Nanni Moretti's Competition entry "Mia Madre" may not fully fall under the umbrella of social relevancy as the movie was split between a movie director on the set dealing with a difficult actor and in the hospital room of her dying mother. John Tuturro flies in from America to star in an Italian movie as a factory owner dealing with his striking workers. He is a nightmare to work with as he can't get his lines right. What is meant as a comedy quickly grows tiresome. The hospital scenes, which include Moretti as the director's brother, are serious but all too typical. This movie was akin to a Hollywood sequel, with Moretti sticking to safe, recycled material that didn't go beyond the ordinary, only meriting inclusion in the Compeittion category because of his reputation and connection to the festival as a former award winner and jury president.
The Iranian "Nahid" in Un Certain Regard was one of full slate of films on the second-rate status of women in the Islamic world. There are others from Turkey, Palastine, India and elsewhere. Janina could see several films a day that would make good material for the gender studies class she teaches, including a feature about young girls who are transformed into boys and how they much prefer being girls. Nahid is a thirty-year old mother of a son who is separated from her drug addict husband. She'd like to remarry as she is destitute and on the verge of being evicted. A wealthy man, whose wife has died, has proposed. She likes him but fears she'd lose custody of her son if she does. He assures her he has a good lawyer to achieve that. She agrees to a series of trial thirty-day marriages. She is frazzled and doesn't really know what is best as she fights battles on several fronts.
Two young girls are given away in marriage against their wills in the Pakistani documentary "Among Believers." They are just an incidental, but telling moment, in this movie that concentrates on jihadists, while giving attention to other aspects of Pakistani society. Young boys are recruited to Islamic schools with the promise that if they become jihadists they will wear a crown in heaven and so will their parents who give them up to the schools. This well-balanced film also interviews more rational clerics and gives a well-informed view into today's Pakistan.
"Cartel Land" was even richer with remarkable, unguarded footage of how it is deep in Mexico in Michoacan where the drug cartels have terrorized the local populations and also on the border of the US where vigilante groups patrol. Michoacan gave birth to its own local vigilantes as well, led by a local doctor, frustrated by the corrupt government failing to control the drug lords. The doctor is initially a great hero, recruitng dozens of armed locals to take the law into their own hands, but then feels the wrath of the government and the all-powerful cartels. The movie almost plays as a feature with a rich cast of fascinating characters and dramatic action during shoot outs and interrogating suspects.
Less dramatic, but equally well shot, "Ten Billion--What's On Your Plate," a German documentary on how the world will feed itself when its population doubles to ten billion in the next few decades, deals with another pertinent subject. The director travels the world examine the present state of food production to what needs to be done to save the planet. He cites concerns, including India transforming itself from a country of vegetarians to one of carnivores and a visit to Chicago's Board of Trade (the largest in the world) where he interviews one of its biggest traders upsetting the prices of grains. He sees hope in the high productivity of small, organic farms.
Ralph and I were fortunate to see "Embrace of the Serpent," a luscious Colombian film on two early nineteenth century explorers canoeing the Amazon on separate missions, thanks to falling thirty people short of the night's final Un Certain Regard film. We had to wait an hour for this Director's Fortnight film at he Arcades, where films are occasionally shown without English subtitles, as was the case here. We thought we would give it a look, but lasted the entire two hours, easily managing the French subtitles, keeping us out until after one, as we were fully consumed by this exceptional film shot in black and white. This is what the Amazonian explorer film, "Pure Life," from Day Two aspired to be, but failed.