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Thread: The 2007 Miami International Film Festival

  1. #46
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    DRAINED (Brazil)

    It rarely happens that I watch a movie and I can't form a firm opinion about it. If Roger Ebert and Jonathan Rosenbaum have expressed similar reactions (to other films) in print, I figure it's ok to express an uncertain opinion here. As a matter of fact, the last time I felt like this, the film in question was I Heart Huckabees (2004). And here's Ebert's initial response to it: "At festivals, the moment a movie is over, everybody asks you what you thought about it. I said, "I didn't know what I thought." Then how did it make you feel? "It made me feel like seeing it again." I actually do have an opinion about Heitor Dhalia's adaptation of Lourenco Mutarelli's O Cheiro do Ralo (The Smell of the Drain). I won't pretend it's a firm, conclusive opinion though. I'd have to see it again. That alone probably means there's something original or subversive about Drained which renders it important.

    Lourenco is a rich, well-dressed, 30-something who buys used goods from people desperate for cash. He takes delight in manipulating, disparaging, and humiliating them as if they were mere pawns in a game of his own creation. Lourenco treats the motley group that parade past his desk as commodities that would sell their soul if the price is right. He operates in a large warehouse in the outskirts of Sao Paolo where everything he buys gets cataloged and stored. Lourenco is obsessed with the smell of a clogged drain in the bathroom, a glass eye he believes to have special powers, and the round rear of a waitress at a nearby cafeteria. He goes there frequently, chatting up the waitress while ogling her rump. She has a naive sensuality and finds herself attracted to him. Laurenco doesn't want to know her name and doesn't want to seduce her, he wants to buy her. He complains about the stinking bathroom but he is also addicted to the stench, finding excuses not to have the drain unclogged (at one point he muses that the smell comes from hell itself). Lourenco shows awareness of his vile, pathetic existence but can't or won't change.

    Mutarelli's novel is a tragedy with absurdist elements and a caustic critique of consumerism and capitalism. The story might also imply certain things about men's objectification of women. It's a highly provocative, metaphorical narrative told from the less-than-reliable point of view of an anonymous "Nosferatu"_a word Mutarelli uses to describe the protagonist. Dhalia adds bits of humor and playfully assigns the writer's first name to the protagonist. Dhalia further humanizes Lourenco by casting handsome, matinee idol Selton Mello in the lead role. "The character could not be seen as a total asshole or people would leave the film during the exhibition. The image I have built as an actor gave the character a certain goodness" says Mello. This approach to the character seems to me to be incompatible with the original nature of the story. Moreover, I'm not convinced the humor in it, which recalls films by the Coen Brothers, is appropriate within the overall context. Drained is a smart, original movie, but it's not fully realized because of incongruous elements added in the process of adaptation. I think.

    Drained won Best Film at the Sao Paulo Film Festival and won Best Actor for Selton Mello and the FISPRESCI Prize at the Rio Film Festival.

  2. #47
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    THE CUSTODIAN (Argentina)

    Ruben is the bodyguard for the Minister of Planning. He accompanies him to public functions and private meetings, stands outside the dining room while the family eats and outside the entrance to the apartment of the minister's lover. He protects a man who seemingly is not at risk. Ruben is there but others act as if he isn't. He's in the shadows, on the margins of the action. He keeps a distance from the minister from which he hears isolated words but cannot really make out what's being said. He is in close proximity to the important man but is not familiar with him. He's subjected to the casual slights and petty humiliations experienced by those who serve the powerful. Ruben is a man of few words who follows a strict routine. We learn through a conversation with a colleague that his current position amounts to a demotion after exemplary military service. His private life gravitates between helping his neurotic sister and the ocassional visit to a prostitute who still lives with her mother. What exactly does Ruben feel and think about all this?

