Hits and misses from this year’s Edmonton International Film Festival
The Other Side of Hope
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki
Oct. 3, 6:30 pm, Landmark Cinemas 9 City Centre
Another dead (as-a-fish-in-a) pan dish from the top chef of wry, retro-looking movies. It’s an immensely powerful culture-clash dramedy where a Syrian stowaway, Khaled (Sherwan Kaji) and a budding restaurateur, Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), eventually cross paths in Helsinki. Finland’s bureaucratic refugee-admission system is indifferent; Khaled’s story is harrowing. A fusion-food experiment’s bound to go wrong; a cross-border smuggling plan has to go right.
American rock’s joyously covered by middle-aged bands in hole-in-the-wall clubs; a ragtag band of nationalist fascists roams the near-empty streets. The film nudges together many other little contrasts, confusions, and moments of dread. A marvellously understated take on Europe’s migrant crisis, with two men searching for safe harbours in their lives.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World
Directed by Catherine Bainbridge
Oct. 1, 6:45 pm, Landmark Cinemas 9 City Centre
This intriguing record soon hits flat notes … when it’s not needle-skipping from one instrumental indigenous rocker or folk-singer to another (Link Wray, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, and more).
After a fascinating section about the pre-Civil War sound-mixing of indigenous and slave cultures—where Pura Fé, sings to a Charley Patton record, reveals the indigenous beat in the music—Rumble stutters into a series of blurb-bios. In even the best of these, metal-man Randy Castillo only gets a vague analysis of how Native drumming influenced his stick work. Dates are ignored. Context is scanty (how can a doc featuring activist John Trudell and noting the FBI’s targeting of Sainte-Marie never once mention the American Indian Movement?). Eras, regions, and disparate peoples and traditions jitter past. (There’s a mad hop from jazz singer Mildred Bailey to ‘60s footage of police brutality and the folk-music scene.)
The effect? A flitting-about number with no clear through-line, offering up key musicians who happened to be “Indians.”
Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev
Sept. 30, 1:30 pm, Landmark
Cinemas 9 City Centre
Director Andrei Zvyagintsev (Elena, Leviathan) returns with his usual accomplices, co-writer Oleg Negin and, behind the camera, Mikhail Krichman. This time, they study Russia’s chilly spiritual void through the lens of one middle-class trio’s break-up in 2012. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), now with an older man, and Boris (Alexei Rozin), whose younger girlfriend is pregnant, are getting divorced. Their bitter, vitriolic arguments, while rarely still home together, lead their son, 12-year-old Alyosha (Matvey Nolvikov), to take drastic action.
With wintry panoramas and slow, steady push-ins, Krichman leads us on and lures us along. This atmospheric allegory glacially hardens and forms the future of today’s Russia becoming an icy, irresolvable thriller.
There’s a near-quizzical interest in how all these self-serving adults are managing their lives: Zhenya constantly checking her phone; a vicious outburst from her hermetic mother gives an appalling glimpse into Zhenya’s upbringing; Boris’ questions to a co-worker about hiding his divorce from their paymasters; his girlfriend, Masha, suddenly gripped by the fear he’ll leave her.
First and last, this masterwork’s about Alyosha and the next generation—what are they inheriting? How many Russian families are being broken apart much like this one? A steadily absorbing, utterly chilling gaze at a society stuck in meltdown.