Porvenir: Future, a documentary by Colombian-born
Mirror Project founder Roberto Arévalo, offers a glimpse into the
lives of the inhabitants of Porvenir, a small Columbian town on
the Magdalena River, a few hours downriver from Bogota. At first
glance, the scenes of rural living evoke a kind of bucolic nostalgia.
Seeing children frolic gleefully in the river, men working in fields,
and women lined up to buy milk-milked straight from the cow as they
watch-makes you question whether we, with our fast-paced lifestyles,
have lost touch with a more natural way of life. Let’s ditch the
cars and computers and head for the wilds!
But as the film unfolds, the dream slowly crumbles.
The inhabitants of Bogota and countless smaller communities upstream
horribly pollute the river where the children swim, and there is
no feasible plan to clean it up. The children get skin abscesses,
rashes, and recurring bouts of amoebiasis, complete with diarrhea,
nausea and worse. At school, the children are supplied textbooks
written in a dialect of Spanish they don’t understand. The crops
can hardly sustain the community, and any livestock they can get
inevitably stray onto the roads to be hit by passing cars. With
no voiceover and little dialogue, Porvenir: Future paints
a powerful portrait of an indigenous community trying unsuccessfully
to continue its way of life in the face of contemporary Western
civilization. Wisely, Arévalo doesn’t offer any simplistic solutions,
but his film forces us to ask all the right questions.
Peter Sheridan’s Borstal Boy, based on the
memoir by Irish writer Brendan Behan, recounts Behan’s struggle
after being captured by the British in an IRA bombing attempt during
World War II. Too young to be sent to the gallows, Brendan (Shawn
Hatosy) is instead placed in a reform institution for young offenders,
known thereafter as Borstal boys. There, forced to spend his time
with his British peers, he must confront his hatred for them head-on.
Before long, he finds himself the focus of an unexpected love triangle,
fending off the homosexual affections of sailor Charlie (Danny Dyer)
while flirting with the headmaster’s daughter, Liz (Eva Birthistle).
|Water from the Moon|
Borstal Boy occupies the artistic space between
pat Hollywood drama and indie-film revolt: the story is mostly conventional,
but there are enough barbs to shake you up a little. The characters
are likeable, and Sheridan develops and resolves the plot with confidence
and skill. But fans of Behan, who was known for his rebellious defiance
and hard boozing later in life, may find things a bit too wholesome
here. A couple technical complaints: the sound (at least on my review
copy) is poorly mixed, making it hard to make out the dialogue at
times; and some of the transitions between scenes seem rushed, clipped
short, with no space for the events to resonate. Overall, though, Borstal Boy stands on its own as a good film, one that should
please those who like Cider House Rules and other indie-but-nearly-mainstream
Water from the Moon, a short film featured
at the Slamdance Film Festival by puppeteer Jenny McCracken, begins
with much promise. A lonely woman wakes up to find a winged man-an
angel, perhaps?-tucked into her wardrobe. The marionettes have a
feeble, almost grotesque appearance, and their trembling, uncertain
movements create a sense of pensive sorrow. The sparkling black-and-white
film picks up glints of the wires that animate the figures, enhancing
the emotional fragility of the piece. McCracken does an excellent
job of establishing a mood for the piece, and skillfully evokes
the quiet tension that develops between the two characters.
If only she could take it all somewhere. The abrupt,
enigmatic ending feels almost like an abortive punch line. Some
unexpected endings provoke thought and intensify your emotional
response to the film; others just make you shrug your shoulders
and slip in another tape.