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Cinequest 2008

This is the first year we decided to not see any of the shorts collections at Cinequest. Instead we watched five films from around the globe. So how did the 18th Annual San José Film Festival go?

The Aerial (La Antena). Directed by Esteban Sapir, Argentina 2006, black and white. In the City, oppressively controlled by Señor T.V., no one has a voice; the television is the center of everyone’s life, and words are subtitles to be read. The style is similar to old fashioned silent films, except the characters interact with the subtitles, shrinking away or pushing the words aside —quite innovative! What nearly ruins an otherwise good film is a couple heavy-handed symbols, which I felt superfluous, insulting the collective intelligence of the audience. (Indeed, giggles and smirks occurred in the theatre whenever those symbols appeared.)

Departure (Fritt fall); directed by Caroline Cowan. Butterflies (Pirret); directed by Kjell-Åke Andersson. Both short films are from Sweden and released in 2007. Both star Lotta Tejle, first as a lonely suicidal woman, then as a goofy, greedy scientist —showing great range of ability, between drama and slapstick. Departure is about illegal immigration in western Europe, namely the interaction between Agneta (Tejle) and a young homeless Romanian, Vocho. Butterlies is a silly yet enjoyable story of Sara, an imaginative little girl who can fly…when inspired, not on demand.

Getting Home (Luo ye gui gen). Directed by Zhang Yang, China 2006. The best film I watched at the festival. About middle-aged Zhao who carries his friend’s body on a trip across China, and the funky characters he meets as he heads towards his friend’s hometown. Quirky, touching, hilarious, with beautiful vistas.

The Mourning Forest (Mogari no mori). Directed by Naomi Kawase, Japan 2007. Machiko mourns for her young son who died recently. Shigeki mourns for his wife who died 33 years ago. The film starts beautifully, with panoramas of mountains and fields of tea. Unfortunately, it slows down awkwardly to a long-drawn-out forest trek with Blair Witch camera moves, as the characters search for closure.

A Time to Die (Pora umierać). Directed by Dorota Kędzierzawska, Poland 2007, black & white. Amusing to watch the two lead actresses, 92-year-old Danuta Szaflarska and not-so-loyal yet charming border collie, Phila. What do they do when her cowardly son and odious rich neighbor try to buy her dilapidated Renaissance mansion? Or when rambunctious kids from the music school next door keep sneaking in to play in her yard? Gorgeous cinematography, expressing a love for old buildings.

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