    The Custodian (El Custodio) is the first solo effort by writer/director Rodrigo Moreno. It's a character study strictly from the point of view of the tight-lipped protagonist played by Julio Chavez (Caetano's A Red Bear). The portrait of Ruben is built from the accumulation of details rather than a succession of events. These details are conveyed via carefully planned mise-en-scene and a magnificent central performance built around restrained gestures and body movement. The mise-en-scene makes wonderful use of the physical barriers that keep Ruben removed and marginalized: glass walls that muffle voices, room partitions that create separation, and doors that close in front of the bodyguard. Moreno has assembled a magnificent crew that includes soundman Catriel Vildosola (used by Lisandro Alonso and Pablo Trapero), DP Barbara Alvarez, and the skillful steadycam operator Matias Mesa (Babel, El Aura, Elephant). The Custodian introduces yet another talented young director from Argentina to the world of cinema. I will review another excellent debut from that South American country soon. This wave looks increasingly like a tsunami.

  3. #48
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    BLACK BOOK (Netherlands)

    Gerard Soeteman was the principal writer for the first seven movies directed by fellow Dutchman Paul Verhoeven. The story they tell in Black Book stems from research they conducted for Soldier of Orange (1977). That war epic, an adventure involving Dutch Resistance fighters, consolidated Verhoeven's international reputation. Soeteman and Verhoeven have been working on the script, on and off, for decades. In the meantime, Verhoeven moved to Hollywood and Soeterman wrote the script for the Oscar winner The Assault (1985) and directed De Bunker, both stories of survival and resistance during WWII. Black Book comes back to the Netherlands during WWII, when Verhoeven and Soeterman were children. It's very much of a piece with their previous filmography.

    Black Book tells the story of Rachel, a beautiful and resilient Jewish singer, who's hiding at the rural home of a Christian family in 1944. She's lucky not to be indoors when the Nazis bomb the house (in a Verhoeven film, the Nazis don't search the house, they just blow it up) and manages to run away. She reunites with her parents, who plan to escape with assistance from a Resistance group. The boat is ambushed by the SS, who received information from a mysterious source. Although her family gets killed, Rachel manages to survive and returns to Amsterdam. She gets a job at a factory run by a communist and joins the Resistance under an assumed name. Verhoeven is a highly skilled commercial filmmaker and he has crafted a fast-moving, eventful and exciting movie likely to become the highest grossing foreign-language film of 2007. Black Book eschews the stereotypical presentation of Resistance fighters as principled and Nazis as unredeemable villains. It paints a highly complex moral canvas that rings true. That's the extent of the subtlety and depth contained in a film built to thrill. Black Book also lacks the solemnity of recent films of the period, particularly those involving Jewish survivors. Carice van Houten plays Rachel with great conviction and verve. The handsome German actor Sebastian Koch (the playwright from The Lives of Others) is excellent as the Gestapo chief Rachel seduces in order to obtain information to aid the Resistance. At times, particularly during the second half of the film, Verhoeven seems desperate to keep the viewer amused at all costs. But there's no denying he's delivered a very entertaining mix of adventure, romance and mystery.

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    THE HEART OF THE EARTH (Spain/UK)

    World premiere of a historical epic inspired by Juan Cobos Wilkins's titular novel. In 1888, the people of Rio Tinto in the Spanish province of Huelva protested against a British mining company use of a copper processing method that endangered the environment and the lives of the residents. The protest was violently quelled with the support of the corrupt town's mayor and the governor. Fifteen years later, with the retirement of ruthless administrator Mr. Crown and a slightly more benign climate for the labor movement, the miners and their families again hope to improve their lot. Blanca Bosco (Catalina Sandino Moreno) witnessed the massacre as a little girl and became an English teacher and writer who advocated on behalf of the miners. The novel is set in 1952, as an elderly Blanca relates the events to Katherine, the curious young granddaughter of the company's British doctor. In the film, directed and co-written by Antonio Cuadri, Katherine (Sienna Guillory) is Crown's niece and Blanca's best friend. As young women, both become attracted to Baxter, the new manager's right-hand man. Surprisingly, it's the impulsive Katherine who takes violent action against the unwieldy British managers who continue to profit at the expense of the poor locals.

