JWR Articles: Film/DVD - When Cultures Collide (Directors: Behrooz Karamizade, Kaspar Schiltknecht, David Bonneville, Marcelo Mitnik, Anya Leta) - June 29, 2014

When Cultures Collide

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Reviewed for the 20th Annual Palm Springs International ShortFest
This set not quite on track

On the first full day of the 20th Annual Palm Springs International ShortFest, “When Cultures Collide” offered a quintet of relationship situations, but subtitle technology failed the near-capacity crowd miserably, wreaking havoc with comprehension (Bonne Espérance) then setting up a vrai French farce when two subtitle tracks tried to cohabit the last film (En Las Nubes). Thankfully, the latter was restarted and shown as intended, however, the former must await another day to have its full effect.

The fine art of disguise

Bahar in Wonderland (Bahar Im Wunderland)
Behrooz Karamizade
2014, 16 min.
Four stars

“Close your eyes and you’re invisible”

The dangerous if life-saving trek by a father and daughter from Syria to Germany has surely played out on many real-life occasions. Karamizade’s largely wordless chronicle begins symbolically and metaphorically as native costumes are buried and Dad’s habitual beard is scraped off in an effort to increase “blendibility” into Europe’s economic power house.

Once illegally in their new country, a simple call of nature separates the two-member family even as young Bahar surreptitiously takes a hairdo lesson from a contemporary Caucasian after doing her urgent business.

Emerging from the loo, Bahar, realizing that she is orphaned—hopefully temporarily—seeks refuge with other expatriates—most notably a curvaceous belly dancer—only to learn—sadly, too late for her father—the fine art of disguise.

The inevitable reunion is bittersweet before a different sort of willfull blindness brings smiles all around. Kayan Kalhor’s music artfully supports that compelling notion, allowing time to thoughtfully disappear. JWR

The gypsy and his prey

Gypsy (Cigano)
David Bonneville
2014, 19 min..
Four-and-one-half stars

Who’s riding whom?

Bonneville has culled together a masterful wee tale of “Will he or won’t he?” as wealthy Whitebread Sebastian’s (Jaime Freitas) flat tire is expertly replaced by an extra-alluring local whose hot gypsy blood becomes increasingly hard to resist.

Refusing cash for the errand of mercy (no better way to demonstrate a different sort of intent than merely quick commerce), the olive-skinned Good Samaritan (Tiago Aldeia) quite literally steals his way into the passenger seat (curiously akin to Bahar, it appears that this road trip might also involve identity loss…).

Magically, intriguingly—after an “oh, that’s too predictable” brush with the law thankfully becomes just a clever red herring—three cheers for the smart script!—Sebastian takes a possibly rare, deep toke on the shared joint then completely turns the tables and shifts into high gear. Now, will that be a Thelma and Louise exit, a touch of Flesh heat or a full helping of Sebastiane martyrdom? (cross-references below).

Can’t wait for the full-length sequel. JWR

Good Hope (Bonne Espérance)
Kaspar Schiltknecht
2014, 19 min.

Points of Origin
Anya Leta
2014, 18 min.
Four stars

“It’s perfect”

The political, social and deeply personal ramifications of a mixed-race couple getting “pregnant” via a surrogate mother are brought front and centre in Leta’s fictional—of course: how could that happen here?—account of how Indian-born now NYC radio talk-show host, RJ (Ankur Vikal delivers a gritty, thoughtful performance), and his very American wife, Rosemary (Tessa Thompson), trace their way back to India to finally see—not that they haven’t been trying—their fondest wish come to fruition.

Adding extra spice to the situation, the mother-for-hire is not unknown to RJ: they’ve lived in the same village and she reminds the issues-oriented broadcaster of his own mother…

Using an off-screen caller as the device to raise ethical questions is a touch too contrived (John: I know what you and your wife are doing.), but, nonetheless, when runtime is short, still manages to serve its purpose.

Like anything else—except perhaps most recently in Pakistan, cross-reference below—“Who can throw the first stone” comes to mind even if this arrangement seems to be the “perfect” solution to the dilemma of would-be parents who can’t conceive. JWR

In the Clouds (En Las Nubes)
Marcelo Mitnik
2014, 21 min.
Four stars

How [not] to propose to a woman

From Argentina comes a whimsical romantic comedy where Mitnik sets his inventive sights on two couples on the cusp of matrimony.

It’s a welcome tonic to the daily headlines from around the globe; viewers will be delighted to put their heads way up into the fanciful clouds (replete with a couple of passes from a remote control airplane which simultaneously asks the question that the disparate quartet are variously hoping to hear or studiously avoid) and savour the surprises along the path to romance

Who knows if anyone will ever walk down the aisle of marital bliss? JWR

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