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Vol. 9, No. 2, 2010
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Nancy Snipper
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert





So far, A & O film critic Sylvain Richard has had time to see the following films. Here are his ratings (except where noted), always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


Sylvain RichardAmong Sylvain Richard's best ever films = (Paraiso Travel; Historias Minimas; Smoking Room; Carandiru; Crimen Ferpecto; Un Dias Sin Mexicano; My Best Enemy; The Chair; Pan's Labyrinth; Silent Light; It Smells) .


1.5 -- VAHO (BECLOUD), Alejandro Gerber Bicecci
In 1964 in the desert, a truck driver and companion find and save a baby latched on to his dead mother’s breast. She had died from dehydration. Film follows three youths who share a secret that links them to that baby, a link which is not clarified until the end. Until that ending, shoddy editing, poor script and character development undermine what could have been an engaging mystery.

Cuban farce about how the announcement of a potential inheritance destabilizes the inhabitants of the fictitious village of Yaragüey. In the 18th century, three nuns come to possess a large sum of gold. Depositing it into a British bank, their will stipulates that their descendants, the Castiñeiras (akin to say the Smiths -- a very common family name in Cuba) will receive the inheritance. The tranquil daily lives of the villagers are isturbed and even divided. Though funny in parts, the film follows a formulaic plot found in many comedies on similar themes. The character development and script was inconsistent.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What a delight! Despite the hopelessly poor conditions that plague the people living in the Cuban village of Yaragüey, their lives are full of laughter, disappointments, secrets, escapades and sizzling sexual antics. Life in this little village turns into a chaotic mess when the chance of obtaining a huge inheritance for every inhabitant sharing the family name of Castiñeiras becomes a reality. But like most things in Cuba, it all falls through. Brilliant acting and laugh out loud situations perfectly illustrate the great humour that Cubans have. Titled in English as “The Horn of Plenty,” the irony is perfect. Tabio's sense of humour is infectious; he makes us all want to be part of the Castiñeiras clan.

3.8 -- EL TRASPATIO (BACKYARD), Luis Carlos Carrera González
Well-crafted investigative drama based on actual events. In the desert outside of the border town of Juárez the mutilated corpses of young women, many of whom had been reported missing, are turning up on a regular basis. New police captain, Blanca Bravo, is determined to find the killer(s) and end the gruesome carnage, yet she faces tremendous obstacles. Not the least of which is the complacency and even complicity of her superiors. This is a powerful, gritty and well acted dramatization of a horrendous reality that has been ongoing since the mid-90s that includes a special appearance by Jimmy Smits.

2.8 -- L'ESTACIÓ DE L'OBLIT (THE STATION OF THE FORGOTTEN), Christian Molina, Sandra Serna
According to one of the incidental characters (early in the film); the train station where one faces his/her fears is called ‘the station of the forgotten.’ Domingo is a ‘man of the sea’ who lives with his son, his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter. Unable to cope with Domingo’s eccentricities, his daughter-in-law has him placed in an old folk’s home. Pau is a troubled youth from a well to do family. His sentence for being convicted on a fatal D.Y.I. charge is to do community service at the same home. Since they are equally rebellious in nature, a friendship develops. Domingo desperately desires to return to his native land to be reunited with his deceased wife. Though the film has a weak beginning, once its purpose becomes known and the personalities engage, the result is an affecting human drama about facing one’s fears and regrets.

2.5 -- LA FIN DE L’ATTENTE, Antonio P. Molero & Jesus Sanjurjo
Documentary. 55 min. reflection on a dark period of Spanish history -- the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. It follows the efforts of family members to recover the bones of those who were executed during Franco’s regime.

When Chile became a democracy all prisoners who had committed non-violent crimes were given amnesty and released from prison. This crime drama with a light touch of comedy centers on two of these former inmates. Angel Santiago (portrayed with childlike innocence by Abel Axala) is a young man who wants to take vengeance on the Warden. Vegara Gray (played with calm and resolve by Ricardo Darin) is a celebrity bank robber who only wants to reunite with his family and change his life. A chance meeting with a mute street waif named Victoria (credible performance by professional ballerina and first-timer Miranda Bodenhöfer) will ultimately affect the lives of both men. This film is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.

2.8 -- EL ÁRBOL (THE TREE), Carlos Serrano Azcona
This film is a portrait of a lost soul, Santiago, who wanders the streets of Madrid, seeking to ease his painful existence. As he engages in what are seemingly superficial encounters, we begin to better understand Santiago’s situation. This is a film that requires one’s full attention to penetrate its meaning but the effort is well worth it.

