Posts Tagged ‘Talinn Black Nights’

The Punishment (2022) Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2022

Dir: Matias Bize | Wri: Coral Cruz | Cast: Antonia Zegers, Nestor Cantillana | Drama 85′

A small child turns the tables on his parents in this taut and discursive two-handed drama from the accomplished Chilean director Matias Bize and his screenwriter Coral Cruz.

Ana and Mateo have stopped their car in the woods on their way to visit Ana’s parents for dinner. But a heated argument soon absorbs their attention and seven-year-old Lucas is left to fend for himself. When they are ready to leave, the boy is nowhere to be seen.

Both blaming each other for his disappearance, uncomfortable truths start to surface as the couple question their failure as parents. Ana sternly calls out to Lucas, threatening him with all sorts of privations for his bad behaviour, before eventually ‘phoning the police. It’s a fraught scenario that rings alarm bells for every parent, anything could happen in this bosky backwater, and the camera roves through trees and undergrowth during one tense take.

Zegers’ Ana is ‘mean-mummy’ with her hard-faced disciplinarian approach to dealing with Lucas, and our sympathies lie with her son and his more tolerant father (Cantillana) who, at least, tries to come up with solutions. But then it emerges that Lucas is a bit of a rebel, and not easy to manage, his teachers suspect he is suffering from ADHD.

Gradually Zegers’ wins us over with her plausible confession that eventually brings the drama to its satisfying conclusion, persuading us that motherhood is no picnic; much of the time it is frustrating, gruelling and thankless.

The Punishment is a well-crafted but dour drama that could have worked better as a radio play given the monotonous confines of its setting. Zegers and Cantillana do their best to make Ana and Mateo feel authentic and relatable in a drama that proves, once again, that we are always toughest on the ones we love. MT


The Song of the Tree (2018) Talinn Black Nights 2018

Dir: Aibek Daiyrbekov | Musical Drama | 93′ | Kyrgyzstan

THE SONG OF THE TREE is a sumptuously vivid story about a woman’s ardent love for a man and our deep connection with home. Based on real and mythical stories passed down from one generation to another, it is also Kyrgyzstan’s first musical film, set and filmed in this magnificent scenic country.

It follows the story of a feisty young man (Esen,Omurbek Izrailov)) who falls foul of his mountain community over time old issue of honour, after stealing some meat, which leads to the felling of a secret tree. Humiliated, he decides to leave with his love Begimai (Saltanat Bakaeva) but after they are  intercepted, the lovesick loner becomes hellbent on revenge. 

The musical elements embellish the nomadic narrative rather than driving it forward, the songs are gracefully performed and, despite subtitles, the story more or less tells itself pictorially to those who hate reading the bottom line. And there’s plenty here to enjoy. Filmmaker Aibek Daiyrbekov tells his tale against the stunning widescreen backdrop of the Tien Shan range of mountains. But there is an intimacy to the story that retains our interest throughout and this often involves a singing vignette in the foreground.

Set during the 1800s the film really conveys the stridence and casual violence of these exotic people who think nothing of whipping their adversaries savagely and pulling out daggers, without a ‘by your leave’. There are some spectacular chase scenes on horseback – one in particular sees a horse roll over and over down a sandy valley. Daiyrbekov keeps our attention on the lovers story (despite the odd subplot) and this eventually culminates in a face-off between between Esen and Oguz (Jurduzbek Kaseivov), the man who cut down the tree and murdered his brother.

There’s nothing particularly unique about the plot line but Daiyrbekov’s directing and mise en scene and Akzhol Bekbolotov’s camerawork is absolutely glorious and visually exquisite. Meanwhile Zholdoshbek Apasov’s compositions and use of local instruments give the film a lyrical quality that adds to its enjoyment. With a modest running time of 93 minutes, this is a worthwhile addition to Kyrgyzstan contemporary cinema. MT




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