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Hamptons International Film Festival 2005: Some Films to See n Not

‘Go For Zucker’ is great, funny, a Jewish bouillabaisse of appositional comedy; ‘The Fall of Fujimori’ documentary shows the ex-President of Peru interviewed explaining everything so rationally about his bloody dictatorship and its death squads; ‘The Cave of the Yellow Dog’ – Mongolian nomads with three of the most adorable children ever protagonized! ‘Why We Fight’ ‘David & Layla’

The most remarkable film for me for the entire festival was ‘Go For Zucker’ about a hustler named Zucker who experiences a very dramatic week in his cascading life. Set up with all sorts of situations with a Jewish cultural background in the Germany of today, once a certain point is hit, the laughs just keep coming, especially when the confrontation between the two brothers, living in East and West Germany and not communicating for 40 years, meet again, family and all. One turns out to be an orthodox rabbi, and the other a poolshark. This one is a classic. With all sorts of sexual and shabbath moments to be appreciated, often surprising, n’er boring.

‘The Cave of the Yellow Dog’ was shot in Mongolia in the summertime. Basically it is about a real family, the Batchuluuns, who live the nomadic life, providing for all their own needs, and living in an elaborately constructed,
but not too difficult-to-deconstruct circular tent. It starts off with a couple of sheep being found dead, killed by wolves. That fear of the wolves, and some frightening scenes with vultures, jumping and creeping and tearing up rib cages of meat, gives the movie its tension. The three Batchuluun children have to be three of the most adorable
little siblings ever photographed in any movie ever made, especially as protagonists. They are all very bright, funny, imaginative and the eldest, about 6 or 8 years of age, Nansalmaa? can ride a horse, herd her sheep and cattle, and find her beloved dog Zochor hidden in some abandoned house’s shelter after climbing hills and mountaintops, and not falling off. If you want to be charmed, and see how nomads live in their lovely tho primitive portable home, make sure you see ‘The Cave of the Yellow Dog.’
This film was voted the winner of the Golden Starfish narrative movie award, plus the Kodak Cinematography award.

The Berlin Film Festival, now in its 55th year, has sent the Hamptons International Film Festival several offerings this year, including some cartoons and shorts that they have determined to be amongst their best works screened thus far. They came in two sets of six pieces, the first for four year olds and up; the latter labelled as for seven year olds and up. The first showing was abortional due to two incompetent “projectionists” at the Southampton Parrish Museum who only needed Curly to make it a threesome, but the one Nederlands cartoon was worth the torture.
‘The Elephant and the Snail’ is a magical delight, when it rains, and the little snail steps out of his shell, makes small talk with the big vulnerable elephant as the drops fall, then invites the huge pachyderm in for shelter. How can an
elephant fit into a tiny snail’s shell? adults may wonder as this progresses into cartoon fantasy that is creative and inevitable. Make sure you see this one before you die!

The second set of films were all shown successfully, and all were very very good to super-excellent, especially the animated ‘Lucia’ which was my favorite. Lucia wakes up in a hospital bed with an intravenous catheter in her arm,
but she does not want to stay there, and doesn’t….she’s an adorable tip-toer…you’ll see; ‘Rain Is Falling’ was shot in Morocco, about the hard life of living in the middle of nowhere, far from the river; a little girl, the main character, having to fetch and carry the water in two big plastic containers all the way back home, and then it starts to rain…Cinematography is beautiful in this short. ‘The Djarn Djarns’ takes place in Australia, and is about a bunch of
dancers, very aboriginal, and terrific. Then there is the Yorkshire, UK, story of the little footballer who talks to Jesus and priests, and has a surprising complication: ‘Does God Play Football?’ is the name of that one. ‘How To Make Friends’ is also cute, to the rhythm of ‘Gimme Somma Dat’ by Splashbound, two West Indian young girls visit a chubby UK boy of Indian extraction, and to the music, and some cute conversation, they communicate and become…friends….

‘Why We Fight’ – This one won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for 2005. It’s made by the same fellow
who did ‘The Trials of Henry Kissinger.’ That one showed that the Mr. Kissinger probably is America’s worst
mass murderer, as, due to his diplomacy and audacity, his work was responsible for at least 4 Million people’s deaths, mostly in southeast Asia and Indonesia and East Timor. ‘Why We Fight’ deals with how our military, the
Pentagon, what President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex,” has hijacked American foreign policy to the extent that we now fight wars because we have all this firepower and new toys that we need to test and use to warrant buying more and more from our arms makers and merchants to keep our economy going and going and going.

