VIFF Film Reviews: Blood Relative; Bay of all Saints; Sound of the Bandoneon; Becoming Redwood


Four more short reviews from the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Blood Relative.  (Documentary, 75 minutes, Canada, director Nimisha Mukerji). Thalassemia, a genetically transmitted blood disease that impedes the growth of its child victims, is fatal without regular blood transfusions backed up by medication. The  disease is especially prevalent in India, where the health care system cannot keep up with the demand for treatment.  The film tracks the efforts of one man to save the lives of two children. But it never delves into the biology: genetic diseases are easily stopped by genotyping prospective parents. That should have been the focus.

Bay of All Saints. (Documentary, 74 minutes, USA/Brazil, director Annie Eastman). A competent script and cinematography make this a stand-out among this year’s docs. We follow the stories a a few residents of Brazil’s palafitas, shacks built on stilts over a polluted bay, as they  learn of the government’s plans to tear down their homes.

Sound of the Bandoneon. (Documentary, 75 minutes, Netherlands, director Jiska Rickels). We are victims of an artsy techno-phobic director. The bandoneon is that accordian-like instrument that accompanies Argentinian tango. This film features lots of close up musical pyrotechnics as well as some interesting foot work; we also learn of the strange origins of the bandoneon. Very entertaining. But we are left wondering how the bloody thing works.

Becoming Redwood. (Drama, 98 minutes, Canada, director Jessie James Miller). An original. A winner. See this one.When young Redwood’s father is busted for dealing marijuana, the eleven-year-old is sent off to live with his estranged mother and her psychopathic, gun-toting family in an isolated house with a madman in the basement. Redwood survives on a combination of courage, wit and —   most important — an ongoing fantasy that he is one shot down from Jack Nicklaus on the final hole of the Masters golf tournament. The character-driven plot keeps the audience in suspense: will this film descend into bathos? It doesn’t. See this one.

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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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