The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My thoughts on Flickerings 2008

Recently I had a chance to visit the Flickerings film festival at this year's Cornerstone Festival. I have been to the Flickering fest each of the past five years, and each year has been excellent with some challenging films and discussions.  The theme of this year's fest was films from the Balkans and about reconciliation, and here are my thoughts on the films I saw:

Pretty village, Pretty Flame – a sobering drama examining the wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the ‘90s as the Serb and Croat and Bosnian states declared their independence. The drama of two friends, one Serb and one Muslim, illustrated how human beings were the casualties. In this film, Muslim soldiers trap a group of Serb soldiers in a tunnel. Ironically, the tunnel was built during Tito’s regime as a display of togetherness. The film shows how human beings can’t be brought together until the anger and pain of injustices are dealt with. The wounds simmer, and explode into violence.

Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days - On the surface this film is about a young lady obtaining an illegal abortion and her friend’s dogged determination to finding someone to perform it. But underlying this story is the specter of the totalitarian regime of Ceausescu, and how this regime took away the humanity of its citizens. Relationships became business transactions. Finding simple luxuries of cigarettes and snacks became a black market. Class structures became set in stone, and those on the lower end knew where their place was. An abortion, a most heinous moral transgression, became another item to check off on a daily to-do list. But ultimately, life cannot be commoditized, and one look by two ladies of an aborted fetus lying on the floor awakens a morality that cannot be written off. That’s the ultimate value of this film. Even when this outrageous moral action is performed, and it seems like God is silent, the inner conscience still speaks, and emotional awakening cannot be silenced.

Once – I’ve seen this film twice now. A simple story that is permeated with the joy of music, of creativity, of the necessity of friendship, and how these things can lift our spirits toward something transcendent.

Checkpoint – Documentary of the day-to-day operations at a security checkpoint between Israeli and Palestinian-occupied territory. Shows the frustration of imperfect communication between superiors and foot soldiers, and how communication breakdown frustrates the ordinary people separated between themselves and their families, their homelands, and their lives. All of this by human-imposed barrier and the fear of terrorism and the fear of “the other”.

Guelwaar – African drama that illustrates the tensions between two different religions, Christian and Muslim, when due to a mix-up, a Christian is buried in a Muslim cemetery. More than that, it reflects the frustration of the modern African experience, of the price a nation pays when it becomes dependent on food aid from a more prosperous nation, in how the debtor becomes enslaved to the borrower. It illustrates the contradiction between the politician who can get a job done and his inflated ego in becoming known as the man who gets things done. And it shows the difficulties inherent in well-meaning first world people who want to sent food to help the poor third world, but the implied condescension collides with the bruised pride of people. There are no easy answers when it comes to figuring out how to help the poor. Because healing the heart cannot come from a handout or a government program.

The Power of Forgiveness – After some pretty serious films, here is one that offers something lacking in much of our culture, hope. Hope that is hard won through the difficult process of working through, of dismantling the barriers that tragedy and crime build in human hearts. The process involves acts of will and decisions to deny the impulse for revenge, and this process has now been studied scientifically. Without grace and love, forgiveness is not possible, but the work must still be done. Case studies are shown in the aftermath of both national tragedies (9/11), community tragedies (the Amish school shooting), and personal tragedy (an innocent pizza delivery boy gunned down by a drugged out teenager). But the end result is worth it, of restoration that leads to the reward of hope.

Over the Imaginarium, on the final night, I caught their screening of something that isn’t such a high-faluting art film: Spanish version of Dracula. I’ll admit, I’ve been remiss on my monster movie education by never seeing the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula. So I enjoyed my strange introduction to this myth by way of the Mexicans. The Spanish version of the Dracula movie was filmed at night while the Bela Lugosi version was filmed during the day. They did a pretty good job, I’ll have to admit. I loved the facial expressions of Dracula and Van Helsing, and Senor Dracula himself was kind of creepy.


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