Well the World Film Festival was kind of a bust for me. I couldn’t come up with a good schedule and ended up with one very stacked on the last 4 days… which turned out to coincide with me getting sick. I’ve got a couple gripes with how things were run too, all confirming my initial suspicion that the WFFB is definitely playing second fiddle to the Bangkok International Film Festival. So in the end I only saw 5 films; reviews of the first three are here, and the latter two are below.
Letter to a Child / Otroci
Director: Vlado Ã…Â kafar
Length: 100 mins.
“Ã¢â‚¬Å“Letter to a ChildÃ¢â‚¬Â combines intimate conversations with perfect strangers and personal letters contemplating bits and pieces of life, collected and addressed to a child. In a series of Ã¢â‚¬Å“guided monologuesÃ¢â‚¬Â people Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from kindergarten children to the vintage ages Ã¢â‚¬â€œ are contemplating and reliving their lives.”
I really like the simple premise of this documentary — just record people telling their stories — but I found the execution pretty ho-hum. The interviews span seven different age groups, from precocious children up to a dying old man, and vary greatly in quality. Director Ã…Â kafar probably should’ve spoken with more people and then extracted the best moments and most intriguing stories. We don’t need, for example, a half hour of banal observations from adolescents about how life is all about “having fun.” I got the feeling that pretty much everyone Ã…Â kafar spoke with was included in the film. The best moments, the parts that I suspect are driving the good reviews, don’t come until the 3rd act. There’s a heartbreaking interview with a middle-aged couple who lost both their children in separate car wrecks (even this could’ve been edited down), and a poignant bit with a senile geezer struggling to get through the poem “Memento Mori” by Slovenian poet France PreÃ…Â¡eren. Otherwise… meh. One film critic noted Letter to a Child‘s “radical artlessness,” except he found this praiseworthy and I did not. Maybe that reviewer had just come from 2012 and found this refreshing. But for me, a complete lack of style and sometimes less-than-compelling interviews do this film in.
They All Lie / Todos Mienten
Director: Matias Pineiro
Length: 75 mins.
“A group of young people get together in a country house far away from Buenos Aires in order to organize the ultimate step towards the dissolution of their clandestine organization which mixes forgery with love, robbery with kisses and contemporary plastic art with Argentinean XIXth Century History. Helena Pickford silently settles the rules in this ambiance of mischievous conspiracy where best advice for each player is not to believe a single word.”
I’m basically incapable of reviewing this film because I have no idea what I saw. It would take me another dozen viewings to begin to have any clue what the hell was going on. When the credits rolled someone in the row behind me summarized everything with a bewildered, unabbreviated “WTF?!” I echo this sentiment and re-reading Variety‘s review over and over has still not enlightened me. I mean, the Castellano is beautiful, the porteÃƒÂ±as are beautiful, and the film shines with originality and an attractive playfulness… but what it all adds up to is beyond me. I’m unsure if my confusion is because I’m a norteamericano, because my film IQ is quite low, or because an “ambiance of mischievous conspiracy,” not a plot or story, is all I’m supposed to be getting anyway. Basically, if you want to see whimsical young artists swap secrets and kisses, then lie to each other about all of it and explain nothing to the viewer, then I definitely recommend this movie.