[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Wind Traces
Official Selection – Fiction Feature Mexico
Dir. Jimena Montemayor
The Richter Scale says: The hard thing about being a family in mourning, other than it implies that you lost someone close to you, is that each member of the family must go through their own process to get over the lost and still interact as a family. It’s not easy to take care of someone who has gone through a loss or to take care of someone when you’ve gone through a loss, and that is why mourning can be unsufferable. In her most recent film, Mexican director Jimena Montemayor captures this Dynamic perfectly. A mother and her two kids have recently lost the father of the house. We don’t find out how it happened, only that it did, and now all three of them are going through their own process that affects the family dynamic. The mother Carmen (Argentinean actress Dolores Fonzi) is so depressed that she has trouble getting out of bed, which leads to her children missing school from time to time. Ana (Paulina Gil), the older child, seeks support from the world around her and rejects any responsibility that comes about at home. Daniel (Diego Aguilar), the younger child, is taking shelter in his own world filled with stories of indigenous tribes and in it he’s visited by a Spirit (Rubén Zamora) who might be his father.
Jimena Montemayor and her cinematographer María Secco present most of the film in close-ups of our three main characters, isolating each of them from the other, even when they’re in the same scene. The more mystical scenes are also done in very tight compositions that disorient us within Daniel’s mind and connect us to the topic of how the dead come back to force the living to confront wounds and fears they hadn’t faced together. Our lead actors have very expressive faces that carry the movie and the children have a lot of space to create and express things, even though they both lose their naturalism in some of the moments that feel more “written”, including some voice-over narrations that Daniel recites (to be fair, kids rarely sound natural in voice-over) and a speech that Ana gives to her mother near the end is the only moment that surpasses Paulina Gil (a girl that expresses so much rage and pain only by looking forward and she even lands a moment of black humor in which she dresses as a widow for a costume party).
This is a painful movie at times, one that traps us with characters that Yell at each other, provoke each other and start fights for absurd reasons. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s what people are like when they’re going through grief. More sensitive than usual and going through so much confusion that anything can set them off. This family must get used to the hole in the house and even though the people around them can offer some comfort (there’s a moment where Ana holds on to the father of a friend of hers, holding on to what she lost, only to be told by the father she should just play with her friends), at the end of the day, the family must keep going with this hole in the family and must find a space to share the pain. There are few movies that explore how this pain can separate the people closest to you when you need them the most and Jimena Montemayor explores it in a sensitive, honest, at times funny and at times very moving way, always aware of what it’s like to live with this hole. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Where Do We Go Now?
Special Screening Tribute to Nadine Labaki
Dir. Nadine Labaki
The Richter Scale says: Is there a way to keep conflict from exploding? The women from a Lebanese village that doesn’t seem to have a name will do what they can to make sure that happens. This fable from filmmaker Nadine Labaki (who also acts in the movie, she plays the owner of the local café) tells us of this remote village surrounded by mines in which both Christians and Muslims live. Throughout the country, tensions are rising between these two sides, but in this village, the women from both sides work together to make sure conflict doesn’t blow up there so they don’t lose their husbands, sons and brothers. How do they do this? Hiding things from their men, breaking the television (it’s one of those villages that only has one television for everyone to watch together), infiltrating the radio, hiring some Ukrainian models to distract the men, burying their weapons… even drugging them with enough hashish to make them sleep and play a prank on them. It’s a constant battle against that masculine toxicity that could tear the village apart.
What’s impressive is that Labaki manages to mix so many tones in a way that they feel like part of the same movie. Labaki squeezes plenty of laughs from the situations she creates and the comments we hear from the people who react to what happens (the arrival of the Ukrainian women and their constant presence is a great running gag), but she never loses sight of how serious it all is. When something bad happens, it’s given the necessary weight, and this allows the audience to understand why all these absurdities throughout are necessary. There are also musical numbers throughout. The film begins with a group of women walking together in the desert, half of them Christian, half of them Muslim, who suddenly look directly at the camera and start to do a choreography in unison, thus establishing the tone and making it clear that these women work together. There’s another song at the café between Amal (she’s the character played by the director) and Rabih, the village painter, portrayed as some sort of shared dream in which they both express their feelings. Another musical highlight is the village women preparing the pastries they are spiking with hashish.
How much of this is believable? Not much really, but Nadine Labaki is aware of that and decides to work in a tone which tells the audience immediately not to take it completely seriously, but to consider what the role of women can be in a village like this anywhere in the Middle East that wants to avoid conflict. Thanks to the cinematography by Christophe Offenstein, this village looks bright, with the poverty that a village like this usually has yet highlighting the sand in a way that it looks gold and flashy enough to make it look like an illustration from a book. When cinema tends to highlight the brutality of the Middle East, it’s always refreshing to see a film that touches upon the difficulties of the region with this playful tone that maintains the sensibility that this zone seeks to represented. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]