3.1 -- NORTEADO (NORTHLESS), Rigoberto Perezcano
A drama that focuses on how life is lived between attempts to illegally cross the border from Mexico into the States. Andrés has arrived in Tijuana from Oaxaca seeking a better life in the States. After a failed attempt, he is hired by a convenience store owner. A bond develops between Andrés, his female boss and her assistant as they get to know each other. The two women reveal that their husbands had crossed the border but have never returned. Illegal border crossings examined from a unique perspective in an emotionally touching film.

Martin returns after 30 years living in exile to Tucumán province in Argentina to help his old army buddy Raul find the bones of a fellow soldier killed in battle. Set in a lush mountainous forest, tension arises between the two men living under the same roof as each must face the truth of what really happened to their fallen comrade.

3.5 -- VIDAS PARALELAS, Rocío Lladó
In 1983, Felipe and Sixto -- childhood friends -- are playing in the hills near their village in Peru. Meanwhile the terrorist group ‘The Shining Path' enters the village and rounds up all of the inhabitants into the village square. After the delivering the usual propaganda speech about fighting the revolution for the people and explaining why the exploiters must pay with their lives, the guerrilla leaders brutally murder the village leaders. The mayor is Felipe’s father. Both children witness this and run into the square. Felipe is shot and Sixto is taken by the rebels. In 1988, the two encounter each other during an army battle. Sixto is a leader amongst the rebels and Felipe, who had been saved and adopted by the army commander in 1983, is now a sub-lieutenant for the army. Powerful and gritty, this film boldly shows the horrors both physical and emotional of warfare and especially the effect on personal relationships when friends end up on opposite sides.

1.9 -- VILLA, Ezzio Massa
For those in the ghettos of Argentina (called ‘villas miserias’) the only way to escape their wretched condition is through soccer. With the big World Cup game between Argentina and Nigeria coming up, we follow three youths as they try desperately to procure a television in order to watch the game. A lacklustre script, poor acting and shoddy camera work account for failing to engage this reviewer.

3.8 -- LUISA, Gonzalo Calzada
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Luisa has just experienced the second worst day in her life. The first one came with the sudden death of her husband and daughter: how -- the viewer does not know, but we do see flashbacks and the cremation plaques in the ground bearing their names on the premises where Luisa works as a receptionist. Spanking new empty urns for sale sit on shelves behind her desk. She's been polishing them as they come and go for the past 30 years. But one fateful day, she is dealt her own death blow of sorts. Her beloved cat dies, and on that same day, she is fired from her receptionist job and her second job as well -- cleaning the home of a famous actress about to retire. Luisa descends into dark days literally; her electricity is cut off and the means to support herself leaves her own life also in blackness. But she has a few cards up her sleeve, including lucky Chinese ones she distributes with the hope of being handed pesos on the subway for them. No such luck. She resorts to playing a cripple and even a blind woman begging in a way that could earn Luisa her own Oscar. This wonderful film features the brilliant actress, Leonor Manso. Her portrayal of this homely woman over the hill in desperate need of a life lift is beyond words.  

3.2 -- LUISA , Gonzalo Calzada
For the past 30 years Luisa (excellent performance by Leonor Manso) has followed the same daily mundane routine. She is awakened by her cat and sole companion Tino; takes the bus to her full-time job at a cemetery (before which she visits the grave of her husband and daughter who died tragically). At 4:30 she goes to work as a part-time cleaner for a famous actress. Then one day all is turned upside down. Her cat has died; her boss at the cemetery fires her as he wants new blood; and the actress has decided to retire and move to the country, no longer needing Luisa’s services. Now penniless and without a future, Luisa decides to go into the Metro system to beg for money. There she meets a crippled man and ‘happiness and purpose’ somewhat return to her life. The result is a bittersweet social fable that contains just the right amount of humour.

2.1 -- AGUAS VERDES (GREEN WATERS), Mariano de Rosa
A comedy drama with a dark edge, this premier work is about a family of four, including teenage daughter and younger brother, that goes on vacation to a beautiful beach resort called Aquas Verdes. At a stop-over for gas and supplies, the father sees the daughter talker to a mysterious drifter. Reacting with far more than the usual fatherly protection, he begins a descent into extreme paranoia whereby he constantly watches the rest of his family. The film’s lacklustre flow, weak character development and symbolic images (lost on this reviewer), made this an un-engaging and sleepy film.

