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Posts from February 2012

Rotterdam 2012 - Dark Days and Dancing (Day 4)

Posted Tuesday 7 February 2012 by Kate Taylor in Festival Reports

I start the day with Future Lasts Forever, a Turkish feature following Sumru, a woman who travels to Anatolian city Diyarbakir to make sound recordings of traditional elegies. There she meets Ahmet a charming man who runs a small arthouse DVD stall in the market and helps her to meet and record the stories of massacres that have happened in the Kurdish villages nearby.

Sumru's motives however, are entangled in the search to find her lost lover, a revolutionary fighter, and the film treads a fine line balancing the serious matter of collective remembrance, and her personal wistfulness. It is mostly successful in this regard, and while there may be one shot too many of her sleepless nights, where the audience is invited to gaze rather than enquire, it remains a stirring meditation on who will ask the questions when no one wants the answers to exist.

After such a heavy start, watching Girimunho (Swirls) is a total pleasure. Immediately we are thrown into a street party, in the small village of São Romão in deepest Brazil, where octogenarian Maria sings and drums to keep it jumping. Grandma Bastu returns from dancing and berates her husband for being boring. When he dies the next day, she does not shed a tear.

As we follow Bastu and her grandchildren and neighbours, a picture emerges of a community of refreshingly spirited female characters. As the supernatural impinges, with ghosts and memories haunting Bastu's mind, she embarks on a journey to find resolution. Both joyful and honest, this is an affirming film that will lift the audiences that get to see it, and is all the more remarkable for being the debut feature from directors Helvécio Marins Jr and Clarissa Campolina.

Ruben Östlund's Play is more of a slap in the face to audiences, challenging socialist ethics and considering what happens when you scratch a liberal. Based on the true case in Gothenburg where a gang of kids robbed 40 fellow children of their mobile phones between 2006 and 2008, Play follows, in matter-of-fact wideshots, the story of three 12-year-old middle class children, as they are threatened and cajoled by a group of immigrant black children a little older than themselves.

Physical violence hangs in the air, yet is only metered out within the gang against one of their own who wants to quit. Instead, a string of sadistic psychological games is played out by the boys over the course of the day, inspired by a mixture of boredom and disenfranchisement. Adults are soon found to be of little use to our victim trio, and the film presents an uncomfortable schism in retribution, with a group of working class guys taking active violent revenge, while a middle class father confronts the situation through a passive aggressive bout of counter-crime.

In a parallel story on a train we encounter the protracted pleas from the train manager about items left in the vestibule area - building into a crescendo of social embarrassment to do with confronting the Other. Hell, it's all uncomfortable, and while my first kneejerk thought is to wonder if the film could be used to push forward a conservative agenda, my second is to attempt to unpack what is actually in the film and how much prejudice I bring to it - do the race, class and social conditions of the characters even matter? Certainly it is a film that needs to be discussed, particularly as it illustrates that so much of the adults' culpability is contingent on a fear of dealing with other people.

Now for something completely different, as we witness Vincent Gallo directing UFO traffic in the sky though a series of slinky hip shifts and air punches, to a snazzy electronic soundtrack. If the first 20 seconds of La leggenda di Kaspar Hauser, as displayed in the film's trailer, don't grab you, then it's best to leave now.

In a monochrome coastal town, we meet the Sheriff and the Pusher (both played by Gallo), the Duchess, the Priest and the Whore, and follow (sort of) their responses to the arrival of androgyne Kaspar Hauser (Silvia Calderoni), washing up on the shore from unknown origins with a pair of DJ headphones perpetually attached. It's an absurdist romp, mixing wild improvisation from the Sheriff and broad Italian humour from the Priest, with a love of offbeat imagery - mule rides on the beach, a giant hyperdermic needle, a black kitten covered in washing powder - infused with several scenes where they just decide to crank up the Vitalic soundtrack and have a dance around.

It's a good looking hipster concoction and would play well in a cult film or midnight movies slot. At the public screening on the gigantic Pathe 1 screen, the director complained that his film was never meant for a screen that big, and indeed while cinematic, you can also imagine a large audience for this film will eventually be online, with strong streaming potential.

Sunday evening is the Industry Party, where I meet some filmmakers, including Lawrence Tooley, director of one of last year's Tiger highlights Headshots, and the Now Forager directors, who received a compliment from one audience member who had to leave before the Q&A because the film stimulated his tastebuds so much he had to rush home and eat some fine cheese. Tips on which films to catch are swapped with Helen de Witt of London Film Festival, Ed Lawrenson of The Daily Tiger (the festival's in-house newspaper) and Al Clark, producer at Wellington Films in town for meetings at Cinemart.

Then it's onto the dancefloor for the obligatory bop to Blue Monday, which plays at every film festival party ever, and off into the night, following a day of eclectic cinema, alternating between thought-provoking and booty-shaking.

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