This year’s cover was a little owl peeking out at us from the pocket of a yellow rain jacket daring us to check it out. With a yearly greeting from Albert Wiederspiel and a selection of sections which include titles like Grosse Freiheit, Kaleidoskop, Veto! and Voilà as well as the Michel festival for children and young adults, making this a win-win festival. The program is the quintessential bible for me, and I never leave home without it since it contains maps, schedules and synopsis of each film. Although this year I did happen to notice that there were 4 artistic photos highlighting films – are these the favorites? Curiosity got the better of me so LINGUI: THE SACRED BONDS, LAND OF DREAMS, ANATOMY OF TIME, and PICOLLO CORPO (SMALL BODY) were now added to my list.
Each film was carefully crafted with spell-binding cinematography that transported me into another world. They also contained either a social or political issue with a female protagonist at the center of the story and was the common thread among these films.
LINGUI: THE SACRED BONDS directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun was filmed on the outskirts of N'Djamena in Chad, where Amina and her 15-year old daughter Maria live. We see beautiful kimono robes with wide hakama leg pants and gorgeous silk haori jackets being worn by women while the traditional Chadian Arab men wear long jalabiyas robes along with a white turban tagiya headgear with a backdrop of sun-perched warm sandy color buildings. Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) is in desperate need of an abortion but lives in a country where it is both condemned by religion and law. But mas we all know, mother knows best and Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) is willing to sacrifice everything to save her daughter. The cinematography captures not only the beauty of location but also their emotional struggle.
Like in Lingui, Shirin Neshats and Shoja Azaris’ LAND OF DREAMS takes us to the desert but one that is vastly different. This film takes us to a futuristic dystopia of America. The colors of sand are bleached white and pale where the horizon is vast and open. Simin (Shelia Vand), an Iranian transplant, works for the Census Bureau. Her job includes locating and contacting a person, and then recording a dream of theirs. She has the advantage of replaying the recordings she collected as a dream catcher and puts herself in their roles to try to understand the dreams and their hidden messages. It is a somber tale of otherness which exposing moments of racism, xenophobia, and oppression. What is freedom when we know that the Census Bureau is supervising us all for security?
In ANATOMY OF TIME by Jakrawal Nilthamrong, takes us deep into the green jungle that focusing on two time segments. One captures the memories of the communist rebellion in the 1960s in Thailand and the other is the present day. These two-time fragments of Maem’s (Prapamonton Eiamchan) life show her as a young carefree woman in 1960’s rural Thailand. Her courtship of two very different men put her in a precarious position which she only realizes only later in life. As she nursed the disgraced general, she returns to her past filled with many emotions that directly relate back to Thailand’s current lost-generation tragic past and the exploitation of its people.
PICOLLO CORPO jumps back in time to the 1900’s in Northern Italy. The rugged and isolated mountains laced with forbidding waterways set the scene for a mother fighting to save the soul of a still-born child. Due to her physical weakness, Agata (Celeste Cescutti) seems to be on a hopeless journey in trying to reach a mysterious sanctuary and therefore must rely on someone to help her succeed. Will it be a man or perhaps another woman? In the end, only God knows in this high symbolic film.
So I hope that next year you will all open your Filmfest Hamburg program and take a moment to read between the lines. I am sure you will find the hidden message that will take you down a winning path.