Tag Archives: Gabriel

VIFF 2018 Review: Theatre Of War (Teatro de Guerra)

Theatre of War

Theatre Of War features six soldiers from the Falklands Islands War telling their stories of battle and aftermath.

Many people will consider the Falkland Islands War of 1982 a ‘forgotten war.’ Theatre Of War will show you six men who can’t forget it: the soldiers.

First off, I’ll answer what most of you are already asking; What are the Falkland Islands and why was a war fought over them in 1982? The Falkland Islands are a set of islands 300 miles east of the coast of Argentina. They’re 4,700 square miles wide and the population is almost 3,400. The islands were discovered by Europeans starting in the 16th century and were thought to be uninhabited. It was in the 18th century when Europeans started making the islands inhabitable with the French inhabiting the east island and the British inhabiting the west island. France eventually surrendered its ownership to Spain years later. The British captured the east island a year later, but a war was never started. Over time, the Spanish took over and the Argentineans, who refer to the islands as the Malvinas, attempted a garrison in the 19th century. Over time, the British asserted their rule over the land in 1832.

It would continue to be under British rule even though the Germans sought to own it in 1912. Naval conflict abounded with the British winning. However the Argentineans started another garrison in 1982: 150 years after British rule was declared. It was then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher started what would be remembered as the Falkland Island War. The war lasted 10 1/2 weeks and left over 900 dead. The UK won the war and British rule was reasserted.

In this documentary, we are introduced to six men: three British, three Argentinian. On the British side is Lou Armour: marine corporal, David Jackson: a young soldier at the time, and Sukrim Rai: a Nepalese immigrant who fought for the UK. On the Argentinean side is Gabriel Sagastume, Marcello, Marcelo Vallejo and Ruben Otero. Throughout the film, they tell of their experiences of what it was like to go to war at such a young age. Lou Armour actually led the British Marines. They also talk of the struggles they’ve had with their lives in the years that followed. A lot of them tell of their stories of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, especially when it came into their lives quite late.

The unique thing about this documentary is that they don’t just talk about their stories. Very often, they act out their stories. We see all six at the pool and one talks of an incident in 2004 when he nearly drowned himself. We see two at an empty discotheque as one tells of his story of loneliness in a bar. We see one British and one Argentinean soldier showing copies of magazines published around the time of the war. It’s interesting what each magazine had to say. We see one Argentinean use tiny plastic army men to tell the story of how Argentinean soldiers first claimed the Falkland Islands and the battle that started the war. We see the six in a rock band as one ‘singer’ shouts out “Have you ever…” and tells of instances only a soldier can ever experience both in battle and in post-battle life.

However this wasn’t just simply a vanity effort what they were doing. The six also visited Argentina to tell their stories. There were times the six went to schools together telling children their stories of the war. There were times they even had to answer questions from the children. However the most interesting moment came near the end. The soldiers had six 18 year-old Argentinean men dress up like them to re-enact a moment from the war. As the soldiers were dressing them up in their war uniforms or applying scar make-up, they were telling their stories. One even showed another what it was like to wield a knife in battle. It’s interesting as they told their stories to the boys, it showed the luxury these 18 year-old boys of today have. They don’t have to be called up for battle. They can live their care free life. That was made evident just as it led to the end scene where the young men re-enacted the battle at the former soldiers’ directions.

The unique thing about this documentary is that it shows the foolish side of war. We have six men from both sides and they tell their stories. They made to be made to look like heroes in their own country but they don’t feel like heroes. They even made spoof of the political situation behind it. One scene includes soldiers in face masks of Margaret Thatcher and the Argentinean president locking lips. The film even showed that this is of a war in which the opposite sides can have a peaceful disagreement. We see that in one scene where an Argentinean and a Brit talk of the history of the Falklands/Malvinas. Both feel strongly that those islands belong to their country, but they’re able to disagree peacefully without enmity or even a fistfight.

