BIFF 2011 - Day 9

Greenwashers (US) (site)

In today's advertising, we are saturated with adverts with a green face. Toilet rolls made from recycled paper, cars manufactured from hemp, that sort of thing. It would be nice to think that the products that are being sold to us are nice and green and we are benefiting the environment by buying them over the nasty polluting alternatives.

But more often than not, the only difference between two products is the level of green marketing that has been lavished upon their promotion.

Greenwashing is the term used to describe a product that has been labelled as eco-friendly, or green, or environmental, and isn't. The marketers may be vaunting a genuine attempt to do their bit; that loo roll may indeed contain a degree of recycled paper in it, but how much is in there, and what degree of energy was consumed in order to get it there? In a largely unregulated area of marketing, manufacturers can say what they want, pretty much, to sell the green philosophy. The public doesn't need to know the details.

Cleverly, two activists with a particular interest in exposing greenwashing pose as representatives of 'Greenwashers Consulting', a fake company set up to help and advise businesses (for a nominal fee) to help gloss over their less environmental output and accentuate the positives. They take their cause to a couple of US 'green expos', where a suitcase and sharp suit are enough to get some of the reps there to drop their guard a little at the prospect of potential sales gains.

Throw in a couple of talking heads, providing some background and commentary on recent greenwashed international adverts and the companies behind them, and declaring the 'seven sins of greenwashing' for the viewer to look out for, and you get an informative and occasionally funny film, that at a little under an hour, doesn't labour to make it's point. 7.5/10

A Fine Day (Ger) (German site)

Another film in the Thomas Arslan retrospective, A Fine Day continues Arslans' early focus of Turkish-German heritage, clearly something close to Arslans' heart. Young actress Deniz begins her day by leaving her boyfriend sleeping, to go for a bit of a walk. In the subway she makes eye contact with a man, but he is going elsewhere. After a spot of dubbing work, she splits with her immature boyfriend. Her mother disapproves, her sister thinks it is for the best, but always Deniz seems to be running her decisions by the seat of her pants. But on the way back, the man appears again, and a game of chance encounters begins on the subway.

The film is a difficult one to describe without descending into an emotionless list of events (and I certainly hope my other reviews don't do that). It is to Arslans' credit that the story of relationships, and how you tell which person is right for you, is somehow largely communicated between the words and actions, and depending on where a person is emotionally when they watch this film, it could either not affect them in the slightest and be slightly dull, or it might hit them right between the eyes. Personally - I found it to be closer to the latter, an understated thing of beauty. 8/10

Silent Things (UK) - Jake and Amy are an autistic couple, whose day of kite flying at the beach is spoilt by a young backpacker, who fills Jake's imagination with the idea of a ferry ride, an excursion so far out of his comfort zone something inevitably goes wrong. Both heartbreaking and sweet. 8/10

Point Blank (Fra) (review/site)

Lowly male nurse Samuel lives a modest but contented existence. His pregnant wife Nadia is near to the big day, and he gets to dote over her on their doctors advice. A chance encounter with a man trying to kill off Hugo, a badly injured patient sets both of them in the firing line between shadowy assassins and corrupt policemen. After Nadia gets taken hostage, Samuel must get the man on his feet and out of a cop-filled hospital, or she gets it. But things are more messed up than what first appears, and Hugo's part in it all is far from clear. Is he part of the mob that kidnapped his wife, or will he be Samuel's saviour?

If there is one thing the French directors seem to do consistently very well, it's a straightforward cop thriller, a genre in French cinema that is refreshingly absent of the cod philosophy elsewhere. Point Blank isn't going to break any molds but what it does, it does very well; ramping up the tension and suspense to the levels that make you sit up and take notice. 8/10

Foreign Parts (US/Fra) (site)

This fly on the wall documentary settles for a while on the residents of Willets Point, New York. A large and scruffy collection of scrapyards and car body shops feeding off the spoils of each other in a thousand daily deals. Corrugated iron structures slowly decompose around the periphery of a wide open area pocked with potholes from years of inaction by the local council, even the fat-arsed American 4x4's have problems negotiating it. Men in dirty clothes eye up any incoming driver and immediately begin touting for trade, almost like ladies of ill repute gathering on the street corners when the big shiny machines roll by. Forklift trucks pierce car windows as they are held aloft and have the engines shaken out of them, the workers cutting the parts free and dragging them back to their lairs like they were primal hunters bringing back their spoils. Any sign of a major shower, and the whole place becomes a dirty lake, half drowning any cars that might venture in and head into the wrong area.

Petty crime and meagre existences ensure that life here is largely survival with little enjoyment, but the people here do form a community, and one which is all too aware of the council plans for redevelopment of the whole area - and it doesn't include any body shops or junk yards.

Although more pointed in the direction of a communities silent plight, this film reminded me of 43565 from last year's BIFF, it was a similar observation without commentary on the existence of a community which, without the interest and passion of a passing filmmaker, might never have it's unusual beauty told. 7/10

The Golden Boy (UK) - A middle-aged man walks around the streets of London at night, talking to the strangers he meets about the great fire of London, and the monument at Pudding Lane. This unofficial tour guide seems harmless enough, until on a night of particular significance, he meets Mike and asks him to come for a walk. 7/10

As If I Am Not There (Irl/Mac/Swe) (review)

Based on a collation of true stores, and adapted from a novel of the same name. Young adult Samira leaves her comfortable family existence in Sarajevo to work as a temporary teacher in a remote Bosnian village. The next day, soldiers arrive and empty the houses of people. The men are separated and taken into the fields and shot; the women and children are packed aboard buses and shipped off to an abandoned warehouse where they await their fate.

Kept alive as a commodity for exchange of materials, or just as a bargaining chip if it came to it, it's not long before the 'soldiers' - drunken lecherous men not noble enough for such a respectful term - complete their mistreatment of the women, and begin to rape them, old and young. In one of the film's most powerfully horrific scenes, Samira takes her turn to share the horror with the people she hardly knows. Only her efforts to remind herself - and her fellow inmates - that she is a woman and not an animal, keep her mentally strong enough to remain alive, but help is nowhere to be seen and the situation gets bleaker by the day.

As if I am Not There is a stunningly powerful work, chronicling some of the many atrocities committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid 90's with the same oomph as what Schindlers List did for the Nazi occupation. It might be going a bit far to equate the film in it's entirety to Spielbergs' epic, but I had the same feelings of a car hitting me in the chest that I felt when I saw it.

I doubt the film will be ever appreciated outside it's home country to the extent it deserves to be, but I urge as many people as possible to see this on the big screen if they can. An important historical document of a film, and astonishing in it's power and maturity for a directorial début. 8.5/10

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