Tuesday, July 26, 2011

EU 2011 - Chart 3 B

BIFF Reviews Working Document

EU Film Festival 2011 Chart 3: Tuesday and Wednesday, July 26-27 – Prepared by Thomas Ohlson

At Vista Theater 7, 4th Floor, Kadsuankaew, Chiang Mai


Tuesday, July 26, 2011



Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

3 PM



Weekend With My Mother (2009)


Original Title : Weekend cu mama

Country : ROMANIA

Category : Drama

Writer/Director : Stere Gulea

Principal Cast : Medeea Marinescu, Adela Popescu and Tudor Istodor

Length : 1 hr 27 min


Fifteen years ago, Luiza decided to make a fresh start in Spain, leaving her 3-year-old daughter Cristina in the care of her relatives. On returning to Romania, she learns some shocking truths: Cristina is a drug addict whose 2-year-old girl lives in an orphanage. Overwhelmed by guilt, Luiza attempts to save her daughter and redeem the mistakes of her youth.

IMDb viewer: It's exquisite. ... I can truly say that the journey, although a bit extreme and romantic aesthetics in it, was a very Romanian one. And it is nice to find yourself lost in the artistic beauty of a tragedy ... but also in a day to day cultural mirror. Bad habits, ignorance, mistakes, the death of family values, lack of respect, streets, filth, carelessness, loneliness at an old age, indecency ... the shallow hope of an absolution that is not consistent with reality ... All here.


IMDb viewer: This one topped my expectations! The story develops around an 18-20 year old girl named Cristina (Adela Popescu). She's a drug addict. The story gets going when she meets her mother who just returned from Spain. It's a powerful drama about family relationships and past while dealing with the present.


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yICr6YNAtk

Film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QQMtX3-SvE&NR=1

4:40 PM



An Ordinary Execution (2010)

Original Title: Une exécution ordinaire

Country : FRANCE

Category : Drama/ History

Writer/Director : Marc Dugain

Principal Cast : André Dussollier, Marina Hands, Edouard Baer

Length : 1 hr 45 mins


1952: a young urologist practicing in a Moscow hospital desperately tries to get pregnant from her husband, a disillusioned physician who only survives thanks to the love for his wife. To her horror, she must treat Stalin. Now amiable, then perverse, the dictator delivers his art of terror in ways that the couple has never been seen before.


Generally favorable reviews (Rotten Tomatoes): “Novelist Marc Dugain both wrote and directed this screen adaptation of his novel about the last days of one of the 20th Century's most infamous leaders. In 1952, Jospeh Stalin (Andre Dussollier) is in failing health after a long tenure as the unquestioned ruler of the Soviet Union. Stalin is also in the market for a new personal physician, as his longtime doctor has fallen to one of the leader's frequent purges of people he regards as untrustworthy. Anna (Marina Hands) is a doctor who has a fine rapport with her patients, and some believe she has a gift for healing that goes beyond the abilities of modern medicine. Anna is recruited by Stalin's underlings to become the ruler's new doctor. Anna and Stalin get along well at first, but as he opens up to her, she discovers that beneath his charm is emotional instability and a vindictive streak that borders on madness. Anna also gets a personal taste of the dictator's methods when she mentions her troubles having a child with her husband Vasily (Edouard Baer); not long after Stalin recommends a divorce, Vasily is visited by the secret police and ends up in a forced labor camp. While Anna has sworn to do no harm, she begins to ponder just what is at stake as she tries to keep Stalin alive and well. Une Execution Ordinaire (aka An Ordinary Execution) was an official selection at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival.” ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


For a trailer (French) check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot3QN9lR8Z8

BBC Radio Times: In this austere if somewhat academic drama, first-time director Marc Dugain draws on his own bestselling novel to speculate on the conspiracy-shrouded demise of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Evoking memories of the last Tsarina's relationship with Rasputin, the action centres on the (fictional) secret treatment sessions that an ailing Stalin (André Dussollier) receives from Anna (Marina Hands), a doctor famed for her unconventional healing techniques. The young woman is sworn to secrecy, but that doesn't stop the paranoid tyrant from having her husband (Edouard Baer) tortured to ensure her loyalty. With the help of cinematographer Yves Angelo's brooding Kremlin atmosphere, Dugain concentrates on the tensions between Stalin and Anna, as he rambles disconcertingly and seeks to justify his reign of terror, while she attempts to retain her sang-froid in the presence of such impenitent inhumanity. The result is a film that's impeccably played and chillingly compelling.