The interesting thing is that these six soldiers did this documentary just as they were about to perform in an onstage docudrama called ‘Minefield.’ Before they performed in the play, they had the opportunity to do all this. The soldiers reunited and sorted out their differences. They went to places where they experienced these traumatic events in their lives to recreate the moment. They went to schools to educate the young children of Argentina. They even met with six young Argentinean men to give them the experience of what it is to fight in a war about a set of islands none of them really knew. This is an important docudrama worth seeing because it does tell you a lot of how a simple war that lasted three months can change lives forever, most for the worse. The film doesn’t simply show how foolish fighting over a small set of islands are, but makes other wars of past look foolish too.

Lola Arias did a very good job in creating a meaningfully documentary of what many consider a meaningless battle. Lola takes a lot of incidents from the school visits, the meeting with the young actors, the on-stage work, and various scenes solely for the documentary and brings it all together. It’s pieced together in a mixed way that may seem like it doesn’t go in a straight pattern. Maybe Arias had her reasons for doing so. She does however include a lot of important scenes and a lot of poignant moments throughout the documentary. It may not appear to have ended in a solid manner but the whole documentary tells a lot.

Theatre Of War isn’t just about six soldiers coming together, settling their differences and making peace. It’s an important reminder of that war and it shows how war is something you can’t leave behind. Even long after you’ve dropped your guns.

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Oscars 2015 Shorts Review: Best Animated Short Film

Cinema

Just recently I published my review of the live-action shorts nominees of this year. Now’s my chance to publish my thoughts on the nominated animated shorts of this year. They range in variety from 2D artistic to primitive 2D to common 3D computer animated to 3D with a unique style. All five are excellent and unique in their unique way but who deserves to win?

Bear Story (Chile): dirs. Gabriel Osorio Vargas and Pato Escala Pierart – It’s a story of a bear who misses his wife and son dearly. Every day he goes out on the street and shows a diorama show to those of the story of how he was abducted from them both and taken away to be part of the circus. The show also ends showing his hope that one day he will be reunited with them both.

The film is a sad story that touches your heart without trying to mess with it. It’s 3D animation but instead of the characters looking human, it comes looking like toy soldiers. I’m not too sure of the creative purpose of that. Nevertheless it does make for an entertaining short film.

Prologue (UK): dirs. Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton – This is one film where there was a viewer discretion warning and advised minors to leave the theatre before it was shown. The film takes part 2,400 years in the past. A child watches a brutal war between two teams of Spartan and Athenian warriors.

This is the rawest nominated short I’ve ever seen ever since they’ve shown the shorts in theatres. The art is simplistic as it consists mostly of pencil drawings with very little coloring. However it merits a lot in terms of its artistry. It also tells a story in brutally relentless fashion even depicting the battles in gory manner. It’s very rare to see a short animated film that’s strictly adults only. It also made it refreshing to see such a short.

Sanjay’s Super Team (USA): dirs: Sanjay Patel and Nicole Paradis Grindle – Sanjay loves watching the Super Team on television but his father is very insistent on a religious prayer habit, even at Sanjay’s young age. Right during the prayer ritual, Sanjay’s imagination comes alive. The gods he’s praying to form a Super Team of his own and they join Sanjay in the battle against a nemesis.

This is from Pixar and was the short before The Good Dinosaur. Director Sanjay Patel has an impressive resume working as an animator for Pixar in films like A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, the two Monsters movies, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. This film in which he co-directs is his directing debut. The film shows similar imagination to that of the Pixar team while also taking us into a brief but memorable time into an incredible fantasy world. Very good from start to finish. I predict it as my Should Win pick and Will Win pick.

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (Russia): dir. Konstantin Bronzit – Two childhood friends train to be cosmonauts in space. Only one will go off into space. The other will be the alternate or next in line if something bad happens to the first. One friend got picked. The other friend wishes him well on his voyage. However shortly after blast off, the friend disappears. The friend down on earth is unhappy. He can’t even adjust well to his alternate whom he doesn’t get along with at all. Actually the alternate can’t get along with anyone. The friend makes a decision to the surprise of many, and to us. It’s a decision we’re glad he made.

