Monday, June 25, 2007

Eastern Europe, part III

Part I -- Collapse, Part II -- Immigration and displacement and now Part III starts off with rebuilding....

Democracy and Rebuilding:

Part of a nation's rebuilding involves fresh elections and getting a new leader in power -- democracy is seen as the magic solution to cure all problems. But democracy can be ripe for corruption if a few people are not kept in check.

Orange Revolution (USA, 2006, Director Steve York): Rating 7.5/10

This insightful documentary gives us a behind the scenes look at what really happened with the Ukrainian elections in 2004. When the final results didn't tally with exit polls, something appeared to be wrong. And then when word got out that votes were stolen and tampered with, the people were outraged. But can people change the course of a robbed election? It seems that such was the case in Ukraine after more than a million marched the streets of Kiev to strike a change.

Unfortunately, the current political situation in Ukraine is no better. What looked like the right option in 2004 didn't turn out to be so good. But atleast, history will record that for once the people made a difference. And interestingly, one citizen in the film points towards the American elections and that George Bush was not asked to give back his presidency after records of incorrect votes were found. So in that regard, it is a pleasure to watch Katy Chevigny's 2007 US doc Election Day about the 2004 American Elections. By simply placing the camera around various election booths and by following a few poll monitors, we can decide for ourselves if the American voters are being influenced indirectly. Both documentaries are American but amazingly, it is the Eastern European nation where people's choice prevails despite a complete blockade of free press and media.

Everyday Life:

Do you Remember Dolly Bell? (1981, Serbia, Director Emir Kusturica): Rating 8.5/10

An absorbing coming of age love story set against the backdrop of Sarajevo. A young man falls for his friend's supposed girlfriend and tries to save her when she is forced into prostitution. But the young man's life is further complicated by his father's illness and lingering political ideologies which hover over their household. Another gem from Kusturica!
Camera Buff (1979, Poland, Director Krzysztof Kieslowski): Rating 9.5/1
A brilliant film about the infectious love of film-making! Filip buys a camera to capture the birth of his new baby. However, the 8 mm changes his life more than the baby does. Filip is asked to film an office party because he is the only one with a camera. When his amateur film about the party gets an award at a film festival, he is encouraged to film "everything that moves". But Filip learns that filmmaking can be a very complicated and political process. A beautiful film that looks at the power of film to create and to destroy lives. Vintage cinema.....

And the music turns to chaos:

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Hungary, Directors: Béla Tarr / Agnes Hranitzky): Rating 8/10

Once again, music is a theme that closes the Eastern European cinematic look. A town's beautiful harmonical balance is disturbed when a mysterious circus arrives in town -- the presence of a giant whale and a character called "the prince" causes unrest and anxiety in the town. An evil force takes over and ordinary people riot causing havoc. The army is called in and special "lists" are made to capture certain people.

The gorgeous rich black and white visuals combined with long takes makes for an absorbing foray into a bizarre world crafted by Béla Tarr. Plenty of political under-tones can be found in this film which presents a look at how people can take advantages of certain situations and assume power. But are the ones in power the crazy ones or the people causing the riots? In that sense, the film's ending has shades of the Czech film Lunacy which raised an interesting question about whether the insane people are not the ones in the hospital but the ones in charge of running the asylum.

The beautiful music is over. Discord tunes fill the air waves. And once again, after a long period of peace, chaos returns.....

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