Unfortunately, though we thought we had “smart bombs” that destroyed our picked-out targets perfectly on the video-game screen, on the ground in Iraq the doctors and morgue supervisor in Baghdad tell us, nope, you dopes, you killed 90% civilians with your “smart bombs.” And we were shown the bodies just lying there. We had to listen to ideologues like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle tell us that this is the way it has to be, and it will not change. Because we have projects like the B-1 bomber (or was it the B-2?) being made in 48 states, and cutting them off will lose us jobs, lose our politicians voters if constituents lose their jobs, so our Congressfolk fight to keep these jobs, these bombers being made. We saw the first two pilots to take their Stealth jets into Iraq on March 19, 2003 and tell us about their job and how amazing it was to be the individuals who made the first strike in a war to liberate the Iraqis.
But, as above, they apparently did not hit the military targets they thought they did with their high tech redneck
bunker busters – I have a question: with all the talk today about IF we should have NUCLEAR bunker busters with at least 1/5th the power of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki – plus do NOT forget the fallout radioactive, of course: were those bunker busters on day one of Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF] errantly misdropped on the wrong targets NUCLEAR or not?

As the night slides into day, the realizations about the complications revealed in this disturbing movie continue
to emerge and trouble me. Can we see our current moron of a President, and his belligerent willing crew of death mongers, outted from the ruling of our country, and some sensible leaders replace them who can see how imbedded our thinktank-military-industrial complex is, and cut out their metastasizing cancers, piece by piece, jobsite by jobsite, business by business, perhaps, helping them convert to some peaceful work, like making actual toys, as that elderly female worker who had to make big phallic bombs, wished when she was interviewed? Or is our country too corrupted by dollaration from this same complex and the 3.5 million workforce dependent on it that is the biggest threat to the world right now??

Eugene Jarecki has done another splendid job, composing a broadbased movie that gives us perspective and insight into what is going on, until the next blowback hits us, from some heinous policy we pursue on our railroaded track to apocalypse, running at express speed, conductored by people too filled with their power to consider the consequences of their foolish day to day dealings and inexorable hubris.


“Favela Rising” – is a movie about Anderson Sa and the “favelas” or slums of Rio De Janeiro, where the cops can come in any day, any time, and just kill you if you happen to get in the way of their bullets. It is a poor area, a disgusting existence especially when you see how these homes are crowded together on the hillsides outside the
richer parts of Brazil’s best known city. Drugs are ubiquitous, as are the deaths and delusion that come with the industry to sell and use them. But Anderson Sa is a terrific musician who developed AfroReggae with members of his community, playing and performing to replace the dim drug depressing future that seems unescapable in the favelas. The man pulls negative thoughts out of his head if they enter, so he can go on and not fear the thugdom that could puff out his life. And we see how he has succeeded with the kids, and the happy adults, to indulge themselves in the music created from the favela aptitudes to produce great vibrant exciting danceable percussion-based music. Unfortunately, Mr. Sa took up surfing, and his worst fear became reality: he became paralyzed after getting whacked by his board, fracturing his fourth cervical vertebra in his neck. We meet the surgeon, who did the surgery for free, inserting a plate across the fracture site. As the movie ends we see Anderson walking again, holding
a child’s hand, though not ambulating perfectly, let us say.

My regrets about this movie: why did we not see his first performance that occurred ten months after his accident?
And why not more footage with the music of his band throughout the movie?? This lessened the impact of the film, as I believe many of those in the audience expected this, anticipated this. Oh well…oh, there are 600 favelas in Rio, we learned, and what about that woman who came to Mr. Sa after the accident and said the god of the sea sent her, and she bequeathed something to him, and later he was able to walk???? Hoodoo the voodoo man…..


