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We are One-A Global Film Festival: Features

I talked about the shorts, now I will talk about the features I watched at the We are One-Global Film Festival 2020!

 

Day One

Electric Swan

This strange little flick looks at a handyman in Bueno Aires who is dragged around the building he inspects after it was hit by a strange tremor. I dug the tone and uneasy sense of atmosphere here, and I definitely appreciated its attempts at class struggle.I was even on board with how balmy the final shot is. Mostly, however, this left me feeling kind of deflated for a lot of it. I don’t really care about any of the characters, and they come off as more than a little creepy in some cases. Interesting design and I admire its distinctiveness, but this fell really flat for me. 5/10

Crazy World

If you don’t know about Wakaliwood, all I can tall you is that you’re missing out. They’re a studio in Uganda funded by Kickstarter who do these crazy, no-budget action films with amazing stunts, more amazing effects, a crazy fun narrator and a lot of heart. This particular film looks at child kidnapping, and it should be noted the kids are really good  too! It’s hard to really put this on par with something out of Hollywood, but it’s so goddamn infectiously earnest and funny that that really doesn’t matter. They’ve a great sense of humour, and it’s an engaging, zany thrillride from start to finish. Also one of the kidnappers is Team Jacob. Yup. GREATEST EVA KIDZ MOVIE!!!!!!!  8/10 for sheer entertainment

Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records

A look at London label Trojan Records and the impact of Jamaican-inspired music in England during the 60s and 70s. It’s really cool seeing people reflect on this eclectic and diverse era of the British music scene and seeing the various ways this influenced their culture. It’s definitely something for fans of the genre to track down-definitely nothing amazing in terms of presentation, but it’s a subject matter that’s sadly not as well documented as other music movements, and it’s a compelling story about a collection of musical artists that ushered in a new side to the UK. 6/10

Day Two

Eeb Allay Ooo

This is an absolutely not perfect satire of class and social hierarchies in India as a New Delhi man is contractually forced to be a monkey repeller, a position proven difficult due to the creature’s revered status and his own fears of them. You really get involved in the character’s struggles with this ridiculous task he is not qualified for and it goes to show what human  beings are forced to put up with on the lower echelons of the social ladder. There are a couple of things I find questionable with the presentation and sometimes the tone can be a bit wonky, but it’s clever in its ridiculousness and one to absolutely check out if you come across it. 8/10

Love Chapter 2 (Televised Dance Performance)

A dance routine that replicates the chaos and confusion of love, . There’s not much to it in terms of plot-it’s a mood piece about the dark etches of emotional instability. The dancing is impeccable and completely mesmerising, and the staging is simple yet evocative. These arrangements really take you on a journey, and you get a kinetic sense of mood and tone. It’s not really my thing, for sure, but definitely one to check out if you’re into great choreography and the storytelling and emotional prowess of dance performances. 6/10

Mugaritz Bso

A chef and a musician teamed up to try to find a way to make a menu into a musical experience. There’s certainly a lot to admire about them finding a tone and cadence to food preparation and what it brings out in people There’s certainly some great dishes on display here, with some great “food porn” shots and really distinctive, enticing dishes on display. It just didn’t do a lot for me, and I found it rather tedious and dragged on; it was really difficult to pay attention. For foodies and…that point where foodies cross with music fans only. 5/10

Late Marriage

A man pressured by his family to marry into a respected family gets in a messy situation as he starts dating a single mother. This exploration of tradition, class and modern sensibilities depicts this family dynamic in a real, abhorrent way. The situation the characters are put into are so unfair, yet how unquestioned and normalised these ideas are really goes to show the squeezing, suffocating mould trying to meet rather unjust standards. A great piece of criticism smartly framed and excellently shot, definitely one to check out. 9/10

Day Three

Bridges of Sarajevo

On the centenary of World War 1, a collection of filmmakers came together to create an omnibus film to celebrate the ghosts and legacies of Sarajevo, the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. It’s a great premise, and there’s clearly a lot of talent and planning went into this, it’s a shame that this didn’t do much for me? Most of the shorts were pretty forgettable and it felt stretched to fit the theme in some places. Definitely one to check out if the premise intrigues you, but it doesn’t really feel like it comes together as seamlessly as it needs to. 4/10

And She Could Be Next (TV Special)

A 2-part documentary taking a look at the 2018 midterm elections in the United States and the unprecedented amount of women of colour who ran in the race. This is a bare bones documentary that’s a good intro into the issues these women face and why they needed to run in the aftermath of Trump’s presidency. Each woman followed really felt grassroots, and that they did not know where these campaigns would go when they started, and it really gets a sense of their personalities and personal politics. Certainly not the most excitingly presented, but it’s a great relay into the power of the marginalised and what they can do when they stand strong. 6/10

