Made in Britain (UK) (wiki)
First broadcast on British television in 1982, this program was and still remains difficult to watch. Pioneering the use of hand-held cameras often chasing the character on foot (the 'kinetic' style of filmmaking), it shows a short but potentially pivotal point in the life of Trevor Parker, a deeply racist skinhead with a swastika on his forehead and a deep hatred and disrespect of everyone remotely smelling of authority. His latest court appearance for throwing a brick through the window of a Pakistani living down the street was postponed once again by his social worker Harry (played by a young looking Eric Richard, best known for his long-running part in The Bill), he seems to be off around the circle again. Placed in a bedsit alongside Errol, a young black school drop-out on the cusp of being let out, the tensions are clear although they don't play out exactly as you would expect.
Very much a precursor to the more recent This is England, Alan Clarke and David Lelands' drama is more complex than a straightforward study of racism and intolerance in 80's Britain and where it might come from. Trevor is not simply a mindless thug; he has prospects, he has brains, and at times achieves a certain eloquence, especially when he is cornered in a detention centre by three policemen and forced to air his views. Beneath the bravado, violence, racism and complete refusal to take responsibility for his actions, his inner core set of values, of being honest about himself and expecting others to do the same, distinguishing it from 'following the rules' and saying nothing that people might disagree with, resonates loudly when it is finally uncovered. A difficult but necessary look into a constantly morphing issue. 7.5/10
Constantin and Elena (Rom) (site)
A much slower, gentler film, a mixture of biography and documentary, about the lives of the elderly grandparents of the director. In a remote village, a run-down house with a small farmland attached is the scene for the final few years of a couple married for over 50. Small, life-speed tales of bratwurst, rugs and ugly ducks pepper the film as it slowly takes its time to set the scene of their life as it is now, and hints of how it was in a previous time. Constantin and Elena are each other's foils, as is right in a long-standing marriage, each putting themselves down in order to elicit the cooing affection of the other, and never complaining when the life around them seems to get a little harder with each year. A quiet piece with a pleasant ending (rather than the more depressing one from yesterdays' Bonecrusher), it could rarely be called 'boring' (unless you are 15 and your name is Kevin) and occasionally, as life does, feel naturally warm, cosy and funny. 7/10
International Shorts 1
Two triple entries by a pair of directors, Liang Ying from China, and Dietmar Brehm from Austria.
I Love Lakers - Little Feng Junjie is not doing so well at school. He skips classes and smokes round the back with his friend. His permanently drunken dad seems to have something to do with it, and when he turns up unexpectedly whilst Feng is being given a speaking to, well, things go downhill from there. A pleasant enough distraction. 6.5/10
Medicine - A young girl named Hudie is tasked with looking after her sick grandma while mum is off at work. She sets some herbal medicine on to boil, and is then promptly locked out when the wind blows the front door shut. The various people she asks for help are either useless or unwilling, and the medicine continues to over-boil. Unfortunately the tension that could have been built up by the situation quickly fizzles out, and it could have been a better film. 6/10
Condolences - A real-life bus accident in 2004 in , where 15 people lost their lives when a bus careered off the road and ended up on its roof in a river, is reflected through the experience of grandma Chen, whose daughter and grandson were two of the casualties. In a single shot that doesn't move, Chen sits on a stool in mid-distance, dealing patiently and with minimal reaction to the onslaught of mayors and government reps, well-wishers, TV reporters and more who buzz around her once peaceful old home with a critical eye as the funeral is being readied in the background. Only as the last person leaves does she make a subtle but meaningful gesture to her lost relatives. 7.5/10
An interesting constant between all 3 films by Liang Ying was the name Feng Junjie cropped up in each of them, as if it was a little trademark he wanted in each of his films. Dietmar Brehm's films couldn't be more different, each of them a completely abstract work, detaching the sounds from the abstract visuals.
Ozean - Sounds of a beach assaulted by strong waves was accompanied by heavily edited footage where only abstract blobs remain, who rarely convey meaning beyond occasional human shapes and movements emerging from the random. It was intriguing to work out what was being filmed, my impression changing from general beach hijinks, to someone being assaulted, to two people making love. I'm still not sure. 3.5/10
Instax: Camera Girls, London 1966 - Film footage of nudey girls posing with cameras, that was blended into each other, put through a diffuser and laid over each other so they merged into one large mess. The soundtrack was.. well, it sounded like someone cleaning machinery with a toothbrush, but that is conjecture. Why did it get more than Ozean? Because of its NUDEY GIRLS, and no other reason. 4/10
Verdrehte Augen: Videoversion-2 - A complete random mess. Some people sat talking, occasionally looking at some cars. Someone cutting fish into chunks. A woman and a man repeatedly staring the same gawpy stare at each other, and then another woman comes along and gets felt up in her car. Camera filter: Negative images. Random sound effects: Crackling fire. Crap. 2/10
By this point, I was beginning to wonder whether there was going to be a truly good film today, and my weariness towards yet another documentary did not bode well for this film's chances. However...
One Last Dance (US) - The short film shown before the main feature (below) wasn't helped by the announcer getting the general plot and feel of it mixed up with Home from Home. We were expecting a film with an amusing Korean guy who would make us laugh, and what we got was a sombre short about an overworked man being given a final parting gift by his dying grandmother. I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't constantly expecting a punchline. 6.5/10
Home from Home (S. Kor) (german trailer)
In the 1950's and 60's, several Korean women left for Germany to enlist in the postwar rebuilding effort, including some nurses of which a few married over in Germany. As an attempt to up the population of dwindling Namhae, and to offer an incentive for these Korean women to return, the Korean government set up a scheme to plant a little bit of Germany into the coastal town. A cluster of neat, European-style houses with white walls and red roofs appeared and the offer was made to the ageing couples in Germany to come over and live out their years. Three couples accepted, and this is the story of their transplanted lives since their move in 2002.
As with many film documentaries, what is written on paper cannot do justice to the content, and in this particular example, it's doubly so. The many elements of the place and the people coming together, such as the intrusive and downright cheeky tourists, flocking to the town to take pictures in their backyards (without permission); the attempts by the German men to integrate with the other locals and learn the languages and traditions, some of their ingrained prejudices, and the crackling relationships that still exist between the couples after all the years keeps the film constantly engaging. There are many places where skilled editing mixed with the cameras catching situations as they occur caused much laughter from the audience (I was streaming tears at one point I was laughing so hard), and this is balanced well with the more serious and completely engaging parts where they tell us why they went to Germany, how they fell in love over there, and why they returned. It's constantly entertaining (and in more than one way), beautifully shot and framed, and I will remember it as head and shoulders over most of the other films I will see this year; I can guarantee it. 8.5/10