Friday, December 30, 2016
AFI FEST 2016 - 3 - Kati Kati  / Julieta  / Wùlu 
Among the films that played recently at the 2016 AFI Fest here in Hollywood, I was able to see the following:
Kati Kati  [IMDb] [CEu] (directed and cowritten by Mbithi Masya [IMDb] [CEu] along with Mugambi Nthiga [IMDb] [CEu]) is an imaginative KENYAN FILM with a supernatural / metaphysical theme about the souls of people, recently deceased, spending time at a quite comfortable Kenyan style resort while the loose-ends of their previous lives are sorted-out ... Progressively, as said loose-ends get sorted out, they disappear / move-on to the next world. Call it a contemporary Kenyan vision of Purgatory minus the purifying flames. Still, the vision was not without its pain. Past sins, both large and small, have to be acknowledged and somehow paid-for (mostly by serving time) before the soul could move-on. The soul of a Preacher who had abandoned his flock facing a Rwanda-style massacre had to pay for his cowardice / misplaced priorities. The film focused however mostly on a woman, who initially did not realize that she was dead, and then only slowly came to understand / appreciate the circumstances of her death. The film reminds us that death comes as a surprise and that it may take a while to fully understand (and therefore be able do deal with the effects of) the why. Quite good / thought provoking film from a contemporary African perspective. What does "Kati Kati" mean? -- It means "in between." -- 3 Stars
Julieta  [IMDb] [CEu] (screenplay and directed by Pedro Almodóvar [IMDb] [CEu] based on the short stories of Alice Munro [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is Spain's submission to the 2017 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. The film is about Julieta (played here by Emma Suárez [IMDb] [CEu]), a seemingly quite normal contemporary woman with quite normal talents / gifts and failings, who as her daughter reaches adulthood finds her life turned utterly upside down for reasons that defy explanation and yet is then forced to live with the consequences and the shame. The film is a reminder to _all of us_ NOT "to judge" because we can never really know what happens in other people's lives / families, much less why. What happened to Julieta, honestly, NO ONE DESERVES -- 4 Stars.
Wùlu  [IMDb] [CEu] (written and directed by Daouda Coulibaly [IMDb] [CEu]) is a WEST AFRICAN (SENEGALESE / FRENCH) crime story about Lagji (played in the film by Ibrahim Koma [IMDb] [CEu]) who is introduced to us, the Viewers, at the beginning of the film as a bored and ambitious bus driver in his 20s from Bamako, Mali (Mali's "Second City" ...) Tired of spending his days simply driving random, seemingly "inconsequential" people (_just like_ himself) from one random town at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert to another, HE TAKES THE INITIATIVE to LOOK-UP "THE MOB" and _offer_ his "services" to help run cocaine and heroin in his "God forsaken" part of the world. And HE becomes _quite good_ at this, lifting _him_ and all around him -- his family, his girlfriend -- out of both squalor and utter anonymity to a life-style and notoriety that ought to make most Western / better educated Viewers (who'd take this for granted...) blush. This is, in part, a "success story," but ... "paid for" with an _awful moral price_ and since it is based on CRIME, it can't possibly end well.
Western viewers, who'd be interested, are paid many times over for the investment of their time / ticket price ... because one is offered entry into a world that one would have difficulty even imagining. A scene simply at a random (and armed) border crossing between Senegal and Mali is priceless (something straight out of Star Wars  or Blade Runner ), as are Laghi's eventual dealings with various Al Queda figures (portrayed in the film as basically an Islamic version of Colombia's FARC -- militarized drug dealers who've attached themselves and their "cause" to an UTTERLY RANDOM if "locally credible" ideology to justify otherwise psycho-sociopathic actions that they would be doing _anyway_ ...). A credit at the end of the film notes that Al Queda's over-running of Mali's "First City" Timbuktu a number of years back was financed in good part by ... drug money ...
All in all, an excellent West African "Scarface " of a film, well worth the time / ticket price for anyone lucky enough to find it. -- 4 Stars
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