Posts Tagged ‘Giornate degli Autori’

Dusk Stone (2021) Venice | Giornate degli Autori

Dir/Wri: Ivan Fund | Cast: Alfredo Castro, Mara Bestelli, Marcelo Subiotto, Marcel Alvarez | Drama Argentina, Chile, Spain 87’

Alfredo Castro stars in this enigmatic and rather wistful ecologically themed drama that sees a couple coping with the mysterious disappearance of their son  in the windswept coastal resort of Aldea Mar (Buenos Aires) during the end of year holidays.

It’s a wild place haunted by myths and legends, and during a long leisurely lunch with their close friends Sina and Genaro the conversation touches on a giant sea monster that haunts the area, the couple’s plans to sell their beach house and their preparations to move out. During the meal the camera’s focus in on Sina and Genaro as they work their way through the local delicacies, and listen to Greta and Bruno’s off-camera account of what happened on the fateful day.

Although the film is more cutely endearing than suspenseful, Francisco Cerda’s evocative occasional score sets a sinister tone for the soulful storyline that dwells on the couple’s muted feelings of loss, but also on the hope that the four of them might discover what happened as they relax together on their drives along the misty coastline with the family dog in tow. But nearly an hour into the film and we’re none the wiser, as gradually the mythical stories take hold of their collective subconscious and become inextricably linked to positive memories of the son as sea and sand eventually reveals an unexpected but inconclusive connection with the dreaded monster and the truth. MT


200 Meters (2020) *** Venice Days 2020

Dir.: Ameen Nayfeh; Vast: Ali Suliman, Anna Unterberger, Lana Zreik, Gassan Abbas, Motaz Malhees; Palestine 2020, 95 min.

In his first feature Palestinian writer/director Ameen Nayfeh tries his best to stand on the fence while exploring human rights infringements caused by the border between his homeland and Israel.

200 Meters refers to the distance between a family living on the contentious wall dividing Palestine and Israel. Mustafa (Suliman) is stayIng with his mother on the Palestinian West Bank, while his wife Salwa (Zreik) and the couple’s three children Noora, Majd and Maryam are just two hundred meters away on the Israeli side of the barrier but the family can see each other during the daytime, Mustafa crosses over to work in Israel.

His son Majd is a Liverpool fan, and particularly fond of their Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah. His mother is keen to enrol him with an Israeli football team, Maccabi, but Mustafa favours a Palestinian side. Salwa is much more pragmatic than her husband who is driven by ideology.

One day, Mustafa fails the finger print test at the border facilities, his work permit has expired and he is sent back. A day later Majd is injured in a car accident and Mustafa if forced to use a team of people smugglers to get him over the border to visit his son in hospital. The smugglers take his 350 Shekel fee, but Mustafa is forced to wait until more passengers arrive.

Along comes Anne (Unterberger), a German filmmaker who is crossing over to video a family wedding with her companion Kifah (Malees). Also in the car is Sami, a young man is search of work, and Mustafa suggests his own uncle and boss Aba Nidal (Abbas), as a possible employer. But the crossing is a botched affair and both drivers and passengers are left stranded: One of the smugglers attacks Anne, believing that she a Mossad agent, and knocks her out before fleeing. Sami almost manages to climbs over the border wall before a rival gang causes him to fall and break two ribs. Mustafa’s only chance is Anne, and her German passport. But can he trust her, or should he side with Kifah, who suspects Anne of being in league with the Israelis.

200 Meters is shot imaginatively in documentary style by DoP Elin Kirschfink. And although the ensemble acting is impressive, Anne’s near permanent presence takes away too much from the central conflict given that her character is never really satisfactorily explored leaving a gaping hole in our understanding of her role. Nayfeh’s flaws are those of a new filmmaker and he will have learned a great deal from his first outing, handleD masterfully on a shoe string budget. AS



The New Gospel (2020) Venice Days 2020

Dir.: Milo Rau; Cast: Yvan Sagnet, Maia Morgenstern, Enrique Irazoqui, Marcello Fonte, Samuel Jacobs, Papa Latyr Faye; Switzerland/Germany 2020, 107 min.

