Bradford Film Festival 2010 - Day 3

Three Hams in a Can (Australia/Jpn) (site)

My eyes were drawn to this film mainly because of it's location. Three experimental musicians (Chris, Stina and Predrag) travel to Tokyo in summer 2008 (a couple of months after I left) and spend their evenings in the various dimly-lit clubs performing and listening to some of the more 'out there' tunes doing the rounds at the time. Partly for a good look around, and partly to attend a marriage and catch up with the family of Predrags' Japanese wife, whose Westie Karin stole much of the limelight.

It's a familiar combination of exploring unknown lands, communicating in different languages with the locals, and taking lots of pictures and buying tat from the shops. (They definitely visited the Ghibli Museum because they were carrying a Mamma Aiuto bag at one point). I tolerated the sometimes random noises that they made in the gigs, in preference to scouring the screen for things and places I had seen whilst there, grinning widely when a place or object I recognised was displayed, and I suspect that allowed me to enjoy it more than somebody who had not been. I suspect someone seeing it who had not been to Japan (and had not got a taste for crazy music) would find little here to enjoy. 5.5/10

Presumed Guilty (Mex) (site)

Don't ever do anything wrong in Mexico. That is the lesson learned by the stunned audience as they left this shocking documentary. In fact, that probably wouldn't help you stay out of jail either if the claims of the film are to be believed. The pocked yellow walls and harsh justice system meted out in 2008's Behave are recalled here, this time from the perspective of one of it's many inmates, Tono, who was fitted up for the murder of a young man halfway across town in 2005, despite prosecution not having any incriminating evidence against him, and several witnesses on hand to verify where he was at the time. At the start of the documentary, he is in the first year of his 20 year term in an overcrowded prison.

In Mexico, the burden of proof is reversed compared to most other countries; there you are presumed guilty and have to prove your innocence. In a system where the police and justice bodies are paid according to the number of people sent to jail, this leaves enormous potential for the system to turn rotten and perverse.

A documentary named 'The Tunnel' (named after the long tunnel between the jail house and the courtrooms) was broadcast on Mexican televisions in 2006, and it's creators Roberto and Layda, both going through law school at the time were contacted by Tono's girlfriend for help. So began a 3 year fight to get a retrial and have Tono acquitted, which forms the body of this film.

It's disturbing and fascinating in equal measure, and followed in surprising detail Tono's daily grind (the film-makers were allowed to film inside the jail and the retrial room, much to the consternation of the prosecution witnesses), his family's fight to prove the original trial was a sham, his eventual retrial (where he courageously questions several of the accusers himself) and the end result of all the effort. Just what transpires is truly shocking.

Just one example should outline the difficulty of overturning a verdict of homicide: The defence were not allowed to ask any questions in the retrial that had already been answered in the case file. That means, the police could report whatever they wanted and it would then become the facts, without the ability to question them.

The film was paced very well, and its contents flew by, even when the projector threw a wobbly 15 minutes in, rewound the film to the start and played it through again. This did not however spoil the experience, which was certainly one of the most eye-opening festival experiences so far this year. The final shot panning backwards out of a warehouse full of case files stacked to the ceiling shows the enormity of the problem, and the potentially thousands of (mostly young male) lives ruined. Roberto and Layda are now working to bring a change to the Mexican constitution to reverse the burden of proof. If you support their cause, and I definitely do, please visit their facebook page and sign their petition. 8/10

Bluebeard (Fra) (trailer)

The fairytale of Bluebeard is brought to life, not for the first time here by director Catherine Breillat, who fittingly frames the story in the context of two young girls rifling through an attic and coming across the Bluebeard story in a little red book. Their bickering as they interpret the finer points of the story as it is played out, is mirrored by the young teen sisters in the story, who after hearing of their father's heroic death, are thrown out of the nunnery they were placed in for protection, and forced to return home to their mother, whose temperament is not helped by the heartless bailiffs coming round and taking anything of wealth to pay debts.

Lord Bluebeard lurks mysteriously in his fine castle, the taker of many wives who mysteriously disappear not long afterwards. Talk of his fancy falling upon these two new prospects, he invites the family over to make merry and dance; during which one of the sisters takes a shining to the enormous and rather lumpy lord, and accepts his hand in marriage.

Though Bluebeard takes a couple of liberties with the viewer, losing its cohesion a little here and there, this can be forgiven since it is in effect the retelling of the story through the eyes of two young girls whose conflicting interpretations and attitudes combine to form the flavour of the tale told. It is stunningly shot in the beautiful French countryside, and the castle used is appropriately grand, as are the period costumes, and everything feels right. It's just a shame that the final 5 or so minutes seem to conclude rather hurriedly and without great satisfaction. 7/10

No comments: