ENH film festival: Saturday, 1st August 2009


60 years of WFDiF (Poland, 1947-1958)

Production House: WFDiF
Plot: The festival programmed two sets of films commemorating 60 years of activity of Poland’s biggest production house. I watched the first set which included: Powódź (Poland, 1947), Błękitny Krzyż (Poland, 1955), Spacerek Staromiejski (Poland, 1958), Pamiątka z Kalwarii (Poland, 1958) and three shorts by Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica.

None found *sigh* I really wanted to find some clips of Powódź, but no such luck.

Impressions In Short
These films hold a lot of historical and ethnographic value. Powódź, however, is much more than that - I was quite smitten by it :)

More About the Film
Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica are, I guess, basically the fathers of Polish animation. As my sensitivity to animation is still rather crappy, I don’t have much feelings about their shorts other than that they were kind of funny ;) For someone who doesn’t understand animation I do seem to be watching quite a lot of it lately, so maybe in a couple of years I will finally develop more sensitivity for animated films *grin* (there was a time when I didn’t “get” documentaries either, but I now have a lot of appreciation for them, so it’s possible *grin*)
It was kind of cool to see more of Andrzej Munk’s films (Błękitny Krzyż and Spacerek Staromiejski). Socrealism doesn’t allow artists much freedom, but somehow Munk seemed to be able to work within those borders and create some very good films. I don’t think these two were as good as what I’ve seen of his before (Człowiek na torze (1957) and Eroica (1958)), but they were classy all the same.
Błękitny Krzyż is based on the diaries of Błękitny Krzyż, which is the Tatra Mountain rescue service. It portrays one particular event from the very end of WW2. It’s anti-German propaganda of course and like most socrealism films it glorifies the working man (in this case the rescuers). It’s a good film nonetheless.
Spacerek Staromiejski follows a little, pretty, blonde schoolgirl and how she walks around town on her own making mischief. This one doesn’t have any obvious propaganda in it and it made me wonder what Munk’s films would have been like if he hadn’t had his creative freedom limited by the regime… This one is kind of on the verge of doing something quite experimental and maybe even abstract, but regimes don’t exactly appreciate abstract art, so he could only go so far…
Jerzy Hoffman’s Pamiątka z Kalwarii held mainly etnographic interest for me. It’s a documentary showing the Corpus Christi rituals performed in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska - Polish Catholicism at its most folkloric and its most intense. It looked rather exotic to me, which is maybe a bit strange. But then this was the 1950s and a very intensely Catholic region of Poland. IMDb says the film was not released for 7 years after being made because the communist censors wanted anti-religious commentary added and Hoffman opposed it.
But the film I’m really dying to write about is Powódź *grin* It won Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival in 1947 and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s only 13 minutes and has no dialogue, but that’s all it needed to be. The subject matter is the 1947 flooding. The film shows people getting ready for the flood, people being evacuated and of course the flood itself. The amazing thing about it is that through the way it was shot and edited it really captures the force of nature and the reality of the flood. It starts off with some amazing shots of the flood tearing down a bridge and then goes on to show all the evacuated people with the property they were able to save, the confused cows and goats that the people took with them and so on. Something else that stunned me was the quality of the editing. Usually in those old reportage style documentaries the shots are too long and shot angles uninteresting. But this one had editing that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern film. For one thing, the cutting of it was pretty fast. Not choppy, but it was done in a tempo that is still perfectly acceptable for contemporary films. I was really surprised to see that. Would love to see the film again, but I have the feeling that finding this will be almost impossible *sigh*

Powódź I’d recommend quite widely. It’s only 13min. so even if you don’t get why I’m raving about it (which is quite likely ;) ) then it’s not like you’ve lost much time on it. The rest is only for people who are at least somewhat interested in this sort of thing I think.

Katalin Varga (Romania/UK/Hungary, 2009)

Runtime: 82′
Director: Peter Strickland
Cast: Hilda Péter, Norbert Tankó, Tibor Pálffy
Production House: Libra Film
Plot: A woman in the Transylvanian countryside is forced to leave her village when everyone finds out her husband is not the father of her son. The only thing she can think of doing is to seek out the real father and get her revenge.


Or you can check out this interview with the director, which is what got me wanting to see the film in the first place :)

Impressions In Short
Enjoyable enough and good for such a low budget film I suppose. But it hasn’t exactly stayed with me.

More About the Film
There’s not that much to say… The film attempts to capture the atmosphere of the Transylvanian countryside and I think that’s pulled off reasonably well (though I haven’t actually been there, so I don’t know :]). I think that’s the most interesting part of it.
It’s acted and shot well, the story is fine. But I just didn’t find it special in any way I guess (mind you, when you watch four films a day at a film festival, films very rarely seem special ;) ).

