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SIFF 2013: First Week

Posted by gck Monday, May 27, 2013

Sheep movie aside, I’m on a roll for depressing movies this week. I pretty much lived at the Uptown, either volunteering or watching films. Film Count: 6. Volunteer Vouchers: 13.

(also: Jîn)
Turkey, 2012
Genre: Social Issues, Drama
Watched: SIFF 2013, Uptown
Rating: **** (out of 5)

I was worried that I wasn’t going to get to watch any films during my volunteer shifts this year! But I finally did, and it was one that was on my tentative list, so that was great. I must not have watched the trailer beforehand, and from the description, the parts that stood out to me were “vivid and visually stunning,” “forges relationships with animals,” and “evokes… beautifully illustrated fairy tales.” Yeah, that was shattered pretty quickly. Not to say that those descriptions aren’t accurate, but it’s hard to get too settled in the beauty when loud gunshots and bombings interrupt the serenity constantly. The film did probably too good of a job of putting me in this freedom fighter’s shoes. I was so affected by it that it took me awhile to calm down enough to go to sleep afterwards. I did really love the beauty of the scenery, the magic that was found in the woods and in interactions with animals. However, the violence was so jarring and constant that it was hard to describe the whole thing as an enjoyable experience. Watching this brought me back to memories of Future Lasts Forever at last year’s SIFF, which also was about the Kurdish conflicts in Turkey, but it focused on the survivors and their grief. This time, I experienced it from the perspective of the fighter.

Paradise: Love
(also: Paradies: Liebe)
Austria, 2012
Genre: Drama, Black Comedy
Watched: SIFF 2013, Uptown
Rating: **** (out of 5)

Ulrich Seidl’s trilogy is not for everyone. Though I didn’t expect it going in, Love ended up being my favorite of the three. It’s challenging subject matter, Austrian women who go to Kenya and become sex tourists, sleeping with young locals who are eager to milk as much cash out of them as possible. So much nudity in this film, and it’s the squirmy, discomforting kind where the camera stays still on images that you don’t necessarily want to see. I liked the ambiguity about who was exploiting and who was being exploited. Margarethe Tiesel does an amazing job as the main character, and the film is a beautiful feast for the eyes (in the shots when it’s not trying to make you uncomfortable).

The Last Shepherd
(also: L’Ultimo Pastore)
Italy, 2012
Genre: Documentary
Watched: SIFF 2013, Uptown
Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)

I was so bummed about missing Winter Nomads last year that when I saw that there was a sheep moving on the SIFF schedule this year, I was determined to make it happen. Sadly, my expectations may have been a little too high for this one. The main problem was that the characters and plot were too thin to carry the movie, and that’s a pretty significant statement when the film is only 76 minutes long! Still, it’s a charming film. The mountain scenes are beautiful, and it’s pretty funny to see all the sheep surrounding cars on the roads of Milan. Really, it’s the sheep that make the film, not the shepherd. This stood out as the one non-depressing film of the week.

Act of Killing
Denmark, 2012
Genre: Documentary, Social Issues
Watched: SIFF 2013, Uptown
Rating: **** (out of 5)

The person introducing the film read a lovely letter from the director that talked about how good and evil only exist in movies, that evil deeds were carried out by human beings, and that this documentary sought to show why they do them. That sets a pretty high bar for what to expect, and sadly, I don’t think it reached it. We don’t see why humans do horrible things, but we do get a glimpse at how they live afterwards. Though in the beginning of the film, all of them seem cheerful and boisterous about their acts, it’s soon clear that they are coping in different ways. One convinces himself that he did no wrong. One turns to drugs to clear his head. One seems genuinely fine with his actions. But as these men perform their reenactments of the violence for the camera, some of the defenses start to break down. For certain, this is film is unique, shocking, and disturbing. There’s a lot to talk about afterwards. But what’s the point? If it were simply to raise awareness of the historical events themselves, the documentary would have been made completely differently. There doesn’t seem to be a lesson – I think all of the viewers already understand that we shouldn’t commit genocide. Instead, we just get a glimpse at how twisted people’s minds can be, people who are still unpunished for their actions and free to redo them at anytime. Pretty horrifying.


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