Sunday, September 12, 2010

Calgary International Film Festival 2010, preview 1

The 2010 Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) kicks off in less than 2 weeks time. The film selections continue to grow in technical and artistic strength each year and this year the festival has some amazing films on display, with the Mavericks competition category showcasing some of the best films of the year. Last year, Mavericks contained some worthy films such as Karaoke (2009 Maverick winner), Be Calm and Count to Seven, Everyone Else and Fish Eyes but this year's selection is much stronger than the 2009 list.

Manuel di Ribera

This visually stunning film is a fascinating mix of Lisandro Alonso and Bela Tarr yet is completely original. The lonely journeys of Manuel, conducted with the aid of boats, has touches of Alonso (from both Los Muertos & Liverpool) while the mostly grayish/dark environment and the drunken locals' distrust of Manuel feels similar to Tarr's The Outsider and Satantango. Also, the film brilliantly plays with the concept of reality by having two almost similar scenes of an event incorporated into the film -- one real and one imagined. The audience is left to figure out what the reality is.

Note: The isolated Chilean island seems to echo the island in the third short of Andrés Wood's Historias de fútbol.

The Intern

Clara Picasso's sublime film cleverly uses a Buenos Aires hotel setting as a springboard to examine wider issues, such as male-female power games and the thin boundary that exists between private and public life. Not a single minute is wasted in the film's brisk 64 minutes. Almost at each 20 minute segment, the viewer has to track back to the previous segment to get a clue as to mystery or relationship tussle taking place on screen. The end result is an engaging film.


Stand by for the one of the most brutal and dark films of the year!! The tag 'dark film' is easily thrown around but in the case of R, the tag is entirely justified. The film makes last year's wonderful Un prophète look like a feel good happy film. Besides being completely savage, R is intelligent and that is demonstrated by a clever perspective shift two-thirds into the film which shows the similar hierarchies of two rival gangs.

The Robber

A highly entertaining yet intelligent film. This film is an example that an accessible film can be made without clichés or spoon feeding the audience. The two highs of running and robbing give Johann’s life meaning and it is clear these habits will eventually take a toll on his life. The entire film is defined by fast movement, shown by Johann's marathon runs or his perfectly timed car getaways. Remarkably, the story is not fiction and based on a real life character.

Hunting & Zn

This powerful Dutch film shows how a complicated relationship can be strained when lies and a pregnancy enters the equation. Like last year's brilliant Everyone Else, this film is bold enough to look at the nasty side that exists in all relationships and thereby causes the audience to get deeply involved with the film. As a warning, pregnant women or couples expecting a child might want to brace themselves for an emotionally challenging film.

You All Are Captains

This fascinating award winning black and white film demonstrates that even an improvised film needs a structure to make the work engaging. The film's first 20 minutes feature a filmmaker teaching school kids how to use a camera. The filmmaker has no script or goal in mind and a result, frustrates his students who are puzzled by the filmmaker's motives. After the kids complain, the filmmaker is replaced with another director who gives a structure thereby letting the film's brilliance shine through. The ending of the film in color puts the whole work into perspective including the first 20 minutes. A film and filmmaker to watch out for.

Lucky Life

Lee Isaac Chung deserves a lot of credit for making a poetic film that deals with cancer in such a tender manner that one never gets the sense of impending death that will take over one of the characters. The film is more concerned with mood than specific details as most of the conversations appear to be improvised and not scripted cinema, which adds to the film's fluid flow. The film has a very cool mood around it and when the characters meet each other, there are smiles and tender moments throughout reflecting the strong friendship that exists.

Cold Water of the Sea

This Tiger Award winning film (Rotterdam) adds an artistic layer on top of an accessible coming of age tale. The parallels between a young girl and woman is interestingly shown as the two characters form reflections of each other. The beautiful landscape of Costa Rica contrasts the internal struggles of the characters.

Putty Hill

A unique and interactive film that blurs the line between documentary and fiction. The interactive aspect is executed by having the actors in the frame stop what they are doing and look towards the camera to answer questions by an unseen interviewer. And once they are done answering the questions, the camera steps back and films the action.

And finally, this year there is a Canadian entry in competition -- Snow and Ashes. It is a film that I am looking forward and is the only one that I have not previewed from the 10.

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