‘David and Layla’ – a terrific movie, a lover’s movie, with idiosyncratic characters from the Jewish and Kurdish cultures. Very informative, funny, nutty, silly, some tear-jerking, a vasectomized complication to it all. I don’t want to tell you too much about this one, except go see it when you want some uplifting. And you will learn a lot about
these two cultures, mutually descending from Abraham/Ibrahim en route to ignorant hate and war that does not have to be. Shiva Rose McDermott is beautiful and deft as the female lead, while David Moscow is a neurotic New York Jew who you have to laugh at and with, as he transforms himself with the magnetism of love. His first ladyfriend, the kickboxing nosejobbed breastjobbed one, is a wonderful character, as are David’s parents, gay brother, Shiva’s uncle and cousin and grandmother?? Excellent timely movie that makes some political statements, but not overly partial ones, as the plot has to continue without the drag of politics impaling the love pomegranate……

‘Tristram Shandy’ – terribly disappointing, because I expected a movie set back in time, that would go along with the book by Laurence Sterne, at least to some degree. Unfortunately, director Michael Winterbottom sunk to the depths of making a movie about a movie, so my wife and I had enough after an hour. Maybe good for developing moviemakers; otherwise do NOT bother with this one. In approximately one hour, there was about 15 minutes worth of movie from the book, and not all of it was well acted. Not worth any more of my words, and certainly not $35 per ticket, the cost of a “spotlight” film at this festival.


‘Sisters-In-Law’ – is a very different film than any you’ve probably seen. The main characters, the sisters-in-law, are judges in Cameroon, Western Africa. We see them in action, judging cases, seeing through false testimony, from the rape of a tiny 9 year old girl, to the first cases of spousal abuse carried into any court in the country. A testimony to wisdom, and progress for women on the African continent. Quite interesting is the way the judge’s entry into the court is announced: not with a verbal grand pronouncement, but with a rising and falling [volume-wise] “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” until the judge takes her seat.


‘Amu’ takes us along on the journey to India from Beverly Hills of a young woman of Indian extraction. At first, it all seems rather innocuous, but when the truth outs, it is
stunning to say the least. Recall the 1984 assassination of Indira Ghandi by her Sikh bodyguards when you walk into this movie in your more artful theatre. . .


‘One Day In Europe,’ takes in four situations in four cities in Europe: Istanbul, Turkey;
Berlin, Germany; a town in northwestern Spain; and Moscow, Russia. A soccer/football
tournament ties it all together. The screenplay must have been written by an insurance salesperson, as all the stories are about robberies, or feigned robberies to garner insurance remuneration. If you want to see what these cities look like today, this film is worth expending your visual energies.


‘Flies On The Wall’ is a Danish film on the cutting edge of ultramodern technique and 2005 energy. The lead female character is an obsessive videographer assigned to a political task with her camera. Expect to be swept up in the plot and images to a
rather pithy and disturbingly violent climax, though there is minimal violence pre-climax.
Scandinavian sex is part of the moulage, naturally.


Shorts from the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem. The school was formed in 1989, and has a fine reputation.
We were blessed with the top five [all-time] voted works at HIFF. “Bedouin Sand” was set out by the beach and then the ride back through the deserted land with a family with a gruff father. Land mines were the physical complication in this bleak short. “Sabbath Entertainment” addresses the prohibition against doing anything on Sabbath, with three teenage girls driving off into the night…. “Cock Fight” is about an Israeli chicken dealer coming to a Palestinian check point, that closes, with the heat, and his poor chickens stuck in their cages…. “Home” is about an Iraqi family that comes to Israel at the beginning of the Gulf War, as emigres, seeing their home in the cross hairs, as they pause the images on the television with their remote, and regret, and pine. . “Sea Horses” – concerns a fatherless family living in a project with two nuclear reactor structures mighty close to too many homes right there in the all-too-near background, and mom is struggling, and the children are too, but there comes an opportunity….All five of these works are well done, but not injected with too much happiness. Waddaya expect? you might say. Informative, nevertheless.


The two major French films in the festival this year were basically Eh for I and I. The Claude LeLouch movie on its East Coast, USA premiere, entitled “Le Courage D’Aimer” or “The Courage To Love” was Mr. LeLouch’s fortieth movie, but certainly far from his best. He is the man who made “A Man and a Woman” back in 1966, which won an Oscar in our country for the best foreign film. The main characters are a pizza magnate in France and the castle selling botox-lipped seller, plus a street singer who sings atop large rolling balls and a young aspiring singer-shoplifter, also botoxed, I believe, who ends up hooking up with him. The movie rolls along through the turns of the relationships, but then Claude hisself appears and de-mystifies the movie by acting the moviemaker he is, making this movie, and telling what will happen, and then it does, and the ending never seems to come, and the men are all 50-60 years old, or older, with mid-twenties to mid-thirties women, and the philosophical LeLouch puts the words in the mouth of the crappily-brown-hair dyed pizzamonger that the motto of France should be “Liberte, Egalite, Infidelity” naturally. What would you expect if all the men seem to be Alta Cockers too old to perform anyway?

