Day 4s are infamous. They are in most cases the midpoint of festivals, a reasonable position to responsibly say what you really feel about the quality of the fest experience so far. And I can say, responsibly of course, that DIFF 2005 is shaping up to be a little bit of a pleasant surprise. My legal team advises me to reserve my initial standpoint on the mix of the films (atleast until Day 7), but I am allowed to say that 93 films from various continents means immediate reach to world cinema. This is - and always will be - a welcome change in our favourite culture/art starved emirate.
2pm. “October 17, 1961.” A film about the fateful day when the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) organised a peaceful demonstrated in which more than 11,000 Algerians marched through the streets in Paris in protest of the French government’s involvement in the Algerian War. There were widespread beatings and around 200 of the unarmed protestors were killed. This was in retaliation of FLN’s campaign of murder of policemen in France. It was a shameful, black day for both the French government and the FLN. “October 17, 1961” is a great film because it recollects the events that led to the incident but does not forget that it has to anchor the history around a rich story with real characters. The film is no fence-sitter but it tells us what it was like on both sides and without prejudice. We learn that the Algerians themselves persecuted by the FLN; forced into paying out of their hard-earned salaries to fuel a campaign of violence against the French government. We also learn that the Algerians were randomly humiliated, beaten and killed by the police on an everyday basis. But the single most reason why I feel this is one of the best films you’ll see at DIFF is because “October 17, 1961” does fail to highlight that it doesn’t matter why, how and when war happens – no one can escape it, no one can choose to be indifferent.
6pm. “Forgiveness.” I had heard great things about this award-winning import from South Africa especially about Arnold Vosloo’s powerhouse performance. But I did not expect the film to exceed my high expectations. “Forgiveness” is a compelling meditation on the true meaning of forgiveness and, its polar opposite, vengeance. It is one of the very best films I have seen this year because of its multi-layered social, political and family commentary. This memorable film by South African Ian Gabriel has at its center the story of a killer who returns to the family of the person he tortured and killed in order to seek penance for his grave sin. Deep inside this provocative storyline beats the heart of spirituality. The film provides a delicate subtext of faith that cuts down to the bone of our everyday perception of right and wrong. The screening was followed by a very perceptive Q&A session where the director shared his insights on the socio-political situation in a post-Apartheid South Africa and its clear presence in the film. I will bring his comments along with my full review of “Forgiveness” in the coming days. You will not want to miss it.
9pm. “Peacock.” Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. It is a magnificent film that is both abstract yet immediately accessible. Featuring a dissection of the life of a family (the story is told from the standpoint of the children), it is told with uncommon honesty. “Peacock” is a brilliantly shot film that will persuade you to relive those awkward moments in your childhood that may have shaped you into the person you are now. A spell-binding film from China. Without doubt one of the highlights of DIFF 2005.
Are you ready for Day 5? -- by Adnan Khan