Friday, February 08, 2008

On film and inspiration

Film is an incredible medium, one that over a century at work continues to inspire and amaze humanity. This year I have relied a lot on film. Moments when I needed to escape from my day to day happenings, moments when I needed to feel anguished, and moments when I needed inspiration. I thought it would be fun to inaugurate my blog with a list of the best films of 2007. These are not all new films, just films that I saw in 2007. Some of these films are political, others just inspired me.

Requiem, directed by Hans Christian Schmid

Social, religious and family pressures envelop a young woman who fights a mental illness. The film Requiem follows 21-year-old Michaela, who tries to find her independence knowingly plagued by mental problems. Ultimately, religion and family kills Michaela who is left untreated and subjected to a number of exorcisms.

This film treat’s Michaela’s struggle for independence as a struggle for survival. I identify with the main protagonist’s struggle against guilt, religious traditions and family pressures. This beautiful film reminded me that it is not easy for young woman (and men) to break free from societal pressures and oppression.

Midwinter night’s dream, Directed by Goran Paskaljevic

A man recovers from war and prison with the love of an autistic child and her mother. An ex-convict (Lazar) returns home after 10 years in prison when he finds a young mother and her autistic child living as squatters in his childhood home. He wants to kick them out, but changes his mind after seeing the horrid conditions of the shelter where they must go. They soon form a makeshift family. Lazar soon finds inner peace from his violent self-destructive past through love.

This film gave me hope that lives and destinies can turn around for the better. But it has a tragic end, which reminds us that

Salvador (Puig Antich), Directed by Manuel Huerga

A profile of the life of anarchist and expropriator Salvador Puig Antich who was executed under the dictatorship of Fransico Franco. This is the quintessential political film of this year. This film inspires direct action and struggle against the state with un relentless support of Puig Antich’s actions. Puig Antich became involved in the MIL- clandestine anarchist cell robbing banks to distribute funds to workers’ struggles in the hopes of finally overthrowing the Franco dictatorship. He was a fervent anti-capitalist and grass roots militant.

The films’s photography, music score and script re-invent the passionate story of Salvador Puig Antich who dedicated his life to liberate generations from oppression. This film destroyed me and inspired me at the same time. I loved the film’s unrelenting support of the protagonists’ ideals and decision to raise up arms against the Franco regime. A very important film in conserving the historical memory of resistance and liberation.

Eden, Michael Hofmann

This is a silly tale about a woman who falls in love with a fat man’s gift of cooking. I would fall in love with any man who cooked liked this main character in Garden of Eden. Gregor is a man obsessed with cooking but a little lonely in his inspirational quest for making his restaurant goers squirm in ecstasy. His restaurant would be my quitessential dream – either to work there or to eat there. His aphrodisiac inspired restaurant has only three tables, and clients must wait up to a year to enjoy the delicacies served. From afar he becomes infatuated with a waitress from a local café, Leonie. She is uninspired in her marriage and wants more children. When she meets Gregor they begin an innocent but complicated love based on Gregor’s ability to fill her with happiness and food. But as in most films, the plot thickens as each protagonist must face the bleak realities. Gregor is unattractive. Leonie is trapped in a marriage with a sexist, aggressive but charming guy.

This is the best food movie of the year. It will make you hungry for exquisite food and for someone to share it with. The power of food is profound, so strong the unimaginable can happen over a plate of wonderful food.

Lady Bird Lady Bird, Directed by Ken Loach

Never in my life has one film made me cry so much. Within the first minutes of Lady Bird I began to cry and didn’t stop for two days. This film demonstrates the violence and ineffectiveness of any state to decide what is best for children or mothers.

The title of the film comes from the nursery rhyme, ‘Lady Bird, ladybird, Fly away home, Your house is on fire, And your children all gone,’

Lady Bird begins with the life of Maggie, the troubled mother of four children, all of whom have different fathers. English social service workers have taken away all of her children. In the film’s opening, Maggie meets Jorge, an immigrant from Paraguay. During her introduction to gentle Jorge, she tells him of her past. An abusive father and subsequent abusive partners. She lost her children to social services after she left her children home in government-housing to go out singing. The film doesn’t take sides, simply lets the audience make decisions whether Maggie is a fit mother. The patient and calm Jorge falls in love with Maggie and as they begin their relationship they also begin their fight to get back Maggie’s children. When Maggie and Jorge have their first child, it is taken away. It happens yet again, in a scene of hopelessness and grief. A social service worker comes to remove the newly born from Maggie’s arms in her hospital bed. But Maggie and Jorge continue on in their struggle to get back their children. Years and years of struggle with little results.

Arna’s Children, Juliano Mer Khamis and Danniel Danniel

Quite possibly the best documentary I have ever seen, because of the film’s complexity, narrative and political commitment.

ARNA'S CHILDREN tells the story of a theatre group that was established by Arna Mer Khamis. Arna comes from a Zionist family and in the 1950s married a Palestinian Arab, Saliba Khamis. On the West Bank, she opened an alternative education system for children whose regular life was disrupted by the Israeli occupation. The theatre group that she started engaged children from Jenin, helping them to express their everyday frustrations, anger, bitterness and fear. Arna's son Juliano, director of this film, was also one of the directors of Jenin's theatre. With his camera, he filmed the children during rehearsal periods from 1989 to 1996. Now, he goes back to see what happened to them. Yussef committed a suicide attack in Hadera in 2001, Ashraf was killed in the battle of Jenin, Alla leads a resistance group. Juliano, who today is one of the leading actors in the region, looks back in time in Jenin, trying to understand the choices made by the children he loved and worked with. Eight years ago, the theatre was closed and life became static and paralysed. Shifting back and forth in time, the film reveals the tragedy and horror of lives trapped by the circumstances of the Israeli occupation.

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