2.5 -- AGUAS VERDES (GREEN WATERS), Mariano de Rosa
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This Argentine family is in need of some major family unity, but the holidays they take only serves to divide them further. The mother herself seems as immature as her young teenage daughter, and the young son seems to be lacking any focus. However, the father is the one that tries to hold it all together through discipline that everyone either fears or ignores. The young cocky wanderer they meet becomes the catalyst to expose the over protective father's anger and the mother's complete lack of concern for her children. This is a dark comedy whose ending leaves you wondering if it might not have been better if the whole family ought to seek therapy other than just the father who evidently already has. Ominous events insert themselves alongside the light-hearted gal-friend giggles and scenery that happen once the vacation hits the beach and the family makes new contacts. The ending makes it a thriller of sorts. Actor, Alexandro Firore as the father plays paranoia with such subtlety and logic that we are right there with him reading his mind before he even speaks. A cast of characters that you hope never to befriend on a beach, even if it is in beautiful Argentina!  

2.4 -- SE EU FOSSE VOCE 2 (IF I WERE YOU 2), Daniel Filho
A couple on the verge of getting divorced exchange bodies. To complicate matters their daughter announces that she is pregnant and is going to marry her boyfriend who is the father. Has some very funny moments and the two leads play their individually reversed parts well. Script was formulaic, predictable and did wear thin after a while

Exquisitely rich ethical fable about an accountant who works for his uncle. His life is turned upside down when he meets and falls in love with a mysterious and beautiful blonde girl. Superb decor with a sumptuous collection of art and literature are the hallmarks of this film.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This film's title should have been "A Room with a View." Like a Merchant-Ivory film, the setting is equally beautiful. We are in Lisbon in the 19th century. A young man working as an accountant upstairs in his uncle's cashmere scarf shop looks across at the window facing his, and falls instantly in love with a beauty waving a feathered Chinese fan. Her beguiling subtlety is instantly seductive, and though she is physically similar to the girl in the film, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," it is diamonds rather than pearls that she loves. In fact, it is the diamond in her hand rather than a pearl in the ear that takes the glitter completely out of the young man's love for her. This movie is beautiful to watch, but the plot is implausible and stops short of a decent ending.  

3.2 -- LA BUENA VIDA (THE GOOD LIFE), Andrés Wood
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Santiago, Chile is rife with people who are miserable, and this film zooms in on some of them. One is a mother without means to care for her baby. Another mother who gives classes on birth control to girls in the sex trade, finds out her teenage daughter is pregnant, and to top it off, her ex is fooling around with prostitutes at a bar. Then there is the gifted clarinettist whose aspirations to play in the Philharmonic Orchestra are dashed; he has to settle for playing with the carabineros (the police band). His clarinet is stolen by another character, a man who lives with his mother and whose dream is to get enough money to buy a Ford. His problems are plentiful and money is one of them. He can't afford the upkeep of his father's grave, nor does he want to see his dad go up in ashes, and that is what will happen if he doesn't act immediately. Marvellous performances and believable life circumstances earn this film a Festivalissimo competition award.  

2.7 -- LA BUENA VIDA (THE GOOD LIFE) , Andrés Wood
Multiple destinies interweave in a contemporary social drama that unfolds Santiago, Chile as individuals struggle to improve their lives. Well structured script, tightly edited and good performances are evident in this film.

2.6 -- EL CUARTO DE LEO (LEO’S ROOM), Enrique Bochichio
The story of a young man coming to grips with his sexuality. A sensitive and endearing film that explores the real meaning of a solitary life.

3.0 -- DANIEL Y ANA, Michel Franco
A riveting and powerful psychological drama that exposes the social reality of the violent and devastating effects of underground pornography rings in Mexico. As well the film explores and studies the short and long term effects on a brother and sister who were kidnapped and at gunpoint were forced to have sexual relations. A video tape was made and went to who knows where.

2.5 -- LA SOGA, Howard Crook
La Soga (means rope) is a hired assassin of the chief of the Dominican secret police. Filled with rage and a desire to avenge the murder of his father when he was a child, he cold-heartedly completes his task of eliminating ‘the undesirables.’ To see a film from the Dominican republic was a rare treat, but if it were an American film it would merit an average mark for its exposure of corruption. Flashbacks of La Soga’s childhood were effectively shown in a different grade.

Mixing interviews with archival footage, this feature length documentary retraces the path of Spanish double agent whose deceptive messages to the Nazis made it possible for the Allies to successfully land on the shores of Normandy and go on to win the war. Not well structured and somewhat confusing. Those interviewed were not clearly identified.

2.5 -- EVER AMADO, Victor Ruano
Nightmarish 43 min. fiction about a man, Ever Amado, who along with his wife Flor, is attempting to escape a brutal civil war.

2.6 -- CINEMA LIBERTAD, Arturo Menéndez
45 min. fiction about a young street kid, Nacho, who along with his bourgeois friend Ela discover a way to bring life to an abandoned theatre. They tell stories through the use of shadow puppets reflected on the wall by the rays of the sun.

