8th December 2011 (Day #1)
The waiting period ends with the start of the 8th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival. This year, a total of 171 movies are being screened during the festival week. It is humanely impossible to see all, yet my schedule for these seven days is as jam-packed as can be. This brings the grand total of the number of movies covered in these daily updates to 25 (more or less, as I include and remove movies from my schedule based on word-of-mouth recommendations). The “In-Focus” program of this year’s festival is on Germany, hence it is most befitting that the first movie I saw was a German movie.
Robert Thalheim | Germany | 2011
A sweet little story about non-identical twin sisters from East Germany who travel to Hungary for advanced row-boat training. The two sisters agree on everything, but when one of them falls in love with a West German boy, the sisters must agree to disagree. Westwind is set prior to the unification of Germany, and the movie does well to recreate the time, especially with the music. The predicament of the sisters becomes one that genuinely involves the audience. The two actresses who play the lead do a commendable job of bringing to the tale the grounded reality it required, making the movie an emotionally satisfying watch. This is a movie where there is no good or bad, right or wrong; just realistic characters trying to deal with their dilemma.
Wei Te-Sheng | Taiwan | 2011
Warriors of the Rainbow is a deliberate but failed attempt to make an epic movie about the warriors of the Seediq tribe of pre-World War II Taiwan. Occupied and oppressed by the Japanese, the clans unite against their common enemy for a bloody revolt that takes the life of most of them. The movie unfortunately is too long and gets repetitive, showing bloody skirmishes that eventually only desensitize the experience of the movie, as well as the purpose of the warriors. While the performances are adequate, the movie's downfall is its over-drawn one-sided propaganda-esque feel.
Aki Kaurismaki | Finland | 2011
Le Havre is one of the quirkiest movies I have seen at DIFF over the past few years. The movie is about an old shoe-shiner with a sick wife, who one-day comes across a refugee boy being hunted by the law. The movie is short and makes good use of the situations and dialogues to keep it entertaining without ever becoming a comedy. This conscious treatment of the subject of the movie shows the mastery of the director over the cinematic medium. The movie never once digresses or loses pace, maintaining a very good-natured spirit through its short running time.
Ben Wheatley | U.K. | 2011
In an attempt to make a socio-realistic horror movie, the director of Kill List attempts to walk the thin line of independent cinema and gore-horror. His failure leaves the movie as one that has the shocks (the movie is violent and bloody), but little to appease those looking for a smart or even exploitative horror. Two killers-for-hire attempt to finish a job given them, but stumble after a few kills. This is mis-mashed with domestic issues and some occultists. The movie would probably benefit with more or even less of the horror. But it manages to get just the right amount to fail.
Now this is a perfect start to a Film Festival, a nice warm-up of good and bad movies that make the next six days look enticing, especially for the lesser-known movies (like Westwind) that I may discover.