Since I can’t write lengthy posts about every film I see at Cinefan (because then there would be no time left to see films at Cinefan), here are a few quick notes on some of them:
Crossing the Dust: I shiver in terror when the film I'm about to watch is a “first feature”, but this was a pleasant surprise. Short, compact, very focused film set in Iraq around the time of the fall of the Saddam regime: two Peshmerga soldiers – the idealistic young Azad and the embittered Rashid – are on a mission carrying large cans of food to their associates when they come across a lost little boy. Much to Rashid’s annoyance, Azad takes pity on the child (whose name turns out to be “Saddam”, not the best handle to have in the present circumstances) and sets about trying to help him return home. Marked by the piquant humour one often sees in films from countries where people live with the constant sounds of rumbling tanks and rockets. (Of course, there can be no happy endings here, which only heightens and intensifies the humour.)
I liked the simple, poignant ending, especially the final 2-3 shots. It could have been maudlin but the director, Shawkat Amin Korki, handles it just right.
Falafel: disaffected, restless urban youngsters on the streets of Beirut late one night – zipping around on quaint scooters, partying, getting into fights, trying to score. This Michel Kammoun film wasn’t as brilliant as I had expected – it drifts aimlessly in the middle (which may have been part of the point, for it's a film about drifting), and I suspect one needs to know something about Lebanon’s political/social history in the last few years to really appreciate it – but it was well shot, acted, and most importantly, well-subtitled. Some nice family scenes and a few good laugh-out-loud moments, especially those involving a goofy character named Abboudi, and one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a long time – it involves an astronaut and a “f#!king huge falafel”. Maybe I was just in a silly mood or something, but it had me giggling for several minutes, which was a nice way to end a long day. (Also, during a scene where a character imagines falafels raining down on him from the sky, the sardarji next to me muttered, “pakore gir rahe hain?” That was fun too.)
Rekados: so-so. An earnest (how often I use this word for movies screened at this festival!) story about three generations of Filipino women, this film draws on the Latin American tradition of mixing magic realism with food. (For another such film, see this old post.) In the social stratum that these characters belong to, we are told, “a woman’s worth lies in her cooking” (when a man tells friends his wife is a good cook, it’s the highest possible compliment). Each woman has her own story, a background of failures and successes (with men and with food), and each of them develops a distinct style and a distinct recipe: for instance, a mother uses a few drops of blood from her daughter’s first period to give a finishing touch to a dish. Yum.
P.S. The film had to be re-started after the first few minutes revealed a “format transference problem”, which meant much pixellation on the screen. The audience muttered and shifted restlessly, and the director, Paolo Herras, who was present for the screening, looked apologetic.
(Coming up soon: longish post on Amol Palekar's Thang)