Friday, May 1, 2009

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 8

It just keeps going. Slightly past the halfway point, two more movies last night:

First up was a Guatemalan film, GASOLINA (GASOLINE). Opening with several failed attempts at siphoning (before finally some success), it's immediately clear that the hero is kinda a loser. And for much of the film he and his friends find new comical ways to be losers. Stealing gas is just the start. They threaten each other with (unloaded) guns, do pushups as an act of machismo/repentance (skipping numbers on the way to 50), crash into pared cars, get chased by angry fathers, pick fights with security guards, etc. This is one long night, and gasoline not only fuels their car, but their adolescent escape fantasies (obsession with airplanes--the ultimate escape fantasy--is a recurring theme). I don't want to give away the ending, but suffice to say there's a huge, disturbing shift in tone that's pretty shocking (followed by a brightly lit ending that goes at least one scene too long). Guatemala hasn't really had much of a film scene to speak of (especially compared to Latin American giants Argentina and Brazil), but director Julio Hernandez Cordon has taken a big, bold step towards putting it on the map.

And then I saw an Afghan film, KABULI KID. A sweetly comic movie that brings out various aspects of modern Kabuli life and centers it all around one of the cutest babies ever. Khaled is a taxi driver, sarcastically telling his passengers how nothing works right and his country has "danced" with the Russians, the Taliban, and now the Americans. And then one day a burkha clad woman enters his cab carrying a beautiful baby boy (he sarcastically tells her to remove the burkha, it's not in fashion anymore). After a short ride, she gets out and he picks up another passenger, who comments about the baby in the back seat. Uh oh, he's got an extra little burden on his hands (on the plus side, after so many daughters he at least has a temporary son). It's nearly curfew, and the police station is closed. Nothing to do tonight but get some milk and a bottle (when the pharmacy's out of bottles, a coke bottle and a rubber nipple will do) and take care of the baby for one night. Tomorrow, the search for the mother starts, with announcements on the radio and enlisting help from an NGO orphanage. The baby is something no one seems to want and no one can quite abandon (perhaps a metaphor for Afghanistan?), and if you look in his eyes you can't help falling in love. A nice balance of slapstick comedy, social satire, drama, pathos, and humanity.

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