Swiss writer/director Milo Rau gives Jesus and his apostles a contemporary makeover as migrant workers from Africa in his ambitious attempt to breath new life into Christianity’s central premise.

Filmed in Matera, Basilicata, in exactly the same location as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel according to Matthew (1964), and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ (2004), Rau has also assembled actors from the original dramas. Back in the early 1960s, Pasolini picked an  economics student with an astonishing spiritual radiance to play Jesus. This time veteran actor Enrique Irazoqui plays Judas Iscariot. Meanwhile, Maia Morgenstern reprises her role as Mary from the Gibson feature.

Rau lets cast and crew watch parts of the Pasolini film. Once again, a relative newcomer plays the role of Jesus (Cameroonian activist Yvan Sagnet) who really has to suffer in this no holds barred contemporary version. He is styled as the leader of the “Revolt of Dignity”, a migrant organisation that fights against the exploitation of African workers by the Mafia. The Police intervenes after a demonstration, and the workers have to leave their dilapidated camp. In keeping with the spirit of Pasolini’s Neo-realist take, tourists and citizens of Matera are included in the shooting. They play the spectators, their modern outfits clashing with the historical costumes. The crucifixion has been filmed in the Murgia National Park, in exactly at the same spot where Pasolini and Gibson filmed: the original holes for the three crosses could be used again. 

The mayor of Matera, Raffaelo De Ruggieri, was offered the Pontius Pilate role, but he declined, choosing instead to play Simon of Cyrene, leaving Pilate’s part to Italian professional actor Marcello Fonte. Particularly convincing are Papa Latyr Faye as Peter, and Samuel Jacobs as Judas.

DoP Thomas Eirich-Schneider makes everything look real and the strong cast of professionals and newcomers make it all feel very convincing. But Rau’s project to “put Jesus back on his feet” is not an overall success. An attempt to give Jesus’s story a “black lives matter ” spin – is an avantgarde idea, but a bridge too far, confusing the delicate issues at stake by conflating two very different themes. Having the crowd of Jews shouting at Pilate “crucify the Black man”, somehow takes the action out of context, and leaves the audience with some question marks. AS


Kitoboy (The Whaler Boy) **** Venice Days 2020

Dir: Philipp Yuryev | Drama, 94′ Russia, Poland, Belgium

In a remote whaling village on the edge of the world a teenager dreams of a girl he met on the internet and sets off to find her across the vast wasteland of the Bering Strait that divides Russia from America. Kitoboy brings to mind Sarah Gavron’s 2012 feature Village at the End of the World, more ruminative and soulful in tone, but not without irony in the final reveal.

Loneliness, sexual awakening and whale hunting are given a poetic makeover in this thoughtful rites of passage drama seen through ‘whaler boy’ Leshka’s eyes. Desperate for a girlfriend and living alone with his dying father, he leads a very uneventful life out at the far edge of a male-dominated community where the longing for female companionship accentuates feelings of alienation, and wonder about the opposite sex.

The internet’s recent arrival in the village puts the young man in contact with attractive girls thousands of miles away who dance entrancingly on the screen of a constantly buffering erotic webcam chat site. Leshka can’t take his eyes off the girls as they leer and gyrate lasciviously before his tender glances. Yet he talks to them respectfully in an intimate and caring way, almost falling in love at first sight. Rather than treating these semi-porn sites as lighthearted entertainment, Leshka’s desire to find love fires a feral determination to discover the physical girl behind the camera, a journey that leads him into the real world in a bleak, boys’ own adventure where reality bites.

In his first feature film as director, award-winning Russian cinematographer Philipp Yuryev crafts a delicately unusual and visually resplendent low budget action drama about an experience that is relatable for thousands of men (and women) all over the world. The drama then turns into something unexpected and alluring with an eclectic and atmospheric soundscape that resonates and often dissonates with the film’s quirky storyline. At the same time Kitoboy connects with the narrative of surviving communities on the verge of extinction in the Russian Far North, whose cultures and customs are evocatively brought into focus in this stark but richly satisfying feature. MT



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