BIFF 2013 Day 8

Inertia (UK) - A night's plotting between a young man and his friend, eager to wrench him from the girl he thinks is turning his mate into a depressive shell of a man, is played out in all it's dysfunctional glory.  The banter between the two friends is a little over the top sitcom style, but it's quite entertaining and funny, and doesn't overstay it's welcome.  Director Will Herbert was present at the screening and told us of his shoestring budget and a freezing November evening in Stockport getting it made, which was a nice bonus. 7/10

Me Too (Rus) ()

Even the most paletable regions of Russia, with it's pleasant architecture and clean streets can drive a man to desperate measures.  Sergey is one such man, although he doesn't seem to be in control of it.  Alone, middle-aged and roaming the streets with his guitar for company; he meets up with his acquaintance, a dispassionate smalltime gangster whose life is so meaningless even his love for killing those people he hates has left him.  But he has stories of a belltower with a mysterious ability to rapture people up, somewhere off in the icy, radioactive wastes of the north.  Lonely and desperate souls with religious upbringings mixed up with 2012-mayan theofubble makes such a journey sound a pretty good prospect, but they have been warned by the reverend - it doesn't take everyone, yet no-one ever returns.

Along the way they pick up various people in similarly desperate frames of mind, and the car slowly fills, full of people saying 'me too' to the redemption at the end of the journey.

Being Russian in origin, Me Too was always going to be a bit 'random' to us westerners; things happen strangely and are unexplained no matter how close to the forefront of the viewers mind the film has stuck it.  A prostitute along for the ride is abandoned at a checkpoint between the warmer and colder climes, because women are not 'saved'.  So what does she do?  Strip naked and follow them on foot through the freezing snow and ice.  Somehow she keeps up with the car.

Its examples like these, not funny, not crazy, just jarringly wierd, that spoil Me Too.  That and the midsection of the film when they fill space picking people up and telling stories, is dreadfully dull, like they are expecting the hilarity to just naturally flow from the dialogue; and the use of heavy thrash metal that abruptly stops with a car door slam is both overused and not remotely suitable for the pedestrian pace.  For the most part, it just meandered to it's conclusion occasionally chucking a strange event in to throw you.

I wanted to like Me Too, the whole thing about desperate belief could have been good, but it was too random and too allegorical to enjoy fully, at least to a foreign audience not able to pick up on the cultural pointers. 5.5/10

Black Ice (US) - Another of the Stan Brackage films, and no less forgettable.  Black Ice takes us on a 2001-style silent journey through ice, blackened by the dead of night save for some coloured lights. It's quite pretty, but thats it. 4/10

Cheap Tickets (Gre) - The rawkus generated by all sorts of colourful characters on a typical night train from the station at Thessaloniki to the bustling and run-down streets of Athens, as experienced by a set of students from the UK. Nothing particularly exciting happens, but it is a fairly interesting slice of life. 5.5/10

What Has Happened to this City? (Ind) (Berlinale article)

Another film showing as part of the Indian film industry's 100th birthday, What Has Happened to this City? is a passionate documentary made in 1986, chronicling the events that led up to the fractious civil wars that have broken out between the Hindus and Sunni Muslims who occupied the Old City and New City districts of Hyderabad, a few years previous.  It was only due to a restoration effort by the 'Living Archive' project at Berlinale that people are able to see this film, as due to it's sensitive content, it's badly worn copies rarely saw the light of day.

Due in part to political wranglings brought about by power shifts in the 1920s, with British Colonial rule ending in 1947 having cut a swathe through the peaceful existence of the communities prior to the period, the crumbling city of Hyderabad became host to many demonstrations and counter-demonstrations focusing on political scandals, housing and food shortages and, eventually, feelings of religious opression of one side over the other.  On both the Muslim and Hindu sides, fundamentalists began stirring up trouble, and the police and politicians were unwilling and/or unable to do anything about it.

One of the most incendiary acts was for both sides to invent and stage processions; normally these would be from traditions stretching back hundreds of years, but now, in increasingly aggressive demonstrations of their faiths (each of course being the 'correct' one), new processions were springing up.  The Hindu Ganesh parade, which began in 1980 to bring together the oppressed Hindus of the Old City was by 1984 hugely politically charged, and that year, all hell broke loose for ten weeks afterwards.

Deepa Dhanraj spent several years putting together footage of the buildup, the rioting, and interviewing both the major politicians and community figures of the time, and the survivors of the terrible attacks on both sides of the conflict.  They have some truly horrifying tales to tell, and often the perpetrators were friends, neighbours, and people they would happily pass on the street weeks before.  Dhanrajs' intention with this film was not to divide further, but to show both sides what damage they were doing to their city, and urging them to start a dialogue.

Even in it's restored state, the film was showing signs of wear, with much of the footage stained and weathered, but it still remains a rare, authoritative account of a nightmare period little known outside the borders. 8/10

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