It’s involving enough. It’s not something I would particularly recommend though.
People who don’t like stories unravelling slowly with long shots and a lot of landscapes would do best to avoid this though.

The Tracey Fragments (Canada, 2007)

Runtime: 77′
Director: Bruce McDonald
Cast: Ellen Page
Production House: Shadow Shows, Corvid Pictures, Alcina Pictures, Tracey Fragments
Plot: (from imdb)

15-year-old Tracey Berkowitz is naked under a shower curtain at the back of a bus, looking for her little brother Sonny, who thinks he’s a dog.


Impressions In Short
A very experimental piece of work with all the split screens and stuff. Interesting to see Ellen Page in something other than Juno.

More About the Film
I guess the main reason to see this is because of how it’s made. Tracey, the protagonist, is a very depressed and confused character, so the way she sees the world is also quite dark and confusing and that’s what the audience is presented with. Tracey’s reality is very fragmented, she lives in her head a lot and that’s where the split screens come in. They’re sort of supposed to portray the fragmented state of her mind.
I’ve never quite been sold on split screen kind of editing (though I think Mike Figgis has used it very effectively). I thought it worked reasonably well in this film, but I’m still not sold on it. The part I liked the most was the ending, when she gets herself together and her reality stops being so fragmented and we finally get a nice, long, uncut shot lol It was a nice ending I thought ;) (and I don’t think writing this is a spoiler if somebody’s worried)
It was interesting to see Ellen Page in a different part, but I had mixed feelings about her… I mean she was ok (she’s clearly a very good actress), but I couldn’t quite buy into her being this vulnerable and there were a lot of things I recognised from Juno even though this was a very different part. She has this mannerism kind of thing with dialogue… I’m not even sure how to explain it exactly. But it got me thinking that I’d really like to see her in a Kevin Smith film ;) I think the way she tends to deliver dialogue would go really well with his style.

I think a lot of people would find this tough watching. So unless you like “experiments” stay away. For those who would consider watching an “experiment” - keep in mind that that’s the main thing this film has to offer. If the convention doesn’t work for you you’re probably going to hate it.
If you’re curious about seeing Ellen Page in a different sort of part I guess this isn’t a bad film to watch and she is pretty good in this (even if I wasn’t that impressed with her ;)).

City of Borders (USA, 2009)

Runtime: 66′
Director: Yun Suh
Production House: Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), City of Borders Productions, ITVS
Plot: (from imdb)

Interviews with the owners and diverse patrons of a Jerusalem gay bar called “Shushan.”


Impressions In Short
Very interesting, warm and funny documentary :) And also… you know that bit on the Rove show where Rove used to ask everyone who they’d turn gay for? I have a true answer to that now - her name is Samira ;)

More About the Film
When I decided to see it, I figured that even if the film itself wouldn’t be that good, the interviews would probably be interesting. Clearly I needn’t have worried, the film was excellent :) Despite having quite a heavy subject, it was a lot of fun.
The fight for gay rights in Jerusalem is very different to the fight for gay rights in other parts of the world. As the film depicts, the gay communities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem actually have a lot of tension between each other because they’re that different. The Palestine issue is very much alive in the gay community in Jerusalem and is probably the reason why the gay community there is involved not just in gay rights, but in human rights more generally.
Shushan, the bar in which a lot of Jerusalem’s gay community unites, attracts both Israeli and Palestinian people. One of the interviewees actually said that it was thanks to Shushan that he stopped being prejudiced against Arabs and it was where he kissed a Palestinian for the first time (something he would not have been able to do publicly in any other place in Jerusalem). Unsurprisingly, the film is as much about Israeli-Palestinian relations as it is about gay rights.
The best thing about it though is how colourful and funny the interviewees are. Their quirky sense of humour was great.
Sa’ar, the Israeli owner of Shushan, is also in the city council. He regularly receives death threats. So we get him sarcastically translating the latest threats he’s received for the camera.
Adam, regularly walks his dog by the fence between East and West Jerusalem. He gets nervous when his dog decides to go on the other side under the fence. When he finally manages to call his dog back, he remarks that his dog doesn’t understand borders.
But my favourite interviewees were Samira (a Palestinian) and Ravit (an Israeli). They make such a charming couple. Samira, in particular, was hilarious. She’s just so laid back and so comfortable with herself and her sexuality. I particularly loved how she talked about her mother. Her mother keeps telling her that she wants her to have a nice marriage with a doctor, a nice house, children and all of that. And Samira’s answer to that is that she already has all that - it’s just that the doctor is a woman ;) (Ravit *is* a doctor) And I seriously think Samira is incredibly hot *grin*

Absolutely :) It’s a great documentary and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

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