April 19, 2011

The 30th Istanbul Film Festival: Egyptian Film Wins the Golden Tulip Award

The Turkish Film Festival offers a fine balance between showcasing foreign movies (such as the above two) as well as native Turkish movies, which I learn is a strong industry, with over fifty percent of the movies watched by Turks coming from their own artists.

Two of the most delightful films I saw at the Istanbul Film Festival this past week took place in Rio. One, a documentary called Wasteland by British director Lucy Walker, follows Brazilian artist Vic Muniz as he inspires waste-pickers (catadores) in a garbage dump to use their trash-picking skills to create art, the camera zooming down as the pickers arrange banana peels, rusted cans, plastic toys, shoes, tv set antennas, etc. to fill in Muniz' enormous portraits, sketched on the ground, of these very same "catadores": garbage art which the famous artist will later photograph and sell in a British auction. The film intrigues immediately, as we hear the trash-pickers explain their enthusiasm for their dump-heap work ("we are helping the recycling movement!") as well as share their musings on what they learn from rubbish. "Hey that's middle-class bourgeois trash," one says, picking up a computer disc from the heap.

The other Rio movie, self-advertised as a raucous sex comedy, was the appropriately titled Rio Sex Comedy by French director Jonathan Nossiter. Telling the over-the-top absurd story of a couple of French anthropologists who come to Rio to investigate the plight of maids, an American ambassador who escapes his assignment by hiding in a slum, a plastic surgeon (Charlotte Rampling) who refuses to do plastic surgery, and an Amazonian tribe that helps out Rio's tourism industry by playing savage in the city, the film is full of joie-de-vivre shenanigans.

I did not see the film that actually won the International Competition of the festival -- the Egyptian film Microphone by Ahmad Abdalla -- but I did run into two Turkish journalists on route to the airport, who exclaimed breathlessly about how good this film was. Why? I asked. Because it is shot entirely with a Canon 7D photographic camera. Story aside (it's about a young man wandering about Alexandria, discovering the music scene), the film, the journalists explained to me, is fascinating as a chance to see new exciting developments in photo technology.

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