Saturday, November 10, 2018

AFI Fest 2018

Of the films which played at the 2018 American Film Institute (AFI) Film Festival, I was able to view and review the following: 

Sir [2018] [IMDb] [FiBt](written and directed by Rohena Gera [IMDb] [FiBt]) scheduled for release in the United States in December 2018 is an INDIAN FILM which tells the story of Ratna (played by Tillotama Shome [IMDb] [FiBt]) a mid-to-late 30-something widow from the villages who took a job in Mumbai as a maid for a late 20-early 30-something engineer / son of a developer (played by Vivek Gomber [IMDb] [FiBt]) who, though obviously he has a name, through most of the film she simply calls "Sir."   Since the story essentially begins with Ashwim, "Sir," coming home from overseas, distracted / angry because _he_ had just called off his wedding to someone he simply came to the conclusion he did not love, the first 15-20 minutes of the film are somewhat painful to watch because this chiseled / pampered pretty boy really treated Ratna quite rudely (in good part because he was "distracted" BUT ...).  Still as he slowly goes through his personal drama, he of course, "lightens up."  And the rest of the story proceeds from there reminding us all that one really can't "judge a book by its cover" and yet THOSE "COVERS" ARE THERE ... The story becomes a powerful reminder of the multitude of barriers that separated us.  EXCELLENT FILM and I'm SO GLAD that this film apparently will make it to American theaters later in the year.  IT'S WORTH THE VIEW (4+ Stars) 

Amateurs (orig. Amatörer) [IMDb] [CEu] (directed and cowritten by Gabriela Pichler [IMDb] [CEu] along with Jonas Hassen Khemiri [IMDb] [CEu]) is a SWEDISH film playing out in a fictionalized  town called Lafors, somewhere in the middle of the Swedish countryside.  After getting word that a German firm was looking to put-up a "Superbilly" Walmart-like "big-box" store in Lafors, the city-council decides to come-up with a "promotional video" to sell the town.  But how to do so?  

With no budget, a still rather young (and Arab-born...) city councilman named Musse (played by Fredrick Dahl [IMDb] [CEu]) comes up with the idea of going to the local high school to ask the teens to put together a film for them.  What could go wrong?  Right?  Well ... ;-) ...

Did I mention that this was a "sleepy little town"?  

So ... a number of boys in the school decide to "spice things up" by producing a (still amateurly produced, they're 15 year olds after all) _hip-hopping_ clip that looked like a trailer to an inner-city drug-gang crime drama (yup EXACTLY what one would want to show a bunch of out-of-town executives considering building A BIG BOX STORE in their town ;-).  

Then there was a fifteen year old classically Nordic (ethnically Swedish) girl who produced an Ingmar Bergman inspired SOLO piece in which her sad existential angst-filled voice-over says: "This town is SOO boring, I have no friends, nobody understands me, I just want to ..." and the town council ends viewing her clip as it shows her heading toward the bridge at the edge of town to ... the final joke being that even if she were to fling herself off of said bridge BOTH the bridge was so low and the river so shallow that NOTHING would have happened to her anyway ;-) ;-).  

FINALLY, there was the submission of two immigrant girls Aida (played by Zahraa Aldoujaili) and Dana (played by Yara Aliadotter) that seems to capture the honest spirit of the town BUT ... there still were problems: They portrayed a town that was still "kinda boring."  One of the shots in their submission showed one of the two girls' moms mopping the floor at night at the local city hall (but ... THAT WAS ONE OF THEIR MOTHERS' JOBS).  And then of the two girls, one was "a little too dark" and the other "a little too fat" with even a little bit of a gender-bending lezy vibe (but they were _just fifteen_...) to their friendship, to promote the lively, fit and classically SWEDISH "image" that the town's council wanted to portray.  BUT (eye roll) ... "HEY, you asked us for an honest film about the town!  What's wrong with our clip!  We didn't show anything bad!  We just showed real / normal people (including us) during real / normal things!"

And this then becomes main question in the film (about the making of a film): Does one portray (and _embrace_) reality?  Or does one decide to strive for some _false_, _unattainable_ and even _racist_ "ideal"?   One heck of a story ;-) -- 4+ Stars ;-).

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.

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