Bradford Film Festival 2010 - Day 5

45365 (US) (site)

A warm-hearted chronicle of the city of Sidney, Ohio whose postal code is the same as the title. Two local brothers decided to record the goings on in a hundred or so miniature glimpses into all sorts of lives around their area, whilst staying silent and letting it happen in front of them. What on paper sounds like a tiresome retreading of the Qatsi films was actually very charming and funny, warm and unique. A hairdresser struggles to cut the hair of a man who is talking to the camera; a woman argues with her son about how much weed he stole from her. A rodeo, a stock car race and a funfair. A man being handcuffed and led off to jail in front of his family. A barely comprehensible old drunk trying to convince a cop that someone has cut off his cable TV. A hundred little pieces of life going on, shown with a surprising level of access in a natural, non-judgemental way.

The only thing that let it down was having to share the cinema with a group of young teens, clearly there with their teacher who was trying to expose them to other types of film. The huffy sighs, the talking and the audible whoop when the credits rolled did not do this film justice. 7.5/10

The Mosque In Morgantown (US) (site)

In 2003, a new mosque was set up in Morgantown to serve the needs of it's Muslim population, but it would serve as a battleground between the moderate and conservative halves of the community that attended. The spark that lit the touchpaper was the requirement for the women to enter by the back entrance and pray separately to the men, who came in by the front entrance. Asra Nomani is a journalist, and when she returned to her hometown to find the new mosque being run this way, she decided to act. She strode right in and prayed alongside the men, inspiring some but infuriating others, who saw the unquestionable word of the Qaran being disrespected. Asra was a close friend of Daniel Pearl, a fellow journalist who was beheaded in 2002, and the literalistic readings of the Imams and speakers that she heard in these early days opened her eyes to the potential of where it could lead. On review and potentially facing exclusion from the mosque, she became an activist with one foot in the door of her own community.

This is the story from that point on, featuring viewpoints from several of the members of the mosque, many of which may have agreed in principle with Asra's point of view, but disapproved of her avant-garde methods of getting her point across. As the years pass we see attempts to reach equilibrium, not helped by the inclusion of strong-arm tactics and controversial speakers by the conservative arm, and a poorly-timed book release by Asra at the same time, her critics suggesting that her calls for change are too quick, and her appeals and publicity might not be doing her book sales much harm.

A couple of times, my jaw dropped at just how ingrained the treatment of women is in Muslim life, from segregation in mosques and family gatherings, to strict codes of dress, often defended passionately by the women themselves. One woman trying to placate the words of an Islamic speaker suggesting that when a woman disobeys a man she should be given 'a crack with a rolled up newspaper' defied belief, and shows the frightening grip that dogmatic religion has on people in general.

Watch the last minute if nothing else.

Although her methods and pace may be questionable, Asra and her supporters in this film, with their attempts to bring a more progressive and moderate Islam to the fore, will in years to come be seen as notable activists in the global cause to make a fairer world. 7.5/10

The Pandrogeny Manifesto (Fra) - A short film about two mad women, (or a woman and a transvestite, it was not clear) who waffled on about their theories about the third sex, neither male nor female, and their intentions to surgically alter themselves and to somehow become one being. They were clearly off their rockers. Was it just fantasy, or were these two really going to do what they were saying. I don't want to know. 3/10

Terrorism Considered as one of the Fine Arts

I have never walked out of a festival film before. Come close a few times, but never quite managed it. I consider it a duty to see the film through to the end to attempt to obtain at least a taste of the director's vision and state of mind when he devised it. Today I broke that rule, for what must rank as one of the worst 20 minutes of film I had seen before.

In every case in a festival, where someone has gone down to the front to explain the intentions of the film prior to it's screening, this has been a sign that the film cannot manage to do it on it's own, and thus will be bad. And so it was with Terrorism.. It's based on a book of the same name, also by Peter Whitehead that actually sounds quite appealing. An MI6 agent trawls around Vienna on the tail of a rogue agent who went off the rails whilst investigating Maria, an eco-terrorist connected with the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. He does this in part by riding the Ringstrasse tram round and around looking for Maria, and intercepting her email exchanges. Reality and conjecture begin to mix together in a giant conspiracy theory and the agent becomes as lost as the man he is looking for.

But what is here is just terrible. Disjointed words and pictures, extended, repetitive scenes shot on poor-resolution cameras. Choppy, poorly edited sound, and a selection of elements from the book that made no attempt to link together with each other. It was like an annoying French art-house film; supposedly by an auteur we are meant to recognise and revere. It looked and sounded like a half-finished student project that started with bluster and enthusiasm and ended up with half the crew getting bored and leaving for the pub. It's possible that the remaining 2 hours that I mercifully didn't see in favour of a good nights' sleep may have seen some continuity and things beginning to join up, but I somehow doubt it. 2/10

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