Day Four

Ticket of No Return

This movie is weird, meandering, hard to follow and completely bereft of character or intriguing plot and I fucking loved it. I don’t think this film really captures the reality of alcoholism at all, but it certainly gets the mood as a woman gives into a binging depravity while a chorus of women follow her making sociological commentary. The heightened sense of importance and complete escalation of random nonsense is both beautifully depicted in crisp, clever fimmaking and just messy and confusing as all hell. I love when a movie really hits a mood of a social phenomenon so perfectly, and it’s one of the absolute highlights of the fest for me. A forgotten classic, maybe living within the fog of your mind. 10/10

45 Days in Harvar

A maximum security prison in Mexico is brought into helping to the design an art installation with 15 inmates volunteering. As they do this, they open up about their backgrounds, their life directions that landed them in prison and their regrets. It’s an interesting insight into other methods of inmate reform and whether rehabilitation is possible, but this one felt a bit too jaggedly structured and flatly presented for me. I liked the idea a lot and there are some great stories and insights, but I never got invested in the art project and it felt like it got to a place emotionally faster than the run time, maybe it would have worked better as a short. Worth checking out, just wasn’t for me. 5/10

Day Five

Sisterhood

A woman travels back to her native Macau after 15 years when the woman she raised a child with dies suddenly, with flashbacks framed around Macau’s transference to China. This movie is wonderful and so, so emotional. It really examines the struggles and relationships forged in poverty and survival, and has some great double casting where I never once question which version of the character I’m observing from either sequence. It’s sweet and subtly romantic and perfectly tragic, and you really get into the lead’s head as she tries to reconcile the tumultuous relationship she had with this woman with the fact that she’s no longer alive, and what a life she left behind as she feels compelled to help pick up the pieces. Relatable and intelligently made, absolutely one to hunt down. 9/10

Shiraz: A Romance of India

Made in 1928, this epic was one of the first films shot in India starring Indian actors. Telling the story of the founding of the Taj Mahal, it looks at a man who hunts after his adopted sister after she is kidnapped and sold into slavery. It’s a really dynamic plot with a lot of turns and reveals, shot with luscious and beautiful scenery-it really is perfectly reconstructed to reflect the time period. I can imagine it hasn’t aged well for a lot of people, and it’s not the most enthralling silent movie I’ve ever seen, but I dug the atmosphere and was engaged by the proceedings and the ending truly is breathtaking. Really nicely done restoration too. 8/10

Beyond the Mountain

A young man hunts down his father who abandoned his mother after he was born, with the intent to murder him. After an intriguing opening scene, this film just goes on and on and the more it does the more patience I lose. None of the characters are remotely engaging or well fleshed out, especially the lead who is seriously unlikeable and creepy. The pace is sloppy, and a lot of elements are introduced just to drop them with each underwhelming plot turn or contrivance it hits. It’s got a dreary, dull tone with none of the editing allowing me to absorb some impressive shots-they either linger forever or there’s no sense of scale or tension built. Really sloppy and thuddingly disappointing, I struggled through this one. 3/10

Day Six

Kmêdeus

A dancer in São Vicente attempts to evoke the local myth of Kmêdeus (translated as “Eat God”), a homeless man who people cannot track the identity of. this is a fascinating examination of a culture and people you may not have had that much insight on, combined with lush and evocative cinematography taking advantage of this beautiful island. There’s definitely moments I love, but it’s kind of killed by being a bit too long for what its presenting, and I’m not entirely wild on the positivist spin it attempts to put on the mentally ill and how they are treated. Still, a lot of great work put into this, bursting with personality and a true examination of how myths are formed and celebrated. 6/10

Volubilis

A couple in Morocco struggle to make ends meet after one of them loses his job due to his violent temper. There’s a really crisp and noteworthy examination of class and identity in this film that really interested me. Unfortunately, not much else about the film really did. I found the leads intensely flat and not very likeable, especially the male lead who goes pretty unexamined for his awful behaviour to nearly everyone around him. the focus is kind of too back-and-forth and fails to live up to the promise of its opening 30 minutes. I find moments in this interesting, but its lack of cohesion and rather predictable story beats left me feeling cold by the end. 4/10

Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy

This is a movie whose script is based entirely on tweets from a Thai teenager (note: she still posts rather frequentl). It follows two friends as they struggle to develop a yearbook for their class and ponder on where their lives will go from here. There’s something achingly real about the tone and mindset of this movie, probably derived from the source material. It’s one of those things where it’s a heightened reality but the emotional truisms really guides it. The two leads are a lot of fun together, and it truly brings you on a roller coaster that feels well lived in and pretty shocking. One of the best coming-of-age films I’ve seen in a while-structurally brilliant and authentically sound. Could have done with a different sound effect for the tweets, though. 8/10