Overall, this one was too annoying for me, as the overmatched males lamented their situation ad nausea – until my wife and I had to walk out – though we were tired, as this was the last film of day-night one.


“Peindre ou Faire L’Amour” which means “To Paint or Make Love” was certainly not mundane, about two ill suited people, as a couple, who retire to this magnificent mountainous region of France, where rainbows disappear into the valley. But these are city people, with cell phones, and they are not quite comfortable there. Then there is the blind mayor, Adam, who appears as the tall beautiful stylish wife, played by Sabine Azema, is painting at the top of a field. More attractive chemistry subconsciously commences henceforth, and the movie does go on from that point. Though we never do see any of Sabine’s character’s paintings, do we? Anyway, lukewarm recommendation for this one.


“The Fall of Fujimori” about the ex-President of Peru, who is of Japanese extraction, was an amazing movie/documentary about his rise to power in 1990, and his subsequent fall, and his current staying in Japan, granted Japanese citizenship. He still wants to go back to Peru and save the country, even though he knows the new constitution only allows for two terms as President, and he was already elected for three. He is such a creep, his wife
began divorce proceedings against him, and ran against him in the election of 1995 – – even though they still would eat meals together. His daughter states he still holds approval ratings of 35-40% today, in the movie. And the footage of Fujimori, politely being interviewed for moviemaker Ellen Perry, is very striking in that he has explanations for everything. Perry has not shown absolute guilt exactly for Fujimori, but there is some amazing footage, including some home video by Fujimori’s son of the President and his hitman-Security chief talking turkey, and the later revelations from all the videos the fool, the Security Chief/hitman, had recorded of all his transactions as he bought off people in the government, including lawmakers, with cash.

What bothers me about this movie is that from I know of Peru’s story, the communistic Shining Path was not much when Fujimori took over in 1990, but he made them an obsession, and so they rose in importance, gaining new recruits, as he raised the battle cry against them. That part of the story was missing. As Fujimori disbanded the Congress, and became the dictator of the impoverished land on South America’s west coast. Still a fascinating documentary, just to see and listen to this incredible self-publicist wend his words and aura. With some footage extolling him and his popularity, to boot.


‘Sir! No Sir!’ won the Golden Starfish Documentary award.
This film unearthed the under the radar tale of our men in uniform who questioned the Vietnam war, and voiced their
opposition. Dishonorable discharges and court martials may have resulted, but this was one of the many facets of the forces against that war that helped to end it.


‘My Land Zion’ investigated attitudes and realities of Zionism and what is happening in Israel/Palestine today. Interesting, but much more fun was the short preceding this 57 minute work.

‘West Bank Story’ – was 22 minutes of near perfection, dancing, singing, and though the music was not what I really love, everything fit together wonderfully, even the colors and contrasts. Two competing fast food joints [unfortunately] were cutely named ‘Hummus Hut’ – colored green; and ‘Kosher King’ – colored blue; mixed up the Palestinian/Israeli
antipathy that is shattered by reality and love. If this one ever comes near your eyeballs, try to see it!

There were several other series of shorts, from all corners of the globe. ‘Fountain of Youth’ won the Golden Starfish award for best short. Shot out in the Mojave desert, it followed several more senior citizens, with some great creative imagery mixed in. ‘X-Mass’ was a crazy tale about a dysfunctional family and a book of spells that produces. . . crazy and humorous and worth seeing! ‘Dimmer’ gave us insight into the lives of a few blind young men who ride metro trains and function quite well, though rather desperately when it comes to love. ‘Last Men Standing’ addressed the problem of miners in the UK, and Wales to be specific, where we hear about one group that took over a mine themselves and operate it. ‘Cheeks’ was about a poor young fellow who is brought up by two psychiatrically unstable parents. He seems OK, but I wonder if and how he can leave them to follow his own independent life.


‘Sophie Scholl: The Final Days’ was a co-winner of the Audience award for best narrative film. It took us back to 1943, with Ms. Scholl dissenting against the Nazi machine.
Her cat-and-mouse interrogations by an older Nazi who believes in Hitler and his fascism are at the center of the film.

‘Sweet Land’ was the other co-winner of the Audience award. Set in post World War I Minnesota farm country, the protagonists are of Norwegian and German stock. It is the story of the land, the emergence of our better selves, with a strong cast.

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