    The Heart of the Hearth is a big budget epic with outstanding production values. The film is quite handsome, even spectacular, reminiscent of John Ford's color westerns. It was shot in the actual town and huge copper mine (closed for decades, of course) where these events took place. The story is rather simple, with clearly identified villains and heroes. The Heart of the Earth has an old-fashioned feel to it, adopting a conventional storytelling approach. The cast is fine, particularly Misses Guillory (Helen of Troy) and Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace). But I was unable to develop much of an interest in the romantic triangle in which their characters are entangled, and the epilogue is superfluous and anticlimatic. The Heart of the Earth is pretty and earnest but bland filmmaking.

  5. #50
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    BELLE TOUJOURS (Portugal/France)

    Manoel de Oliveira's Belle toujours is an epilogue to Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour. In the 1967 classic, Severine (Catherine Deneuve) is a young wife who finds a way to satisfy her sexual fantasies when Henri (Michel Piccoli), her husband's best friend, gives her the address of an exclusive brothel where housewives often work in the afternoons. It was based on a novel by Joseph Kessel. Belle Tojours is set in 2006 with Piccoli reprising his role and Bulle Ogier (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) subbing for Deneuve. Henri spots her at a concert hall but fails to meet her, then hangs out at a bar having double scotches and chatting up the bartender. Henri lies when he says Severine's fantasy was to cheat on her husband with his best friend. When the bartender asks if they had sex, he avoids giving a direct answer and never reveals she spurned his advances. Whereas in Bunuel's film fantasies fuel the narrative, Belle tojours privileges memories. Manoel de Oliveira makes a strong parallel between Madame Anais's brothel and this bar where the same oil nude hangs on the wall and two hookers flirt with Henri and provide a sort of commentary. They are roughly Severine's age then and now.

    In Belle toujours, Henri is given an address_to Severine's hotel but he just misses her. Henri finally manages to catch up with her outside an antique shop, and she somewhat reluctantly agrees to have dinner with him in a restaurant. The concert hall, bar, hotel lobby and restaurant look no different than they would have appeared to the Portuguese director during his first visit to Paris in the 1920s. The outdoor scenes are precisely framed in order to maintain that illusion. Henri and Severine have dinner silently in a private dining room illuminated by the sputtering light of candles (a symbol of impermanence). Then Severine reveals she regrets her past and that her sexual desires have been extinguished or sublimated. Henri presents her with a lacquered box that makes a soft buzzing sound, it's identical to one brought by a client to the bordello in Belle de Jour. Henri is seemingly aware that specific sounds provoked the young Severine's sexual fantasies, but now her appetites fail to be aroused. She states she wants to retire to a convent (what would the anti-clerical Bunuel think). Immediately after she leaves, the revolving door reveals a chicken in the hall, as the film closes on a note of pure homage to Bunuel at his most surrealistic.

    In Belle tojours, Manoel explores with characteristic old-world elegance what happens to erotic desire when we age. It's a magnificent film, best enjoyed by those familiar with Bunuel's 1967 masterpiece. Belle tojours will be distributed in North America by New Yorker Films.

  6. #51
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    BEAUTY IN TROUBLE (Czech Republic)

    Benes, a middle-aged Czech ex-patriate living in Tuscany, watches footage of the 2002 floods that devastated his native Prague. He decides to return to check on a property he owns. The floods ruined the uninsured home of the beautiful blonde Marcela and her husband Jarda, a mechanic who has turned to crime by stripping stolen cars. Marcela objects and they quarrel frequently. The kids are getting sick from the mold in their house. So Marcela and the kids move in with her meek, religious mother and Richard, mother's creepy, confrontational husband. It's an uncomfortable arrangement for everyone. Jarda gets arrested when the police find Benes' stolen car at his body shop. Marcela and Benes meet at the police station. Over time, they get to know each other and become friends, then lovers while Jarda serves time in prison. The cultured and generous Benes is very nice to Marcela's family, even to the obnoxious Richard. He even takes them on vacation to Tuscany, where he owns a vineyard. Jarda gets released from prison and wants a reconciliation with Marcela.

