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Film Festival Day 7, 01/08/2013

 Film #30: Wadja

Filmed in Saudi Arabia, which has no cinemas. It’s about a smart, independent young girl who decides that she needs a bike so that she can race a boy that she’s friends with… so she decides to win a religious club contest to earn the money. (Women, of course, aren’t allowed to ride bikes; they’re also not allowed to drive, aren’t listed in the family tree, and have to go inside if workmen can see into their playground.) And while things aren’t going as well for the Mum (who can’t have more kids) as for the daughter, the film is mostly upbeat.

A neat film. I hope that none of them get in trouble for it.

Film #31: This Ain’t No Mouse Music

Chris Strachwitz founded Arhoolie Records in order to get to record the music that he enjoys listening to. Escaping East Germany as a teen ahead of the Russians, on coming to America he heard Lightning Hopkins and was hooked.  And once he was hooked on the blues, he didn’t stop there, spreading out into zydeco, bluegrass, polka, tex-mex, country, rhythm and blues, and all sorts of other branches of the American musical tree that people get together and dance to. He wasn’t interested in collecting history; instead, he was interested in collecting music that moved him.  What he actively despises is “mouse music”, music that doesn’t have conviction.

As I may have mentioned in the past, I have been accused of having musical taste that’s “eclectic, in a bad way”. I am sure that a lot of the music that I enjoy would fall into what Strachwitz would label “mouse music”; but I’m glad that he collected what he did, and may be ordering a few discs…

Actually, I’ve been thinking about that. Most of the time, I’ll be listening to music at work, and that almost always ends up meaning that I’m listing to something on Bandcamp. (Which I will then buy if I find I listen to it more than once, even though I am still likely to stream it.) Sadly, I seem to have passed the event horizon where I cannot read, listen to, watch or play all the cool stuff that is out there; I seem to end up buying it as a promise to myself, that I’ll come back to it. But one day…

This film was finished with Kickstarter money; I’ve contributed to a bunch of Kickstarters, and I hope that this continues to act as another source of funding for films like this.

Film #32: Blue Ruin

A wild-haired man living out of a rusting car finds out that his parents killer is released. Events ensue.

The lead was believably “average guy, driven to extremes”. And while it was violent and showed a lot of blood, you could tell that it didn’t think it was sexy or slapstick like Cheap Tricks – violence meant something, and I think I preferred this film because of that. The situation was believably drawn, and things rolled along with a kind of inevitability. The main character isn’t portrayed as heroic; he is just doing what he thinks he has to, without bravado or particular flair.

I liked it.

Film #33: Dirty Wars

Basically, a US journalist gradually uncovering how JSOC (the Joint Special Operations Committee) have expanded their power and influence, and how the seductive simplicity of kill lists have replaced the tedious process of judicial hearings and diplomatic pressure. The reporter was especially outraged that one of the people targeted for assassination was an American citizen, which I felt a little uncomfortable with; but his basic point seems valid.

I guess my main problems with all this is twofold.  Firstly, the “kill them all, and God will know his own” approach is morally abhorrent, plain and simple.  But secondly, the tactical mindset appears to have overwhelmed the strategic one. Some of those interviewed mentioned that the lists of deadly enemies are not getting any shorter, and the relatives of those killed unjustly are just going to add to those lists. Part of this will be due to perverse incentives – those ordering the killings are charged with eliminating the people on the list, not eliminating the existence of a list.

There’s a weird resonance with Blue Ruin in this, as well as Utu.

It was all right, but I kind of wish there was more detail.

Film #34: The Past

A woman gets her husband to come back after a four-year separation to sign the divorce papers in person. The man she wants to marry isn’t in the house, but his son is, as well as the two daughters from previous marriages (one of whom is dead-set against the new man). The woman appears to be ready to fight with any of them at the drop of a hat, but the pressures on the all of them gradually emerge over the course of the film.

The writer and director have done a very good job of slowly building up a picture of what has happened for us, revealing the ex-couples’ past through confrontations between the wife and boyfriend; and what has happened since the husband left four years ago as he learns it. And there are several times where we find that we, like those in the film, only have an incomplete picture of events.

I liked it, but don’t think I’d watch it again.

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