Mon Dec 01,2008

DIFF 2008 Programme Introduces Dreams Made and Broken

The Muhr AsiaAfrica Awards, designed to stimulate and inspire filmmaking in emerging markets, introduces its first roster of documentaries this year, with 13 incredible productions that address universal themes of art,  truth, poverty and overcoming the past.

Director of the Muhr AsiaAfrica Programmes, Nashen Moodly, stated: “Documentaries at their best are closer to home than fiction, since the viewer knows they are real. The films explore issues of reality—several of the films relate to mental health,  political truth and lies, and hard choices faced by the poor. They also look into the emancipatory potential of art and dreams. Anyone who truly is interested in the human condition knows that documentaries are inspiring and instructive, and this selection definitely proves that point.”

Two of the films explore art from different angles: in the Eastern Mauritanian desert, women devote themselves to the art of painting by decorating the city walls in En Attendant Les Hommes (Waiting for Men). Director Nader Davoodi of Aref Squared was intrigued by a taxi driver’s dream—to meet and sing with his pop idol, Aref, a pre-revolution Iranian singer—and decided to help him realize it. Leng Kuy Xian Jing (We Went To Wonderland),  a hilarious account of an elderly Chinese couple’s first visit to the UK and Europe, is documented by their daughter, director Xiaolu Gou, who  blends daughterly affection with a keen eye for the incongruities and oddities the trip throws up.

Truth and lies that are covered up by families and societies are excavated in several films: Dilip Mehta, brother of master filmmaker Deepa Mehta, travels to Varanasi to explore how low-caste widows, abandoned by their families, invariably die of poverty and neglect, in The Forgotten Woman.  Award-winning filmmaker Osvalde Lewat-Hallade’s latest documentary Une Affaire de Negre (Black Business) is about Cameroonian families who have lost loved ones to the terrifying Operational Command Unit, a special group of trained operatives who killed over 1000 people in a single year. Filmmaker Mun Jeong-Hyun takes a trip into a dark chapter of South   Korea’s history in this compelling tale of political unrest, family feuds and reconciliation in Halmae Kkot (Grandmother’s Flower). In The Truth be Told: the Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong, director Pimpaka Towira  accompanies respected journalist Supinya as she faces a major trial following an article on conflicts of interest in government business affairs.

China presents a useful case study for the hard choices faced by the rural poor: in Yu Guangyi’s masterful slice of social realism from rural China, Xiao Li Zi (Survival Song), two impoverished families represent the silent millions who are obliterated by China’s economic growth. By charting the contrary dreams and aspirations of two boys, director He Jianjun’s River People artfully presents compelling arguments for and against the current seismic shift caused by China’s rapidly expanding industrialization.

More Than Just A Game catches up with the founding members of Makana FA, the football club for prisoners at South African’s notorious Robben   Island prison in a touching exploration of how the sport provided team spirit and sense of self-respect. Director Francois Verster examines the result of social integration and the various political viewpoints that continue to dominate South African life in Sea Point Days, using Cape Town’s Sea Promenade as a metaphor for post-apartheid society.

Mental illness carries heavy consequences in two of the segment’s films. Kazuhiro Soda’s frank and forthright documentary Mental introduces patients undergoing progressive and humane therapies at Chorale Okayama, a mental health unit in Japan. Yasam Arsizi (Sidewalk Sisters) is the story of Elif Caglayan, a poor Turkish nightclub singer, as told by her childhood friend, director Yasemin Alkaya.  During the course of the film, Yasemin explores Elif’s choice to abandon her mentally ill sisters, who were institutionalized. The climactic scene where she reunites Elif with her sisters is especially moving.

Muhr Documentary films will be screened throughout DIFF 2008, and winners can be seen on December 19 and 20 at the Grand Cinemas at Dubai Festival   City and at Cinestar Mall of the Emirates.

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