Beautiful Things

This documentary looks at different difficult jobs that range from oil refineries to anechoic chambers. It’s a fascinating insight into the sometimes solitary pursuits of these necessities and how they shape the lives of the people who pursue them. There’s some great interview portions and the cinematography has a decent shot palette and flow of movement to stop things from getting too dull or underwhelming. There’s nothing too surprising it reveals about its subject matter-it’s really straightforward in its presentation-but it’s a solid documentary that makes you think about the things that make our planet whirl around. 7/10

Day Seven

Wrath of Silence

A miner who had his tongue removed gets embroiled in a massive conspiracy involving the corrupt landowner of the nearby area after his son goes missing. While there are certainly things to enjoy about this moody little thriller-it’s got some amazing shot compositions and I really enjoyed the subplot involving the lawyer, probably the most complex character in the film-it really doesn’t do a lot to differentiate itself from a lot of thrillers in its vain. It’s certainly competent and entertaining throughout (cool car chase, as well), but I felt the plots get way too jumbled and there’s a particularly annoying plot twist at the end that involves the film essentially lying to you to pull off. Check it if you’re into these kinds of thrillers, but it’s not one that will stick with you after initial watch. 5/10

Dantza

This movie is one massive dance number that reaches over a quiet Spanish town and I absolutely was enthralled. It’s a great celebration of life and its wonders, but manages to keep your engagement with complex arrangements and lush, energetic camerawork that glides and dives into this world. It’s another state of emotional truism, but in a much more poetic and upbeat sense, and with a lot of the movies in this list taking a more cynically observant approach it was nice to just let loose and really dig into the joys and beauties of the world. A very life-affirming experience, one you can tap your toes to. 8/10

Grab

This barely under an hour long documentary looks at a tradition called Grab Day in the villages of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe. Another fun little insight into a local tradition, it doesn’t entirely feel it outstays its welcome, but at the same time it’s not entirely interesting enough to be something with this much focus. It shows some local stories and none of them are a drag, but I found my interest wane outside of it being a really cool little cultural landmark in a varied complex world I’m certainly not attuned to. It has its charms, but one that would be a lot more fascinating to witness in person than on screen. 5/10

 

Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops

A theatre troupe attempt to put on a controversial show that gets cancelled last minute, but they continue to practise anyway. There’s a fun blurred lines aspect here and the cinematography is clever, but I found it hard to engage with this one and it left me kind of flat. None of the characters are interesting enough and it’s a bit way too melodramatic for the premise, and it’s not out there enough to justify this weight. It’s an interesting premise as a look at performance and finding your place, but little about it is enthralling and nothing in the casts’ performances or its composition really stood out for me, where it feels a bit all flash and no pizzazz. 4/10

The Epic of Everest

This documentary shows a group of explorers attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1924. There are some gorgeous shots you really question how they managed to capture with antiquated filming equipment. There’s a clever incorporation of the Tibetan people and their own relationship with the mountain, and given how these expeditions wouldn’t have been mainstream at the time it truly examines whether making such a quest is worthwhile given the absolute certain dangers it puts its climbers in. A stunning recreation capturing both the dangers and rewards of this epic location, it’s a grand historical relic well worth the exploration. 7/10

Wake Up: Stories From the Frontlines of Suicide Prevention

This documentary looks into the complex, and sadly all too prevalent, world of suicide prevention in the United States. Covering topics from trans acceptance to veteran PTSD, this is a well-made and affirming examination of a topic needed to be pushed out there and important in the saving of so many lives. The stories can be tragic and heavy, but also positive and really showing that suicide attempts are not just something you survive from but live after in a way that should not define you. It’s pretty traditionally shot and doesn’t do anything wild with the presentation, but it’s important and engaging enough to get a rec. from me. Certainly something we all need to consider and discuss. 6/10

Day Eight

Mabo (TV Movie)

This film tells the true life story of Eddie Koiki Mabo, who made history in Australia with his fight for Australian land rights. His story is amazing and truly inspiring, but this film does not depict it in the most compelling way outside of the lead doing a damn great job. It’s got some pretty tawdry and on-the-nose writing and it really drags in the first act. It doesn’t do anything interesting with its location or history, and I wish I felt a stronger connection with Mabo’s family despite him and his wife’s marriage getting a lot of screentime. You kind of don’t notice at all how much time actually passes in this case, which is an important plot point. I think the true life story is great, and I appreciate the movie letting me know about it, but as a film it left me cold and I won’t remember much else about that. 3/10

