London Film Festival, October 13-28, 2010
54 Glorious Years!
by Mehrva Arvin
It had been a couple of years since my last visit to London. The city looked more or less the same, maybe a bit busier. An interesting point this year though was the number of bicycles going around the city during the rush hour, when we had to go for the first press screening of the day!
The festival started its work on October 13 with Mark Romanek’s film Never Let me Go. Based on a novel by British writer Kazuo Ishiguro of the same title, the story is told by a young woman in her thirties who recalls the special boarding school where she and 2 other friends grew up. At first glance, the school is presented as a school with high principles that keeps its children under control and encourages them to be creative and engage in sports and arts. The children are kept away from the outside world but never thinking any less of their lives. As they get older and exposed to the outside world, they realize their preplanned future. They are organ donors, each having an average of 3 operations before they die. It is the story of love, jealousy, betrayal and loss. The film is shot in soft, subtle colors and feels a bit dreamlike. The acting on the part of all leads, especially children, was wonderfully sympathetic.
Miral by Julian Schnabel is a different take on an old ongoing issue: the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. Schnabel has been able to capture the essence of life in the conflict concentrating on a Palestinian public figure, Hind Husseini, who comes across 55 orphans in Jerusalem in 1948. She decides to give them food and shelter and in 6 months the number reach 2000. The story continues with the arrival of a 7-year-old girl after her mother’s death. She grows up in the institute protected from the outside world. By the age 17, as she discovers the realities of life, she is faced with a dilemma: To fight the situation as ones before her, or approach the situation in the manner of Mama Hind who thinks education is the way to solve the problem. Characters are very real and compassionate and the way the film is shot is moving and, at times, like the reality of life; shocking and disturbing. Schnabel has been able to reach a wider audience in portraying real life characters and situations. As Schnabel commented himself, "It's a story about education, it's about love, it's about people and it's about hope."
Darren Aronofsky's long waited Black Swan was presented at the festival this year. Set in the NYC's ballet scene, Natalie Portman plays a young ambitious, hardworking and also naïve ballerina. With the pressure of her unsuccessful ballerina mother, played wonderfully by Lina Owen, she wants to become the new prima ballerina for the dancing company, the Black Swan. Intensive emotions and psychological states involved in the film and duality of the character is performed wonderfully by young Portman. Ballet performances are magnificently filmed giving viewer another angle on a known subject.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were topics of a few films at the festival this year but the most impressive one was the Route Irish by Ken Loach. It is story of a sister who gets the body of her brother from Iraq in what is called a “big orange crate.” Her brother was not a paratrooper but a private contractor, or as some call them, private soldiers, corporate warriors, or security consultants. Iraqis call them, mercenaries. Something was not right. With the help of his old friend, played masterfully by Mark Womack, the story unfolds. The film is fast, rough and, at times, heart-wrenching. When the credits rolled at the end of the screening, nobody moved from their seats for a few minutes.... The film is extremely impressive and brings up a lot of emotions. Loach is expectedly wonderful in his direction and storytelling.
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