First feature film is about two lonely souls converging on a rainy night in Bogota. Jorge is a cab driver seeking vengeance upon those who recently murdered his brother. Angela is a junkie and seeks out one night stands. What could have been a potentially powerful portrayal of the underbelly of Bogota ends up as a formulaic, predictable drug and prostitution film. Even as a quite forgettable film, it is nonetheless entertaining and diversionary.

reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Life in Columbia's La Barra is a seemingly idyllic place where coastal waters are impressively alluring. But in fact, life there is depressingly impoverished. Those who have lived there most of their life wish to stay and preserve their primitive way of survival regardless of the lack of fish and other food that used to be in abundance. There are crabs, but one must go far to get them. The movie illustrates that no matter how far off the beaten track a man may go, problems are always close by. Threatened by the attempts of a young foreigner to enlarge his shanty hotel and turn the beach into a more modern lucrative spot, the natives take things into their own hands. Particularly interesting is the relationship of Daniel, a young man who comes to La Barra in search of a boat. There isn't one, so he ends up staying. A little girl who befriends him ends up being his ticket out of the conflicts and intrigues he witnesses. Indeed, La Barra is beset with all kinds of challenges. It is said that once a crab lands on its back, it can never return right side up. But some manage to. This movie proves that hardships have their own just resolution, and sometimes everyone gets what they deserve. La Barra's raw scenery and the film's slow pace gently take you into a world that most of us will never experience.  

La Barra is a coastal fishing village in Columbia populated by blacks. Having little contact with the outside world, their lives are abruptly changed when a white man (La Paisa) settles in the village intending to convert it into a tourist resort. The music blasting from his speaker all day disturbs local elder, Cerebro, who refuses to allow La Paisa to destroy the serenity of his village. Amidst this tense situation arrives a mysterious stranger named Daniel. All he wishes for is to buy a boat by which he can flee the country but this proves to be difficult as all the fishermen of the village are out to sea. Daniel, in return for room and board, agrees to help Cerebro to clean the beach everyday. Lucia, a young girl, latches on to Daniel, helping him if he buys lunch from her mother. The director’s first feature is a slow paced film with a natural feel (the location plus the only professional actors were the two outsiders) that gives this a noteworthy status. The scenario and editing could have been tighter.

2.6 -- MUSICA EN ESPERA (MUSIC ON HOLD), Hernan Goldfrid
Delightful, light-hearted romantic comedy centers on Ezequiel’s search for inspiration for a melody he needs to compose for a film soundtrack. Under pressure from the film’s director and from the bank to pay his mortgage, he comes down with writer’s block. He phones the bank to try and get an extension. After many transfers he finally reaches the assistant manager, Paula. She puts him on hold and the melody he hears is exactly what he wants for the soundtrack. Yet this is merely one of over 200 melodies used by the bank. Paula is pregnant and the father has left her. She has not told this to her mother who is arriving to assist in the birth and meet the father. She agrees to help Ezequiel to find the melody if in return he pretends to be her boyfriend and the father of her child. A very amusing and entertaining look at the process involved in composing film soundtracks.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This compelling documentary brings to light the life of the infamous Pablo Escobar, king of the Columbian drug cartel. The story is told with candour and humility by his son, Juan, who like his father was forced to flee Columbia because of the horrid legacy his cruel father left in his wake after he is murdered. Juan changes his name to Sebastián Marroquin in order to hide his true identity. Questing for some form of normalcy, he writes an email to the sons of the politicians murdered by his father in cold blood. For years, he has been haunted by what his father had done, Sebastian's bravery is impressive, and the young men meet. It is the only way to begin reconciliation between them all. These scenes are remarkably devoid of tension though the film's subject is highly charged. Only a great documentary tells the truth without the need for sensationalism.

Documentary film that gives a vivid and heartfelt reflection of what it was like to be the son of Pablo Escobar, Columbia’s most notorious and brutal drug lord. Juan Escobar was only 16 when his father was gunned down in 1993. With his mother he flees to Buenos Aires and changes his name to Sebastián Marroquin. In 2008, wishing to reconcile with the sons of two of his father’s most prominent victims, Sebastián requests to meet with them to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. This powerful and historic moment is captured by the film-maker and effectively shows that the sins of our fathers do not need to continue with the next generation. Film opens with a fascinating animated sequence that recreates a typical drug cartel operation.

For the ratings of 2009 Montreal Festivalissimo Film Festival, HERE.
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Festivalissimo Film Festival - Montreal: May 27th - June 13th
Montreal World Film Festival
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 10-21st, (514) 844-2172
CINEMANIA(Montreal) - festival de films francophone 1-11 novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082
2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL (Montreal) North America's Premier Genre Festival July 3-21
Montreal Jazz Festival
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
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