Invisible City

   27 May 2009, early morning

I completely forgot to write about Invisible City, which I was the last film I saw at Hotdocs a few weeks back. The film was phenomenal, so I don’t know why I didn’t say as much here. Invisible City is a film about two kids growing up in Regent Park. The filmmaker followed their lives for 4 years, chronicling their problems along the way. We hear from their exasperated mothers, who are raising them alone, a former teacher who is trying to mentor these fatherless children, and from the kids themselves. The film touches on all sorts of issues, though the main one seems to be the challenges involved with raising a son alone. The film had all sorts of well earned hype around it. I’m sure it will be on the Passionate Eye in no time.

A real review of Invisible City by Spacing.

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Calling Home and Cash & Marry

   13 May 2009, terribly early in the morning

Following Final Fitting and Tinar we watched Calling Home and Cash & Marry. Calling Home was a short film about the separation immigrants are often forced to deal with. Shot entirely inside the long-distance telephone booths of a London shop, the audience gets to listen in to the boring, funny and touching conversations people have with their families abroad. All the conversations are juxtaposed together, creating a mix-mash of language and emotion. It was an interesting enough short film.

Cash & Marry was a very enjoyable film about the immigration in Austria. Two men are on the hunt for a wife so they can get proper papers to live and work in Austria. The film is an examination of how countries treat their immigrants, and some of the absurdity that surrounds setting up a two-tiered society. Much of the film is this sort of comedic frantic romp, but throughout it all there is this more serious and bleak undercurrent. The film ultimately ends on a more or less low note. (Until the credits begin, anyway.) I quite liked the film. It’s a strange adventure.

Calling Home and Cash & Marry at the Hotdocs web site.

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Final Fitting and Tinar

   12 May 2009, terribly early in the morning

Shima and I watched Final Fitting and Tinar on Saturday afternoon, with her dad and Steph. Final Fitting was a short film about a tailor who makes the religious outfits for some of Iran’s most famous mullahs, including Khomeini. I suspect the goal of the film was to contrast the piety of the tailor with that of the mullahs he makes clothes for: one mullah is clearly living the good life, sporting a giant belly; another claims he’s already paid the tailor; etc. It’s a funny little film, but on the whole not that compelling.

The second film was Tinar — which as I understand things, means lonely. Tinar was amazing. The director filmed a young boy, a cowherd, living in rural Iran. The boy’s mother has passed away, and his father has remarried. The boy lives more or less by himself, the boy’s father living with his new family. The film maker did a great job of capturing the ins and outs of this boys life. The film maker said the movie was shot over 3 years, and that it took a long time for the boy to open up to him. (He was worried the film would be silent, as the first few months they were with the boy he more or less never spoke.) It is a very touching movie. The boy speaks of his love for his step-siblings, despite the fact they clearly enjoy a much better life than him. He talks about wanting to go to school, wanting to run away from his life as a cowherd. It is bleak. The film is shot beautifully. So many scenes would work as photographs. From start to finish it’s a well done film. One hopes the director can secure distribution for the movie. It’s well worth watching.

Tinar and Final Fitting on the Hotdocs website.

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Grandmother's Flower

    7 May 2009, terribly early in the morning

After Forgetting Dad Shima and I went for gelatos, and then headed back to the Royal to watch Grandmother’s Flower. The filmmaker’s grandmother was married to a partisan during the Korean war. After the war, she and her family suffer much hardship because of their ties to the communists. The choices his grandmother and grandfather made during the war haunt the family for generations. The filmmaker looks at the lives of his extended family, and through interviews and narration we learn their story. Though the film is slow, it’s very interesting and poignant. Each family member we are introduced to touches on some aspect of suffering, longing, or separation. The filmmakers story is essentially the story of Korea. (I didn’t touch on this when I spoke about Joint Security Area, but what really makes that film standout in my mind is that it also touches on these issues, caused by the North/South divide.) Grandmother’s Flower is an excellent film, well worth watching.

Grandmother’s Flower on the Hotdocs 2009 website.

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Forgetting Dad

    7 May 2009, terribly early in the morning

Shima and I met Suzanne and Riadh, and the four of us watched Forgetting Dad. The filmmaker’s story is a compelling one: his father was involved in a car accident that cost him his memory; 16 years later his memory hasn’t returned — or has it? Interviews with family members and old footage give us glimpses of the father after his accident. Each family member has their own take on what’s happened, some believing his account of things, while others assuming he’s lying. All sorts of strange twists make the later case more reasonable, though who would fake amnesia for 16 years? It’s an interesting story, but I don’t know if I liked the way it was put together. There seemed to be far too much narration and melodramatic music. The music doesn’t really let up for the entire film. These points aside, it’s an interesting film, well worth seeing.

The official Forgetting Dad website.

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Colour of Blood / Aka Ana

    4 May 2009, evening time

Hotdocs 2009 gets off to an interesting start. We watched one and a half films tonight, starting with the short film Colour of Blood. The movie is a short set of interviews with various North Londoners who are obsessed with blood and pain — people who cut themselves, drink blood, etc. The final interview is with a lady who thinks she is a straight up vampire. It’s interesting, a bit creepy, and a little bit funny. An enjoyable prelude to the main attraction.

The second film of the night was Aka Ana. It’s a film by Antoine d’Agata, who is a photographer at Magnum. I expected some amount of nakedness, and maybe some sex, but this film was way more explicit than I thought it would be. Way more explicit. The idea for the movie is as follows: Ladies working in Japanese brothels talk about their experiences, while we watch them; very explicit raw sexual violent footage paired with their soft intimate narration. It’s crazy. We ended up leaving early, Shima didn’t want to watch yet another Japanese woman have sex. I suppose I can’t blame her. This is the sort of film you really need ample warning about before you walk in and watch it. And this is definitely the sort of film you feel awkward watching in a crowded cinema. Some things you can’t un-see. What a movie.

Aka Ana on the Hotdocs 2009 site.

Update: And thinking back, the lady who did the introduction for the film mentioned how this film probably wouldn’t be seen on the big screen anywhere else, and made other off hand remarks that should have clued us to the fact it was going to be a whole of lot sex and va-jay-jays.

Update: This review of Aka Ana is great.

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