Sunday, May 11, 2008

TFF Day Six: My Marlon and Brando

Between Thursday 5/1 and Sunday 5/4, I saw about seven movies: Thursday was My Marlon and Brando; Friday I saw Baghdad High, This Is Not a Robbery and Donkey In Lahore; Saturday I went to the restored version of Haile Gerima's Harvest 3000 Years, and on Sunday I saw the NY doc-award winner, Zoned In and the audience-award winner, War Child.

I'll be gradually making comments on all of them before I move on to new topics.

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My Marlon and Brandowas an excellent film that I hope will get a theatrical release in the US, although it is unlikely to score at the box-office. When I went to see it at Tribeca, the director arrived for the Q&A just after having found out that the film had won the festival's emerging film-maker for a narrative film award. The film is a fictionalized tale of the real life love-story of a Turkish actress and an Iraqi Kurdish actor who fell in love shortly before the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. While the heroine, played by the actual actress Ayca Damgaci, works on her role in an absurdist play in Istanbul, she tries to maintain contact with her new boyfriend who's gone back to the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. He looks forward to the arrival of the Americans and tells her in video diaries that he will fight with the Peshmurga in Iraq. Eventually, she decides she can't deal with international phone-calls anymore and sets off to visit him in Iraq - in the Spring of 2003.
In actual documentary footage, we see Ayca at demonstrations against the war and Ali at the demonstration surrounding the falling statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. I won't say what happens in the film, but only that despite what might seem an awkward premise - real people play themselves in a fictional film - it is an excellent film on the politics of the Iraq war and its impact on individuals. Far better than American "problem" films like Syriana, it tells a story about the real toll of war, and also shows the audience the diversity of experience in the contemporary Middle-East. The acting is superb; the writing and editing are excellent; it manages to capture the humor of everyday life in the midst of danger, fear, and anxiety. It doesn't "wow" you with its greatness, because neither the acting nor the writing is grandiose, and that's why it works so well.

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