It’s a 2D film with a story that doesn’t need dialogue for us to get the messages. Over time we learn the story isn’t about trying to make it into space but about just how close the friendship is. The two train together and dream together. When his friend is lost into oblivion, his ambition to be the next in space disappears just like that. You can easily see why he made the decision to do what he did.

World Of Tomorrow (UK) dir. Don Hirtzfeldt – The story begins with a toddler named Emily in a room. Out of nowhere comes a clone also named Emily who came from 227 years into the future back to the present. The adult Emily, ‘Emily Clone,’ tells the child Emily, ‘Emily Prime,’ of the human’s attempts to achieve immortality through cloning and showcasing the various worlds including the ‘Outernet’ and the various memories of the clone Emily. Very different and very unique.

This is another 2D short. The drawing is very simplistic. However it’s the story that’s the top quality of the film. We see a bizarre but unique story of Emily Clone and Emily Prime the future world and the future of Emily. The funniest element of the short is Emily Clone keeps on talking in her highly scientific speech and all Emily Prime does is just respond back in her childish gibberish. That adds to the humor of the short.

In conclusion I know I picked Sanjay’s Super Team as both my Should Win and Will Win choice. Normally I wouldn’t pick such a film to win but I find it hard to see any of the other four films try to top it. All five are excellent but I think Sanjay stands alone. I know World Of Tomorrow won the Annie Award but I have my feeling about Oscars voters. Mind you the shorts categories are some of the least predictable categories of the Oscars.

And there you go. My thoughts on the Oscar nominated Animated Shorts. Winner to be decided in two weeks.

VIFF 2014 Review: The Incident (El Incidente)

The Incident (El Incidente) is a Mexican film about the mysterious and the supernatural.

The Incident (El Incidente) is a Mexican film about the mysterious and the supernatural.

The Incident was actually the very last movie shown during the VIFF. I actually saw four more in the VIFF repeats: some I will post my review in later days. The Incident turned out to be a good choice because I felt I was missing a film that was either envelope-pushing or edgy. This Mexican film turned out to be just that.

The film begins with two seemingly unrelated scenes. One is of a couple in a hotel just married and another is of an elderly woman lying on an escalator. Then cut to the first scene. Two brothers living in an apartment ion the ninth floor are confronted by a detective who thinks they’ve done them wrong. He has a gun and he’s after them down a staircase. Then a mysterious explosion happens. One of the brothers is shot in the leg. They go for help but once they hit the main floor, they find themselves back on the ninth floor. They’re both confused as is the hitman. They try and find a door to get out but they’re stuck. Adding to the bizarreness, whatever food or drinks that were taken from the vending machine in the stairwell comes back instantly. Then the brother dies. That leaves the other brother and the hitman stuck in the stairwell with no way out.

Second scene is a seemingly unrelated incident. A family head out on a road trip. It’s the mother, stepfather, teenage son and the six year-old asthmatic daughter. They pass a convenience store on the way to the camping ground. Then an explosion like the one involving the three men happened. The daughter has an asthma attack. They look for an inhaler but Daniel the son admits he forgot it at home. The stepfather accidentally broke the other one on the road. They go back to the convenience store only to find it empty. They try to head back home but the pass the campground sign they saw just miles ago. Meanwhile the daughter’s attack is worsening. Nevertheless the family keep coming across the same empty convenience store and pass the same campground sign. They too are stuck in the infinite standstill with no way out. The daughter does die.

The film returns to the stairwell. This time it’s filled with litter and is full of writing on the walls about various things including how long it’s been since the incident. It’s 35 years past. We see one elderly man and one middle aged man. This has been their ‘house’ during that time with nothing but food from the machines to eat and using water bottles for showering and using empties for sewage. Thirty-five years have passed for the family as well. Daniel is now a middle-aged man while his parents are elderly and unkept. The desert has been their home since and the ground is where the little girl was buried.

