59th London Film Festival Day 11

SVSworn Virgin, a debut feature from Director Laura Bispuri, comes in the JOURNEY Section. An unsettling film, set first in a remote area of Albania where women are completely subservient to men. The brides are blindfold when they travel to their husband’s village so that they cannot find their way home, that sort of subservient.

Two girls, Lila and Hana (Hana’s parents are both dead and her life has been saved by Lila’s father) romp around together in the snow, but are troubled by their lack of freedom. Eventually, Lila escapes with her boyfriend and Hana, a tomboy, takes the only step available to someone of her persuasion. She swears never to have sexual congress with anyone and becomes a legitimised man in the eyes of the village. Her hair is cut and she wears men’s clothing and takes the name Mark.

Eventually the father dies, we witness an unusual and moving burial ceremony and life goes on for Mark, he helps deliver goods around the community by boat, herds goats and then suddenly we see him getting off a bus in Italy.

He arrives unannounced at Lila’s house, she is married with a child and is not entirely welcoming, but accepts the situation; unlike her daughter who only thaws slowly. The journey that Mark (and indeed, Lila’s daughter) is taking moves on until finally he/she reverts to being a woman.

There were some odd changes of mood and scene, often very abruptly which added to the unsettling nature of the film. The landscape in Albania, though dramatic and severe, seemed to be permanently in a state of winter, maybe this was a metaphor reflecting the cold, heartless nature of the choice Hana was forced to make. It was beautiful though, steep mountains falling straight into water, wispy clouds obscuring the tops, but also an unforgiving terrain.

An unusual film.

TruthTruth is a very different film. A docudrama about two reporters, Dan Rather and Mary Mapes who attempt to disclose the fact that George W Bush, who was campaigning for a second term of office had avoided the Vietnam draft. Having found compelling evidence, they go live on CBS, only to have the case blown out of the water. Robert Redford, playing the CBS anchor man and reprising his role (somewhat) in All the President’s Men seems indefatigable, and was entirely at home in the role. Cate Blanchett, who plays Mary is scintillating, smooth, taut and brilliant. It is a clever reconstruction based on Mary Mapes book, Truth and Duty – The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power.

This is America. The military, the reputation of the candidate and a host of other things conspire against the evidence; there is an on-line frenzy which is followed by an “independent” review. Mary loses, the report is destructive and as a consequence of her brave exposure, many people lost their jobs, not least Dan and Mary, herself – who was sacked by CBS. This did not stop the organisation from accepting a Peabody Award for her journalism and exposure of the Abu Graib scandal, one of the more important pieces of journalism in recent history.

Cate Blanchett has been awarded the Fellowship Presentation.

James Vanderbilt has produced a tense political/media drama which explores the relationship between trust and truth and the uncomfortable inconsistencies that lie in the pursuit and exercise of power, real political power and the power of the media.

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Filed under Culture, Film Review, Modern History, Politics, Select Cinema, Travel

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