    Beauty in trouble runs to the good angel
    On whom she can rely
    To pay her cab-fare, run a steaming bath,
    poultice her bruised eye

    Robert Graves (1895-1985)

    This poem served as the inspiration for Beauty in Trouble, the latest collaboration between director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsky. They have been inseparable since they met in film school twenty years ago, creating a highly regarded body of work (Big Beat, Up and Down, Divided We Fall). Their specialty is a type of humanistic drama with a healthy dosage of humor in which even secondary characters seem to exist outside the frame. They achieve a rather complex tone that feels invariably life-like: "If it's a tragic scene I try to shoot it as if it were a comic scene, and the other way around" say Hrebejk. I don't know specifically what that entails and it's probably unwise for others to attempt to duplicate that approach, but it works delightfully here. What Hrebejk films convey more than anything is an unconditional positive regard for even the least likable characters. They're granted their dignity and humanity. Richard may be the film's most interesting character. He's petty, dictatorial, even abusive but sometimes wise and ultimately well-intentioned. Another Hrebejk/Jarchovsky trademark is narrative clarity, a knack for guiding the viewer through significant events and pacing character introductions in a way that feels organic and natural. There's nothing simplistic about the characters or the plot of Beauty in Trouble but it's easy for the viewer to become oriented and engaged, all the way to the satisfyng and somewhat paradoxical conclusion. Ana Geislerova, who's excellent as Marcela, has become the most recognizable Czech actress since her three previous films (Zelary, Lunacy and Something Like Happiness) have traveled quite a bit (all three were released in the USA, where East-European films are usually hard to find).
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 03-27-2007 at 11:58 AM.

  7. #52
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    MY SON (France)

    A deeply disturbed woman (Nathalie Baye) increasingly dominates and smothers her son Julien as he enters adolescence in Martial Fougeron's debut feature Mon Fils A Moi. It involves a bourgeois family in which the marital relationship is practically nonexistent. Dad (Olivier Gourmet) is completely dedicated to his academic work as a college professor and submits to his wife's wishes when at home. Mom makes every decision in the boy's life including what he eats and wears. Julien gets a respite from her when he receives piano lessons from his grandmother (Emmanuelle Riva) and at school, where a cute girl catches his eye. Fougeron and co-writer Florence Eliakim establish certain expectations by opening the film with a long shot of an ambulance outside the family's suburban home. They establish a tense mood from the start and sustain it, as Julien's attempts to escape from her mother's claws are thwarted every time. Julien's sister, a college freshman, complains to her father to no avail. Instead, she's sent to the college dorm and Julien is forbidden to visit his grandmother and commanded to come straight home from school. In one particularly effective scene, Mom walks into Julien's room and torments him until he drops the towel wrapped around his waist. Midway, My Son gives a taste of the violence to come when Mom hits Julien for going to a party he was, of course, forbidden to attend. Uncharacteristically, Dad stops the beating by slapping her, which caused the audience to cheer in relief (two sources report the same audience reaction at San Sebastian, where the film won the Best Film and Best Actress awards).

    My Son is more than anything a horror film, in that mom behaves monstruously and no explanation or backstory is offered. Only Julien's futile attempts to develop some separation and self-identity are treated with psychological depth. My Son is absorbing, painfully so, as it moves down a one-lane road into the darkness.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 03-26-2007 at 08:54 PM.

  8. #53
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    THE NIGHT OF THE SUNFLOWERS (Spain)

    Esteban, a speleologist from Madrid, comes to an isolated rural area to explore a newly discovered cave. A photographer from a nearby village joins him to document any findings. Esteban's girlfriend Gabi goes for a hike in the woods where she's assaulted by a traveling salesman_did he kill the young woman whose corpse was found in a sunflower field in the film's opening scene? A shocked Gabi misidentifies her attacker causing Esteban to exact revenge on a local curmudgeon. An opportunistic young cop figures things out before his boss and proposes to help Esteban in exchange for money.