Eye for Film: Historical dramas have a habit of falling rather awkwardly into a neither fish nor fowl department that leaves you wondering which parts are fact and which are embellishment. Debut director Marc Dugain - adapting and directing from his own novel - avoids this problem by taking a real person, Russian dictator Joseph Stalin and setting him in an almost purely fictional narrative. This allows Dugain the freedom to explore what makes a dictator tick, rather than to get hung up on trying to slavishly recreate the last few months before Stalin's death. The fact that this is a French film about Russia also frees the narrative up, stripping out any need to reference modern politics that might spring from a film made locally, so that it becomes focused almost entirely on the characters and their motivations. ...

Often, debut features are marked out by interesting direction but problematic scripting and here, the problem is something of the reverse. The direction is little more than workmanlike and the budget limitations show, although Yves Angelo adds a sickly bleakness to his colour palette that feels as beaten down as the film's characters. In narrative terms, however, Dugain completely captures the sense of Stalin as being utterly mad in his "sanity", as one character says early on: "Stalin has his own logic."

The dictator's cold and almost throw-away disregard for human life is enough to inspire a sharp intake of breath, such as when, while being aided by Anna, he proceeds to pepper the conversation with details of her husband's torture. It is the casual nature of his cruelty that makes this film such a compelling watch. The presence of the word "ordinary" in the film's title nods to Stalin's indifferent attitude to those he kills, while his own quote, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic", at the end of the film is a stark reminder of his offhand attitude to slaughter.


Amazon.com.uk reviewer: This is a French film based on the final days of Stalin. So although they are all supposed to be Russian they speak French and not with a Russian accent. It centers around a young female doctor (Marina Hands), who has remarkable healing powers in her hands. I am not sure if she is a faith healer or does Raki or something, we are just asked to accept this fact.

Her colleagues are either jealous or fancy her, and as you could be denounced at the drop of a hat, she lives in constant fear of what may happen. She is married and deeply in love, but they are unable to have a child, so they keep practicing with the vigor of newlyweds, causing more envy from the neighbors. One day the secret police turn up at the hospital and take her away. She soon finds out the Comrade Stalin (Andre Dussollier) has got to hear about her healing skills, and wants a bit of treatment. He has a stipulation that she is not allowed to tell a soul about their arrangement. This includes her family – especially her husband. After reflection Stalin decides that having her word might not be enough.

This is an interesting film, but far from an exciting one. There are moments of cruel clarity and heightened tension, most notably from Dussolliers performance of the monster Stalin. Those moments though are not enough to sustain the momentum. However, it manages to capture the mood and sterility of the time really well. If you are interested in post WW 2 history then this will be of interest, if you are looking for some sort of fast paced, drama with some action, then you should give it a pass.

6:35 PM

Camino (2008)

Country : SPAIN

Category : Drama

Writer/Director : Javier Fesser

Principal Cast : Nerea Camacho, Carme Elias, Mariano Venancio

Length : 2 hrs 18 mins


A brilliant eleven-year-old girl must simultaneously face two completely new events in her life – falling in love and dying. Camino is a bright light that manages to shine through every one of the dark doors that try to stifle her desire to live, love and seek ultimate happiness. Inspired by real events.


Here are some clips. Warning: do not watch unless you’re prepared to be disturbed.



