Saturday, March 18, 2006

NDNF two

OCTOBER 17, 1961 France, 2005; 106 min

Directed by
Alain Tasma

From 1954 to 1962, France was at war with the world. It's colonial empire was crumbling, and that sparked revolution at home. The Fifth French Republic was less than three years old in the summer of 1961, and the war with the Algerian separatists wasn't going very well.

The Front de Libération Natunal (FLN), as the separatists called themselves, had taken to killing policemen in the Paris area, terrorism being an old tactic even then, and the cops were, to put it mildly, pissed off.

Martin(Jean-Michel Portal) is a cop, who's been targeted by the FLN. He doesn't like the situation, and is going to retire as soon as possible, as the terror is working quite efficiently, and his comrades-in-arms do the same thing with poor Algerians like Abde (Ouassini Embarek), who only wants to get his elementary education certificate so he can get into a real job training program.

But the terrorists and the French government are negotiating offstage, and police chief Papon (Thierry Fortineau), who's a genuine war criminal, wants to keep things relatively quiet until an agreement could be reached.

So on the one hand, you have the Algerian terrorists, and on the other you have the cops, who see every Algerian as a terrorist and act accordingly…and sometimes even moreso. What is amazing here is that the NLF leadership decided to have a spontaneous protest on the evening of October 17,1961. It was supposed to be peaceful, with no one having weapons of any kind.

Now if the protest had been voluntary, and the there had been some sort of agreement with the authorities the atrocities of the evening on the part of the police wouldn't have happened, but the whole thing was botched on the part of the Algerians and quite a few were killed.

The cover-up of the incident continued for years.

The film is quite even handed. We get to sympathize with elements of both sides, but since this is a film about French history for the French, we don't get the context. Its also a bit to pat and not dramatic enough. There should be a lesson somewhere, but sadly, there isn't.

LOOK BOTH WAYS Australia 2005

Written and Directed
by Sarah Watt

Sarah Watt is primarily an animator, she's done a number of award-winning shorts, but for some reason, she decided that cartooning is enough and has gone forward to directing and writing “real” films. But not quite yet ready to abandon her animated roots, she's kept some in to provide some balance. It works.

This, is a really morbid film. Death and destruction are everywhere. Just the setting for a romantic comedy, I guess, which is what this is.

Meryl (Justine Clarke) is a cartoonist working for a greeting card company, therefore she thinks in cartoons, and these are all about death and destruction. She sees a train, and in her mind it crashes into a mountainside, Cute dogs attack her, sharks do too. But then as she's walking home along the railroad tracks, an extra gets run over by a train offstage.

Nick (William McInness) has just been told by his doctor that he's got testicular cancer and it's metastasized throughout his body. He goes to work, he's a photographer for the local newspaper and tells his editor Phil (Andrew S. Gilbert) about the situation. He's told to go home, but just then Andy(Anthony Hayes), who's going off to cover the abovementioned fatal accident. Andy doesn't think that it's an accident at all. He's ticked off about his life, and thinks that lots of men in his position just throw themselves in front of trains and off bridges and the like and these are counted as accidents.

While Andy interviews Meryl, Nick takes pictures of the site, and along comes the widow(Daniela Farinacci),, and gets a great photo, which is critical to the proceedings, for Andy thinks that it doesn't illustrate the point of his column, and the widow and a number of other minor characters react to it in different ways.

It seems that Nick and Meryl live near each other, and he walks her home, and soon there's a romance blossoming. We get into his head too, and he thinks in photos. Unfortunatly, nobody else gets to imagine out loud, as this is an ensemble piece, going back and forth between the various characters including Andy's wife and his newly pregnant girlfriend Anna (Lisa Flanagan) who isn't sure how to handle the situation.

The romance that develops is the counterpoint from the overwhelming air of depression that pervades the film. Everyone feels awful, Meryl has just got home from her dad's funeral, but for some reason, this is a joyful affirmation of life. How the director manages to do it is a minor miracle. See it when it comes out on cable in the summer.

Pia Ecuador 2005; 9 min.

Written and Directed
by Javier Andrade

Pia, and Ecuadorian teenager has just had an abortion before her quitacera (a kind of bat mitzvah kind of thing), and confronts her ex-boyfriend about it. It's not that great a film, but it shows promice from a place which doesn't have any real native industry. Not bad.

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