    La Noche de los Girasoles is the auspicious debut of writer/director Jorge Sanchez-Cabezudo. The title has a double meaning in that "sunflower" is a term used in rural Spain to refer to outsiders or "cityfolk". The film is infused with the melancholic isolation experienced in small rural towns with dwindling populations, towns almost bereft of young adults who often move to cities when they reach a certain age. Sanchez-Cabezudo projects a very specific sense of place. This thriller is told in six episodes whose timelines overlap, amounting to a structure with several flashbacks and flashforwards. Such narrative structures can cause temporal disorientation in the viewer and pacing problems but evidently Sanchez-Cabezudo can handle the challenge. Each episode adopts the point of view of a different protagonist which results in more character dimensionality than usually found in heavily-plotted thrillers. Among the standout performances, Carmelo Gomez as the bewildered speleologist and Celso Bugallo as the wily old cop bent on solving the case. Ultimately, what takes The Night of the Sunflowers beyond genre is Sanchez-Cabezudo's handling of the story's moral repercussions. Spain's Critics Circle designated Mr. Gomez as Best Actor and Mr. Sanchez-Cabezudo as Best New Artist of 2006.

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    A WONDERFUL WORLD (Mexico)

    Luis Estrada is out to ruffle feathers again. The director's last political satire, Herod's Law (1999), had its world premiere temporarily cancelled and its commercial run shortened by authorities from the governing political party, the PRI. That film looked back at decades of unkept promises and institutional corruption by PRI administrations. The sarcastically titled A Wonderful World is motivated by Luis Estrada's concerns about the widening gap between the rich and the poor caused by globalization, free-market policies, and what the writer/producer/director calls "savage capitalism".

    Looking for a warm place to spend the night, Juan (Damian Alcazar) sneaks into the World Financial Center building and lays down on an office couch. The bum panics when he hears a guard enter the office, hops down a window and into a ledge. His gesture is misinterpreted by onlookers as a symbolic suicide attempt, as a desperate protest. A crowd gathers, the media arrives and Pedro Lascurain, the Minister of Economy, worries about public opinion. The press turn Juan into a populist hero while Lascurain schemes to use Juan to his advantage. Juan is easily seduced by fame and the cute house and perks offered by Lascurain in exchange for his public support. Now Juan is confident enough to woo Rosita, a sweet downtrodden girl. His "compadres" Tamal, El Azteca, and Filemon feel a little left out though. They don't like it either when Juan starts adopting bourgeois attitudes. Meanwhile, Lascurain dreams of a high post at the WTO. To that end, he figures, he must eradicate poverty in Mexico... or at least make the poor invisible.

    A Wonderful World is a satire structured as a fairy tale. It boasts excellent production values and a magnificent cast. The great Damian Alcazar (Herod's Law, Satanas) channels Chaplin's Tramp and Mexican icon Tintan into the protagonist. Cecilia Suarez reminded me of Giulietta Masina and Chaplin sweethearts like Paulette Godard and Edna Purviance. Juan's bawdy pals are played by three outstanding character actors who've never been better. Estrada takes liberties with the art direction: when Juan peeks inside a middle-class living room, the scene looks like a 50s TV sitcom; and the decor of Juan's new home is pure 70s kitsch. A Wonderful World borrows sporadically from 1930s social comedies and from Italian neorealism but its tone is very dark. Somehow, this melange of influences and allusions enrich and amuse without making the film derivative. The hopeful tone of Louis Armstrong's rendition of the titular song is used to provide ironic counterpoint. Ultimately, A Wonderful World reflects Estrada's conclusion that, if the powerful care at all, they are too insulated to realize that there's a limit to what the poor can withstand.

  10. #55
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    GLUE (Argentina)

    It's a tough task to make a fresh and original film about adolescence. There have been so many great movies that depict those wonderful/horrible years when humans change so rapidly and feel so intensely. A large number of them can be categorized as "coming-of-age" stories in that a major character faces a challenging event or experience that serves as a rite of passage to a higher level of awareness and maturity. For most of us, our teenage experience is not so clearly delineated. Real life usually doesn't yield dramatic narratives; it usually lacks a tragic or suspenseful element. The protagonists of Alexis dos Santos' debut feature are "average teenagers" only in the sense that nothing spectacular happens to them, but they are highly individuated. The film is also quite specific about the small town in Patagonia where they live, the same place where the director's family moved when he was eight years old.

