BIFF 2013 Day 7

I missed yesterday due to other commitments, and also there was not so much on that I fancied (at least when I could go).  I also managed to get a ticket for the wrong showing of the films of C.H Wood, whose old amateur films of the 1940's onwards would hopefully have brought back some memories of how Bradford used to look before it had the heart of it ripped out - an operation that is only now beginning to show signs of success.  By the time I realised, the later showing had sold out.

Consequently I have only a couple of mid-length films today.

My House Without Me (Pol) (site)

It is unlikely that there will be a shortage of angles and stories to tell about the harshness of life during the world wars, especially while there are still people alive to tell them first hand.  Director Magdalena Szymkow (who was present at the screening for a quick Q+A) adds to the collection with a unique angle; persuading her Polish grandmother, who endured much of the worst without being one of the casualties, to open up about her experiences and put them quietly and slowly to film.  She lives quietly with her clucking chickens in an old, isolated farmhouse.

But the farmhouse wasn't always hers.  It had been given to her family after the war as a place to live, displacing the German family living there.  By a stroke of good luck, Szymkow managed to track down the surviving daughter of that family, and interleaves their stories of both sides of this terrible period, and the process of picking up the pieces afterwards; suffered by millions of people on both sides.

It's a short film at less than half an hour but this keeps the depressive stories from becoming tiring on the soul.  Simple and sad, and a powerful testament to the surviving souls still out there. 8/10

Under the Weight of Clouds (Ned) (site)

The subject matter got no lighter with it's companion film.  Young mother Elena left her young son and family in the Ukraine to make money, and has by some means ended up in a prostitution racket, headed by men who don't take kindly to those who try to escape.  One day, another woman arrives with her young daughter, who promptly goes missing to the relief of the pimps.  They can get on with the job of renting out their lumps of meat at an hourly rate without a brat running around.

So when little Zahal reappears just as things start to get busy, Elena must make a decision - stand by and watch the child be abandoned to the harsh world outside, or help and flee from the brutal reprisals.

A simple film, adapted for the big screen from a Dutch TV programme.  Without being explicit, the film paints a now familiar but no less stark picture of the desperate lives of women who end up using their bodies to survive.  Though powerfully acted and unapologetically grim, it did leave the viewer with some loose ends that they need to tie up themselves; which when you have a desperate mother and child fending for themselves - is something you would hope the film would at least hint at resolving, and this does make the ending disappointingly abrupt.  However, it is still an unsettling but engrossing film. 7.5/10

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