Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ship of Theseus

Anand Gandhi's debut feature Ship of Theseus has been getting some stunning reviews since its world premier at TIFF a few months ago. The tantalizing and thought provoking trailers have only increased my desire to see the film. Although, I have a feeling I won't get to see the film until atleast mid-2013. Of course, I hope it gets wider distribution soon...

Trailer 1: 

Trailer 2: 

Trailer 3: 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Calgary Latin Wave Festival

The Third Annual Calgary Latin Wave Film Festival ran from Nov 2 - 4, 2012 and featured an excellent line-up of films. The following nine were shown this year:

The Delay (2012, Uruguay, Rodrigo Plá)
Distance (2011, Guatemala, Sergio Ramirez)
Gone Fishing (2012, Argentina, Carlos Sorin)
Habanastation (2011, Cuba, Ian Padrón)
Heleno (2011, Brazil, José Henrique Fonseca)
Juan of the Dead (2011, Cuba, Alejandro Brugués)
The Student (2011, Argentina, Santiago Mitre)
The Towrope (2012, Colombia, William Vega)
Violeta Went to Heaven (2011, Chile/Argentina/Brazil, Andrés Wood)

I had originally planned to see atleast six films but I could only make it out to four. Here are some brief comments on the films in order of preference.

1. Gone Fishing / Días de pesca

Marco (Alejandro Awada) heads to stunning Patagonia to find and patch-up with his daughter. With a little bit of work, he manages to find her but she is not in the mood to forgive him. The film doesn’t give anything away about his past but it is implied that his alcoholism and marriage break-up played a part in him not being there for his daughter when she was growing up. So naturally the daughter has scars that won’t heal overnight. Such a story could have gotten a completely different and more serious treatment in the hands of another director but Sorin smartly uses the visuals and pleasant score (composed by his son) to release any tension before it forms on the screen. When things are about to get serious Sorin ensures that the audience gets a nice reprieve either with a moment of humor or breathtaking beauty. Gone Fishing has a pleasant relaxed tone throughout even though there are some strained issues beneath the surface. However, those troubled issues never bubble to the surface but enough is depicted about the issues to allow audience to fill in their own version of events. Overall, Gone Fishing is a charming and thoughtful film that allows for plenty of contemplative moments.


2. Heleno

The name of Heleno de Freitas is not that well known in international soccer mostly because he didn’t play in a World Cup but also since his goals came in an era before television. But in his time, Heleno was a star who scored goals freely for his beloved Botafogo club. Those goals brought him fame, money, alcohol and women. Such a combination of temptations is never a healthy thing especially for a man whose career depended on being in top physical and mental shape. Also, Heleno had other characteristics, such as his ego, which also played a part in alienating him from those around him.

Jose Henrique Fonseca has created a devastating portrayal that perfectly depicts the self-destructive habits that led to Heleno de Freitas' decline. At times, it is painful to watch Heleno throw everything away but given his personality, his fall from grace was inevitable. Rodrigo Santoro has put in an incredible performance and plays the arrogant and fragile sides of Heleno perfectly. Also, a lot of credit goes to Angie Cepeda and Aline Moraes who light up with the screen with their presence. The music combined with the black and white visuals nicely evoke the 1940’s-50’s and enhance the mood of the film.

Heleno’s story also contains shades of Garrincha who was truly a great soccer player. Like Heleno, Garrincha also played for Botafogo. In fact, both played roughly the same amount of games for Botafogo, Heleno with 235 & Garrincha with 236. Both were stars in their own time but alcohol and women sped their decline. At the height of their powers, both players were rich but were completely broke near the end of their careers. The one difference between the two is that Garrincha played in 3 World Cups and won 2 while Heleno could never fulfill his dream of playing in the World cup.


3. The Student / El estudiante

Santiago Mitre, writer for Pablo Trapero’s Carancho and Lion’s Den, makes a stunning directorial debut with The Student, a razor-sharp film that examines core issues at the heart of politics: tactics, strategy, managing & manipulating people. Even though The Student is set in Argentina (University of Buenos Aires), it is universal in showing negotiations & backroom deals part of any political process. Mitre’s films also shares some sentiments with The Storm (Kazim Öz) & Haasil (Tigmanshu Dhulia) in depicting political fires lit in universities.


4. The Towrope / La Sirga

At first, the isolated house in La Sirga appears as a peaceful retreat far from the chaos of the cities. But as the film progresses, that isolation appears less as an escape but more as a trap. In this regard, Vega’s film like Crab Trap depicts how an isolated picturesque part of Colombia is not immune to strains of conflict taking place elsewhere.