14th December 2012 (Day #6)
Day 6 took me to Kashmir, London, and the English countryside. My reviews of VALLEY OF SAINTS, MY BROTHER THE DEVIL and SIGHTSEERS.
Set amidst the political conflict and environmental issues of Kashmir’s Dal Lake region, VALLEY OF SAINTS is about a young man who is a water-taxi boatman. He plans to leave Kashmir with his friend, to get away from the troubled area, but they get stuck in town due to a curfew. During this time, he develops a crush on the guest of a boathouse — a student there to study the environmental degradation of the Dal lake. Beautifully and soulfully shot, VALLEY OF SAINTS does well to keep the two issues in the backdrop, instead making it an evident reality of life in Kashmir. This works better than many other films that bring the issue(s) to the forefront, pleading you to acknowledge it. Kudos also to director Musa Syeed for mesmerizing us with his visuals of Kashmir, and specifically Lake Dal. These are not your standard postcard images, but the fauna of the region, including the dirt and pollution that they live in. It is refreshing to watch a movie set in Kashmir that doesn’t patronize or victimize the place.
This is such a mediocre film. We’ve seen numerous films, many of them at past editions of DIFF, that deal with the same subject MY BROTHER THE DEVIL deals with — an adolescent’s attractiion to the money and glamour of all things wrong, before they realize their ways and fix all that went wrong. A variation is when a younger sibling/friend who looks up to the elder one’s *cool* ways, before the elder person realizes their folly and saves the younger one from the wrong path. In fact, last year’s COMBAT GIRL dealt with the same subject, albeit set in London makes this movie have different themes. Here, elder brother Rashid runs weed deliveries to make quick money. His younger brother Mo looks up to Rashid’s *cool* lifestyle. Before you know it, things go bad, Rashid wants out, Mo wants in, Rashid wants Mo out. The film meanders around different things; midway, we learn Rashid’s sexual orientation isn’t exactly orthodox, and this becomes a short-term detour in the story. MY BROTHER THE DEVIL does not accomplish anything unique or even different, in what it has to say or how it says it.
SIGHTSEERS is a movie by director Ben Wheatley, whose previous movie KILL LIST played at last year’s DIFF (I didn’t enjoy it). And if you have watched KILL LIST, it will be easy to recognize the director’s style. This in itself is a distinction for the director, that within the span of just two films, he has established himself as a name recognizable from his work. SIGHTSEERS retains the shock, gore and violence of KILL LIST, but this time in the guise of a black comedy. A new couple (they’ve just started seeing each other) go on a road-trip date with a caravan, touring the country side for its many tourist stops. Quite early into the film it is revealed that the man is a psychopath — he kills people that irk him (his first victim is a guy who litters). The woman not only does not object, she takes it in her stride, even occasionally committing a few kills herself. All this is set in the backdrop of the beautiful countryside and innocent English tourists who become the hapless victims. The absurdity of it all provides for many uncomfortable laughs. Ben Wheatley, quite interestingly, manages to pull it all off without turning SIGHTSEERS into a genre exploitation film, and therein lies its eccentric success.
Last two days of the festival left. I already feel sad that it is about to finish. But the last days also almost always feature the best of the festival films. Fingers crossed!