SEE Factory Sarajevo mon amour

Another Sarajevo-based anthology film! This one having a lot more focus, looking at motherhood and the various facets this contains. Like with a lot of anthology pieces, there are stories you will like more than not-I particularly dug the one of the belligerent older woman at a graveyard with her exasperated daughter. They’re slickly produced, well shot, and while they can be difficult for me to get into at times, it’s a pretty successful anthology despite all five shorts only making up the bones of an hour. Very economical storytelling that doesn’t outstay its welcome-very little else you can ask for in projects like this. 6/10

Los Pasos Dobles

This film recreates the journey of François Augiéras, who painted fresco in an abandoned army bunker in the Sahara and left it to sink. This is more a mood piece that recreates his life in a more metaphorical than literal sense. There are parts of it I really dug, but mostly I felt its cinematography was difficult to follow in places, and it’s meandering aimlessness is not consistent or tight enough to keep their thematic and narrative focus at bay. Maybe if you have more insight into Augiéras and his work this would hit you better, but I couldn’t really get into its style or tone and it left me pretty cold. 4/10

Day Nine

A City Called Macau

A tense character drama looks at the rise and fall of Macau’s gambling empire after its transference to China in the early 2000s. It centres around a client servicing manager and her relationship to a affluent gambler and a gambling addicted artist who she forms a romantic entanglement with. It has an interesting framing device and the characters are rich and compelling enough to keep your interest. The story tends to meander on one plot element for a bit too long leaving others undercooked, and nothing about the presentation is really much to write home about. However, it’s an interesting metaphor about Macau’s gambling culture and its disarray after China’s crackdown, and definitely something that keeps your interest throughout. 6/10

Nasir

A street salesman tries to focus on his passionate love letters to his wife as he struggles to raise his family and fight discrimination based on his Islamic fate in a largely Hindu region. This story is sweet and simple and tackles a lot of complex ideas about religious persecution and struggling to find your place in the world. The cast are universally strong, and it has a nice rhythm and tension to keep you guessing up until the rather surprising ending-that final shot does stay with you. Just how much Nasir is reminded of his place in the world, both economically and religiously, really dives home how everything is out to get him, but he keeps his sense of idealised romanticism and it’s truly inspiring in such harsh times. A subtly woven effortlessly humanistic piece. 8/10

Air Conditioner

A man in Angola wanders the town to get an air conditioner repaired during a strange phenomena where they appear to be falling out of their scaffolding. Absolutely moving to its own beat, literally in some cases, Air Conditioner is distinctly its own thing as it glides smoothly and observantly through this incredibly menial and irritating job trying to appease an ill-tempered boss. It truly understand workplace dynamics and is socially conscious in way most films can only dream of. Great sound design, easygoing yet relatable characters, and stuffed to the brim with cool atmosphere covering some heated issues that surround this quiet yet bustling capital. Absolute must-see. 9/10

Adela Has Not Had Supper Yet

This Czech comedy is an oddity to behold, combining old-fashioned Holmesian mystery stories with bizarre pulpy B-movie creature features, the most obvious influence being the Roger Corman version of Little Shop of Horrors. Distinctive and truly inspired, with some impressive effects and really fun and silly set pieces and character dynamics. While nothing about it is wholly original on premise, and it’s not as funny as one would expect, it’s got such a standout surreal charm and is a perfect blend of absurdist comedy, Victorian-style murder mystery and balmy monster mashing feature. It’s a triple feature all rolled into one with lush production design and really likeable characters. 7/10

Day 10

Mystery Road

A body is discovered in a truck on the Australian highway, causing the local police to investigate the predicated drug issue that permeates the local area largely ignored by indifferent law enforcement and the jaded, broken populous. This has a certain moodiness that makes it intriguing, but these kinds of weary, nihilistic thrillers are a dime-a-dozen and this doesn’t really do anything with the premise that rings as surprising or unique. The drama between the lead and his family is haphazard and sloppily thrown in there to give the story broader stakes. Hugo Weaving has a fun role here, though his character is a bit too enigmatic for his own good and his role in the story is pretty arbitrary. Maybe if you’re a fan of this kind of film it’ll do more for you-it certainly takes advantage of the beautiful Australian outback-but it left me as empty and unfulfilled as the people it depicts. 5/10

Rosalinda

This one was listed as a short, but it technically runs over feature length time (albeit barely) so here it is. This looks at an acting troupe rehearsing for an adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It as the actress who’s playing Rosalind was recently broken up with. It’s a decent enough set up, but it felt really meandering and not evocative enough for me to really connect to what it was attempting to do with the characters and their internal struggles brought to life. The scenery is nice and it’s shot in an engaging enough way, but I never feel any connection to what the characters are doing and feeling and it left me really cold. I guess I just don’t connect to stories about actors losing themselves in their characters, but I’m once again lost at this kind of premise, and that’s where I remained as we close this festival out. 4/10

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