MIFF 2014: Review

This year I had the pleasure of attending MIFF 2014 and I must say it was such an enjoyable experience. I was able to attend 2 screenings; a documentary entitled, “Ukraine is not a Brothel” and a suspense thriller, “Night Moves”. Both films had their merits, and I could see why they were chosen to be shown at MIFF. I honestly really enjoyed this entire experience, so much so, I think I will be frequenting these sorts of events even more so now. I really liked the atmosphere. People of all demographics, sitting down to experience something a bit less mainstream. For me, this is a big deal. There are so many people out there only doing things because everyone else is, and its really lovely to see that there are still some out there wanting to try something different and appreciate the workmanship of a good film. I applaud all the directors that got their work shown this year. I believe it to be such a high achievement. Congratulations!



Ukraine is Not a Brothel. Director: Kitty Green 2013
Ukraine is Not a Brothel.
Director: Kitty Green

I went to this screening on the recommendation of a dear friend who knew the director, Kitty Green. Before the screening, I was worried that the documentary would fall short, as the trailer only hinted to the sexualization of the participants, and not much about the actual FEMEN movement. The film for me stood as a success, but left me with more questions than answers. It was almost as if the documentary could have been done from the single point of view of the Man (Viktor) at the head of the FEMEN movement. The documentary had a lineal format, as if just a retelling of situation after situation, with no distinct reasoning or perspective. This worked in some ways, as the women were giving their 1st hand experiences, in an unbiased way. However, there needed to be some sort of omnipresent narrator, providing context and further information about the social standings and environment of Ukraine, for many of the viewers, like myself felt a little disjointed and found it a bit difficult to really understand the heightened fears of these women.

On a more positive note, the entire documentary was shot very beautifully. The colours and the innovative use of space and light was done so astoundingly well, the audience felt as if they were in the room with the women. The use of natural light and spacial depth in very cramped, tight spaces, were done with elegance and ease. This documentary was definitely an eye opener for me. I had heard of the FEMEN Movement, but known very little of their mantra and methods. FEMEN is a feminist movement started in Ukraine to battle against the lack of women’s rights in the country. It is now based out of Paris, headed by one of the women interviewed in the film, Anna. Initially, the Ukraine FEMEN was headed by a man, Viktor, to which the film only slight delved into. As an audience member, the irony of the entire situation was heartbreaking, for only those looking in could see it. The women were treated with verbal hostility, mild physical hostility and more or less forced to behave in the manner portrayed in the media. The women would bare their breasts with words and symbols painted on to represent the reasons for their protest. On watching the women, the audience felt as though these girls knew very little about Feminism, the thing they were fighting most for. This to me was something that should have been a bit more fleshed out in the documentary. Their entire movement was composed of very tall, blonde, beautiful women with perky, near perfect breast, posed in very provocative ways, more or less selling their bodies in the name of Women’s Rights. I think this social idea could have been the core of this documentary.

The documentary was indeed an insightful one. I must reiterate that I did enjoy this film, my only concern was all the questions I still had and the very few answers I possessed. However, I commend the director for her efforts, for I know that jumping into a society where women are treated as second rate citizens, could only have been an upward hill battle. Congratulations for your hard work and for your wonderful team that made this film look star rated. I give this film 3 stars out of 5.

For my readers, I must warn you in that there is a fair bit of topless nudity, but all done in a very tasteful manner. This film is a window into an alternate world at times; the poverty, the landscape, etc. If you want to have a night of viewing that will open your mind to something rather foreign to a Westernised way of life, I suggest you screen this film.



Night Moves Director: Kelly Reichardt 2013
Night Moves
Director: Kelly Reichardt

This film was very different from the last screening I saw at MIFF 2014. I had heard about this film for sometime, and I really wanted to get my hands on a copy, to no avail, so when I saw it was going to be at MIFF 2014, I had to book a ticket. This film is very different to your run in the mill thriller films. It is immersive, enthralling and engaging without shock value or thrills. It is a very slow paced film, where nothing much happens; a very ordinary retelling of something that could be very realistic. It is hard to describe the mood of this film. It is bruiting with subjectivity, but in a way that is so not invasive, it could be an oxymoron. “Night Moves” (2013) is a film about three young Americans, who attempt to blow up a dam in the name of environmentalism.  Despite the fact that the film centres on living a greener lifestyle and taking the time to appreciate the wonders of our natural world, the films directly comments on the mental consumption of an idea. The notion that being too close to an issue blocks you from seeing the world as it really is. This film smartly comments on the idea that preoccupying our minds about one thing blocks us from seeing the beauty in other things. I think this is a very smart, challenging and hitting idea that affects all of us.

I can see this film as a complete satire of this ideology. That the environmentalist plight of these 3 individuals are blinding them from looking out the window and appreciating the beauty around them, the very same thing that they are attempting to say to others. There is irony in the placement of  environmentalist being terrorists, and there is irony in the physical juxtaposing of nature and destruction in the same shot. There are many memorable scenes of the actors doing other things while the camera is panning the view of a landfill nestled in by a forest of towering pine trees. Also, the scene when they are paddling down stream and passing a thicket of dead trees, backed by towering mountains and a beautiful sunset. I think these snippets are physical representation of the story’s mantra. I really liked this smart method of juxtaposition.

The film is incredibly slow. At the end the viewer feels like they have been taken on this far journey, but with nothing really happening. I think it is refreshing to have a film that takes the time to show the audience the environment, the rooms, the simple tasks that would otherwise be overlooked in a large scale blockbuster film. There are some beautiful shots of the 2 passengers in the truck and the landscape before them. This simple technique of the camera being behind the actor, looking through the perspective of the actor, is a great one. My most memorable scene of the entire film has to be when the boat was approaching the dam walls. The long perspective and the compositions of the frames were spot on. This entire scene was an emotional noose. The entire scene had me at the edge of my seat and I must say, there was no suspense soundtrack, or camera tricks to make me feel this way. It was all fantastic editing, camera placement and direction. This was the scene that stole the film for me. It was fantastically executed.

Despite all these wonderful scene compositions and building tensions, this film lacked a proper story structure, and so when it ended the audience was a bit puzzled. Even though there was not need for a narration, for the characterisation was what carried this film, there needed to be a bit more direction to the film, so that the ending could be a bit more conclusive. This is my only complaint of the film. The film was highly successful up until the explosion of the dam, after that there needed to be a bit more direction to the story.

I really loved this film. I think it took a lot of risks, and was extremely successful in execution.  I would recommend this film to anyone who is open to something very much off the beaten path. The characters were played wonderfully by Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisengerg and Peter Sarsgaard. I will give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

I think is is extremely important to support our up and coming directors. Even though film festivals are becoming a lot more accessible and affordable to the public, it is always lovely to be privy to some new and innovative films. I really enjoyed my time at MIFF 2014 and I hope if a film festival crops up near you that you take the time and attend a screening.

Happy Viewing

Saabira Razac