Urban Cinefile synopsis: Camino (Nerea Camacho) is a bouncy 11 year old girl whose happy, God-focused life in Madrid is spent between her religious school and a home dominated by her pious but authoritarian mother, Gloria (Carme Elias). Her family are members of Opus Dei, the controversial Catholic organization founded by Spain's recently-canonized Jose Maria Escriva. Camino falls in platonic love with Cuco (Lucas Manzano) at a school theatre group. But young love is thwarted when the back pains that have been troubling her turn out to have a serious origin - and she is forced to undergo a barrage of tests, operations and radiation therapy sessions that eventually leave her bedridden, immobilized and blind. Camino's older sister Nuria (Velles), meanwhile, is living as a novitiate in an Opus Dei house. Only Camino's father, Jose (Mariano Venancio), gives her pure affection untainted by religious dogma.


Urban Cinefile, Review by Andrew L. Urban:

The oddly perverse lives that are twisted out of shape by the extremes of Christian belief systems are sometimes the stuff of which saints are made, and young Camino's is such a life. Unintentionally satirical and brutally so for its matter of fact portrayal of the least humane aspects of the Opus Dei, Camino is dedicated to and inspired by the life and death young Alexia Gonzales (currently being considered for sainthood). It has enthralled Spanish audiences and critics. I'm not sure it has the same impact elsewhere, where its flaws may be magnified by the psychological and cultural distances. It has quite a few flaws, but also much to recommend it.

Nerea Camacho is a pretty young actress who gives a mostly first class performance (except when she is allowed to register special interest by widening her eyes in a hammy attempt at facial acting). Her most moving and powerful scenes are also the most traumatic; there are many of them.

Carme Elias is formidable as Gloria (what else), the pious mother whose excessive idea of faith in Jesus has so blinded her that she is risible in her willingness to let her daughter suffer because that's what Jesus wants. She doesn't ever ask herself why Jesus would want to do such an evil thing to a girl who is so devoted to him. Camino, finally does ask, though. All Gloria can do is endlessly thank God for her daughter's illness, because it gives them all a chance to really, really prove they love Him by offering up all their agonies to Him.

It's only Camino's father, Jose, subtly played by Mariano Venancio, who can see through the hollow piety to the human tragedy - though he is too weak to do much about the situation. And God has even more plans for this family to show its absolute faith in him.

As if these themes needed it, a heavy handed, weeping strings-infested score exaggerates the spiritual tone so that we are in cathedral mode pretty much all the way - which is a long time at 143 minutes, in what is essentially a one-note drama. You'll have to excuse the excessively long and schmaltzy ending, too, followed by a contrived coda. Don't mind me, though, I'm a fallen angel.

Urban Cinefile, Review by Louise Keller:

Winner of 6 Goya Awards, this beautifully crafted but disturbing film tells its story about faith, love and death with claustrophobic potency. It’s a heartbreaking story whose elements often make us feel as though a knife has been thrust in our chest and twisted. Based on a true story, director Javier Fesser has written a complex and multi-layered screenplay about an eleven year old girl from an overtly religious family who displays saintly selflessness and faith in God as she suffers from a fatal illness. The film is like no other, but there are some parallels with The Magdalene Sisters in that it displays the iron fist that fanatic Catholicism promotes and also with Pan’s Labyrinth, in which fantasy is used as an escape from shocking reality. At the heart of the story is a beautiful flower by the name of Camino whose love and enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is no questioning the cinematic power of this film, although it must be said it is tough viewing with relentless distressing scenes and themes.

