Belinale Day 2 – Saturday
Schlafkrankheit – Sleeping Sickness (Germany, France, Netherlands)
A German entry in the competition, though it takes place in Africa and France, this was another listless film with little plot. The first half follows a German doctor living in Africa and running a humanitarian program to treat sleeping sickness. His wife and daughter are visiting him and he his clearly conflicted about returning to Germany as he has come to love Africa. The second half follows a black doctor from Paris who is sent to Africe by the WHO to audit and investigate the project being run by the aforementioned doctor. Not a lot happens and it ends with a hippo.
This is the first film I saw that got openly booed at the end, which is a time-honored tradition at European festivals. Exciting for me. Something like that would never happen in America, we’re just too polite I guess. If we hated it, there’d be no applause, or light applause at best.
Like so many of the films the intent was clear, but the execution was listless. This won the award for best director, another all around surprise, as the direction was the biggest problem.
I should probably note I was about 10-15 minutes late to this, so I missed some stuff. But, based on the rest, it’s probably safe to say I didn’t miss anything at all.
Almanya: Willkommen in Deutschland (Germany)
A real crowd-pleaser about a Turkish family living in Germany and taking a trip back to Turkey. After finally becoming an official German citizen the family patriarch decides to buy a house in Turkey and take his family there for summer vacation. The story of their initial immigration is told to the youngest member of the family as he’s been conflicted about his Turkish roots while also being German.
Though I wouldn’t call myself an immigrant, and my situation is as different as can be, there was plenty to relate to. Since so much of the comedy comes from looking at German life as a foreigner, I had a lot to laugh at. Though, there’s equal grief given to the oddities of both cultures. There are more Turks here in Germany than any other group, and it’s often a delicate topic as best I can tell among Germans. So it was nice to see the issue of the Turkish family living in and loving Germany handled so sweetly. It’s hilarious and touching and most any audience would love it. Having some knowledge of German life and Turkish relations would help it, but it’s not necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if it made it to a few US festivals and some kind of limited release.
We Were Here (USA)
A documentary about the emergence of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco told from the point of view of 5 residents who went through it. I tend to be resistant to documentaries like this, where the subjects themselves declare that what they did/do/saw are of great importance. Their perspective is always essential, but it’s up to others to place the focus. When the subject itself does it I see it more as a cry for attention.
So the film was rubbing me the wrong way for a good portion of it, not to discount the weight of what they were talking about. But like last year’s STONEWALL UPRISING (which wasn’t told strictly by the subject) I feel that for someone of my age or younger the content is vitally important. I knew what the Stonewall riots were about as a thing, but not why they were so important. The same goes for the AIDS crisis. I of course was aware of it, but I never knew anyone who died of it. Hell, I still haven’t really known anyone who has been positive. So it’s good, for us young’n LGBT folk, to have a sober reminder now and then.
This will be everywhere in the LGBT circuit. It’ll play like gangbusters in San Francisco (it opens there next week), and surely get picked up by nearly every LGBT festival in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wound up on Netflix within a year.
Dance Town (South Korea)
I’m immediately fascinated with anything involving North Korea, and I love Asian film, so it was a no-brainer to see this. It follows a young woman, Rhee, who’s husband manages to smuggle her to South Korea after a neighbor rats them out for watching western videos (porn!). The husband’s fate is unclear for most of the film, but it’s not good. Which is no surprise.
Rhee is supported by the South Korean government to start her new life, and she’s understandably overwhelmed. Despite coming from a place as terrible as North Korea the film displays just how many can still live a hellish and marginalized life in any city. The city of Seoul is the main focus (though it could be any city) and she encounters all sorts of people with their own problems. Some clear, some secret.
It’s an interesting movie, and watchable, but not too compelling. The message is clear though, and it is effective, but it’s not an message most foreign audiences are going to be willing to sit through.
Qualunquemente – Whatsoeverly (Italy)
This film was far, far too Italian for me. The film follows a highly corrupted businessman fresh out of prison as he tries to run for mayor of his hometown. It’s a farce, and everything is greatly exaggerated. But the comedy doesn’t translate, the politics are too thick, and it’s just generally unwatchable if you don’t know the subject matter ahead of time. And even then, it’s just not that funny.
So unwatchable in fact that it was the only movie I walked out on (about 15 minutes before the end).