Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Judgement (orig. Съдилището) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CineEuropa.org listing
Cinefish.bg listing
Kinopoisk.ru listing*

CineEuropa.org (S. Vahermägi) review

The Judgement (orig. Съдилището) [2014] [IMDb] [CF.bg]* [KP.ru]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Stephan Komandarev [IMDb] [CEu] [CF.bg]* [KP.ru]* along with Marin Damyanov [IMDb] [CEu] [CF.bg]*[KP.ru] and Emil Spahiyski [IMDb] [CEu] [CF.bg]*[KP.ru]*) is a lovely and very, very sad Bulgarian film that played recently at the 2015 - 18th Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.
 
The film is about a middle-aged father named Mitio (played by Assen Blatechki [IMDb] [CEu] [CF.bg]*[KP.ru]*) and his son Vasko (played by Ovanes Torosian [IMDb] [CEu] [CF.bg]* [KP.ru]*) who is in his late teens.  They live in a Bulgarian village on the northern side of the Rhodope Mountains not altogether far from Bulgaria's border with Greece and Turkey.  If nothing else viewers will learn to appreciate WHY the historical border of Turkey and Greece in this part of the world was at these mountains.  They are haunting and beautiful but also ALL BUT IMPASSIBLE except by those who for proportionately desperate reasons have need to cross them.

Mitio (and thus also his son) are in trouble.  Why?  Well, Mitio's wife / Vasko's mother died sometime recently, presumably of cancer.   Yet before dieing, Mitio mortgaged their house to pay for medical treatments that had given them hope that she would survive.  She, of course, did not.  But now the home was in hock, and ... the milk company where Mitio worked was going bankrupt.

What to do?  Mitio goes to the only man in the region who could possibly save him from losing his home, a mafia figure that the locals would still call "The Captain" (played in the film by Predrag Manojlovic [IMDb] [CEu] [CF.bg]*[KP.ru]*) recalling "his time of service" in the Bulgarian army during Communist days.

Mitio hated this man from his own days of serving under him in the Bulgarian Army patrolling the border to the south.  But Mitio knew that he needed him, and "the Captain" clearly enjoyed the mafia-like respect if certainly NOT affection that he received from people like Mitio.  He knew well that Mitio hated him, but enjoyed that he had no choice but to come to him for help.

So what does "The Captain" have Mitio do?  Well, borders are generally well suited to make dirty money.  There's always some illicit cross-border traveling going-on, at some times more than at others.  In recent years, "business" has picked up: Today there are all sorts of desperate people fleeing places like IRAQ and SYRIA for Europe.  And despite the hardships, one of the easiest ways to get into Europe is over those mountains from Turkey to Bulgaria.  So "The Captain" has Mitio serve as something of a Bulgarian "coyote," smuggling refugees over raging rivers, precipices and still Cold-War era _mine fields_ that no sane person would really want to cross unless ... unless one was appropriately desperate.

Today, it's the Iraqis and Syrians who are often desperate enough to cross the border from Turkey to Bulgaria (and hence Europe).  But as the story develops, viewers are reminded ever more poignantly that a generation ago it was the reverse: All sorts of desperate people from (all over) Eastern Europe were coming to the same mountains hoping to cross from Bulgaria to Greece / Turkey.

So WHY then did Mitio and so many people like him living on that Bulgarian side of the Mountains separating them from Greece / Turkey HATE "the Captain" so much?  The answer didn't even lay so much in the present (even though "The Captain" was a dirt-bag even today).  No it had more to do with things that happened in those mountains "in the past."

GREAT FILM!  And one that ANY FAMILY (like mine) with memories of Eastern Europe's Communist past could very well understand.


* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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