Leeds Film Festival 2011: Day 14

Gnarr (Ice) (site)

Do you find politics stuffy and boring? Filled with the dull, grey and corrupt types with a willingness to kowtow for a bit of a backhander? Then you need to watch this joyous film.

Jon Gnarr is a long-standing Icelandic comedian, and when the economic crash of 2008 hit Iceland especially hard, he decided to do something about it. He set up a party to run for the position of Mayor in the capital city, Reykjavik. Not a political party, because this is what he was against most of all, a boring, grey stuffy pile of suits that changed little and just seemed to get older and disappoint. Not unlike politicians and parties the world over. He wanted to destroy the system and so The Best Party was born.

The party began as a joke, an extension of one of his routines, but when he went out with a few of his like-minded (but politically naive) friends and canvassed, the people began to respond. Their initial goals were small: grab a few seats from the Progressive Party, one of the more extreme ends of the political spectrum who pick up fringe votes. But they defied the low expectations of their opponents who only knew how to talk dryly about budgets and sound off a few campaign promises. At each interview, each debate, Gnarr and his party just would not play the game. They gave campaign 'promises' (which they openly admitted they would not honour), like a dinosaur theme park ('with those dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, wherever they are these days..') and an Iceland Disneyland, free to all citizens. They even did a campaign song, to the tune of Tina Turner's Simply the Best:

When cornered into a dull debate, he just confounded opponents by going off on one and talking about Moomins or Penguins, to which they could only respond with bafflement. It was a joy to see. And the people loved it, because they could see what his opponents couldn't; that the joy has been squeezed out of people's lives, and the current crop has little clue of what people want and need. The Best Party rode the wave of the need for change in the 2010 city council elections.

This brilliant fairytale-come-true documentary had me constantly smiling, wishing for Best Parties to spring up all over the world. I wouldn't call myself much of an anarchist, but I think there is some fundamental change needed in politics, for it to regain it's humanity like it has done in Iceland.

I want to go live there now. RIGHT NOW. 8.5/10

Futures Market (Spa) (site)

Compared to Gnarr, Futures Market is a change of pace and of heart. In a similar fashion to yesterdays' Involuntary, the film jumps between a selection of unrelated stories, but whereas the subjects were all scripted tales, Futures Market is very much a reflection of the lives of real people.

There are two areas of contrasting focus, a personal view of life for the less well off, starting with the clearing out of the possessions of someone's house, and following the furniture through the process of being sifted through, stepped on and sold off, and a brief meditation on some of the people it comes into contact with along the way.

To contrast this, we see the derelict land of a hundred ex homes, imminently scheduled for demolition to make way for fancy apartment complexes in some of the world's most desirable locations. The investors come in and are courted by the salesmen. The salesmen gather in small groups and dick-wave to each other about quarterly profits. They pretend to be interested as they listen to each other network for new channels of revenue, and then they go into an inspirational seminar, where they are told how to make money out of the current economic crisis.

Though the lyrical and often beautiful words of a soft-spoken narrator of sorts breaks up the action every now and then with odes to the philosophies and lifestyles of the ancient Greeks, the otherwise non-judgemental footage pretty much says what is on the director's mind, moving between the worlds by clever and often subtle visual connections. It's a little one-sided, portraying the poor as pleasant and happy and the rich as stressed and unlikable, and it is a bit long, weighing in at a shade under 2 hours, but it was an enjoyable and personal comment on how civilisation is losing something of itself as we climb the ladder. 7/10

Symbol (Jpn) (site)
Dear Japan,

I watched Symbol today. It made me smile. In fact I had a strange and uncontrollable smile on my face the whole journey home through the night. How the film managed this, I have not as yet ascertained as I have no grasp on what it is I have just watched, but seriously I'd like a bit of whatever you guys are on.

Much love, fancyplants.

I struggle to accurately describe Symbol, but I'll try. The film is split into two, apparently unrelated stories. A man wakes up in a strange white room. The walls reach up into the sky above, and it seems an infinity of nothingness, except for a small switch-like object on the wall. Pressing it yeilds only the start of this man's nightmare at the hands of some mischievous entity, watching him to see if he can work out what to do.

The other half is set in the real world. Somewhere in Mexico, a man dons his mask and spandex suit and prepares for another round of a WWF-style tag-team fight as Escargot Man. His son and father watch in the audience. These two worlds are about to briefly collide in the most unexpected way possible.

To say any more would be to spoil the surprise hidden within the mysterious, inventive and downright barmy Symbol. Really, I thought Karate-Robo Zaborgar would be the 'out there' film this year by a country mile, but Symbol gives it a damn good run for it's money. It has the same feeling as Big Man Japan from a few years ago (by the same director who is also the star of both, unfortunately I didn't get to see it in the retrospectives section due to other commitments), and it's fair to say that if you enjoyed the frankly ludicrous (but slightly drawn out) slapstick humour there, you'll enjoy this too. I really can't say why I enjoyed it so much, because I frankly don't know, but I did. I'm still smiling now. 7.5/10

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