Films to see at VIFF on Days 5 & 6: Monday and Tuesday
There are three encounters over different times, actually. A couple of French filmmakers found them, offered to produce an album but had to suspend the effort a few times when they ran out of money. They let us get to know the task-master leader, Papa Ricky who sings "I know we'll succeed someday" and the smooth guitar player, Coco, who sings about a river that separates him from his sister. Then there's Roger, a rural kid who now hangs out in the streets as a busker. He plays a homemade instrument fashioned from a tin can and a single string. It sounds a bit like a mandolin and he shows real talent. "I don't pick pockets," he says, in contrast to another street kid who claims "combing" is the only way. Those kind of gritty details, the hard work of rehearsing and then recording, and a joyous tour of Europe give us a breezy, music filled movie. The band was to play a concert in Vancouver last month but called it off with visa problems. (The film also plays two times next week).
THE JEWEL: High-risk finances provide the meat for another gripping tale about the abuse of money, this time the euro in Italy. Andrea Molaioli, who last time gave us a crackling mystery about The Girl By the Lake, has his eye for detail and his skill with suspense clicking again. The story of a family food firm in Italy that is made to expand, diversify and leverage its resources only to be defeated by greed, corruption and mismanagement is inspired by a real case, known as Italy’s Enron, but also fits our current cynical view of the corporate sector anywhere.
Remo Girone plays the CEO who wants to take the company higher; Toni Servillo plays the financial whiz who suggests the stock market and a few dirty tricks and Sarah Felberbaum plays the absolutely gorgeous niece with even thinner financial ethics. They give us a highly involving movie and make the business pages come alive. (Also Tues.)
THE WATER AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Where is that? It's Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina. It bills itself as the southernmost city in the world. In this film it represents a happy final release for a terminally-ill woman. As a last wish, she asks her sister to take her the 2,500 kilometers down there from Buenos Aires. Both women are short of cash and the sister has her pay cut by half at the pizzeria where she works.
A shaggy accordion player who earns money as a busker offers some direction but also sets off a spark of jealousy between the women. An attempt to rob a bank is a clumsy failure. Still, as the difficulties pile up, the film does not lay on the maudlin mood you might expect about of a doomed person. It stays realistic and gently emotional about a strong, demanding woman and her wishing-to-please sister. The entirely satisfactory resolution comes not from a gimmick or a surprise, but a perfectly credible revelation. Director Paula Siero, an actress herself, keeps the film low-key and pleasant. (Also Thursday)
DAY 6: Tuesday Oct. 4
CRIME AFTER CRIME: Another documentary, one so incendiary you'll be angry and shaken by the time its over. But also impressed by the perserverence of two volunteer lawyers.
Joshua Safran and Nadia Costa, who usually work in California property law, spent eight years of their spare time on the case of Deborah Peagler. She was in prison for first degree murder, charged with sending two thugs to kill the man who beat and pimped her. She was already locked up for almost 20 years by the time a new state law made it possible for abused women to tell their side of the story in court. The film takes us along as the lawyers uncover new facts, holes in the original prosecution, in-fighting in the district attorney's office, and eventually a memo that cast doubt on the whole case. All the while, the parole board refused to let Deborah out and a potential deal with the D.A.'s office was squelched by a cast of characters that belongs in the scandal papers. Yoav Potash, who made this film, helped create a cause celebre and Arnold Schwartzenegger proved a hero in the governor's office. The story has a bittersweet ending, which may help spark your anger. You'll be glad you saw this dramatic film though. (Also Wed. and Tues. Oct. 11)
Plus: the previously recommended: Innocence, from the Czech Republic, Sleeping Sickness, German but set in Africa, Dendera, from Japan, and BumRush from Quebec.
And two films with lots of buzz:
FOOTNOTE has a two Talmudic scholars at odds in Israel. They’re father and son.
MICHAEL is a grim, but apparently riveting film from Austria, about a man who keeps a young boy prisoner in his basement.