WFF: My Day 3 but Day 7 of the festival (Thursday, 16th October)

American Military Intelligence and You!

Impressions In Short
Small, funny, sarcastic film.

Some Details
Basically, the director took the style used in films made during World War II to train US soldiers and made his own propaganda film of a totally different nature. It’s not the most amazing film ever, but there are some wonderful, very sarcastic lines which will have you ROTFL if you have the right sort of sense of humour. One of my favourites went something along the lines of “not knowing who we are going to attack strikes fear in the hearts of both are enemies and our allies”.

Possibly :) Depends on your sense of humour and if the subject matter sounds interesting to you.

Dar Fur - vojna za vodo

Impressions In Short
You have to have a huge amount of guts to go into a war zone in the way Tomo Kriznar, the director, did and it’s fantastic that he did. However, if you told me this guy had ever set foot in a film school you’d surprise me. The film looks like the work of an amateur and a bad one at that.

Some Details
The film, at least IMO, has no real structure to it. The only thing that sort of keeps all of it together is the timeline. In other words it’s edited together the way it is because that’s the order in which Tomo Kriznar visited various parts of Dar Fur. This may have not been such a bad idea for the film’s structure if not that he spent a very long time in Dar Fur. The material gets extremely repetitive and there is never any climax or even build up into one. The film could have finished pretty much anywhere and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
Things were made much worse by the way text was being shown on the screen. Whenever there was any text on the screen (it was in English) it went far too fast. I read at a relatively good speed in English I think (often in Hollywood films I manage to read a text like this twice before it changes) and yet in this film I was only getting half way into a text before it disappeared. The people in charge of the Polish subtitles below the screen had a nightmare with this too. A lot of the time they were still showing the translation of the text when there was already some dialogue going on.
It may seem like a small annoyance, but I think most people don’t know the names of the various leaders of the groups involved in the conflict or even the names of the groups themselves (I certainly didn’t) and when you have a lot of these thrown at you and you can’t even read them properly you get lost :] Especially when the structure of the film hasn’t been designed to aid you with understanding the conflict and the various players involved, but is more like a travelogue.
Another criticism I have is that it was extremely one-sided. Judging by the questions to the director after the film, even the people who had far better things to say about the film than I do picked up on this. The conflict in Dar Fur, as far as I understood from the film, is between the Arabs who have money and power behind them and who are the majority in Sudan and the tribal population who are ethnic to the region of Dar Fur. But I only remember one interview with somebody on the Arab side. It was some bureaucratic person in the government who said something along the lines of that the West should concentrate more on other parts of Africa where the situation is far worse - millions are dieing in certain conflicts that he named (in Dar Fur I think so far hundreds of thousands have died). It was a very short clip and I suspect the most controversial bit of what he said was chosen and put in a part of the film to make him sound as ridiculous as possible. There were no other representations of the Arab side at all. And while I can accept that they are probably very much in the wrong and that comment was very inappropriate, I would still have liked to hear some of their reasoning - clearly they must think they are in the right? And also aren’t people on their side dieing too even if it’s in smaller numbers? There must be strong feelings on both sides and IMO in a good film about the conflict these should be represented.
Finally, I disliked all the shots of dead bodies with brains and guts falling out of them etc. I disliked them not because I think he shouldn’t have shown them, but because of the way they were being shown. It was once again proof that the structure of the film hadn’t been thought through much. IMO a full length documentary should build up into this and not flash such images at you randomly. Doing it in this way gives the impression of trying to shock and sensationalize. I don’t think that’s what Tomo Kriznar meant to do, he obviously cares about this deeply. But IMO you need to know how to use such images.
I could probably pick some more bones with this film if I really wanted to, but I don’t because I think the makers of this had very good intentions. It’s just that IMO it was obvious that as far as film craft goes they’re total amateurs.
In terms of what I learnt from the film, unfortunately it wasn’t as much as I would have liked. But one thing that’s obvious is that the Dar Fur conflict is very, very complex. It’s interesting that they say that the biggest issue is water. The film says that essentially, they’re fighting for that particular bit of land because it’s one of few areas where water is easily accessible.
The whole Slovenian angle on it was a very major part of the film - so much so that one guy whose opinion about the film was probably as bad as mine asked the director about who financed the film and did the people financing it require showing such “Slovenian propaganda” :] For me that was one thing I didn’t mind so much, although I think again it was something that was badly presented. Had they done a better job with the structure of the film they could have had as much or more about Slovenia’s part in the peace-making process and it could have made the film all the more interesting. I was disappointed actually that more wasn’t said about the US asking Slovenia to but out of Dar Fur. In the film it is only mentioned in passing, while I think it’s very interesting. I would have liked to know more about that.

I find it tough to recommend cause I think it’s a god-awful film. And yet I also find it tough not to recommend cause I really doubt there are many documentaries about Dar Fur whose makers spent years in the heart of the conflict.
So I guess use your own judgement… I think many people in the cinema felt this was an important and valuable film because of the topic matter and dedication of the filmmakers. If you think that’s enough then you might find this worthwhile. If, however, you’re a nitpicker like me I would advise you to stay as far away from this film as possible :]

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