MoMA and the Global Film Initiative (GFI) present the New York leg of the touring film exhibition Global Lens, described as “a project conceived to encourage filmmaking in countries with emerging film communities.” Global Lens 2011 kicks off on Jan. 13. The series runs until Jan. 28.
I’m not sure you could call places such as Brazil, China, India, and Argentina as “emerging film communities” considering that all four countries have had internationally renowned film industries for decades. As for the remark that in those countries “local economic realities make such expensive and technology-driven endeavors a challenge,” it implies that China, Argentina, India, and Brazil are about on the same economic level as Burkina Faso, Burundi, Bangladesh, and Haiti. Speaking of dire economic realities and the challenges to filmmaking, not one movie in the Global Lens 2011 series hails from Africa or from the poorest countries in the Americas and, with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, Asia.
Yet, any chance to watch something other than Little Fockers, TRON: Legacy, Yogi Bear, or even the acclaimed True Grit – which is widely available and will remain so on DVD – should be more than welcome. Especially welcome is the chance to check out Mohammad Rasoulof’s The White Meadows, as Rasoulof has been sent to jail for being a “threat” to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fellow filmmaker/political prisoner Jafar Panahi edited The White Meadows.
Global Lens 2011 was organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator of MoMA’s Department of Film. See list of screening films below (via MoMA’s website).
La Vida Útil (A Useful Life)
2010. Uruguay. Directed by Federico Veiroj. With Jorge Jellinek. Montevideo’s Cinemateca Uruguaya, active for over 50 years, now faces a dwindling audience and diminishing financial support. When the ax finally falls, Jorge (real-life Uruguayan film critic Jellinek), who has worked at the theater for 25 years, finds himself unmoored in the “real world.” Shot in sumptuous black and white and cropped to the Academy aspect ratio popular in the 1950s, Veiroj’s second feature is a loving, technically masterful homage to the fading physical world—and enduring memory—of art house cinema. In Spanish; English subtitles. 67 min.
Os Inquilinos (The Tenants)
2009. Brazil. Directed by Sergio Bianchi. With Fernando Alves Pinto, Zezeh Barbosa, Caio Blat. Bianchi’s richly detailed film excavates society’s fear of and fascination with violence—from television’s constant stream of near-pornographic mayhem to venomous suspicion between neighbors, petty feuds within married couples, and quarreling among children—in an indictment of the lowest human impulses. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 103 min.
Pairon Talle (Soul of Sand)
2010. India. Directed by Sidharth Srinivasan. With Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Saba Joshi, Avtar Sahni. A watchman and his wife living at an abandoned mine are exploited by their alternately unctuous and brutal landlord. Set in an out-of-the-way corner of the National Capital Region—a prized area of urban growth and development in “emerging” India—director Srinivasan’s scathing portrait of the politics of caste and money subverts the usual Bollywood melodrama formula with just a trace of the absurd. In Hindi; English subtitles. 98 min.
La Mirada invisible (The Invisible Eye)
2010. Argentina. Directed by Diego Lerman. With Julieta Zylberberg, Omar Nuñez. Set during the Argentine military regime of the early 1980s, Lerman’s psychological drama is a subtle exploration of the totalitarian urge at the heart of the nationalist ideal. María Teresa, a lonely and deeply repressed assistant teacher at an elite Buenos Aires private school, is barely more than a teenager herself. She unquestioningly accepts the school’s rigid code of conduct and its proud identification with the nation state, but her armored psyche begins to crumble when passion stirs within her. In Spanish; English subtitles. 95 min.
Svet-Ake (The Light Thief)
2010. Kyrgyzstan. Directed by Aktan Arym Kubat. With Kubat. “Mr. Light” is a humble electrician whose uncommon compassion—and ingenuity in pirating electrical currents—makes him the go-to problem-solver in his destitute village at the base of Kyrgyzstan’s Alai Mountains. But now the authorities are cracking down on this gentle Robin Hood (played with wry humanity by writer-director Kubat). Kubat’s mostly nonprofessional cast fills the panoramic frame with fascinating faces and genuine performances in this tale of solidarity and decency amid the avarice and hardship of a changing world. In Kyrgyz; English subtitles. 80 min.
Keshtzar haye sepid (The White Meadows)
2009. Iran. Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof. With Hasan Pourshirazi, Younes Ghazali, Mohammad Rabbani. For 30 years, Rahmat the boatman has navigated the increasingly brackish waters around a coastal town, collecting the heartbreaking stories and—literally—the tears of the locals. Despite the best of intentions, he remains powerless to prevent their misguided attempts to atone for their sins, appease the gods, and make the land green once again. Writer-director Rasoulof has crafted an affecting, dreamlike allegory of intolerance, brutality, and superstition that resonates far beyond the borders of any one state. In Farsi; English subtitles. 93 min.
2009. China. Directed by Zhang Lu. With Cui Jian, Yin Lan, Li Jinglin. Twelve-year-old Chang-ho lives with his mute older sister and their grandfather in a remote Chinese town separated from North Korea by the Dooman River. Though plagued by unemployment and other tensions, their village is nonetheless relatively prosperous compared to its counterparts across the river, and the villagers are initially sympathetic toward the North Korean refugees fleeing Kim Jong-il’s totalitarian state. Writer-director Zhang’s story of compassion and strife offers a window into a little-seen corner of China. In Korean, Mandarin Chinese; English subtitles. 89 min.
Quchis Dgeebi (Street Days)
2010. Georgia. Directed by Levan Koguashvili. With Guga Kotetishvili, Irakli Ramishvili, George Kipshidze. Forty-five-year-old Checkie is a well-meaning but frazzled heroin addict. Torn between his friends on the street and the family he has all but abandoned, he soon finds his life spiraling out of control due to his incessant foul-ups. Filmed with loving attention to the surfaces and corners of Georgia’s capital city, Koguashvili’s lightly humorous, emotionally rich drama reveals the tragic fate of an older generation left behind by the transformations of the post-Soviet era. In Georgian; English subtitles. 86 min.
2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Directed by Ahmed Imamovic. With Sadzida Setic, Nermin Tulic, Minka Muftic. Patience, faith, love, and forgiveness are tested among a community of Bosnian Muslims 15 years after the Srebrenica genocide. Imamovic’s visually arresting portrait of war’s aftermath—rendered with gorgeously austere black-and-white cinematography—follows the stoic yet vulnerable residents of the Belvedere refugee camp, who are mostly widows. The film contrasts their search for real justice and reconciliation with a crass, infantile TV-reality-show simulation. In Bosnian; English subtitles. 90 min.