Reviews of Films from Around the World
It’s clear by now that SBIFF has
come to embrace its identity as a multiple-identity affair.
Hollywood folks come up to gab, be seen, and grease the wheels of
Oscar buzzdom, to the delight of the star-stricken in all of
But every year, it also becomes more apparent that the real meat
and soul of this festival is in the actual “film” part of the
equation, as a vital art form and also as a line of “other”
consciousness. For 10 days, we get big screen access — direct or
otherwise — to other perspectives and stories from outside the
usual U.S./Euro-centric system.
Three examples of that alternative viewpoint screened on
Tuesday, halfway through the 10-day fest.
Blessed by Fire
The rough but intriguing Argentinean film Blessed
by Fire dealt with that country’s brief by bloody skirmish
with the mighty Brits over the Falkland Islands in 1982. In director Tristan Bauer’s
then-and-now chronological crosscut style, we move across the tale
of a veteran’s suicide attempt in Buenos Aires in present-day and
the mud and blood and grimy reality of that standoff on the island
back when. Time is compressed in the mind of a battle-scarred
veteran, who can never forget the war, and the subtext of this film
is that, even with a conflict forgotten or neglected even in their
own country, let alone the world, the harsh reality of life on the
front line is the same for all soliders in the line of fire.
Speaking of altered time sensibilities, Ten Canoes —
clearly one of the finest films of this festival — is a fascinating
Australian film about Aboriginal life, seen as part of the Native
American subseries in the festival, which also included the
Journals of Knud Rasmussen (about Inuit life). Directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, Ten
Canoes is a stylistic triumph, laid out in layered
storytelling fashion, half truth and half myth, blessed with a
sense of being submerged in another, more native way of being.
Another highlight of the festival so far is Emanuele Crialese’s
Door, Italy’s Academy Award nominee, but without the
familiar gloss common to many foreign film nominees. Like Ten Canoes, but in its
own indigenous way, this feels like insider’s cinema — a tale of a
rural Italian immigrant family’s trek to American in the 19th
century. It’s a naturalistic rite of passage saga from old to new
world, with a prolonged middle passage through the purgatory of
Ellis Island. On another level, it is but one slice of the great
American story, the one about a nation of immigrant still grappling
with a sense of who belongs and who doesn’t.