It goes to 11 (and beyond)

Pub date September 4, 2007
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

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The MadCat Women’s International Film Festival is back for its 11th consecutive year, with 11 fascinating film programs (two features and nine shorts series). It’s hard to describe the broad variety of themes and filmmaking styles explored in this year’s lineup. Identity issues, life at the fringes of society, the desire to break free from safe but unchallenging environments, and struggles for independence through unconventional means are only some of MadCat’s topics. One unifying factor: these ideas are addressed with equal amounts of sincerity, subtlety, and creativity.

Benidorm, one of the shorts contained in the "ID Docs" program, stands out not only for the respectful and attentive approach it takes to its subjects but also because it focuses on a social group that is wildly neglected in cinema and many other art forms: the elderly. German Carolyn Schmitz visits Benidorm, Spain, which during the off-season becomes a great attraction for retired people who seek to enjoy the sea and the sun. The bittersweet feeling that permeates the whole film is partly created by the confessions some of the people make in front of the camera: that they dislike being old and that they’re afraid of death. This uncomfortable feeling is most effectively complemented by the sadness of a landscape that reminds us how marginalized old people are today and how deprived they often are of taking pleasure in their age.

Elderly people are also featured, though in a lesser extent, in Boreas, a Turkish film that’s part of the "Close to Home" presentation. This time the focus is placed on how they are perceived by a young child. With her mainly stationary camera and her beautiful framing, filmmaker Belam Bas is very successful in reutf8g to the audience all that happens inside a youngster who is growing up in a rural area with no people around who are his age. The child silently but playfully observes the world, imaginatively satisfying his innate curiosity about life.

In 4 Elements, one of the festival’s features, attention is switched from people to the natural environment and how we interact with it. A Dutch-German-Russian-Siberian coproduction, the film references Greek philosopher Empedokles’ cosmogony theory, in which everything in the universe is created by the interplay of fire, water, earth, and air. Filming firemen, fishermen, mineworkers, and astronauts on and off the job, director Jiska Rickels documents the daily efforts of people whose occupations relate immediately to those elements. The outcome is an imposing, mesmerizing, almost mystical movie that reveals not only how dependent we are on nature but also what a struggle it is to exploit our planet’s natural wealth.

On a completely different note, the word fun most adequately describes the retrospective MadCat has prepared for innovative filmmaker Helen Hill, who sadly was murdered six months ago. In her films, Hill mixed home movies, animation, paper figures, drawings, animals, and people demonstrating an unbound resourcefulness and an incredible kindness. In Hill’s world, making films is presented as an enjoyable and potentially inexpensive endeavor that one can undertake in his or her kitchen — an instantly relatable means to self-expression.<\!s>*


Sept 11–<\d>26

See film listings for info