14 December 2005

Dubai Film Festival Day 2

More film reviews, still no star sightings (if you don't count the lead actors of 'The Hero').

Another day spent at the Mall of the Emirates, not to shop, though, but to cram in as many movies as possible. Donna kept me company, so it wasn't just me and a Starbucks frappuchino during the breaks.

The first two films of the day were pretty intense, while the third was incredibly funny and encouraging. They were set in Lebanon, Angola and Turkey respectively. Hoorah for cheap film making technologies that bring the World to us!

'Massaker' is a documentary of interviews deconstructing 'individual and collective violence', according to the director. It was filmed by a Beirut-based German team who miraculously managed to find 6 of the military perpetrators of the Sabra and Shabila refugee camp massacres during the Lebanese civil war. Amazingly they got these men to speak about their training, which took place partly in Israel, their preparation and reasoning and the attack on the two villages. It was visually relentless, mainly because the device they used to assure anonymity for the interviewees was extreme close-ups on hands, shoulders, knees and other parts of the body, avoiding faces, which were also kept in the dark. According to the director this film was not meant to be a reconstruction of this specific massacre, so there was very little visual information about the events: all descriptions came from the speakers apart from some stills which were shown to the interviewees to elicit their comments. The viewing experience was deeply disturbing and focussed on those voices calmly describing unspeakable events.

'The Hero' is a first feature film for Angolan director Zeze Gamboa. It is a 'City of God'-esque story of a street kid in search of his father lost in the Angolan war; a veteran of that war who lost a leg to a land mine and tries to get back into peaceful society; and the kid's teacher. Filmed partly with amateur actors and partly with professionals, the narrative jumped between these people's attempts to re-create some normality in a land recently recovering from 20 years of war. One of the most poignant moments was a scene in a public square where children and adults queue up for the opportunity to speak to camera searching for lost relatives, to be broadcast on public television, an initiative to re-unite families torn apart by the fighting.

'The Play' was an entirely lighter and funnier experience. A documentary following a group of village women in rural Turkey who are determined to stage a play about their lives to the rest of the community. They tell their stories to the headmaster of the local school who scripts them into a play for them to rehearse. From an opportunity to do something away from the daily drudge the rehearsals become a forum for the women to open up about their personal histories, from drunk husbands to forced marriages, from lack of schooling to elopements, from mean mother-in-laws to lack of healthcare.

Top film today: 'The Play', by a long shot, because the characters were so much larger than life.

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