Picking movies to see at a film festival is always a crap shoot. There are times when something is already set for distribution so you have some idea that it’s good enough for theaters, but most of the time you are seeing things that are good enough to make it through a selection process but may not be quite up to normal standards. I’ve seen pretty mediocre films at festivals before. I love it when a day comes together so that I feel I’ve seen quality films. Day 2 at NBFF was one of those days.
I started with Apartment in Athens, an Italian film about a Greek family that must house a Nazi officer during the war. The parents are cowed by his presence, the son is rebellious, and the daughter is smitten by this man of grace and power. He treats them badly, but after a short trip back to Germany, he seems to change, becoming much more conciliatory and encouraging—emphasizing the importance of family. In the end it is a reminder of the cost of war for both the victors and the vanquished. In the end their common fate is sorrow.
In 2005 a Palestinian father bought a video camera for the birth of his son. He planned on using it to record his child growing up. Along the way he began to record the things going on in and around his village of Bil’il—the encroaching Israeli settler city, the destruction of the village’s olive grove, and the non-violent protests by the villagers. 5 Broken Cameras is the footage he shot over the next five year on a series of cameras (because they kept getting shot or broken). The film has strong, emotive images. We see a family and community struggling to survive and persevering in difficult circumstances. We see the power that people can muster without violence (even though they often meet violence against them). This will end up among my favorites of the festival.
The wonderful Lido Theater was the venue for the World Premiere of Should’ve Been Romeo, a comedy about a middle-age, out of work actor whose grandfather is dumped on his doorstep, and is suddenly surprised to learn he has a son and granddaughter. Joey is very full of himself and has no room in his life for all these people. The film is a bit predictable, because we know he will come around to embrace his family, but it was a fun time to get there.
Also having its World Premiere at the festival yesterday was The Eyes of Thailand. The elephant is the symbol of Thailand, but their numbers are decreasing rapidly. At times, because of the large number of landmines along the Thai-Burmese border, these grand animals are injured. This doc focuses on a woman who has made it her life’s work to care for injured elephants. She and her team have developed prosthesis legs for elephants that have lost their legs to mines. It also reminds us of the immoral nature of such weaponry—weapons that many nations have vowed to eliminate. (Note: the U.S. is not among those nations.)
Yes. It was a good day at the beach.