Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calgary International Film Festival 2010, preview II

Taylor's Way

A quite incredible film that effortlessly switches gears between three different genres with considerable ease. The opening 15 minutes appear to be familiar territory (girl in a bad relationship is picked up by a guy at a bar) but then the film transforms into a road journey/self-discovery story which navigates the beautiful British Columbia countryside. Yet, amid the beauty and tranquility signs of darkness start to slowly filter through. However, the meaning of these signs is only revealed in the film's final moments. A must see film!


Soccer is called the beautiful game. Now, that beauty may be hard to find on a professional or international game pitch but it does exist. Proof of that genuine beauty is provided courtesy of an American college duo who hit the road to play pick-up games in various countries. Their journey takes them to unlikely destinations such as a Bolivian prison, a slum in Kenya, a roof-top in Japan, a playing field in Iran and the streets of China. The end result is a magnificent documentary that highlights why the world loves this game and how the real passion of the game exists on the streets amid everyday people. Professional soccer players, their managers and FIFA should be forced to watch this film and lower their heads in shame. Because the ugliness of the World Cup and its negative play (4-5-1/5-5-0 tactics, dives, fouls) is ruining the game yet uglier the game gets, the more money these professional players make.


An engaging Indian film that demonstrates the hypnotic effect that cinema has on people. Some of the film’s strongest scenes are those where there is no dialogue and the beautiful haunting images (such as the recurring dream of a dead body washed ashore) flood the screen. The film is set in 1921 India when cinema was largely unknown in the country. So we witness villagers seeing cinema for the first time and observe how their views are shaped – some consider the device as ungodly while others are entranced by the images. And we even get to meet a character (Diwakaran) whose love for the new medium leads him to neglect everything around him and only focus on cinema. In fact, Diwakaran probably depicts the actions of the first cinephile in Indian history.

Cinema is such an integral part of modern Indian life that it is hard to imagine Indian society without movies. So it is fascinating to watch a film which shows how love for cinema started to make its way through Indian life.

At World's End

This humorous Danish film is a throwback to the 1980’s style of action/adventure comedies. In a way, it is refreshing to see an old fashioned film about adventure in an exotic land told with humor and a bit of political incorrectness. The actress Birgitte Sorensen steals the show and it wouldn't be a surprize to see her land bigger profile roles in the future.

Norberto's Deadline

Norberto is drifting aimlessly in life until he finds his true love in theater. However, if it was not for theater, then it is likely possible that Norberto would morph into either a Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) or a Raúl Peralta (Tony Manero). It is to Daniel Hendler's credit that he allows us to closely observe Norberto in his moments of despair and misery so that we can better understand Norberto and comprehend how someone who is just one or two steps away from a complete breakdown can still find the courage to salvage their life.

Mundane History

Winner of a Tiger Award at Rotterdam, Mundane History is cut from the same cloth as one of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films. Yet, Anocha Suwichakornpong is able to carve out an individual identity and demonstrate true talent in two mesmerizing sequences which break away from the 'mundane' everyday life scenes. The first sequence charts a journey all the way to the origins of the universe. And the second sequence charts events following the big bang towards a human birth and lands firmly in the main characters hospital room location, thereby putting the whole story into perspective. Patient viewers will be rewarded with a truly cinematic treasure.


Reha Erdem is certainly an intriguing filmmaker but at times he can be frustrating as well. While each of his last three films have improved their visual beauty, each successive work has had a slight dip in the story and character depiction. Times and Winds was a satisfying film where the cinematography was perfectly in sync with the coming of age tale while in My Only Sunshine the on-screen beauty overpowered the bleak tale. Now with his latest offering Kosmos, Reha Erdem has given us a delicious visual treat but the story is not as dark as the cinematography points to. There are hints of distrust about the magical healing powers of the outsider and a bit of cosmic interference (UFO) but the innocent love tale slightly halts the film's mesmerizing rhythm. Still, it deserves to be seen because it is one of the best shot films of the year.

The Famous and the Dead

Every now and then there appears a film that reminds everyone that there is more to Brazil than soccer, beaches, samba, favelas, poverty and crime. A few years ago, it was Heitor Dhalia's wonderfully bizarre Drained set in a warehouse that showed a Brazil devoid of these common symbols and now it is Esmir Filho's chance with The Famous and the Dead. There are no beaches to be seen in The Famous and the Dead and the film's depiction of suburban isolation and loneliness is more familiar material for American Indie cinema. Yet the setting of such themes in Brazil highlights how similar issues can take place in any part of the world, especially in a modern globally connected world where various social networking sites and blogs allow people to hide their true identities and assume another.

The film's chilly mood and atmosphere goes perfectly with the theme of death and suicide. In fact, in almost all scenes one can detect the presence of death hovering above the main character. The film also does a great job of integrating social networking sites, blogs, online videos within the story to highlight the main character's sense of isolation. Also, the transition from the web videos to regular footage is seamless. The end result is a work that is very much in tune with modern times, aspects that most current cinema seems to sidestep.

Note: The film's look and mood evokes the chilly winter conditions of Canada or Northern Europe. So in a way, the film is a perfect companion to the fall weather that greets CIFF every year:)

Family Tree

There have been quite a few films that have used a family gathering as a starting point to uncover a dark past about one of the family members (such as Celebration, Monsoon Wedding). So directors Olivier Duscastel and Jacques Martineau deserve a lot of praise for using this familiar template to make an intelligent and delicate film which manages to deliver an emotional punch. A son's funeral is the starting point for unwrapping a family secret that provides quite a shock when all is said and done. An incredibly moving film!

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