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 us.
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 hypnotic 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 Golden 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.