In the Fog is a Belorussian film set in WWII. The film starts with the hanging of three partisans by the occupying Nazi police. The scenes are slow, and leisurely — it nicely sets the expectation of pace for the rest of the film.
But it turns out that the three hanged me were originally arrested with a fourth guy: our protagonist, Sushenya. Because Sushenya was spared the gallows, everyone assumes that he must have ratted out his colleagues. Sushenya knows that that’s what everyone thinks, and it’s no surprise when two partisans, Burov and Voitik, show up at his house at night. They’re there to kill him for helping the Nazis.
My sixth film was State 194, a film about Palestine’s attempt to be recognized as the 194th state in the United Nations. The film follows a number of different people — Palestinian bloggers, Israeli pro-Palestinian activists, and several other — but the most visible subject of the film is the PA Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad. Fayyad outlines his goal: ironically, to follow the same path to statehood that Israel followed. He worked to build the apparatuses of a Palestinian state, and then approach the UN say, “look at us; surely you can see that we’re a state!”
I wish I could say that I liked Krivina more than I did. It has a lot going for it: a Bosnian living in Toronto returns after he hears reports that a friend of his, Dido, is wanted for war profiteering. He spends his time going from old address to old address, Dido’s relative to next relative. There’s almost a Godot-like quality, but rather than being a study of waiting, and life on hold, the overriding feeling is one of trauma and PTSD.
It’s a slow, languorous piece and I confess that I was impatient with it at times. It’s also a “but the aliens were really the humans after all” kind of story — the kind of story with a twist at the end that is supposed to make you go, “oooh”, but instead makes you think, “uh… is this your first screenplay?”
The Gatekeepers has been the most powerful film I’ve seen so far. At first, I was a bit wary of it — it’s a documentary about the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet, in the style of The Fog of War, and I feared that this would be an attempt to humanize the people who plan out state-authorized atrocity. The director interviews the six most-recent former heads of Shin Bet and gets them talking about some of the big anti-terrorism cases of the last number of years. And what they say is really quite interesting.
They don’t say simple things. They describe, candidly, that for much of their history, they had no notion of an “illegal order”. They seem like people who’ve all come to terms with living in a world of shades of grey, and least harm and crap like that. They’re upfront about assassinations, and missile strikes, and collateral damage. And yet they’re not unaware of “the banality of evil” and are quite thoughtful about the efficacy (or lack thereof) of their brand of terror-fighting and about the political impossibility of any other approach.
The Color of the Chameleon is a Bulgarian film about secret police. The film is a little bit dark, and also a little bit absurd. Our anti-hero, Batko Stamenov, seems to have an aptitude for lying. And Onanism. So he gets recruited by the Secret Police to infiltrate a student group that’s geeking out over an anti-establishment novel called Zincograph (which is also the name of the novel that the film is based on). Oddly, the plot of the book seems to inspire him to start a career as a zinc etcher.
Batko also has an annoying landlady who mistakenly screws up his position with security services. Being an informant made him feel important, and losing the job brings out his resentment. So he kills his landlady and hides the body in an alcove in his house — he bricks up the alcove to hide the body. He also bricks up her bunnies.
My second screening was a Sri Lankan film called Him, Here, After. In it, our main character (only known as “Him”) is a former Tamil Tiger who has spent the last few years after the war in a rehabilitation camp. Now, he returns to Jaffna to a community that views him with mixed reactions. He wants to start a new life and put his past as a soldier behind him, but he has no job prospects, and can’t even afford to get a driver’s license.
It’s TIFF time, again, and I caught my first two (well, three really) films tonight. My first screening was a film about Haiti — TIFF seems to have one about every other year, and I always make a point of catching that screening.
According to the programme, the film was meant to be preceded by another film called Peripeteia, but there was some screw up and we ended up seeing that one second. Peripeteia is a fairly avant-garde film, and I can’t say that I love avant-garde. It starts out with a title card informing us that the painter, Dürer, produced “Head of a Negro” in 1508, but that all information about the subject has been lost to “the winds of history.”
Cut to a black actor who looks vaguely similar to the sketch. He’s in sixteenth-century Europeean garb, walking through the fields of the dreariest British countryside. It looks Too Fucking Cold, and we can hear non-stop winds. He walks a bit. We cut to him in a different field. He stands dramatically. Cut to him near a lake.