VIFF 2011 Reviews: Here I Am; Family Portrait in Black and White; Andew Bird, Fever Year.


These are the last of the media screenings for the Vancouver International Film Festival, which opens today (Thursday, 29 September) and runs to October 14. In the past three weeks I have commented on 35 of the more than 300 films to be shown. From now on, I’ll post only stuff about films I particularly like. Or hate. Each film is screened at least twice. Check out the VIFF website for the schedule.

Here I Am. Australia, 91 min.

This feels like a film written by a committee of sociologists: no one is to blame, it says, for the misfortunes of Karen, a 20-something aboriginal woman trying to find her feet after being released from jail. In fact, the root of Karen’s problems is Karen’s impulsive personality. She is quick to anger, especially when confronted by her mother, Lois, who has spent the last few years caring for Karen’s infant daughter. Karen simply cannot plan ahead. Her job search is lacklustre. She roams the streets at night, shacking up for the price of a motel room. It is only by chance that she meets a sane, kind man, who seems to genuinely like her.
Family Portrait in Black and White. Canada, 89 min.

The former soviet state of Ukraine has a race problem. In the past, the state enticed young African men to study at its universities. And, students being what they are, these transients left behind pregnant white girls who often abandoned their dark-skinned offspring at state orphanages. Along comes Olga, a courageous middle-aged woman, who takes in waifs by the dozen, and feeds, clothes and educates them. There are two problems. First, there is a rising neo-Nazi movement in Ukraine and the kids are harassed at school. Second, Olga seems impervious to diversity. She denies the children access to anything but training for “useful” trades. So soccer-loving Roman, offered a sports scholarship, must stay in the school he hates; and thoughtful, intelligent Kiril must not attend university.

Andrew Bird: Fever Year. USA, 81 min.

Prejudice alert: I generally dislike films that feature musicians talking about themselves. The music gives me a headache and the musicians are rarely interesting. This film supported that prejudice. I happily recommend it to fans of Andrew Bird, who appear to be manifold.

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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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