Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 13

Article 12 (UK/Arg) (site)

The title refers to the article in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, stating that 'No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy..'. This film underlines the importance of this fundamental right by examining the meaning of privacy, security and surveillance, what it means to an individual, a society, and what happens when it is eroded or taken away.

Surveillance takes many forms, from nosy neighbours, to tracking your kids' mobile phones, to loyalty card shopping, internet service providers storing surfing data, and CCTV which aside from allegedly keeping the peace, can be used to record registration plates (and therefore where you went today), face recognition, and even trials where people are trained to watch individuals to work out what they are about to do just by analysing their expressions and body language. This film spends a lot of time enumerating the number of ways that our privacy is being eroded, and the list is quite disturbing. Such erosion is often justified by the old 'why complain if you have nothing to hide' argument, one which is roundly stamped on repeatedly by the film. Everyone has something to hide. It's not a bomb, it's a person's private life, something that everybody has a right to have.

Comprehensively, but stodgily, this documentary takes interviews from various thinkers and doers in the area; security experts, lawyers, political activists and 9/11 survivors all give their opinions, leaving the viewer quite dizzied about how far we have let our rights be taken away. Those who suppose the extra intrusion in our lives should consider the effects already starting to permeate in; your facebook comments, and thus your non-employment life, could decide whether or not you get that next job you really needed. Trending software can make an educated guess at your sexuality or religion from what food you buy, which might be useful to right-wing governments the next time they want to go all Nazi on us. Surveillance has gone one before, but never with the level of intrusive technology available these days, and so it is down to a film such as this to inform us.

The message that rang truest for me was about our PM, who in the aftermath of the 2005 bus bombings, said that the government's number one priority is keeping the country safe. No, the number one priority for any government is to keep the country free. Freedom means that you are not completely safe from the spectre of a terrorist attack, but that is part of what freedom is about; we shouldn't be nannied and kept frightened and our rights taken away, because that was the aim of the terror in the first place. 8/10

After the film, there was a talk with the audience, the director, and several of the films' talking heads, about the subjects raised, which unfortunately I had to miss, but it looked very interesting. It should be available as a transcript on their site shortly.

The Invisible Eye
(Arg/Fra/Spn) (site)

Taking place in the days before the beginning of the Argentinian uprising against the dictatorship in 1982. The strict regime of the school in which young teaching assistant Maria works has kept her as subdued as the children she teaches, who are never allowed to deviate from the norm or get even slightly out of line. The new year brings in an unruly boy, whose looks and faint signs of rebellion wake the subdued desires within her. Taking on the false badge of catching the boys smoking, Maria gets herself increasingly into situations she shouldn't, and while doing so, unwittingly attracts the attentions of the fatherly supervisor Mr Biasutto, the morally upstanding boss of the place. As the rioting begins to escalate beyond the walls outside, the increasingly inappropriate situation cannot possibly end well.

Where The Invisible Eye did well was in the depiction of a group in power, hiding their long suppressed desires behind an eggshell of moral upstanding, and how a little bit of power can cause those people to misuse their advantages over others. It also had a suitably shocking ending which although it took long enough to arrive, came quickly and unexpectedly, and held the audience's breath in its hands. It would have scored higher if it wasn't for the overuse of repeating situations that barely moved the story forward, but a solid film even so. 7/10

Bad Family (Fin) (site)

Some time ago, Mikael's wife left him for a guy in a band. A free spirit with little organisational skills, she was never a good fit to a man with strong principles and a high sense of duty to do what is right. The split also meant dealing with their two children; Dani the son stayed with Mikael, while unexpectedly, sister Tilda went away and lived with mum, who was suffering from depression.

After several years, Mikael has remarried and has a second batch of children, and Dani is now well on to manhood. When news comes of his ex dying of an overdose, Tilda finds herself homeless and without anywhere to go and is invited to stay for a while. Returning to her fathers' side, she has clearly picked up a few of her mother's habits.

During the welcome party with friends, Mikael hears rumour of incestuous goings on between the newly reunited and hormonal pair, and further fleeting glances in window reflections seem to confirm it, although what actually happened is much more innocent, Mikael has got/ it into his head, and gnaws away at his mind. His actions become increasingly irrational (not helped by the conflicting opinions over what his friends suggest he should do) as he tries to maintain control of a phantom situation that is getting out of hand.

Mikael is played as a man permanently on the edge of violent outburst by the streamlined Ville Virtanen, who looks liable at any moment to use his fists to get his own way. It lends the film a sense of tension and urgency, particularly when mixed with the provocative and confrontational Tilda, whose relationship to both Dani her father are always kept ambiguous and complicated. It's an unpredictable and intriguing thriller, with a few funny bits sprinkled in and a good round off for the night. 7.5/10

No comments: