EIFF 2011 - Day 4

The Borrower Arrietty (Jpn) (site/wiki)

I saw this while in Japan, and although it was in unsubbed Japanese it was pretty easy to get the main body of the storyline. So I was interested in seeing what an English voice cast would be able to manage. The Disney translations of the Ghibli films started out a little choppy (Kiki and Laputa especially received some pretty fundamental changes to their script and even their soundtracks) but eventually the translators listened to common sense and the later ones have remained pretty faithful.

What did they do with this one? No idea. When the curtain went up and the shimmering TOHO logo appeared rather than the Disney one, it was clear we were getting the Japanese one again with subtitles. I'm actually quite happy personally, as the change in language might have been a bit distracting, but there was the odd intake of breath from audience members realising they would have to do a bit of reading, especially from the [largely well-behaved it has to be said] young ones in the audience. After a moment or two everyone settled into the subs and it proceeded swimmingly.

Kuragurashi no Arrietty is based on the Borrowers stories by Mary Norton. Arrietty is a young borrower from a family living in the floorboards of a country house in Tokyo. She is just reaching the age where she can take care of herself, and is looking forward to her first 'borrowing' trip accompanied by her father Pod, padding silent and unnoticed through the walls and behind vases of the house to get a few supplies. After a promising start, she is spotted by Sho, a boy visiting his aunt Sadako who lives in the house and maintains it for Sho's absent family. Sho is sick and awaiting a heart operation, but is still viewed with fear and suspicion as a threat to the safety of the borrower family. With perseverance, Sho begins to earn Arriettys' trust, but aunt Sadako's suspicions are raised and maybe she will at last encounter one of these house pests before they steal anything else.

Arrietty is a return to a more contemporary setting for the Ghibli films, which puts it into a group with my particular favourites, such as Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart. It's as usual beautifully drawn, with Kazuo Oga providing his trademark backgrounds and Miyazaki himself doing the screenplay, although he stepped aside from directing to give the up and coming Hiromasa Yonabayashi a turn. You can even spot a trace of the much missed Yoshifumi Kondo in the art style, which after films such as Sen and Ponyo, took a bit of a back seat. As you can probably tell, I loved it. A beautiful story, gentle soundtrack and appealing hand-drawn visuals with little if any computers used. It even has a strong ending, which is where some Ghibli films have occasionally fallen short.

I can't see any problems with the translation when it is eventually screened. Although the story is more mature and delicate than the John Goodman Borrowers film (which by comparison went little beyond a procession of slapstick encounters) there was nothing in this one that might need altering for an English-speaking audience due to sensitive issues or local custom, so fingers crossed they will do a sterling job. And I have no issue with watching Arrietty for a third time when it gets a proper release later this year. 8.5/10

Mama Africa (Ger/S.Africa/Fin) (review)

When Miriam Makeba, a young and upcoming African singer agreed to sing a couple of inspiring songs as part of an anti-apartheid film in 1959, she had no idea the troubles it would cause her. Attending the Venice Film Festival to be there to receive the Palm D'or that year, she crossed a line that the South African government found unacceptable, and she was exiled from her home country. She went to America.

There she further developed her singing career and also spoke actively against the apartheid regime, as well as acting as an inspiration for her African-American cousins in her adoptive country, who were under much the same sort of oppression, in the land of the free.

Mama Africa (a name she came to be known affectionately by over time), not only brought African music to a western audience, but also managed to be a force to be reckoned with in the civil rights movements at the time, twice a passionate spokeswoman for the UN for the boycott of dealings with South Africa, and there at the eventual release of Nelson Mandela, who once he became president, gave Makeba back her citizenship. Right up until her death, she was a passionate and beloved speaker and activist for the rights of her people.

Miriam Makeba died in 2008, and this film helps bring together all the aspects of her life, the hardships and struggles, and her heartbreaking family tragedies, and also a taste of her work and influence beyond her life, warmed throughout by her clear and beautiful singing voice, some of her songs you might surprise yourself by recognising. A great way to end my festival experience. 7.5/10


Yes, that's all folks, for Edinburgh this year at least. If you wanted more please pen a stiffly-worded letter to my boss who didn't let me take next week off so I could see more. As it goes, I'll just have to try and make things up in September with Cambridge. Hey ho.

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