It’s been a busy movie-going month for me with the Monsters of Film festival, where I saw six films, and now the Stockholm International Film Festival where I’ve seen eight. Last year I saw ten films at the latter festival, and I enjoyed most of them, but overall I liked this year’s crop even better. All but two get my special recommendation:
- As I Open My Eyes. A late-teen girl discovers love and experiences political repression while singing in a band in pre-revolution Tunis — five years ago.
- Dope. By happenstance three geeky straightlaced ghetto kids find themselves in possession of a large amount of drugs, and have to find a way to get rid of them. Without either getting killed by a drug gang or ending up in jail.
- Makeup Room. Humorous and unromantic look at a day in the make-up room on a Japanese porn film set. Written and directed by a veteran of the business, with porn actors delivering fine performances in most of these speaking roles.
- North. Visually stunning uncritical documentary about the Kurdish guerilla. Grade: Pass With Distinction. (Note however that the Turkish Ministry of Culture does not agree. They banned the film from the Istanbul Film Festival, giving it huge free publicity.)
- Price of Love. An Ethiopian Taxi Driver in a visually captivating Addis Ababa and with a less crazy & violent Travis Bickle.
- Unexpected. White high school teacher realises she’s pregnant around the same time as one of her black senior students. Friendship ensues with much discussion of career and motherhood. Fun and none too preachy.
This one was fully OK too, but a bit clichéd to my jaded Western eyes:
- Masaan (“Crematorium”). Two young people love and lose and live on in a gorgeously shot Benares waterfront quarter next to the cremation pyres.
The only film I found kind of slow and pointless was one of the festival’s most high-profile entrants, screened as the opening flick for the whole event and recipient of festival awards for best directorial début and best male lead actor, plus a special award funded by a telecomms company. YMMV.
- Mediterranea. Two Burkineans go to Italy, endure slow plotless hardship, pick lots of oranges.
A funny detail to me is how many of these films show women’s breasts in fairly unpornographic situations. My reading of these scenes is that the boobs are being reclaimed and defused here, not exploited. Kind of a win-win for me, since I both support women’s right to their own bodies and enjoy seeing breasts.