Exhaustion got the better of me again today, with the day’s second film suffering the most from my occasional nodding. Just two days to go, now. I have ten sessions left to attend, and I’ll be reviewing six of those here. (And three of those are the same movie. I’m still not sure how I’ll be handling ARABIAN NIGHTS here.) Daytime subscribers saw four more films today, including one competition entrant and one documentary.
Today’s first film was an oddly structured feature from director Danis Tanovic, who has featured at this festival before. TIGERS tells the true story of a Pakistani salesman named Ayan (Emraan Hashmi) who is given a job as a pharmaceutical representative, selling Nestle baby formula to doctors. He changes his mind once he sees the harm the formula is doing to local babies, who are being fed dirty water instead of breast milk. I say ‘Nestle’ because that’s the company being represented, but the film only mentions them by name once before cutting back to a meeting of film producers who decide they shouldn’t use the real brand name in the film. There are many such interruptions. The whole film is framed by these deliberately alienating sequences where producers argue about the facts of the real story.
It’s a framing device which potentially cuts off certain complaints about accuracy in the controversial story. It also works to undermine the film somewhat, as they hedge bets on a story which should be fairly powerful. It’s vaguely explained that making the film without these interruptions might leave them open to legal trouble, but it also feels a little weak, like the film lacks the courage of its convictions. Despite this, the story remains reasonably compelling, I enjoyed this, with some major caveats.
The film I unfortunately fell asleep in was Patricio Guzman’s Chilean documentary THE PEARL BUTTON. Guzman returns to the format he used in 2010’s NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, which examined the atrocities of Pinochet through the lens of astronomy. Here, Guzman examines the treatment of native Chileans, while examining the idea of the infinite memory of water and occasionally gazing into the cosmos. I’d estimate that I saw around two-thirds of the film, and I’ll revisit it once I get the chance. I don’t feel comfortable passing any kind of judgment on this one just yet. Others I’ve spoken to have been very enthusiastic about it.
Today’s competition entry was Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s sprawling film TALES. Similar to Jafar Panahi’s TEHRAN TAXI, also playing in competition, TALES tells a story about the state of life in modern Iran by examining the lives of a number of citizens. We spend time with one group of characters, then follow an incidental character from that scene into another scenario. It’s almost like an Iranian SLACKER. We see sides of Iran we may not have considered, with stories covering topics including drug addiction, bureaucracy, prostitution and workers’ rights.
Much of the film also presents different aspects of the lives of Iranian women, who are ignored, mistrusted and mistreated, yes, but they are also shown to be resourceful, intelligent and resilient. Bani-Etemad is the best-known female director in Iran, and she showed some of that same resourcefulness in getting this film made. The Iranian government requires screenplays to be submitted for approval and censorship before films are given the green light to start shooting. It seems this same restriction doesn’t apply to short films, and so TALES was presented as a series of shorts. The film is now screening in Iran. This is a fine collection of stories and characters, and it’s yet another strong entry in the official competition. Special mention must be made of a scene late in the film, which begins as what seems like a routine argument and becomes something much more powerful. It’s easy to recommend this one, and it’s the best film daytime subscribers saw today.
Day nine’s final film for daytime subscribers was the British drama THE GOOB, which was at times difficult to watch. An elderly couple beside me stormed out of the screening ten minutes from the end declaring, “We don’t like violence!” The film is indeed violent, and it’s coarse enough to be surprising. We get the feeling very early on that something terrible could happen to any one of a number of likeable characters. ‘Goob’ is a nickname given to a young boy, just out of school, who lives with his prankster older brother, his downtrodden mother and her uncontrollable boyfriend. The story sees this family trying to survive an unfortunate life in their isolated country town.
That violent boyfriend is the main force affecting the characters. Every scene in which he appears becomes immediately ominous. We know he’s going to do something awful, we just have to sit and wait to find out what it is. For all of the upsetting inevitability to the film, the ending surprised me, which is the best thing I can say for the film. It’s an unpleasant experience, watching THE GOOB. It’s a well-crafted film, but the dread wins out, wearing the audience down as it goes along.
Tomorrow daytime subscribers will be seeing three films: a documentary and two more competition entries. I’m really looking forward to the first two hours of ARABIAN NIGHTS.
By Shaun Heenan