It’s all a mystery to get it solved even though they both know the cause of the problem. It’s because they won’t let go of the bad memories. The brother because of the shooting and Daniel for believing he caused his sister’s death. However it’s when one of the men in the apartment talks of a memory he had a long time ago of what happened when he was with his father when he accidentally died. After finally making sense, they’re able to get it solved and a door can finally be opened. After that, the people in both scenes can now live their lives in a forward motion. The daughter is still alive and Daniel can live his life even though it’s imperfect and full of problems. The two brothers and the detective also live their lives even though one will get a life sentence for a murder they commit later. However it’s at the very end when we see a newlywed couple in an elevator controlled by an elevator man named Karl that we learn it’s not all completely over.

This is one of those paranormal things I’ve never seen before. It consists of an everyday scenario then a sudden explosion happens. Then a near-fatal incident happens. After that, it’s nothing but a repetitive infinite that eventually leads to the vulnerable person’s death and everyone within that circle stuck in the same time and place forever. Four different scenarios of the infinite. All but one unrelated to the other and exactly thirty-five years apart. This may have been done before or it may be something original from director Isaac Ezban but it will haunt you. Especially seeing time elapse 35 years and how those involved in the two main situations all age staying stuck in the same place. It’s the creepiness of the bizarre that keeps you in suspense.

You hope those involved with the two scenarios will find a way out and they do. They’re also able to live their lives out, even though they’d live out a life that would have both Daniel and the detective lose in the end. But at least they lived lives where they moved forward. However even though we see the two live out their lives, we’re reminded from a moment seen during the opening scene that there was one thing unanswered: how it all started or who is behind it. We learn it right there at the end when the married couple get their own nightmare of the infinite. The ending can even leave one wondering if the couple will be able to work their own way out of the tragedy and the infinite that came with it.

As for whether it would be a crowd-grabber, that’s a question. I know crowds are willing to go to something as gruesome as Saw but you wonder if they’d go to something like this. It is something the thriller crowd would get their attention stolen with. It’s also a very smart and creative thriller that gives nothing away. I can see this being made into an American version in the future and can attract crowds of sci-fi. However seeing a six-year old girl die from asthma may be too much for them to handle. Seeing the long-haired old people might also freak them out.  Also this story may be a bit too bizarre for them to understand.

Kudos to Isaac Ezban for creating a creative story that’s both mysterious and smart, even if there were scenes that might creep many out. It’s hard to pick out the one single performance that was the best because there were so many good performances. Humberto Busto, Erick Camacho, Gabriel Santoyo, Hernan Mendoza, it’s hard to pick out the one who’s the best. It’s the ensemble of actors that delivered here. No one stand-out. All very good and all very believable.

The Incident (El Incidente) is an original thriller that may not be something that most moviegoers would want to see, including young fans of thrillers, but it’s very smart, very mysterious and worth watching.

VIFF 2013 Review: Heli

Heli isn't just about corruption in Mexico. It's also about those caught in the middle.

Heli isn’t just about corruption in Mexico. It’s also about those caught in the middle.

Heli is a Mexican film that has garnered huge buzz since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. The question being is it worth the hype?

Heli is a 17 year-old young man in Mexico. However he is married and the father of a baby. Both his wife and his infant son live with his father and sister in a shabby house on the outskirts of town. Heli has a job as a laborer at an auto plant and makes a limited income.  His sister Estela is a 12 year-old girl in school who has fallen for a 17 year-old cadet in training named Alberto. Alberto is tired of the military life and wants to devote his time to Estela. However the age difference causes problems especially since Alberto wants to have a sexual relationship with her and she fears young pregnancy.

Alberto makes a decision just after the police and the government holds a public media event where they burn all seized marijuana and cocaine in declaring their war on drugs and war on corruption. Alberto knows of a secret place in the compound where there are bags of cocaine secretly held by the general. He agrees to sell two bags he stole in another town so that he can afford to marry Estela. This plan is unknown to the father but Heli discovers the bags inside the water tank on the roof. He disposes the cocaine in a distant remote location and punishes Estela by locking her up in her room.

