Thursday, December 17, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 7 Roundup

16th December 2009 (Day #7)

Many movies screened at the Dubai International Film Festival have a Q&A session after the movie. Of the three movies I managed to watch on the final day of the festival, the last two had colourful Q&A session that added to the wonderful experiences these movies presented. This is possibly the best facet of the festival, apart from featuring movies that we would not otherwise have the opportunity to watch or discover.

After the Downfall (Apres La Chute)
Hiner Saleem | France | 2009
63 mins

The title of this movie refers to the fall Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. The movie takes place in the apartment of a Kurdish man in France, celebrating the downfall with fellow Kurdish friends, while live televised news is projected on one of the walls. The time-line of the movie is two-fold: the entire story takes place on the same day as the celebration continues in the apartment, while the projected news-footage spans months as it goes from the US invasion of Iraq, their open-arm welcome by the Iraqis and eventually to the resistance and civil unrest the US occupation caused. Although this is a smart idea, and would surely have looked appealing on paper, the pull-off is dismal. Furthermore, the movie’s treatment is spineless: the rift between the characters at the party (due to their racial differences: Kurds vs. Shiites vs. Sunnis) is touched upon with kid-gloves, and never properly explored or exploited. Instead, the director populates the movie with vulgar sensationalism of graphic news footage (real beheadings, etc) and needless nudity.

The Barons (Les Barons)
Nabil Ben Yadir | Belgium | 2009
106 mins

Set in a working class neighbourhood of Brussels, The Barons is the story of four young friends, nicknamed “The Barons”, who live a simple and lethargic life. Having no ambition in life, they intend to laze away, philosophising life. Except one of them, who dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. The movie starts of as a delightful comedy, mixing quirky and bizarre humour with the narrative (breaking the fourth-wall, literally walking into the flash-back, etc). But it steadily shifts spectrum, ending as a conventional drama. This could be interpreted as the characters growing up over the course of the movie and taking life more seriously, but it fails to resonate this through the fabric of the movie itself. Eventually, an ideal flight-movie – it has not much to take away, instead it takes away your time quite effortlessly.

Little Soldier (Lille Soldat)
Annette L. Olesen| Denmark | 2008
101 mins

Little Soldier reminds me of El Custodio, the 2006 Brazilian movie. Quite similar in mood and treatment, Little Soldier is a restrained drama about Lotte, an ex-army soldier, coping with a distorted life. Brought up by her grand-parents after her mother’s death early in her life, Lotte finds it difficult to connect or communicate with her father. Taking up job as a driver for his prostitution ring, she eventually empathizes with her father’s Nigerian hooker girlfriend, taking it upon herself to “rescue” her. Trine Dyrholm, playing Lotte, turns in a very restrained performance, letting her eyes and masculine-physicality evocate the character’s state of mind. Very well shot and presented, Little Soldier makes for a captivating watch.

And so it ends. As the curtains on the 6th Dubai International Film Festival draw close, looking back at the past week beckons a favourable smile. I was not sure about the movie selection this year before the start, but I am glad to say that the festival proved to be fertile with gems that were waiting to be discovered. 7 Days, 5 shorts, 22 features, 1 documentary. However, all is not over yet. Expect an Afterword soon!

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