cause and extent. Also, forcing sympathy out of the audience by focusing on a child's large black innocent eyes is also exploitative - of the child, and the audience.

Fernando Meirelles | Canada | 2008
121 mins

How would mankind react to sudden blindness? Not man, but mankind. Apparently, we turn into brutal savages who abandon all rationality and humanity for carnal needs. Plausible? My biggest problem with Blindness, that walks this territory, is that it is a movie that is devoid of humanity. Understandably, the movie does not explore the reasons for the lost eye-sight, but rather explores the human condition. But in doing so, it takes an extreme view of post-apocalyptic savagery that crosses, nay, obliterates most moral boundaries. The filmmakers (in this case the author of the book that the movie is based upon) reveal a severe lack of trust in the Human element (Humanity itself), a complete disregard for logic and a vile imagination of the worst. These three elements together create a confused, contrived and convoluted storyline that is discernibly absurd. Unique visual stylization, which starts as a novelty, soon becomes jarring due to overkill. The final litmus test for this polarizing movie is one question: Would you actually rape/murder if you knew you could get away with it?
p.s.: One of the questions asked during the Q&A session after this movie was: "What did blind people think of this movie?". Well, I wonder if she asked a similar question of deaf people after Michael Jackson's demise.

Day#7 tomorrow. One year of wait for one week of movies culminates to this one day, and the last three movies. Among them, one of the most celeberated movies currently in the International circuit - Slumdog Millionaire.

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