Thursday, December 15, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 7 Roundup

14th December 2011 (Day #7)

The last day of the film festival featured a gem from a debutante director and an average documentary by a master film-maker. It certainly could not have been more unpredictable than this!

Combat Girl
David Wnendt | Germany | 2011
102 min

Marisa is a 20-year old girl who identifies herself with a neo-Nazi group. Practicing extreme racism, the group propagates hatred towards anyone who appears of non-white ethnicity. One day, in a fit of rage, Marisa gets involved in an incident that makes her realize the real harm such hatred can cause. Also, in an astute move, the director does well to include in the movie the character of a younger, 15-year old girl inspired by Marisa and attracted to the group – in effect telling us much about Marisa’s probable backstory without employing the conventions of flashback. Combat Girl is director David Wnendt’s debut, as well as film-school graduation film, but this fact is not obvious from the excellent movie he has made. The performances, production values, script and the direction are on par with that of seasoned directors. More importantly, Wnendt’s film, although specific to one country and about one extremist group, presents the attraction to and effects of such hatred with universal resonance.

Into The Abyss
Werner Herzog | U.S.A. | 2011
106 min

Werner Herzog's documentary on Capital Punishment, Into The Abyss is a look into the lives of two perpetrators and the families of the victims of a triple-murder crime. Michael Perry is on death-row and his accomplice Jason Burkett serves a 40-year life sentence. using interviews of the guilty, victims' families and officials, the documentary provides in-depth information on the motive and details of the crime, it's effect and the process of capital punishment. Herzog, though, seems apathetic to the plight of death-row inmate, yet concerned about the victims' families. Hence, even though it doesn't take any obvious sides (for or against the death penalty), the film sets up a sublime thought that the perpetrators are getting what they deserve. It also fails to dig deeper and ask the questions that needed to be asked - What drove the two boys to commit the crime? Why do they say they are innocent when they had confessed earlier? How wide-spread and frequent is this issue, and/or capital punishment? The documentary asks no such questions, provides no such answers, and therefore remains just a mediocre documentary - especially coming from a master director.

With that, the 8th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival comes to an end. Midway through, I was concerned that this year would not be as good as the past editions, but these last three days have elevated my experience. After a well-deserved rest for a few days the annual cycle restarts, waiting in anticipation for next year's festival.

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