When the story begins, we meet Camino (Nerea Camacho) on her deathbed, surrounded by family and friends. The story then picks up five months earlier when we meet Camino as a beautiful, fun-loving school girl with a healthy attitude to life. Home life, as members of the Opus Dei, devoting themselves to God within their daily lives, is strict and filled with prayer. Her well-intentioned but misguided mother Gloria (Carme Elias) who loves her for all the wrong reasons, is the family’s driving force, “sowing the seeds” of the Christian home and instilling fanaticism (‘Never waste a chance to tell Him you love Him’). Guilt and faith are intertwined. When Camino chooses a children’s book called Mr Meebles, her mother insists on buying one about Saint Bernadette. It is reassuring that Camino’s father José (Mariano Venancio) loves her for all the right reasons and their relationship seems ‘normal’. Gloria has hopes for Camino that she follows in her sister Nuria’s (Manuela Vellés) footsteps in the church. Nuria, who once had the promise of a different life – with a handsome actor –now blinkered to her new life at the convent with God.

Camino’s hopes to join the school theatre group with Cuco (Lucas Manzano), the boy on whom she has a crush, die in an instant when she becomes ill. The two youngsters have an intangible connection, which is portrayed in a stunning fantasy sequence towards the film’s end. All the performances are extraordinary, especially Camacho as the angelic Camino, whose beauty and grace only seem to make the story even harder to bear. I can only assume that the graphic nature of the operation scenes has symbolic inference. There’s an affecting juxtaposition between the theatre where Cinderella is being played and the scene at the hospital which embodies the theatre of death. Many will find this film impossible to sit through; others will relate to its authenticity in its depiction of faith.


At the Movies: Camino swept away with six major categories at last year’s Goya Awards, the Spanish Oscars. It’s the work of writer/director Javier Fesser who states at the beginning that it’s based on real events.

14-year-old Camino is the younger daughter of Gloria and Jose. The family adheres to the strict teachings of Opus Dei, the extremely conservative organization within the Catholic Church. Their older daughter is already ensconced in an Opus Dei house where she is virtually a servant to the men who live there.

Camino is a lovely child, just on the verge of puberty and curious about the world outside her proscribed life. When she suddenly falls ill and the implications are serious, her faith and that of her family is tested. Camino has developed an innocent crush on a local boy and escapes from the confines of her hospital bed through her dreams and imagination.

This is a film that could provoke audiences from a number of directions. People critical of Opus Dei will find much to justify their view in the film. But people who have great faith will also find much to nourish them. Javier Fesser has been very clever. I’m not convinced by some of his techniques, particularly in the early part of the film, his almost besotted filming of his young star and the dream sequences work only sometimes.


Screen Fanatic: Where do you start with Javier Fesser’s Camino (2008), a film “inspired by true events”? By turns sensationalist, trivial, and deeply moving, it's open to a variety of equally valid interpretations. Is it a caustic indictment of organized religion? Or a tragic fable infused with magical realism? Or maybe just a disturbing depiction of parental manipulation gone mad?

Wobbling in and out of its narrative borders like a drunken sailor, the film details the last months of Camino Fernandez (Nerea Camacho), a young Spanish fifth-grader from Madrid whose sudden bouts of neck pain lead to the diagnosis of a tumor that soon mutates into a rare cancer. Her family is a devoutly religious one. Looming largest here is mother Gloria (Carme Elias), a seemingly sweet, loving woman superficially, but who may be harboring ulterior motives that are not exactly conducive to restoring her daughter’s health.

Camino’s father Jose (Mariano Venancio) is a caring, almost perfect, paternal figure, and a source of great comfort for her, but a man with a fatal flaw: he’s weak-willed, having seemingly forever bowed down to his wife’s wishes. This translates into little more than scant hollow words of advice and encouragement for Camino as her condition deteriorates, tangling her own faith in confusion as she tries to assimilate God’s motives with the ailment afflicting her failing body. Camino has an older sister, Nuria (Manuela Velles), who she rarely sees. The circumstances of Nuria’s strange life are only partially explained but it seems she left home at 18 to live in a home with numerous young people of her age. They are now effectually sequestered as “numeraries” in a regimented Pamplona household ruled by a branch of the Opus Dei sect of the Catholic Church.

