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iffr: turtles can fly

"Turtles Can Fly" is Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi's new film (after "A Time for Drunken Horses"), and the first film to be made in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Set in a refugee camp just before the war in Iraq, it portrays the grim daily life of a group of kids, many of them maimed, who, led by a boy called Satellite, gather mines to sell to the UN.

Agrin & Henkov in Turtles Can Fly

Newly arriving in the camp are a girl troubled by war traumas and her armless brother who can look into the future and foresees the coming of the war. Together they try to take care of a blind toddler.

Director Ghobadi explained in the Q&A after the screening how the image of these three children for him symbolized the different dimensions of time in the camp: the troubled past, the blind present and the prophetic future.

When asked how he managed to get such impressive acting from these children -- who are not actors but actual refugees in the camp -- he told us he tried to "keep the story as close as possible to their own personal experiences, so that they didn't have to act but could 'relive' the scenes..."

Update: Below is a longer essay titled 'Deprived from the Sky', examining symbolism in 'Turtles Can Fly'. Written in 2006 for a course on media and identity at the University of Amsterdam, and discussing the film in light of identity theories by Ernest Renan and David Morley, it is somewhat more academic than usual on this blog.

Continue reading the full post ยป

iffr: midwinter night's dream

The most powerful film at the Rotterdam Film Festival so far comes from Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic. "Midwinter Night's Dream" is a bleak yet sensitive drama set in post-war Belgrade, where new hopes are cherished but ultimately crushed by the weight of the haunting memories of war. In the end, the only character to survive the tragedy is a 12 year old autistic girl. (This, btw, was not an actress but an autistic girl in reality as well.)

Jovana in Midwinter Night's Dream

Pasaljevic explained after the screening how he sees autism as a metaphor for the current state of his country. His film is one of the first Serbian films to acknowledge it's own role in the war, and the aftermath he paints is certainly not a pretty picture.

Perhaps the best hope was Paskaljevic' anecdote of how during the shooting of the film the autistic girl slowly started to make contact with the world, enjoying simple things like having dinner with the crew. She recently took a trip with the film's crew and cast to San Sebastian, where the film was awarded the jury prize.

iffr: story undone

Only at the Rotterdam Film Festival will you find yourself in a late night Q&A entirely conducted in Farsi. Iranian director Hassan Yektapanah explains his film 'Story Undone', a weirdly funny film about two documentary makers attempting to make a film about a group of people illegally emigrating from their country. It turns out most of the audience is Iranian as well, so all the questions are in Farsi too. The interpreter almost forgets her task of translating things for us Westerners.

Yektapanah explains the hilarious scene where the film makers are chased into a tree by two wild dogs:

Communicating with dogs is so straightforward. They [the film makers] solve the situation by giving the dogs some pieces of bread. After that, they're friends. If you contrast that with humans, who've spent thousands of years building infrastructures and languages and whatnot - and they still can't manage to communicate normally.

apologies to my readers

Imagine two men holding a captured puma on a rope. If they want to approach each other, the puma will attack, because the rope will slacken; only if they both pull simultaneously on the rope is the puma equidistant from the two of them. That is why it is so hard for him who reads and him who writes to reach each other: between them lies a mutual thought captured on ropes that they pull in opposite directions. If we were now to ask that puma -- in other words, that thought -- how it perceived these two men, it might answer that at the ends of the rope those to be eaten are holding someone they cannot eat...

From 'Dictionary of the Khazars (female version)' - Milorad Pavic ('88).

printer art

Just when you finally want to print out those forms for your administration, your printer decides to be an autonomous artist...

Printer Art

courtly manners

The legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table are a highpoint of courtly literature. Chivalrous knights go on perilous quests in defense of their ladies' honor. Very romantic, right?

Sir Gawain, Knight of the Round Table

Not quite so in the original 'Le Morte D'Arthur' by Sir Thomas Malory (1485), where King Arthur hardly displays any courtly manners to this damsel in distress:

Right so anon came in a lady on a white palfrey, and cried aloud to King Arthur, 'Sir, suffer me not to have this despite, for the brachet [bitch-hound] was mine that the knight led away.'

'I may not do therewith,' said the king.

With this there came a knight riding all armed on a great horse, and took the lady away with him with force, and ever she cried and made great dole. When she was gone the king was glad, for she made such a noise.

(Luckily, Merlin then steps in and rights the matter. No less than three knights are sent to her rescue...)

abstract high rise

Check these amazing photos of Hong Kong high rise. Almost Escher, except people live in it...

Michael Wolf's Architecture of Density

(Suggested by Jens.)

brilliant beckettian animation

Another search for a long sought-after film, the short German animation 'Balance', unexpectedly ended in finding the entire film online.

Watch Balance here. (In the bottom nav, click the far right thumbnail.)

Simply brilliant!

Update: These days the film is on YouTube.

mythical proportions

After some comments on my Skype profile photo, i did another search today on the film the photo is from, the Hungarian film Hagyjállógva Vászka (Vaska Easoff), directed by Péter Gothár.

Vaska Easoff

I saw this brilliant film on the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 1997 (!), and have never been able to find it anywhere since. By now it has grown to almost mythical proportions.

My internet search today resulted in:

I sent them an e-mail, which i doubt i'll ever hear back from.

But i think i'll keep the photo until i find the film.

chaos plus time equals something interesting

Kaufman: I like to live and work in the chaos because that's my experience, and I'm not interested in organizing things into packages that make people comfortable. And I think I have a taste that constructs things symmetrically, too. I think the fact that I'm disorganized and I have to struggle with what I'm writing for a period of time allows for lucky ideas. If I figured something out right away, then the story goes in that direction and I'd never get to that point of being stalled for a week, thinking about it, and finding something later that's going to take the story in a completely different direction. Maybe the first story would have been better? But I never would have gotten to this thing that I'm really happy that I finally found. So maybe the equation is: disorganization plus time equals something that interests me.

Gondry: If you look at Darwin's evolution theory, all the species that are in harmony with their environment stop evolving or eventually disappear. If you look at the species that involve into human beings, we were never really fully adapted to the environment, so we had to struggle and find solutions and simply, evolve. I think this is the same in the work. If you are comfortable in the first stage, if you are happy with yourself, and you don't need to struggle to create something and confront the mess, it doesn't evolve. I think chaos is good, in this way.

When I shot, I specifically tried to create this chaos. Because I notice if everything is too smooth, you might be happier at the moment, but later you will miss something. Everything is chaotic and the actor has to work there, with less self-awareness.

iW: But Michel, judging from the work you've done, you seem to have a very structuralist mind.

Gondry: Yes, sometimes, I do use partitions. I don't know. I don't feel very non-chaotic.

iW: You don't feel...?

Gondry: Non-chaotic.

Kaufman: He doesn't feel not not chaotic.

From the indieWIRE interview "Chaos Plus Time: Gondry and Kaufman on Memory, Methods, and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'"

uphill battle

If you remember every word in this book, your memory will have recorded about two million pieces of information: the order in your brain will have increased by about two million units. However, while you have been reading the book, you will have converted at least a thousand calories of ordered energy, in the form of food, into disordered energy, in the form of heat that you lose to the air around you by convection and sweat. This will increase the disorder of the universe by about twenty million million million million units -- or about ten million millon million times the increase in order in your brain -- and that's if you remember everything in this book.

From "A Brief History of Time" - Stephen Hawking, 1988.