Monday, March 20, 2006


PAVEE LACKEEN Ireland, 2005; 87 min.

Written and Directed
by Perry Ogden

The” Travelers” are an Irish subculture akin to the Gypsies. They aren't treated very well by the Irish government, and are therefore not a very happy bunch.

The story, as much as there is one, is about Winnie Maughan, a ten year old girl who gets suspended from a “special” school just for Travelers because she fights back with kids who call her names. Her mother Rose is a drunk, at least for the film, and Winnie's nine siblings are either in jail or our on the street causing trouble. So what we do is follow Winnie around as she goes around Dublin hanging out while things get worse for the family as they're forced to travel to a worse campsite where the government doesn't have to do anything for them anymore.

The film doesn't show what exactly the Traveler experience is and what difference it is from the regular Irish experience aside from the fact that they live in a trailer and speak with a particularly think accent. There's really no plot to this thing, and the characters have absolutely no development at all. There's a feeling of hopelessness about the film, which begs the question of purpose. What exactly is the filmmaker trying to do here? Is it a propaganda plea for help, and indictment of the Irish government for the treatment of these people? A pre-teen adventure film?

In all these things, it's a failure. We don't really care too much for these people and it seems neither does anyone else, including the filmmaker who wants to show their plight to the world.

FIRST ON THE MOON Russia, 2005; 75 min.

Directed by
Alexey Fedorchenko

I was really looking forward to this film. The idea was a hoot, a pseudo-documentary on a mysterious Soviet space flight in the 1930s was something which should not only be brilliant, but hilarious. Sadly, it's neither.

What they have is somewhat stilted and pedestrian. Following a brief history of rocketry, The narrator mentions a mysterious meteorite that fell in Chile in 1938, and then using a combination of real and faked footage begins to piece together a story of a secret soviet space program, where four heroes are chosen for a secret mission into outer space. Unfortunately, only one of them(Alexei Slavnin) is still alive, and he isn't very interesting.

The group of cosmonauts training to be the first person in space consists of a circus dwarf(Andrei Osipov), a female athlete(Viktoria Ilyinskaya) and two pilots, the interviewee (Anatoly Otradnov) and Ivan Kharlamov (Boris Vlasov), who is eventually picked to become the first person into space.

This could have been really fun and interesting, but instead it's actually rather boring. Most of the film concentrates on the training of the quartet, and we don't see too much of that, and the description of the flight's aftermath, with Kharlamov's travels and subsequent mental state shown with faux clippings and some “archival” footage, together with that taken by Fedorchenko's trip to the South Pacific, or at least it should have been because it would have been a really good excuse to go there.

This is a snooze.

Still World The Netherlands, 2005; 30 min.

Written and Directed
by Elbert van Strien

You've gotta have a gimmick. Here, we've got a tale of parinoia told through a series of still photos, which symbolizes the detachment the hero of the piece(Fedja van Huêt) from the world when he discovers his rival(Daan Schuurmans) and not he is was the first to have a book published.

Our hero then decides that there's a secret conspiracy to keep the world mediocre, and tries to prove it. Aside from the gimmick, there's really no story that makes sense except the ravings of a paranoid lunatic. It reminds one of the ending of “Fight Club” but isn't nearly as interesting or fun.

IRON ISLAND Iran 2005; 90 min. - A Kino International release.

Written and Directed
by Mohammad Rasoulof

Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, the Persian gulf to be exact, is a rusting, derelict oil tanker which has been converted into a village. It's on this titular “iron island” where the fatherly Captain Nemat (Ali Nasirian) presides over a few hundred tenants living their lives. Cannibalizing the ship for money, raising kids and other sundry things while a few eccentrics here and there make life on board not completely boring.

This has the making of a sitcom, sort of “Star Trek” meets “Northern Exposure.” For most of the time, we follow the good captain as he makes his rounds about the ship, and tries to fend off the actual owners of the vessel, who want to sell it for scrap. It's all very cute, but there's a darker plot thread.

Since this is an Iranian film about Sunni Arabs, the mores are very different than here in the west, which is why a clandestine romance between the captain's protégé Ahmad (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh) and the daughter of an occasional resident of vessel (Neda Pakdaman) can turn tragic. Ahmad has, like most of the people on the ship, nothing, while the captain has promised to get the girl a rich husband… the otherwise lovable captain treats this situation not with distinctly nasty attention.

The film ends on a hopeful note. This is what cinema is about. Taking the viewer into a completely alien world and trying to make some sense out of it. Definitely worth a matinee.

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