Late one night, some members of police storm the house, kill the father and take Heli and Estela to their secret place along with a badly beaten Alberto. They throw the body of the father on the road once Heli confesses to destroying the bags of cocaine. All three are taken to a house within the police compound. Alberto is beaten and burned mercilessly. Heli is badly beaten but not as badly as Alberto and is spared the burning. The torturers hang Alberto from a bridge, keep Estela at their place and drop Heli off on a remote road to walk home.

Heli does return home much to the relief of Sabrina who was left distraught after seeing what happened inside the empty house. Estela is still missing however. The police cooperate to locate the father’s body but believe Heli and his father are involved with the drug trade. Even Heli is nervous about telling the whole story fearing he will be classified as a criminal. The aftermath and trauma affects Heli for days as he loses his job and even becomes abusive to his wife. To make matters worse, a female detective offers to close the case if Heli consents to her offer of a sexual favor, which Heli rejects.

In the passing days, the policemen who held them captive are later killed and decapitated. Heli sees the news on television including the images of the decapitated heads. Estela arrives home to the relief of both Heli and Sabrina. She too had to do the long walk Heli did. However Estela is scared from the violent events and the rape she suffered during the walk home to the point she can’t speak. She is however able to draw Heli the location to where she was raped. That paves the way for Heli to solve the problem in his own way and lead to an ending that makes it look like the right thing in the end.

This film is a story written based on actual events in the Mexican news. It is a depiction of the corruption happening in Mexico but it’s more. It tells the situation from a human perspective through a family that’s caught in the middle. We learn of why this happens, who gets hurt, who does the hurting, who survives and how they try to carry on in the aftermath. It’s not just about the events and incidents being played out. It’s also about who is involved in this too. That is apparent as both Heli and Estela try to carry on after the incident even to the point where it almost threatens Heli’s marriage to Sabrina and Estela’s sanity. Even seeing how this incident threatens to tear the surviving members of the family apart adds to the human aspect of the film. There’s also the subplot about young love. There’s Heli, a 17 year-old married father and his young wife. And there’s Estela, a 12 year-old falling in love for the first time and clueless about the potential realities of marriage, especially to someone as irresponsible as Alberto. That makes the film more than just a crime drama.

The best efforts in the film without a doubt are the efforts of Amat Escalante. His directing and co-writing of the script with Gabriel Reyes is a very good depiction of corruption in Mexico and how it won’t tear a family apart despite all that it takes away. I’ve never read of such a new story referenced but this is a good adaptation of such incidents into a feature film. The acting in this film including the young actors was also very good. Armando Espitia was very good as Heli. His performance told as much through his silence as it did when he was talking. That was also the same with the other young actors in the film. Also very good was the performance of Andrea Vergara as the young sister. She was very good in representing the young naivety of falling in love at 12 without being a typical cutesy kid performance. The film itself being played out without an added music score actually added to the intensity of the drama and the storytelling.

Heli has already received a lot of awards buzz. Director Amat Escalante won the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the film itself was nominated for the Palme d’Or that was eventually won by Blue Is The Warmest Color. However the film has not received a lot of good buzz in terms of audience fair. In fact many critics have often questioned the watchability of such a film, especially the torture scene where Alberto has his gasoline-doused genitals lit on fire. It’s safe to assume it was prosthetic genitals that Juan Eduardo Palacios wore during that scene. I don’t see how else that scene could be done. Even as well the feel of the movie may come across as too down and depressing. I do believe that the film doesn’t end as sown and depressing as say movies like Kids or Thirteen. Instead I saw the ending as images of hope for the family even after all they’ve lost and all they were violated of.

Another criticism of Heli comes from people from the home country of Mexico. This film is Mexico’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 2013 Academy Awards. However many people both inside and outside of Mexico’s film industry are unhappy with the depiction of corruption in Mexico. Escalante responds that his film is not anti-Mexican. Co-writer Gabriel Reyes even added it would be socially irresponsible not to speak out about the bad things happening in Mexico.

Heli is a very good story about a young family sticking together despite the things that threaten their unity. Nevertheless it also a story that can be considered unwatchable to many.