Sunday, June 22, 2014

2014 Movie World Cup: Groups E, F, G and H

A round-up of the remaining films from round 1 of the 2014 Movie World Cup.

Group E: Switzerland (Fraulein) 1-0 Ecuador (Crónicas)

Crónicas boasts John Leguizamo and draws attention to the circus associated with 24 hour news channels which makes a mockery about journalistic integrity. But the film switches gear and ends up being a serial killer hunt film.

Fraulein takes place at a more languid pace and is a character study about three women at different stages of their life and how they are impacted by each other’s presence.

Both films have their moments and make this a lively contest. In the end, the Swiss film just narrowly edges out.

Group E: France (Holy Motors) 1-0 Honduras (El Porvenir)

The Honduran film El Porvenir made a big impact in the 2010 Movie World Cup when it made it to the semi-finals and eventually finished in 3rd place. It is a hard hitting documentary which starts by examining the prison conditions in the El Porvenir penal farm in La Ceiba and expands the scope to look at conditions in society which lead to people going to jail. The film is still unknown and cannot be found on but it a perfect example of what makes a good documentary. Also, the film is a bright example of why this Movie World Cup is vital in discovering films from around the world.

However, it is just unfortunate that El Porvier gets drawn against Holy Motors, a film that manages to encapsulate cinema’s major genres in one sweeping movie. Also, the French film was the #1 film in the Best of 2012 list.

The final score is only 1-0 for the French but that is because of scoring restrictions. Otherwise, the score might be closer to the 3-0 win that France had over Honduras in the 2014 Soccer World Cup.

Group F: Argentina (Gone Fishing) 1-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina (Cirkus Colombia)

Cirkus Colombia is one of the last films that was seen before making the cut-off for this Movie World Cup and it does not disappoint. It stars Predrag Manojlovic famous from Emir Kusturica’s Underground and his character Divko has a perfect foil in Azra (Jelena Stupljanin), his fiery and seductive second wife who lights the screen up with her presence. The film shows how Divko returns after a two decade absence to Bosnia and goes about to reclaim his house and kick his first wife and son out. The return of a man to his old surroundings shares a common bond with Gone Fishing but Cirkus Colombia is about a larger story about a nation and its people impacted by the war. While, Gone Fishing is purely a film about an individual man and his past. 

Carlos Sorin’s Gone Fishing elevates Lisandro Alonso’s lonely man theme from Liverpool and adds a more emotional layer to the film. It is heart-breaking yet soulful. Of course, given the film’s lackluster impact when it premiered at TIFF shows Gone Fishing is not everyone’s cup of matte. But in the case of this Movie World Cup, it is a deserved 1-0 winner.

Group F: Iran (This is Not a Film) 1-0 Nigeria (Without Shame)

There may never be a greater film match mismatch more so than this. The Nigerian film Without Shame is selected because it was the first Nollywood film I saw and still better than the other video productions I have seen since then.

With Iran’s win never in doubt, it is more fun to examine this contest in terms of theme. The closed setting of a house features prominently in both films but in the Iranian film, it is a genuine imprisonment for Panahi who finds a way to use every little bit of space to exert some creativity. In Without Shame, a father and son manage to make their house a prison for a woman (sister-in-law and aunt respectively) due to their repeated sexual abuse of her. The two men are free to roam the city but they choose to sneak into the house at every chance so that they can conduct their sexual acts.

Group G: Germany (Everyone Else) 0-1 Portugal (The Strange Case of Angelica)

The Germany-Portugal game in the World Cup was not much of a contest but the film competition is far more closer and enjoyable. Everyone Else is a firecracker of a film that is packed with emotion and drama while The Strange Case of Angelica is much lighter and manages to quietly convey its feelings. In the end, the Portuguese approach wins out.

Group G: Ghana (The Perfect Picture) 0-1 USA (Blue Ruin)

Unfortunately, another mismatch due to similar reasons as the Nigerian selection. The Perfect Picture was selected for the 2010 Movie World Cup because of the lack of choices for Ghanian films at that time. More films from Ghana are now available but not many more have been viewed to replace The Perfect Picture.

Blue Ruin is currently in the running for the top 10 films I have seen in 2014 and one of the best films I saw at Sundance earlier this year.

Just like in the soccer game, the American film wins out.

Group H: Belgium (The Referees) 1-0 Algeria (Rachida)

The Referees took #1 spot in the Best of 2010 list and proved to be too powerful for the Algerian film Rachida, which would have given certain other films in this tournament a run for their money.

Group H: Russia (Alexandra) 1-1 In Another Country (South Korea)

Two different genres and two contrasting styles certainly made it hard to choose an outright winner. Both films deserve three points as they are that good but in the end have to settle for one point each.

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