By Morgan Cairns
From Columbia, to Italy, to Japan, the Calgary International Film Festival’s World Cinema series is the next best thing to a trip around the world. Here are BeatRoute’s top international picks.
Virus Tropical (Columbia)
An adaptation of Paola Gaviria’s autobiographical novel of the same name, Virus Tropical is an animated coming-of-age story set between Columbia and Ecuador. Echoing themes of last year’s festival breakout film, Lady Bird, Virus Tropical tells a similar story adolescent angst and teenage rebellion, but done entirely in stunning black and white animation. A departure from the animated films of your youth, Virus Tropical tackles subject matter that is significantly more adult, with a style of animation so strikingly unique, it proves the medium to be a true artform.
Daughter of Mine (Italy)
A different kind of love triangle, ten year old Vittoria (Sara Casu) is torn between the love of her two mothers; Tina (Valeria Golino), the woman who raised her, and Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher), Vittoria’s biological mother who now wants her back. Set in rural Sardinia (an Italian island in the Mediterranean sea), Angelica’s sudden reappearance in Vittoria’s life threatens everything Tina holds dear. The sophomore film from acclaimed Italian director, Laura Bispuri, Daughter of Mine has received universal acclaim, both for its complex and multifaceted portrayal of motherhood, as well as heart-wrenching performances from its three leads.
3 Faces (Iran)
After being charged with creating propaganda against the Iranian government, director Jafar Panahi was sentenced to a 20 year ban on directing or writing films; but only 8 years into his 20 year filmmaking ban, Panahi has already completed four films, the most recent being the self-starring drama, 3 Faces. Winning Best Screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Iranian actress Behnaz Jafari (playing herself) and Penhani (also playing himself) come across a video of a young girl who longs to leave her conservative family and become an actress. The video prompts the pair to take a journey through the Iranian countryside to find the girl, encountering a few surprises along the way. Challenging the patriarchal ideals of rural Iran, Penhani not only rebels against the authority that forbade him from making films in the first place, but forges ahead with feminist film that scoffs at the virility of men, and champions for a woman’s right to self-determination.
Everyone in the Shibata family has their own ways of helping make ends meet. Osamu (Lily Franky), the family’s patriarch, sells the goods he steals on his daily shoplifting ventures. His wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) works in a laundry, and also takes to stealing the various items left in unsuspecting pockets. Their teenage daughter, Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), earns her share working at a soft-porn peep show. And let’s not forget grandma Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), and her monthly pension cheque. One day, while shoplifting groceries to feed his family, Osamu and his son, Shota (Kairi Jō), come across homeless Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), alone and shivering on the streets, and decide to take the her home. While their original intent is only to care for the girl for a few days, the already struggling family decides to informally adopt Yuri after noticing the clear signs of abuse she has already gone through. Training her in their criminal ways, Yuri’s presence in the family is initially joyful; but as family dynamics begin to shift, Yuri’s place in the family becomes more complicated, especially when the family that abandoned her all of a sudden wants her back. Like a modern day Oliver Twist, Shoplifters has already been met with universal acclaim, winning the Palme d’Or at the this year’s Cannes Film Festival (arguably one of the most prestigious award in film), and receiving endless praise for both its direction under Hirokazu Kore-eda, as well as stunning performances from it’s entire cast.
At the surface, Capernaum can be summarized as simply as this: 12 year-old Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is suing his parents for giving him life. However, as the nature of the case at hand may suggest, the film’s one-line premise delivers a film rife with complexities. Another big winner at Cannes (where the film received a 15 minute standing ovation and the coveted Prix du Jury), director Nadine Labaki’s third feature film takes you on an emotionally charged journey through one little boy’s short but troubled life in the slums of Beirut as he comes to terms with the unjust world he never asked to live in.
Hendrix (played by YouTube star Abra ) is an aspiring rapper, taking to the streets of Manila to compete in rap battles with other would-be word smiths. When Hendrix stikes up a friendship with shop owner and former poet Doc (Dido de La Paz), the pair form an unlikely bond as they both turn to their art as a way to rise above the grim circumstances that surround them. The feature film debut of music video director Alberto Monteras II, Respeto is part hip-hop melodrama, and part political commentary; showing the power of music in a world plagued by violence.
Secret Ingredient (Republic of Macedonia)
How do you turn the story of a son caring for his dying father into a black comedy? The same way Seth Rogen would: pot. After stumbling on a misplaced a package of drugs, train mechanic Vele, initially tries the miraculous find as a way of paying for his father’s pricey cancer medication. Unable to sell drugs, Velle decides to bake them into a cake, hoping that it will provide some relief to his ailing father. Astonishingly, the cake works wonders, and soon Vele’s father is back to his old, cranky self. However, Velle soon gets more than he bargained for when his “healing cake” attracts the attention of everyone in town, all desperate for a little healing of their own. Chock full of concrete landscapes and deadpan humour that has become a signature of Romanian New Wave Cinema, Secret Ingredient is a dark comedy that simultaneously offers commentary on the struggle of of affordable healthcare, while still serving up its fair share of laughs.
Warrior Women (United States)
A 2018 HotDocs selection, Warrior Women explores the women who were crucial in the fight for indigenous rights, but whose stories often go untold. An activist for over 50 years, Madonna Thunder Hawk, an Oohenumpa Lakota, and her daughter, Marcy, are at the centre of the film. As a co-founder of the We Will Remember Survival School-a school and safe place for indigenous youth whose parents were defendants in the Wounded Knee trials; and Women of All Red Nations-a group whose primary focus was on women’s issues in Native american activism, Thunder Hawk’s activism has been an integral part of the Red Power and American Indian Movement(AIM), and continues as she continues to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The first feature from co-directors Christina D. King and Elizabeth A. Castle, Warrior Women pieces together rare archival footage to tell the stories of native resistance, carried on from generation to generation.
For screening times, visit www.calgaryfilm.com3 Faces, Calgary International Film Festival, Capernaum, CIFF, Daughter of Mine, Respeto, Secret Ingredient, Shoplifters, Virus Tropical, Warrior Women