    Lucas is a gangly, bug-eyed 15 year-old with an expressive face and hair like the young Bob Dylan. That was her mother in the opening scene angrily confronting and fighting with her husband's alleged lover. Turns out they have been separated due to his infidelities but want to try to reconcile. It's a typical hot and dry summer. Lucas spends most of his time with peers, particularly his best friend Nacho and new acquaintance Andrea. Any attempt at providing a synopsis is bound to be as reductive as the title (which Santos qualifies by adding "Adolescent Story in the Middle of Nowhere"): the kids swim at the public pool, play in a rock band (Lucas writes lyrics and sings, badly, and he knows it), engage in prankish games and idle talk, and just plain hang out. The daring, awkwardness, vulnerability and self-consciousness of adolescence permeate every moment. Dad comes to dinner one night. Lucas decides to steal the key to Dad's apartment and party there with Nacho and Andrea. She can't come so the boys find some glue, get high and get each other off. Another day, the three of them go to a dance club, have a beer or two, then end up kissing and touching each other. The film is fluid and ethereal, both in content and form. Santos cast three kids who knew each other at an improv class, took them to the town of Zapala in Patagonia, let them wander around and suggest locations, provided them with basic scenarios and allowed them to create dialogue within certain parameters. He shot most of the film in HD video with gorgeously saturated colors, and added some impressionistic inner monologues shot in super 8 (reminiscent of those in Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation).Towards the conclusion, Lucas, his older sister, and parents, seemingly closer to reconciliation, go camping. They have trouble setting up the tent so that it doesn't collapse on them. A subtle metaphor for the difficulties of keeping a family together.

    Glue takes a non-judgemental stance and regards the kids with deep empathy. It's a simultaneously realistic and lyrical snapshot of adolescence. Perhaps it's not a film that will be universally admired because it lacks the compelling narrative, the dramatic twists and turns, that certain audiences expect from a movie. Few will deny that teenagers have seldom been depicted with such warmth and unflinching honesty though. Glue has been a success in the festival circuit. It was recently selected to open the renowned New Directors/New Films series in New York. Picture This! Entertainment has recently acquired the North American rights to the film. It's unclear at the moment what type of distribution the film will receive.

  11. #56
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    COLOSSAL YOUTH (Portugal)

    "This is so out of the zeitgeist I don't know where to begin"
    (Critic/author Mark Peranson, editor of Cinema Scope magazine, on reviewing Colossal Youth)

    It's a rare privilege to watch the work of a filmmaker who seems to live in a parallel universe. Pedro Costa's films have no clear antecedents or familiar points of reference. The challenge of writing about Colossal Youth is compounded by the fact that it's my first exposure to his films. Colossal Youth completes a trilogy involving residents of the Fontainhas projects that began with Bones (1997) and In Vanda's Room (2000). A large percentage of those living in Fontainhas are immigrants from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony in Africa. The trilogy is based on a unique artistic collaboration between Costa and the disadvantaged residents, who either play themselves or thinly fictionalized versions. Costa's sensitivity to their plights and his historical awareness is matched by the residents' self-exposure and tireless dedication_reportedly, Costa shot 320 hours of DV footage over a 15-month period then edited the film down to 155 minutes. Out of this material, Costa creates something that differs markedly from the documentary and neorealist traditions.

