Sydney Film Festival 2011: Day 5

Forgiveness of Blood

SFF LogoTo celebrate the Queen’s Birthday, The Reel Bits marched boldly on into Day 5 of the 58th Sydney Film Festival. It was a day that celebrated the wonders of world cinema, with an eclectic selection of films from places as diverse as Albania (The Forgiveness of Blood), Netherlands (Position Amongst the Stars), Iran (A Separation), South Africa (Africa United), Hungary (The Turin Horse), Spain (Amador), Hong Kong (All About Love), Brazil (Elite Squad: The Enemy Within), Germany (Sleeping Sickness and Three) and Argentina (Medianeras). Meanwhile, over on George Street, Kung Fu Panda 2 saw its Australian premiere with stars Jack Black, Lucy Liu and animation giant Jeffrey Katzenberg in the house. – June 13th, 2011.

Forgiveness of BloodThe Forgiveness of Blood

In Joshua Marston’s (Maria Full of Grace) The Forgiveness of Blood, 17-year-old Albanian Nik’s high-school crush and life is superseded when his father and uncle are involved in a murder arising from a land dispute with a rival neighbour family. According to the 15th century Kanun law, the dead man’s family can take the life of a male from Nik’s family, and with his father on the run, he and his family must remain locked away inside. The film presents a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma: if the father or Nik turn themselves over to the other family, their lives will be forfeit but they may save the others from a life of misery. An often tense and enlightening glimpse into a world rarely viewed from the outside, Marston’s extensive research with co-writer Andamion Murataj is evident in this claustrophobic drama.

The Reel Bits
A tense and often disturbing look at the Albanian blood laws, told by an outside with unprecedented insight into this world.

The Forgiveness of Blood does not currently have a release date in Australia. It has been acquired by Madman.

The Turin Horse posterThe Turin Horse

Over complete darkness, we are told the tale of the horse that Nietzsche whipped before falling down and letting the empty void of silence take him. What follows is the story of a broken old man and his daughter, caring for a horse in a wasteland whipped by wind and dirt. The bleak nihilism is brought to unforgiving life in Béla Tarr’s self-proclaimed final film, with crisp black and white photography by Fred Keleman. Minimalist light and shadow, along with a hypnotic soundtrack, are used to fully envelop the characters, who often disappear into the scenery during a series of repetitive long takes to emphasise the monotony of their daily existence of dressing, eating a potato, getting water from the well and staring out the window, occasionally punctuated by a visit from a neighbour or a band of gypsies. Is this the end of the world? As the wind erodes everything, we are presented with a life eroding vision that is reminiscent of both Ingmar Bergman and Teshigahara’s Woman of the Dunes in its tactile interaction with the audience, and a hopelessness to which even the horse succumbs. In the end, the film rings home with Biblical impact: the world was was created in 7 days, and in the beginning was light. As the life slowly seeps out of the world, so too does the light until we are only left in complete darkness.

The Reel Bits
Hypnotic and transfixing, even in its often trying repetition. One of the most powerful examples of cinema in recent memory.

The Turin Horse does not currently have a release date in Australia.

A Separation posterA Separation

From the opening scenes of Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, in which a faceless bureaucrat categorically tells troubled couple Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) why they will not be granted a divorce, it is clear that the filmmaker has a thing or two to say about the Iranian justice system. When the pair separate, because Nader is unwilling to follow his wife out of Iran due to his Alzheimer’s stricken father, a carer is brought in for the old man while the family is at work. Hiring the devout Razieh (Sareh Bayat) proves disastrous, when Nader returns home to find his father tied to a bed near death and the resulting scuffle results in a murder charge for Nader when the pregnant Razieh and her hot-tempered husband claim he caused Razieh’s miscarriage. An often frustratingly circular plot only serves to highlight the frustratingly baffling legal “system” in Iran, very much indebted to the Koran. While it sometimes feels like a legal procedural (we doubt Law & Order: Iranian Investigations Unit is on its way), and is a little on the lengthy side, this is another indictment of a “justice system” that barely lives up to either of those words.

The Reel Bits
A hard-hitting condemnation of a justice system gone wrong, the circular and repetitive nature of the narrative only serves to highlight the complications with that system.

A Separation does not currently have a release date in Australia.

Hobo with a Shotgun posterHobo with a Shotgun

Richard says:

“You can’t solve all the world’s problems with a shotgun,” a recently saved prostitute informs Rutger Hauer’s titular Hobo with the titular shotgun. “It’s all I know,” comes his taciturn reply. Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun is, along with Grindhouse and Machete, part of a recent wave of films that simultaneously parody and pay tribute to the exploitation films of a bygone era. Yet while Machete had fun in its pitch-perfect recreation of the ‘tits and guns’ nonsense of the 1970s, Hobo draws its inspiration from the far darker video nasties of the 1980s from splatter houses like Troma. Fresh off the rails, the Hobo is beaten and mocked in a city filled with urban chaos, ruled by mobster Drake (Brian Downey), until he can’t take it anymore and decides to clean up the town in the only way he knows how. Unlike Rodriguez’s Machete, Hobo is often mean-spirited and gruesomely bloody, and perhaps too self-conscious about its schlock origins. However, the pure joy that it takes in this sadism will win over many fans, and after all: who can pass up a film with such a great title?

The Reel Bits
Hobo with a Shotgun delivers exactly what one would expect from a film with that title, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hobo with a Shotgun does not currently have a release date in Australia.

The Sydney Film Festival continues until June 19, 2011.

For more news and reviews from the Sydney Film Festival, check out our coverage of previous days of the 2011 event: