DIFF 2015 – Day 3


 

DALLAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Day 3 – Sunday April 12

Below is a recap of films I watched on Day 3:

 

CARTEL LAND (2015, doc)

cartel land Greetings again from the darkness. Even in this digital age where information exists from all sides of a conflict … often with corresponding video, the general public somehow remains complacent to issues that don’t directly and obviously affect their lifestyle. Skilled documentarian Matthew Heineman ignores the rhetoric of political speeches and plops the war against drug cartels right into our lap.

This is a different approach to a topic with which we are all at least somewhat familiar. The involved parties include the affected communities (in Mexico and Arizona), the governments and affiliated agencies (DEA, Border Patrol), the ever-expanding vigilante groups of citizens (Arizona Border Recon, AutoDefensas), and of course the cartels (focus on Knights Templar).

Intimacy is the key here, as Mr. Heineman takes us inside these groups with an up-close look at leaders. Especially fascinating is Dr. Mireles who is the face of the AutoDefensas – a group he pledges will protect communities from the cartels, who clearly have no regard for human life. The film doesn’t shy away from the expected issues: citizen pushback, greed, abuse of power, and corruption. As AutoDefensas teams with the Mexican government to create the Rural Defense Force, we can’t help but wonder if the rumors of differing goals are at play in the drug battles. Citizens want safety, but what is it that the government wants? Is the goal drug-free streets or is it a cut of the action.

Learning how desperate the vigilantes are to protect their homes, turf and way of life, we are left with little doubt of their mission. It’s everyone else that we must keep questioning and holding accountable. This is not an easy documentary to watch, but it’s necessary if you have previously lost interest as the next politician proclaims he will continue “the war on drugs”.

ASCO (2015)

Greetings again from the darkness. A broken heart is one of most powerful triggers of human emotion. Clarity of thought is often lacking during this period, and mental images explode as a rational reaction is rarely able to break through the swirling alternatives.

Brazilian writer/director Alexandre Paschoalini presents the story of broken-hearted Ela (Sol Faganello) in expressionistic hyper-kinetic Black and White mode. After Ele (Guto Nogueira) crushes his emotions and attempt at connection, he begins a psychotic mission with the goal of causing her to feel the same pain that her actions brought to him.

Many of Ela’s actions are outside the boundaries of the law, but he will not be deterred. Ele’s shock of white hair adds a visual that perfectly contrasts with Ela’s dark and brooding features and moods. White hat vs Black hat – only no one told the white hat that she was in a demented duel.

With almost no dialogue, the story is told through both stark and outlandish visuals, and is often accompanied by music that harkens to 1960’s era rock music. A masked woman and a faceless man ensure that we understand just how removed from rational thought that Ela has become. It’s quite a build up with a startling climax that features a terrific last line … explaining all.

LADYGREY (2015)

Greetings again from the darkness. Alain Choquart has had a long and successful career as a top cinematographer, and though this is his first feature film as director, his eye with a camera is obvious in just how beautifully this film is shot.

Filmed and set in post-apartheid South Africa, this little village has an undercurrent of secrecy and misery. We realize that some tragic event has engulfed the citizens with a bleak perspective, and each day seems pretty much as dark as the last. Slow-witted Mattis (Jeremie Renier) brings tremendous energy and spirit to an otherwise downbeat environment. Sadly Mattis fluctuates between ecstasy, frustration and outright anger … each shift seemingly occurring over the smallest detail.

The synergy between characters played by Liam Cunningham, Emily Mortimer, Peter Sarsgaard and Sibongile Mlambo is so uncomfortable that we never know what form the next round of broken trust will take. These are not happy people and none of the relationships even border on healthy.

The beautiful Green River plays a vital role in the story, both as a carrier of secrets and a vision of hope, and the torrential rain storms tend to bring about the next infusion of misery. The excellent cast does their best to overcome a lacking script, but mostly the film is more enjoyable to look at than actually watch.

 

 

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