Camino is a deeply unsettling film at times. A revelatory flashback is central to how audience allegiances will ultimately be swayed in one direction: Camino re-lives, through a dream, an episode from her childhood is which she awoke to find her mother cradling her dead baby brother, Gloria responding with a beatific smile that the child wanted to return home to Jesus. It’s a strikingly creepy moment, creating a lasting impression of a fervent religious devotion that borders on insanity.

What is most riling is the odious insistence of Camino’s mother that her illness is occurring because God loves her. When confronted with the debilitating strain her family has been placed under she returns serve with her steadfast proclamation of wishing to “thank Him every day for her daughter’s illness”, hoping eventually for an unlikely canonization, the ultimate reinforcement of her reverence and unwavering piousness. Almost as infuriating is Jose's failure to react and prevent Gloria's poisonous cloak of Godly justification from engulfing them all.

Moments of magical realism are often potently contrasted with the harmful levels of subtle constriction established by Gloria in her rule over the family. Camino’s dreams are often frightening, sometimes shedding distressing light on her present and past lives, but they can be freeing too, such as when a playful mouse - the one her mother forlornly attempts to snare in their pantry - and Mr. Meebles, a wise old sage from a secondhand book, enter the fray of her wild imagination.

Where Fesser’s visually polished film fails is in its handling of the wildly overlapping tones. Never settling into a consistent rhythm, Camino veers from trepidation to whimsy, and from austerity to absurdity at a second’s notice. The overall effect detracts from any cohesive, rational sense Fesser is aiming for in his re-imagining of this girl’s tragic final months of life.

This is especially true during the protracted final stage as Camino's final throes are intrinsically linked - almost supernaturally - to a school drama club's performance of Cinderella which she dreamed of being a part of. The ecclesiastical music is over-reaching to the point where you suspect the line between valid support and mockery is being breached.

The experience of watching Camino for all of its 140 minutes is likely to induce exultant joy and a smattering of teary moments. But what lingers most is the anger at the controversial means of propagating God’s divine will that Camino’s mother uses to enact some form of spiritual sanctification for her daughter in preference to saving her from maximum harm.

This is ultimately a compelling, and on some levels, daring film. It's an emotionally-charged one too, loaded with both wondrous and disturbing imagery. Forced into a final judgment, I’d have to classify it as a failure however, but there’s no disputing that it’s an intriguing, fascinating one, sure to provoke vigorous debate.



SBS, Australia: You would be hard pressed to find humor in a film whose central theme deals with child mortality but Javier Fesser’s Camino is a rare thing indeed. Though respectful and subdued when the story requires, Fesser’s ironic touch manages to extract humor from a dire situation and in the process, skewer organized religion and its propagation of false hope. ...

Fesser is unrelenting in exposing the contradiction and hypocrisy inherent in organized religion but he also wisely avoids shooting fish in a barrel. There’s an overwhelming reverence to this outrageously melodramatic piece that suggests Fesser is hedging his bets.  He’s not criticizing those whose faith provides comfort in times of crisis; only those who would seek to profit from that crisis and turn a young girl’s death into a PR vehicle for the Church.


IMDb viewer: Reading the above reviews, I find it somewhat surprising that almost no-one saw what I saw in this excellent movie.

What I saw was an expose' of the heartlessness of the Catholic Church (and I hasten to add that they are not alone).

I saw ambition among the clergy and the girl's mother, overriding their humaneness for this unfortunate girl.

I saw the philosophy of self denial taken to absurd extreme. Who is more deserving of flowers in her hospital room than a dying innocent eleven year old? Is mind control, sequestration, withholding of personal information, constant supervision and the encouragement to wear stones in ones shoes a way to prepare anyone for office anywhere in this day and age, let alone for the catholic church? I saw the Catholic Church manipulating the tragic events in order to "glorify" the church, and the individual clergy involved supporting this in order to enhance their own standing within the hierarchy.

Instead the movie tells us that Camino's dying thoughts were with Jesus, but not with the Jesus of Nazareth, which was the assertion of the clergy and no doubt the overriding factor in her subsequent beautification, ("the church needs more saints" says one clergyman), but with her prepubescent love of a boy of the same name.

