selenak: (Orson Welles by Moonxpoints5)
[personal profile] selenak
I am not a witch, directed by Rungano Nyoni, lik its director a Welsh-Zambian co-produced effort (with some German producing money added as well). This is a directing debut, half satire, half J'Accuse. Not without flaws, but it gets to you and makes you note the director's name down. Our heroine is a little girl later named "Shula" by one of the other characters (we never find out her original name) whom the village she's ended up in basically accuses of being a witch for silently standing and staring. Since there are actual "witch camps" in Zambia, it means she ends up in one, which is being exploited by the local venal and none too competent politician Mr. Banda. For verily, these witch camps are good business. Among other things, they're used as a dumping ground for unwanted elderlies (every woman other than Shula in the camp is at the very least middle aged, and most are old), they're used as state workers (on fields) and tourist attractions, and you soon want to slap every single tourist who shows up, thinks those white ribbons the women have attached to their backs (so the witches don't fly away) are oh so picturesque and wants their picture taken with little Shula. Margaret Mulubwa, who plays Shula, doesn't speak until at least half an hour into the film, which tries to keep a balance between biting, funny and truly emotional, which doesn't always work out, plus there are some odd directorial choices at the very end. But it's still a really captivating and at times disturbing movie.

The Constitution (Ustav Republike Hrvatske), directed by Rajko Grlic (a Croation-Czech-Slovenian production), was the last new film I watched on the Munich Film Festival, and it made for a rousing finale. A wonderful three characters piece which manages the balance between funny and sad perfectly (and will be released in English speaking countries). Location: current day Croatia. Vieko is a middle aged conservative grammar school teacher who also happens to be a drag queen. (I was wondering whether or not he counts as trans, but while Vieko has a female alter ego, Katarina, when he's in drag, he otherwise seems to define himself as a gay man and has no wish for an operation.) One day after he's been beaten up brutally (of which we see just enough to indicate the seriousness; the violence isn't revelled at), he ends up in the emergency room where his neigbour Maja works as a nurse. Maja and her husband Ante are only a bit younger than Vieko and because Ante is a a Serb, they're mostly shunned in the neighborhood; previously, Vieko, who's a fervent Croation Nationalist, has shunned their overtures. But after Maja helps him out repeatedly, especially with his very old father (who is one big reason why Vieko is a Serb-hating nationalist, the other one having been a child in a war camp) Vieko can't very well decline her plea to help her husband who needs to pass an exam on the constitution if he's to be promoted at all as a cop in Croatia. (In addition to being born a Serb, he also has got against him that he's got dsylexia, which makes learning the constitution by heart really difficult for him.)

All three characters are vividly drawn and three dimensional. Ante is a heavily built guy who adores being dominated by the equally built Maja, does have a zeal for justice and a childlike enthusiasm for many things, but he also, after Vieko has been awful to him, responds with some homophobic slurs. Vieko hides his own prejudices (not very well) behind a cultural veneer and doesn't see any contradiction between being part of a discriminated against minority (and an out part, he's not in the closet with anyone, including his father who makes Genghis Khan look like a leftist) and being a nationalist conservative. Maja is compassionate and funny, but also extremely pragmantic and strategically minded; it's not why she helps him at first, but it does occur to her after a while of learning more about Vieko that since his beloved partner is dead, he only has this very old parent and a very big flat which he might be inclined to share if she and Vieko manage to befriend him, whereas they live in a much smaller, cramped flat.

Despite showing everyone's flaws, the movie is, as far as its characters are concerned, optimistic about human nature, our ability to connect against the odds and learn from each other. This is true for the three lead characters, but also a supporting player like Vieko's stuident who early on started out as an obnoxious teen into name calling and late into the movie reveals he's also gay and desperately in need of advice of how to come out to parents. There is a lot of humor, some of it black (Ante: But why does he think that I am one of those Serbs who beat up Croats? Maja: Well, you do. Ante: ?!???? Maja: You're a cop who lives in Croatia. Of course you beat up Croats.) Sometimes the reaching out is also literal: Maja's matter of fact nursing skills start the contact with Vieko, and they say something about her the same way Vieko later helping her with her make up says something about him. Ante's unabashed love for his dog (a small fluffy number, not a big one) comes with constantly picking it and not living things up. And so forth.

re: violence, the early attack against Vieko, which as mentioned is only shown briefly and in parts to make it clear what happens. Sex: Maja and Ante enjoy sex as much as food; Vieko's long time partner has only been dead a year, and he's still mourning, though it's clear he doesn't want eternal celibacy from now on.

In conclusion: a great final note to leave this year's festival on. And now I'm thoroughly exhausted and my eyes are formed squarely.


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