DIFF 2011 | DAY 5 | Second Wind and Lesbians in Camoby Roger Young, Sarah Dawson and Sihle Mthembu / 26.07.2011
By Monday night the only money left at the DIFF is in awards. The dealmakers with any real savvy have swooped in early and left no trace. It’s my favorite part of DIFF now, when we can hang out in bars with film makers and argue about films. The Talent Campus and Film Mart is over and the only out of town people left are those with a true hunger to see as many films as possible and talk about them until the bars close. At the Puma Awards, Eddie Edwards, winner of this years Catalyst award along with Steven Markovitz, of €50000, says to me, grinning as if he’s already in the sun, “I can go back to Ghana, work can continue.” The conversation at the DFM after party is mostly however about the film I’ve just watched, and it’s debated intensely and deeply until all sides run out of breath and whiskey. We disappear into the Durban night, looking for one last party, one last bar, one last debate.
VIVA RIVA! Director: Djo Wa Munga (Congo-Kinshasa, France, Belgium, 2010)
Viva Riva! relies, it seems at first, on cinematic tropes. It’s a realistically set but slickly shot and cut multi bad guys gangster caper film that plays out in the bad parts of Kinshasa. Riva is a black market petrol profiteer who brings a shipment in from Angola. While he waits to get the highest price he can, he lives it up, drinking cheap champagne and generally acting like he’s watched one too many derivative Nollywood films. He falls for a beautiful woman, the moll of a high-ranking local gangster. When he discovers how badly she is treated he uses his charm and his promises to win her over. While this is happening his rival from Angola kidnaps the younger sister of a female army commandant and uses this threat to make her track down Riva in order to get the petrol away from him. The threads of violence and revenge intermingle. Viva is a mélange of crumbling 80’s mansions, lesbian army commanders, shitty ringtones, burglar bar oral sex, pistol whippings, impotence and currency exchange rates in the subtitles; a B gangster move with verve and dash. But Viva deals in more than that; in it’s last third it shifts from gangster fun to brutality and real heartbreak in a flash. Suddenly Viva is not about cinematic tropes; it’s about petty criminals imitating cinematic bad guys and the price they pay for it. You desire that Riva is the victor but this is real life, nasty brutish and short, with no real pay off. In it’s second third the multi threads get a little too tangled, there are places where the violence is played for stylistic effect rather than emotional consequence but Viva Riva does it’s best at an honest portrayal of how these kinds would like to see themselves and the outcome of the mindset. That it does it in the style of an early Peckinpah but without that master’s sense of despair can be problematic. Viva only aspires to social commentary amongst the guns, girls and violent deaths but it does so with such flair that the commentary is mostly hidden.
Suddenly it is very, very cold. Perfect movie weather. I braved the icy wind last night to go to the Puma Creative Impact Awards’ announcement of their five finalists. The awards “honour and support the documentary film that has made the most significant impact on society.” The prize is a whopping half-a-million rand, and is judged by a prestigious and diverse panel. It’s great to see support for documentary work. And this is an unusual prize in that it works not only to drive filmmakers to create work, but to put it to uses that are beyond simple entertainment. If you’re interested in the films that have been selected as finalists, have a look here.
Last night was the last night for many of the filmmakers who’ll be heading back today, now that many of the bigger events are over. So everyone was feeling relaxed, having had opportunity to get to know people, and having pitched their pitches, hopefully having signed some deals. I disappeared for a chunk of the night in order to catch a film, but the party was going strong when I returned.
END OF ANIMAL Director: Jo Sung-Hee (South Korea, 2010)
Part road movie, part post apocalyptic thriller, part monster flick, End of Animal is an elusive and intriguing little film. A pregnant teenage girl rides in a taxi back to her family home in order to give birth. She shares a cab with an odd man who tells them he has no fare for the ride. He then goes on to tell both the girl and the driver various intimate details of their own lives, then warns that “angels will descend, with white fangs and claws…” counts down from ten and disappears in a flash of white light. When the girl wakes in her seat in the cab, she is alone and must find her way to a nearby rest area. But this proves perilous, as the sounds of growls and roars echo around the countryside, but the true danger lies in the enncounters she has with other people, as it becomes a dog-eat-dog game of survival. It’s every man for himself, and a young pregnant girl will be treated no differently to anyone else.
Creepy as hell, and gripping, its a striking film that I’ll not easily forget. It’s refusal to provide any real answers works holds you firmly in the grip of suspense. It’s a small telling of the apocalypse, where the viewer knows only as much as the disoriented protagonist, to great effect. It paints a less than flattering image of humankind, showing that, when it comes down to it, any sense of altruism is abandoned without a second thought. She learns very quickly, and recites like a mantra, “trust no one”. Interestingly, as an expectant mother, understands the importance of her own survival as being primarily for the sake of the baby. This maternal altruism gives her character a moral superiority, and committed edge above her fellow human, or fellow competitors in this game of survival of the fittest.
It’s not beautiful visually, but not distractingly so. It’s lo-fi and perfunctory, but it works. It’s an interesting contribution to the disaster film , since it stands at a vantage point on the ground, rather than exploiting the spectacular in a way that is characteristic of the genre. There are no explosions, only cheats and liars and cold, winter air. I doubt that it will go down as a classic. But it certainly has something interesting to say, and an interesting way of saying it.
PROSECUTOR Director: Barry Stevens. (Canada, 2010)
This year’s festival has largely been a logistical nightmare, the later shuttles and even later starts have been something that has put a damper on the mood of everyone. But noteworthy however is the decline in standards of the films in show, perhaps I’m just attending the wrong screenings. But if there is one genre that has fallen numb as result of the static it is the documentary. After watching more than seven feature docies this year, I am yet to be impressed. Prosecutor is directed by Canadian Barry Stevens. That should sum it all up.
The film chronicles a two year journey into the life of an ICC prosecutor. No I am not talking about the International Cricket council, although they would do well to have one there as well. Luis Moreno Ocampo works at The Hague and attempts to prosecute international criminals, and as this film shows attempt is the word. With almost unprecedented access into the workspace of Ocampo, the film really fails to gather any meaningful conclusions about anything. It just shows Ocampo fluidly moving between spaces, and dodging questions like a spitfire politician on a podium.
The film lacks narrative and substance. We follow Ocampo in Uganda, The Netherlands and even the Congo and for that entire journey we know very little about him and his personality or opinions. If I could count the number of times he uses the phrase “I will follow the law” surely I would never finish. The director never gets a moment of candor form Ocampo and perhaps that comes as a result Stevens own lack of conviction or Ocampo’s shrewd experience as a former Argentine TV version of Judge Judy. The only really moment of excitement comes in a 5 minute stint where one of Ocampo’s former assistants successfully smuggles out some soldiers who want to quit their militia. The rest of the film is quite grainy, there are no lessons to be learnt.
Day 6 Picks.
BLACK BUTTERFLIES (Germany, Netherlands, South Africa 2011)
ATTENBURG (Greece 2010)
RESTLESS CITY (USA, Nigeria, 2011)
DOG SWEAT (Iran, 2010)