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Thread: NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2020 (March 25-April 5, 2020)

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  1. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    KALA AZAR (Janis Rafa 2010)



    Perhaps pre-apocalyptic world or spreading disease and roadkill, seen through a young couple making do

    This film, by an art video maker, chronicles a Greek couple who work as professional pet cremators. or their delivery people, for a municipality. They go around gathering defunct pets, take their remains to be cremated, then return the ashes with a certificate to the owners for preservation. It's all done legally, or is supposed to. Sometimes they may break the rules. They are not allowed to retrieve roadkill but they do. Since the couple rarely say anything, we may not know a lot about them. Something about a father's dog's accident and severe facial injury. Formulas rehearsed and recited to pet owners. They have sex in their car. No conversation during or after that rough and tumble. Minor sub-themes: soothing the body with balms made from cactus juices and, yes, dogs. One man filmmaker Janis Rafa, or his cameraman Thodoros Minopouloss, has a fresh angle on point of view, and a gift for stillness and neutrality.

    The couple, whose lives are not much explored, seem to like animals - perhaps trained as vets but out of work? Kala-azar is the name of a parasitic disease spread to humans by bits of sand flies; according to the Screen Daily review of this film, it is "wiping out swathes of the canine population of southern Europe," which would explain its inclusion here.

    The couple is just working for the crematorium, but as a couple. Not a very good job really, so it's not a big surprise when they start not getting along so well. They should be considered between jobs - perhaps between relationships. I considered myself between films when I watched this. And while this is filmmaker (Janis Rafa's first feature, I'd see it as a possible stepping-stone to something more substantial and important, a glimpse of a willingness to take chances, but not quite there yet (New Directors/New Films discoveries are often like that).

    Leonardo Goi, who reviewed the film for The Film Stage, extrapolates a bourgeoning worldview from this subject matter, seeing it as depicting a "disquieting, moribund universe" and a "wasteland of industrial debris and derelict houses frozen in a 1990s impasse" and notes that pets' level of "grieving" they may "aspire to" (as if pets aspired to grieving) depends on the level of their owners. All this may be reading too much into it. Probably Wendy Ide, who reviewed the film for Screen Daily, is closer to the mark in arguing that this isn't a film that "anthropomorphizes the beasts" and in fact is more intent on "finding the animal at the heart of the human characters." That's what the wordlessness and lack of background is probably consciously or unconsciously doing. But that may be doing too much. Penelopi and Dimitris may be somewhat marginal, but not that marginal.

    Just for fun, at the end, a uniformed military drums and brass band plays in a large henhouse, and the hens really like it. Then they're packed off in crates, just the same.

    This won top prize at Rotterdam, Europe's festival headquarters for edgy weirdness.

    Kala azar, 75 mins., debuted at Rotterdam, where it won the KNF Award and was a nominee for the Tiger Award, which The Cloud in My Room won, showing also at Zerkalo Tarkovsky festival (internet version), Galway (internet), Thessaloniki, and in New Directors/New Films Dec. 2020virtual pandemic version, as part of which it was screened for this review.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-16-2020 at 09:19 PM.


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