Saturday, June 14, 2014

2014 Movie World Cup, Group A

And we are off. The first few films of the 2014 Movie World Cup are from Group A, similar to the first two games of the 2014 Soccer World Cup.

Group A: Brazil (Neighboring Sounds) vs Croatia (Buick Riviera)

Neighboring Sounds (O som ao redor) (2012, Brazil, Kleber Mendonça Filho)

Aided by a rich sound design & visuals, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s film ensures an immersive cinematic experience. A viewer gets a ringside seat in one of Recife’s neighbourhoods to witness the daily activities of the residents, including their morning and nightly routines. Depicting the everyday reality would have been good enough, but Kleber Mendonça Filho enhances the experience by adding layers of memories and nightmares with a few smart cuts. As a result, the multi-layered film contains a subtle sense of dread but in a much subtler note than Michael Haneke's Caché. This means that even when viewers witness harmless events in and around an apartment complex, there is a sense that something sinister is going to happen. The viewer can't be passive and is instead forced to examine each frame and its accompanying sound to know what the characters are up to.

Buick Riviera (2008, Croatia, Goran Rusinovic)

Goran Rusinovic’s brilliant film illustrates how hatred can persist through generations and lay dormant until one day it is unleashed into a full fledged war. On the surface, the film appears to be about two strangers whose chance encounter leads to volatile consequences but it is clear that the film is about more than just two people. The two characters give us one example of how hatred can suddenly flare out of a seemingly harmless situation and result in bloody revenge. In this regard, the film can explain why fighting broke out in the former Yugoslavia or why other cultures/tribes are in a race to destroy each other.

Group A: Mexico (El Violin) vs Cameroon (A Trip to the Country)

El Violin (2005, Francisco Vargas)

El Violin depicts how the seeds of revolution are laid and passed on from generations. The film features three generations of a family that are impacted by the military and how each person continues the fight. Shot in gorgeous black and white, the film gets off to a shocking start with scenes of rape. The torture and violence is left out of the frame in most cases with the attention focused on the grandfather, Don Plutarco (Ángel Tavira, mesmerizing), and his efforts to transport ammunition under the noses of the soldiers. Even though this is a Mexican film, the setting and events depicted in the film could easily apply to any Latin American country where a military dictatorship crushed voices of dissent among the people by usage of rape, torture and violence. As a result, it is an essential work that can be added to the list of revolutionary cinema.

A Trip to the Country (2000, Jean-Marie Téno)

Jean-Marie Téno travels from the capital Yaoundé to the Cameroonian country side to highlight some concerns relevant to the local economy such as the decline in agriculture and lack of infrastructure and also examines attitudes related to the desire for westernization and emulation of the west. The film is highly relevant for the Movie World Cup because it depicts the infrastructural and organizational problems in African soccer. An example near the end can help one understand why why there is a dispute about bonuses with the Cameroonian soccer team before every World Cup. A Trip to the Country shows how a local soccer championship game is almost disrupted due to money issues. As narrated in the film, all local teams had to pay increased registration fees to enter a tournament where the winner would get a trophy and prize money. However, moments before the final's kick-off, the finalists are informed there's going to be no trophy nor any prize money handed out. The players are not happy but are told by the officials to play. If organizational and infrastructure problems can plague the national team, then it is not surprising to see these problems taking place at the root level of the game. Although such problems are not confined just to Cameroon but inflict many other African nations as well, thereby making it hard for an African team to mount a serious World cup challenge.


Brazil (Neighboring Sounds) 1 - 0 Croatia (Buick Riviera)
Mexico (El Violin) 1 - 0 Cameroon (A Trip to the Country)

Both the film contests follow the same results as those of the Soccer World Cup. As strong as the Croatian film is, it offered no real contest to Brazil’s Neighbouring Sounds.

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