3pm Friday. I’m on my way back from “King Kong” (non-DIFF release) to see Brazilian director Fernando Mierelles’ latest, “The Constant Gardener.” Believe the critics, and trust the awards attention this film has been getting lately. It’s a complex political thriller and a beautiful romance set in Kenya. Although Mierelles has a big story to tell (exploitation of poor Africans by fascist-like pharmaceutical companies) he keeps things intimate. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are exceedingly engrossing in their roles and their performances make this film better that it already is. A wonderful, sophisticated film. You must see it.
7pm. And I get a feeling that it’s going to be a “Long Night” for me. This import from Pakistan is one of the saddest comedies I have seen this year. This ultra low-budget film offers an ultra clichéd story about one guy who has an all too interesting night in the city of Karachi: A young US-return Pakistani businessman has his life thrown into a blender for our viewing pleasure. We witness him embark on a journey that introduces him to the harsh realities of a mythical Karachi city (I say mythical because I have lived there and what is on the screen is an exaggeration of an exaggeration) – jilted lovers, verbose hookers, corrupt cops, a stoned-out doctor, Tarantino-styled bad guys, and a dozen other ill-conceived, ‘colourful’ characters. “The Long Night” is a farce, that there is no doubt. But I found it rather ironical that the director, who engaged us in a third-rate Q&A after the screening, began to present this confused film as high-art. Not entirely surprising was the reaction from an audience member who spared us no time in offering his own over-intellectualised critique much to the director’s obvious satisfaction. Think an Ed Norton-styled monologue. For someone who cheekily includes Martin Scorsese's good (and entirely too famous) name in the end credits of his film (the director of "Long Night" later assured me that the reason for its inclusion was "only to pay homage”), I submit my objections to your common sense and rest my case. Hate mail in sealed envelopes and love letters on scented postcards. Thank you.
9.15pm. The long standby queue for people eager to see the film is getting bigger, this doesn't surprise me - just get Cameron Diaz on your film’s poster and see what happens. I ask the girl who takes my ticket what number I am (DIFF staff count the attendance level for each screening) and she says “130.” I sit myself in a packed cinema for Curtis Hanson’s “In Her Shoes.” Hanson is a smart director who made inroads into Hollywood's A-List directors with the astonishing “LA Confidential” and followed it up with one of my favourite films ever, the sublime “Wonder Boys.” The new one from Hanson is delightful as a comedy and insightful as a family drama. It walks that fine line of serious-funny and skillfully balances a bittersweet look at the lives of two sisters who are opposites – Diaz plays the loose half, a “12-dollar tramp” and Toni Collete is the responsible, successful lawyer in need of any relationship. When Diaz’s character discovers letters from a grandma she never knew existed, of course she will find out more and in the process rediscover herself. This is cliché territory and despite Hanson’s best efforts he cannot avoid the conventions of the genre. “In Her Shoes” becomes entirely predictable in its third act and concludes with a bubble-gum happy ending. I can bring myself to forgive it because the characters felt real and I was taken by the rhythm and pace of the film's first two acts.
Read our farewell page in the DIFF 2005 diary - final entry in the no hanky-panky coverage of the last day. -- by Adnan Khan