Wednesday, June 09, 2010

2010 Movie World Cup, Group C

Group C -- England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia

Films: Of Time and the City, Ballast, Daughter of Keltoum, How I Killed a Saint

England: Of Time and the City (2008, Terence Davies)

Terence Davies pays tribute to his home city Liverpool in this autobiographical documentary. The film is a blend of newsreel and archival footage accompanied to Davies' mesmerizing voice. Unfortunately, the end product has no fixed pattern and drifts as per Davies' memory. So the recollections feature some pleasant memories mixed with some angry recollections but not everything is engaging.

USA: Ballast (2008, Lance Hammer)

Lance Hammer's fine debut film is a poetic look at a family's ability to cope with a tragedy. The film starts off in dark circumstances and eases up gradually presenting a tiny glimmer of hope for a better future by the end. The cinematography perfectly captures the grim circumstances and Hammer is brave enough to let the images speak for themselves, without pausing to explain anything. In fact, the film plunges head first into the tragedy with no build up. After that opening sequence, we see events unfold without any unnecessary flashbacks and as a result, the film is able to maintain a consistent powerful flow throughout.

Algeria: Daughter of Keltoum (2001, Mehdi Charef)

Rallia (Cylia Malki) goes to an Algerian village to find her biological mother but her trip ends up being a brave journey across the Algerian landscape filled with danger in the form of Resistance fighters and violence related to oppression of women. What unfolds is an emotional tale about poverty, survival and strength required to take all the punches and carry on. Cylia Malki's pleasant face perfectly depicts the complex emotions required of her character who moves from innocence to defiance to anger especially at the beliefs around her. And when all the emotions have exploded, there are much needed tears to heal and repair the damaged bonds.

Note: The political, social and religious tugs in Algerian life along with violence against women have been present in one form or the other in the last few Algerian films I have seen such as Enough and Rachida. That trend continues in Daughter of Keltoum. At first, Daughter of Keltoum appears to be free from any political depiction but as Rallia leaves the village, resistance fighters make an appearance followed by issues of head covering and violence against women.

Slovenia: How I Killed a Saint (2004, Teona Strugar Mitevska)

How I Killed a Saint is a Slovenian co-production set in Macedonia and uses a brother and sister's differing life paths to depict a society wrapped up in civil war. The bubbling anger and frustration experienced by the brother could easily apply to that felt by other citizens of Eastern European nations at their country's situation and presence of foreign troops. The brother joins a political movement and decides he will take matter into his own hands to do something for his national cause but he does not realize that his violent actions will have a consequence close to home.

Standings and Points (Maximum out of 9)

Ballast: 9
Daugther of Keltoum: 7
How I Killed a Saint: 6
Of Time and the City: 5

For me the biggest disappointment was Of Time and the City. The film has been critically praised and I bought into that hype making this the first selection of my movie festival. Also, since Davies is an auteur, I felt the selection was a no brainer. Unfortunately, I found the film hugely disappointing and one of the poorest selections out of the 32.

In a way, the selection of Of Time and the City and its disappointing end result is reflective of the English soccer team. The English media hype their team up time and time again expecting them to win the World Cup yet the English team has been very tactically weak over the last decade and that is reflected in the poor on-field results. Yes, in theory penalties have cost England in the 1998 & 2006 tournaments but those kicks only mask the incorrect tactical formations and the unimaginative display of the team. In 2002, England were a man up against Brazil in the Quarter-Finals but could not muster even a decent chance in the second half and simply faded away. Fatigue might have been a factor but something also has to be said for which players were picked and which were left out.

Soccer Group prediction

For me, this is weakest of the 8 groups in the World Cup. Despite all their shortcomings, England will comfortably advance from this group along with USA. The big question will be whether the US can beat England to the group's #1 spot. Algeria did well to overcome their bitter rivals and African Champions Egypt to qualify for the world cup but it is hard to expect any upsets from this squad like that from the 1982 Algerian team who beat West Germany and Chile 1-0 and 3-2 respectively and were then unfairly robbed from advancing from the group stages when Germany and Austria conspired to a 1-0 result.


Brown Country said...

Your analysis of England is bang on target. Everybody is blaming only Green for yesterday's draw. But USA played really well to earn the draw, and England lost its way after the early flourish.

Sachin said...

Thanks. Prior to kick-off, I kept thinking this game had 1-1 written all over it but I thought there was a very good chance that USA could use its pace to beat England. In the game, if the US had taken just one of their chances better, then England would not have come back as they looked tired and jaded in the second half.

And yes in typical English fashion, they will blame Green endlessly without stopping to ask the bigger questions about why their teams have played so poorly in recent tournaments. There have been diff managers over the last few tournaments yet the teams have looked jaded, tired and lacking any ideas. Does the long tiring English league season wear the players out? Or are the players not just good enough? The media won't provide any answers but just scape-goats. Today is it Green, tomorrow it will be their manager.