This is the first guest contribution by Moen Mohamed. – D.D. The Top Five of BAFICI 2012:
BLOOD OF MY BLOOD (Joao Canijo, Portugal)
The best film I saw at the festival and a major discovery. In fact the 2 best films of the festival just happen to be Portuguese. Blood of my Blood is 193m long and feels much shorter. It is about a Lisbon family from the ghetto and their many, many family issues. Label it Kitchen Sink Portuguese style, soap opera, melodrama or any other facsimile, I think this film is inventive, original and unforgettable. And then we have the performances. These actors own their roles. It is hard to believe that all these people are not actually playing themselves. One of the best films I have seen in a long time.
IT'S ON EARTH, NOT ON THE MOON (Goncalo Tocha, Portugal)
A song for the soul. A poem of nostalgia for the human spirit. Goncalo Tocha's 194m documentary about the island of Corvo in the Azores, is to be felt and not watched. It is that kind of film. You will find this film with its incorrectly translated title of It's The Earth, not the Moon. The original title is about the location of the island, as people over the centuries seem to have forgotten it exists.
NOSILATIAJ (BEAUTY) (Daniela Seggiaro, Argentina)
A young indigenous girl, works as a maid for a white family. No, she is not abused or anything like that, but what happens to her paints a broad and provoking picture of the loss of identity and the effects of colonialisation. The one thing she cherishes is her memories of her grandparents and mother, as she recalls their stories of her ancestors. Her hair plays an important role in her persona as an indigenous woman, as she has been told by her grandmother. The single words that flash across the screen in the closing of the film pack an emotional and ethical punch.
FRANCINE (Brian Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky, USA)
A woman is released from prison and tries to re-assimilate into society. I know we have seen this story many times before, but I doubt you have seen anything like this. Melissa Leo's tour-de-force performance is incredible. From the directors of The Patron Saints, which played last year at TIFF.
CORTA (Felipe Guerrero, Colombia)
Featuring various tableaux of Colombian men as they harvest sugar-cane, this film is observational with a stationary camera as we experience their cutting, burning, clearing, cleaning, singing and food-breaks. Punctuated with interludes of music, it is one of the best visual experiences I have had in a long time. A sugarcane burning sequence is brilliantly shot on a pitch-black night and it is my favorite of the sequences.
The best of the rest in alphabetic order:
THE ATOMIC AGE (Helena Klotz, France)
A wonderful companion piece to Four Nights and a Dreamer. The odyssey of two young men into the Parisian night is modern and yet Bressonian at the same time.
BARBARA (Christian Petzold, Germany)
A doctor is transferred to the provinces of East Germany to work after being incarcerated for what, we do not know. She is constantly under surveillance and may or may not be guilty of something. Wonderful.
BEST INTENTIONS (Adrian Sitaru, Romania)
A neurotic son worries about his mother after she has been admitted to the hospital. Filmed in long takes with a slow and gliding camera, this film is also very funny, Romanian dry-humour style.
BESTIAIRE (Denis Cote, Canada)
I think this is his best film. A wordless, observational documentary about the animals who serve as entertainment on a Quebec safari. The doc captures their moments of imprisonment and our shame.
EL DIFFICIL ARTE DEL PASEO (Ivan Garcia, Spain)
A delight. This collage of scenes from films and newsreels from the 20s and 30s focuses on 5 places, in 5 different chapters. Translated as The Difficult Art of Strolling, this film is for every cinephile, especially if you love films from the 20s and 30s - like me. Starting in Shanghai, then Berlin, Paris, Ulan Bator to Moscow and finally it ends Japan. Full Disclosure: I realized I loved this film in the Ulan Bator to Moscow segment, the Japan segment that features clips from about 20 films of Mizoguchi, Ozu and Kinoshita are not the reason I loved the film. Just wanted to be clear that these clips did not influence me, these clips were an added bonus.
EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY (Radu Jude, Romania)
A man goes to pick up his daughter for a court-appointed vacation. This film is unintentionally funny, and when you realize that you are laughing, it may be too late because it is not really a laughing matter.
FOR ELLEN (So Yong Kim, USA)
A superb performance by Paul Dano anchors this subtle and restrained film from the director of Treeless Mountain. A man makes a long trip to sign his divorce papers. What entails is truly revelatory and heart-rending.
GERMANIA (Maximiliano Schonfeld, Argentina)
Set in a small German village in the Argentine countryside, a family faces financial troubles as the chickens on their farm are all inexplicably dying, as if the family has been struck by a plague. Very slow and meditative, this film is not about plot or big discoveries. It is about people from another culture living in a land they have adopted as their own and now have to start all over again. There is the chance that if they move they may never speak their German dialect again. And no, it is not like Silent Light or tries to be.
HEMEL (Sacha Polak, Netherlands)
The young director said at the screening that Maurice Pialat's A NOS AMOURS heavily influenced her film. And she was right. Just when you would think that this is yet another European film about a young woman and her sexual encounters told in a bleak fashion, layers are peeled away to reveal much more underneath, so to speak.
INDIA (Armando Bo, Argentina)
This lost 1960 classic from Argentina is a thing of its time and epoque. It is about a white man who is lost in the wilderness and rescued by the Maca tribe, and he falls in love with a Maca woman (played with a white woman, a former Miss Argentina). Yes, it is behind its time in terms of tolerance, but it is told and filmed with such sincerity and honesty, one cannot help but being carried away with the romance and being completely entertained by the not-so good acting. I give the film-makers full credit for having the original tribal language spoken for the first time on screen in a big-budget studio film. But our lead, the princess of the tribe speaks with a perfect Argentine accent. You have to smile.
L'ENFANT D'EN HAUT (Ursula Meier, France)
A distinct voice in cinema, Ms. Meier may be compared to many but I think she is an original. A young boy makes his living stealing from a ski resort in the mountains. That is all you need to know.
PAPIROSEN (Gaston Solnicki, Argentina)
A stunning documentary about a Polish family who sought refuge in Argentina after during the war. It is a family portrait, but this one is told with such honesty and proximity as the director is the brother/son of the family. Caught between their heritage, past, present and future of the family, all of us could relate to this film.
STATELESS THINGS (Kim Kyung-mook, South Korea)
Three young North Korean teenagers struggle to make a living in South Korea. We have seen this film told before, but what makes it different here is the way it is told. Are there three teenagers, or two or one? And Apichatpong may need to see this film because the title of the film shows up on the screen a full 91m after the film has started.
VIENTO SUR (Paz Encina, Paraguay)
After waiting for another film from this director after her enchanting Hamaca Paraguaya, her stunning 23m short film was worth the wait. Two brothers who are fishermen, contemplate their future and their existence, whether to leave their village and move to the city. The images convey to us that these brothers may not exist anymore, they may have disappeared, the images also keep appearing and disappearing on the screen. Set in the 1970s dictatorship, this film poetically echoes the Paraguayan (and many countries in Latin American) experience.