I also saw the medical establishment questioned. A GP "No X-ray but an injection will settle it", A specialist when an X-ray is finally taken-"no problem here, she will be OK soon" - The surgeon on the second X-ray "This is serious must repair the vertebrae without delay", finally a scan "The tumor must be removed ASAP" - where a careful diagnosis would have possibly isolated the problem from the beginning and made the last months of Camino's life at least a little more pain free.

In all I found this a very bitter movie, it did not glorify the church but rather leveled serious criticism at it as it did the medical establishment.

Not a movie for the masses, not a movie that could come out of America but in my opinion one of the VERY BEST movies ever.

Warning, If light entertainment is your wish avoid this movie like the plague, but if you want your thought processes stimulated, do not miss it.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011



Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

3 PM



Dust (2009)


Category : Romance/ Drama

Writer/Director : Max Jacoby

Principal Cast : Catherine Steadman, Olly Alexander, Andrew Hawley

Length : 1 hr 26 min

The film is in English.

In a depopulated world after a non-specified war the teenage twins Elodie and Elias live in a secluded mansion left by their parents. They lead a quiet and simple life, growing their own food, swimming in a nearby lake, reading books and playing chess. With the unexpected arrival of Gabriel, their harmonic relationship is about to come to an end.


Teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bzmK2nhYjw&feature=player_embedded

Pro: Dust is what good cinema is all about. The great thing about movies as a storytelling device is the way it reveals a story through images and sounds. Film is not really about dialog; it’s about presentation. Director Max Jacoby utilizes the full spectrum of what is available in the form to his advantage. Little is said in this movie because the camera and soundtrack take up that narrative role more than any dialog could. Jacoby, through cinematographer Fredrik Bächar, is an expert in blocking and framing. Every shot seems intended to give you a clue about what these three characters are thinking and feeling. It could be choice in focus, a slow dolly into one character’s face, someone intentionally cropped out of the frame, or someone moving in or out of the frame. The sound design also plays a strong role, with liberal use of offscreen sounds. We hear a door open and we wonder; we hear the crackling of glass under footsteps and realize something happened here; we hear the arrival of a car and we feel what that means.

In essence, Dust is a post-apocalyptic love triangle. But the setting is not simply a device. The environment and situation almost acts as a fourth character...


Con: Add a snail’s pace to very very little action about a small and boring love triangle set in some upper class version of post apocalyptic paradise and you have Dust. This is one of those movies where you really wonder what the heck the creative team are up to -- save the usual arthouse killer cinematography and crunchy use of sound Dust tells a story in 82 minutes that should have been told in 22. Just long enough to be a half hour TV show. Which is too bad, but you have to understand very few of the ingredients in Dust make for a great story. But it is weird in its relentless foot-dragging to go nowhere.

4:40 PM



The 1000 Euros Generation (2009)

Original Title: Generazione 1000 euro

Country : ITALY

Category : Comedy

Director : Massimo Venier

Principal Cast : Valentina Lodovini, Carolina Crescentini, Alessandro Tiberi

Length : 1 hr 41 mins

30 year-old university graduate Matteo works in marketing at a company that is being "reorganised". The arrivals of a new colleague, Angelica, and a new housemate, Beatrice, lead to an endless series of trials and tribulations. Faced with major new developments, Matteo changes his life in a short period of time.

Film Ink: Apparently there is a worldwide phenomenon of mid twenties to mid thirty-somethings, starting their lives on a career path, earning just enough money to pay rent, buy the odd meal out, take occasional overseas trips - and hating every minute of it. 1000 Euro Generation, based on the book of the same name, refers to this group, making just 1000 Euro a month and desperately missing their student days when they could sleep in and didn't have to wear a suit.

