CIFF 2012 Day 1

Cambridge - city of people on bicycles trying to kill you whether you are on the road or pavement.  It was good to be back.

Cambridge also a city of great architectural beauty and around this time of year, also becomes home to the film festival.  It looked like CIFF 2012 would be missed off my calendar once again as it had been in 2010 and 2011 (in favour of Edinburgh), but a last minute decision to head down and see what we could changed that, and so here we go.

Grandma Lo-Fi (Den/Ice) (site/review)

A lovely documentary to start the festival.  Sigríður Níelsdóttir spent a large amount of her life artistically dormant, until finally at the age of 70 she started to write and compose her own music.  Beginning with just some novel percussion sound effects made from kitchen utensils and whatever other noises she could record from around her environment - in a charmingly lo-fi way we would do when recording tunes off the radio with a nearby cassette recorder jammed to the speaker.  Slowly but surely her confidence and output increased.  She bought herself a keyboard, and a 'proper' hi-fi unit with twin mixer decks and a microphone, and in time she had hundreds of hand crafted songs and nearly 60 home recorded albums.  She is somewhat of a cult icon in Iceland, and receives requests for her home-made CDs from around the world.

This recount of her life and celebration of the quaint, self-taught methods is all Sigríður's own, spiced up with the warming effect of several example songs put to cut out collages and 'covered' by musicians in a kind of lo-fi video celebration of her considerable work.

Whether you think her output to is entertaining or naff, you can't fail to be impressed by the place she has made for herself in the indie music scene.  It gets a bit repetitive, but it's made all the more interesting by it's grand implausibility and cosy Super-8 graininess, and Grandma Lo-fi charms the socks off all but the most cynical of stony hearts.  It's quiet, disarming, massively unpretentious and a comforting washed-out tea towel of a film.  And I mean that in the nicest way possible. 7/10

Salma and the Apple (Ira) (review)

Middle-eastern films have a tendency to be shrouded in a cloak of cultural fog, to the eyes of a westerner. So it is with Salma and the apple.  With echoes of The Temptation of St. Tony, (which is also being shown, but i'm not sitting through it again), we follow Salma as he takes a spiritual journey through his homeland after returning from religious school.
Young and idealistic, his belief of a life lived best though repeated reading of holy texts is tried outside of the narrow field of view given by his tutors, and into the day to day goings-on of his community, which seems to contain goodness in people largely detached from his daily flagellation.

But as the film moves on it becomes increasingly abstract, concentrating on Salma's minor theft of an apple dropped from a tree beside him while praying - the traditional biblical symbol of temptation - and his attempts to selfishly clear his mind of guilt by finding the owner of the field and seeking forgiveness.  He meets a string of characters along the way who attempt to help or confuse him, and challenge his notions as well.

But it is very abstract and quite impenitrable.  Though the film may be appreciated better by someone more familiar with an Islamic point of view, it falls a bit awkward on western eyes, and we must see it as a mysterious, not always explainable journey (with some beautiful music and scenery to content the senses) to get the most out of it. 6/10

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