Nine Lives Locarno Film Festival 5

Nine Lives – winner of the Festival’s Golden Leopard Award

Directed and written by Rodrigo Garcia/ USA

A mother cleans the floors of the Los Angeles County jail hoping for an early release and the warden is sympathetic. At all costs she wants to visit with her daughter, but the prison guards are mean and uncaring.

A troubled young woman bearing a gun visits her younger sister with the intention of confronting their father for something he has done to her in the past.

A divorced wife goes to the funeral of the woman who became her husband’s second wife and must confront her love for him.

A mother and her handicapped husband do not speak to each other but communicate only through their daughter, while the mother has an affair with another man.

Four more vignettes are told about nine women (all together) whose lives touch each other’s, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not, until a woman makes a yearly visit to the cemetary with her young daughter – or so we think.

Nine Lives, scheduled for an October release in the USA, is a very good film that tells about life from a woman’s point of view in a credible way. The film held my attention throughout, and has a cast of A-list actors. I liked its multiculturalism and ability to create drama instantly in every vignette. The film reminded me in some ways of Crash by Paul Haggis, but only slightly.

Antarmahal – Views from an Inner Chamber

Directed by Rituparno Ghosh/ India

In 1878 Bengal, the Hindu feast of the goddess Durga approaches. A wealthy man decides to have a statue made in her honor with the face of Queen Victoria in order to garner favor with the British. Meanwhile, he endeavors to get his second wife, who is young, beautiful, and unhappy, pregnant while ignoring his first wife. A young sculptor is hired to make the statue. He is happily married but he and the second wife are attracted to one another. Tragedy ensues when the face of the goddess turns out to be that of the second wife instead of Britain’s queen.

This is no “Bollywood” film, unless it’s a new kind. Almost the entire film takes place in the bed chamber with accompanying activities devlivered as discreetly as possible wihout being completely explicit. The setting and costumes are lush and the tragedy real, though the cultural context is almost overpowering.

The Giant Buddahs (not in competition)

Directed by Christian Frei/Switzerland

A feature-length documentary that tells the story of the two giant 3,000 year old Buddhas in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan, that the Taliban destroyed in March, 2001. The film entwines the story of a Chinese Buddhist monk who made a pilgrimage to the statues in the seventh century and left a diary of his journey. Frei also gives voice to Al Jazeera, an archeologist, an Afghan woman living in Canada whose father visited there as a young man, and a representative of the Taliban itself about the destruction of the Buddhas.

The film is too long and drawn out, yet the material is so fascinating that I wanted to stay with it until the end. Frei has found some interesting old footage and photos of the Buddhas as well as film of the destruction itself. The cultural loss of the statues was and is felt by the entire world.

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