In this particular study of one group of Italian youngsters, Matteo (Tiberi) lives with his best friend (Mandelli). Together they struggle to pay the rent on their falling apart apartment, working jobs that neither is passionate about. When Matteo starts to find success in his boring day job in a marketing firm, he is lured in by the trappings of international flights and expensive hotels, leaving behind his friend, his dream of being a mathematician and budding romance with new flatmate, Beatrice (Lodovini).

There's nothing groundbreaking about this film but there's nothing to complain about either. It's funny, captivating, the performances are engaging, it's light-hearted and is real enough to seem like a true insight into this age group and their sincere life dilemmas. The biggest praise can be laid at the feet of rising star Valentina Lodovini, who's absolutely radiant on screen, and adept at comedy and drama. 

For a trailer (Italian) check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW9DzGy_qVU

6:35 PM

The Escape (2009)

Original Title: Flugten

Country : DENMARK

Category : Drama/ Thriller

Writer/Director : Kathrine Windfeld

Principal Cast : Iben Hjejle, Lars Mikkelsen, Faegh Zamani

Length : 1 hr 54 mins


Journalist Rikke Lyngvig is taken hostage in Afghanistan. With help from one of the terrorists, Nazir, she manages to escape. On her return, her career takes flight. Meanwhile Nazir flees from Afghanistan, heading for Denmark. When he seeks out Rikke, she is torn: can she help the man who threatened to kill her?


Film is in Danish, English, and Dari, with English subtitles.


Teaser/ trailer, English subtitles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iDoEr7xwbg



Montreal World Film Festival, Sylvain Richard: Multi layered, emotionally powerful, dramatic thriller involving a Danish journalist taken hostage in Afghanistan, who subsequently escapes with help from one of the terrorists. She becomes a media celebrity; he flees and heads for Denmark -- and thus, the perfect recipe for moral dilemma. Gripping script and powerhouse performances.

Seattle Film Festival: The Escape is a high-tension thriller about a female journalist who is kidnapped in Afghanistan by a group of Taliban militants who threaten to chop off one of her fingers for each day Danish troops remain in the country. Her youthful jailor Nazir helps her escape, but she has to promise not to say he helped her, or he risks being executed. Returning to Denmark, she is hailed as a hero. Then, Nazir suddenly calls her from a Danish asylum centre and asks for her help, putting her in a quandary that will cost her either her personal or her professional integrity.


Stark Insider: A movie about the kidnapping of a Danish journalist in Afghanistan may not exactly sound like the most enjoyable thrill ride. But you might be surprised by the depth and power of The Escape (Flugten) by director Kathrine Windfeld from Denmark. The Taliban, terrorism, the impact of Western ideology, hegemony, refugee rights and even ethics and journalism all play a role.

Although the movie starts with a conventional—and heart-pounding—kidnapping on the war torn streets of Afghanistan, what follows is anything but predictable. A Danish journalist, Rikke Lyngvig (Iben Hjejle), suddenly finds herself captive in a shack in the middle of nowhere, with the Taliban using her on video to make the government of Denmark withdraw troops. Her escape is dramatic, and as a result she shares a secret bond with her former captor, Nazir (Faegh Zamani); although they live worlds apart, soon they must deal with their decisions in ways they never anticipated.

The Escape is, for the most part, based on an intelligent script that smoothly integrates several plot lines. It never feels forced. The first half is the better. Later in the movie, we could use one less chase, and more in-depth expose of character, especially involving Nazir who relies on a doey-eyed look too often. Camera work is done by hand, and the cinematography is as striking as the booming sound effects.

There are several interesting things about this film. First it’s directed by a woman, starring a strong woman protagonist; in a terrorist thriller of all things. Second, it’s intriguing to see Afghanistan from a non-US perspective. How Denmark handles refugees, extradition, and terrorism are contemplated using scenes involving talk shows, and news reports.

Highly recommended. It’s intense, but you may be surprised where this movie goes; it’s unexpected, and unique.


EU 2011 - Chart 3 B Page 2 of -n- By Thomas Ohlson - Printed Monday, July 25, 2011

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