    Ventura is a sixtyish recovering alcoholic forced into retirement by a construction site accident. The film opens with his wife tossing his belongings out of a third story window and angrily kicking him out of their slum dwelling. Ventura goes on an odyssey of sorts, a series of visits with younger people he calls his "children". One of the challenges of Colossal Youth is that it's left up to the viewer to clarify how exactly characters are related and how much time passes between these encounters. To most of these "children", Ventura is actually a father figure, a sort of village elder. The characters are depicted during a period of transition as the residents are being moved from the squalid and dilapidated Fontainhas to the sterile, white-walled apartments of a new housing development. The dislocation experienced by the residents is matched by the viewers' lack of spatial orientation due to the absence of establishing shots. Ventura's "children" include: Vanda, a former heroin addict who relates in detail the events surrounding the birth of her toddler, an injured laborer undergoing rehabilitation who wishes for a job as a goldsmith and grieves over a rift with his mother, a guard at a museum exhibiting the paintings of Velasquez, an illiterate migrant worker who asks Ventura to write a letter to his distant wife. The composition and recitation of the letter becomes a recurring theme, a sort of poetic incantation projecting the sense of loss and isolation inherent in the separation and estrangement of families. Ventura visits a young woman (who appears to actually be his biological daughter) still living at Fontainhas. As they sit, they look off-screen and create stories based on the figures on the wall created by the peeling paint, just as if the walls were clouds. No matter how decrepit, there's a history in these shabby and cramped rooms. The scene explains with great subtlety why the residents feel a profound ambiguity about being relocated. A couple of times, Ventura meets with a social worker to examine what is to be his new apartment, but Ventura keeps straining to find faults with it. His dream to gather "all his children" under one roof is illusory, impractical, and quixotic. It speaks volumes about his deep need for community and affiliation in a changing world.

    Colossal Youth consists of long scenes that occur in real time. Costa generally uses a single light source that bathes the characters in pools of brightness and shadow. The camera is invariably fixed and positioned at an angle from the characters, with especial attention to the contrast between subject and background. Certainly Colossal Youth is not a film for the casual filmgoer, or those who regard movies as pastime or diversion. Costa has said that his films must be seen publicly because the walk-outs are part of the experience. Certain scenes are "designed" to send to the exits those who wandered into the wrong movie. The implication is that many won't truly care to know Ventura, Vanda, and the others. Or perhaps they don't want to deal with something "so out of the zeigeist". Colossal Youth is a mysterious and lyrical film created through the intimate collaboration between a true artist and his dedicated subjects.

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    AWARDS

    DRAMATIC FEATURES

    IBERO-AMERICAN CINEMA COMPETITION
    Grand Jury Prize: The Violin (Mexico)
    Audience Award: The Night of the Sunflowers (Spain)

    WORLD CINEMA COMPETITION
    Grand Jury Prize: Red Road (Scotland)
    FISPRESCI Prize: Red Road (Scotland)
    Audience Award: Sweet Mud (Israel)

    DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

    Grand Jury Prize: Banished (USA)
    Special Jury Prize: Septembers (Spain)
    Audience Award: To Play and To Fight (Venezuela)

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    TO PLAY AND TO FIGHT (Venezuela)

    Tocar Y Luchar was intended to be an institutional video about the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra system. After shooting had completed, the producers decided to submit it for exhibition at film festivals. It premiered at Montreal then at the AFI in Los Angeles in 2006. Lamentably, because of lack of funds for post-production, Tocar y Luchar received some criticism for its poor sound, editing, and other technical problems. These problems were corrected in January of 2007 and the film started winning awards in film festivals, including an Audience Award when shown at the Miami International Film Festival in March.

    Tocar Y Luchar combines concert footage and interviews. Venezuela developed a nationwide music education program in the 1970s and, 30 years later, it's recognized as the best in the world. Several orchestra conductors from Germany, Switzerland and the U.S. are shown directing the youth orchestras and expressing their admiration and disbelief at the level of skill and commitment of the young musicians. A powerful scene shows Placido Domingo moved to tears by a choral performance. Adult graduates of the system and kids of all ages testify about the multiplicity of benefits of a music education. There's no polemic or tension to be found anywhere in this invariably uplifting and joyous documentary. It's crowd-pleasing almost to a fault.

    *I missed Tocar Y Luchar during the MIFF but wished I had seen it after it won an audience award. I watched it last night as part of a retrospective of Venezuelan cinema. Tocar Y Luchar continues to be exhibited at festivals.

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