16 December 2005

Dubai Film Festival Day 4

Another day at the mall...

I finished early today, to have dinner with Stuart and Mark, my brother and his wife, Martina, who are here on holiday (not Stuart, obviously - oh, this sentence doesn't really work, does it?). Still managed to get three movies in, specially as I didn't have to shuttle between the Madinat and here. It was sufficient to wander out of one screening over to the cafe, stock up on coffee and wander back in for the next one.

Today I watched two very different documentaries and a super-stylish crime/love story. 'A Decent Factory' sees the filmmaker follow the manager responsible for ethical management at phone manufacturer Nokia to China where she oversees the audit of a local supplier. It was pretty straightforwardly observational, and didn't expose anything most of us didn't know before: Namely that Chinese workers, mainly young women, are not paid minimum wage; don't get work contract so they can't complain if agreements are broken and live in terrible conditions sharing rooms with eight people and always in fear of being sacked if they complain. So far so simple. The strength of this film is the portrayal of individuals like the dogged consultant trying to get round the tricks of the factory managers; the fake-chummy overseer who treats the workers with less than disdain; the English manager who passed every contentious question (and responsibility for awkward answers) to his local sub-ordinates. The tension of everyone trying to be polite while trying to hide/expose as much exploitation as possible, is palpable.

'Stroke', on the other hand, is an intensely private history, filmed by a German artist whose husband has a stroke, and the recovery process. She was relentless in her filming, even at the hospital where her husband is in a coma, at the rehabilitation clinic while he is struggling to regain use of his legs and during arguments after he returns home. In the discussion she said that she did the film initially as a form of coping, to deal with this sudden change in her life situation and to make sure that no mistakes were made. I was equally impressed with her consistence in never putting the camera down even when the situation was difficult, as well as with her husband agreeing to be subject to this intense scrutiny during an extremely vulnerable time of his life.

'The Consequence of Love' starts very subtly. Like the life of the protagonist, a quiet man living in a hotel in Italian Switzerland, nothing much happens. He goes to a cafe, suffers from insomnia and uses heroin every Wednesday at 10am. Oh, and every now and then a suitcase arrives in his room, at which he springs into action as a money launderer to the Mafia. His solitude is occasionally interrupted, first by a visit from his brother and then by calls to his wife and children, but it's not until a young waitress confronts him in the cafe he frequents does he take a step out of his isolation and everything goes out of control. The story is spare to the point of simplicity, the cast is minimal with no extraneous crowds - the town is deserted whenever we see an exterior shot, and the atmosphere is smooth and elegant. Lovely.

No comments:

Post a Comment