It’s a good day to face the facts. Or wallow in fantasy. That’s one choice available to you today at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
These are my best suggestions for the next few days I've seen them all and recommend them.
And check back now and then. The list will change every day as titles that finish their run drop off and others debut.
DAY 4 (aka Oct. 4):
The new ones …
CRUDE: This documentary will get you boiling mad about oil. It details an environmental outrage in Ecuador with powerful images of a polluted jungle, indigenous people made sick, and lawyers arguing a lawsuit against Chevron/Texaco that’s been going on for 18 years. Part of the trial is held out on the riverbanks which not only gives us a close up view but also a casual courtroom procedure. To one lawyer’s claim that “This is industrial exploitation permitted by law,” another shouts “You are a corrupt lawyer”. And so on, with many telling scenes bringing out the emotions in the dispute. Later, Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, also visits the jungle and takes up the cause. (Also Day 13).
ENCIRCLEMENT: At 2 hours and 40 minutes this is the longest of the money documentaries in the festival. And the most thorough because it goes far beyond the recent financial crisis and covers the development of economic thought from even before Adam Smith, Keynes and Reagan-Thatcher. Aristotle gets in there too beside David Ricardo, Gary Becker and Friedrich von Hayek. Yes, this is university-level stuff, by a group of economic historians with a strong radical bent. They make a good case that globalization is really neo-colonialism. It’s a Quebec film and much of the talk is subtitled.
MOROCCAN LABYRINTH: Even after all these years, there’s a new angle on the Spanish Civil War. It’s roots were in Morocco. This film from Spain makes a persuasive case by unveiling some secret history. With its colonies taken by the US, Spain boosted its hold on North Africa and eventually aroused a Muslim uprising. That war led to unrest at home and later civil war, with Moroccans imported to fight on Franco’s side. Some of those men are still alive and recall it all, including the unfair deal they got afterwards. Fascinating talk and film clips for history buffs. (Also on Day 7)
THE GIRL: Through most of this film from Sweden, you’re on the edge of your seat fearing that something awful is bound to be coming. A girl, just under 10-years-old, has been left alone at home. Her parents are off to Africa and her babysitter aunt is on a date that seems to last all summer. Watching the youngster fend for herself, deal with shopping and swimming classes, hiding her predicament from nosy visitors and most of all overcoming a persistent phobia makes for a quite endearing little movie. Credit yet another very good child actress. (Also Day 7 and 8)
NIGHT AND FOG: Film festivals bring you the grim realities that regular movies rarely touch. This is a harrowing recreation of a real case of male rage. It’s from Hong Kong and dramatizes the rocky marriage of a local man and a Mainland Chinese woman. He’s unemployed. She has a part-time job which brings in a bit extra to top up their welfare money but drives him to jealousy. The film carefully details the disintegrating relationship, her temporary escape to a women’s shelter and then her return home to his rage. Thankfully the end is done with restraint but even then, strong acting and a director’s anger deliver a stunning film. (Also Day 5 and 12)
The repeats ….
GIGANTE: This quiet film from Uruguay will have you rooting for a supermarket security guard. He's an amiable giant who watches the aisles on a bank of video monitors. He falls in love (at a distance) with one of the women who come at night to clean the floors. The film pulls you in as he learns about her ways (they have much in common), follows her and even helps her out, all before saying as much as one word to her. The pace is leisurely; the interest, though, builds steadily. It was the audience favorite at the Berlin Film Festival.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS: It’s playing twice today. A second show was added but even it is listed as “rush tickets only”. I’ve seen it now and still don’t really know what I think. Heath Ledger comes off well and the changes, with Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell taking over his part, are smooth and natural. There are also fabulous fantasy sequences with huge colorful vistas and Terry Gilliam echoing images he used to animate for Monty Python. Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits are very good as the doctor and the devil he owes a gambling debt to. For all its razzle dazzle though the film gets tedious. That may be because of projection problems the other night when bad sound made a lot of dialogue impossible to understand.
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA shows how Daniel Ellsberg came to release the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. They helped end the Viet Nam War, brought on a key press-freedom ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court and led Richard Nixon’s presidency to self-destruct. Amazing clips from Walter Cronkite to Dick Cavett re-create the era, while some nasty bits from the Nixon tapes add background. Ellsberg recalls it all today with a bit of disappointment amidst the triumph. A must see for people who lived through the time or want to learn about it. (Also Day 6).
Films that almost made the list ....
DISCORAMA, BY GLASER: Jacques Brel and Robert Charlesbois are just two of the many performers seen in this documentary about a trailblazing TV show in Paris.
That Evening Sun
The Most Dangerous Man in America
It Might Get Loud
The September Issue
We All Fall Down