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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Traveling the Globe with Yaks, Sticks, and Adolescents



A desire for diversity, and time constraints, determined my festival choice this year—International Wettbewerb (Competition) • Tribal Politics. Of the five films shown, three were very good, one poor and one disgusting. The English-speaking presenter was personable and able to extemporize. She switched to German as needed and was assisted by Spanish and Kyrgyz interpreters. We traveled the globe for 80 minutes, and garnered behind-the-scenes information from the three directors in attendance.

Dad’s Stick by John Smith. Great Britain 2012 | 4:56 minutes | English | experimental: Three well-used objects that belonged to the director’s father are explored. Strong, well-cropped, close-up imagery tickles our mind's eye; some frames contain text. Interspersed throughout, the director talks or softly sings ditties off camera.

Mae – The Motherby Pimpaka Towira. Thailand 2012 | 15:00 minutes | Thai/Engl. subt. | fiction: A mother questions those present at her 13 year-old daughter’s funeral. Poor acting, sluggish, and rudimentary production values. If there is a story here, it must be hiding in the casket.

Koch – Nomadicby Artykpai Suiundukov, Moldoseit Mambetakunov. Kyrgyzstan 2012 | 25:45 minutes | Kyrgyz/Engl. subt. | documentary: Nomads leave the higher mountains with cattle and possessions. Caught in an avalanche, they later outwit a wolf before arriving among goggling civilians. In due course the nomads steadfastly move on. Brilliant camera work—the director/cameraman was caught in the avalanche, and survived by holding onto a Yak’s tail. Unfortunately, the editing was spotty. Still, the fascinating subject matter and landscape make this a spellbinding film.

Buenos Días Resistencia – Good Morning Resistanceby Adrian Orr. Spain 2012 | 20:00 minutes | Spanish/Engl. subt. | documentary: Every morning a single father meets head-on the many, varying challenges when rousing his three children, and getting them ready for, and to school. Seeing the teamwork involved in this routine is captivating. Effective fly-on-the-wall style, editing admirable.

Djur Jag Dödade Förra Sommaren – Animals I Killed Last Summerby Gustav Danielsson. Sweden 2013 | 15:00 minutes | Swedish/Engl. subt. | fiction: A father tries to control his son’s preoccupation with killing small animals, but it transpires, like son, like father. The production values are good. However, what story there is goes beyond macabre. It is not funny watching animals senselessly die. This film is a sad commentary on how desensitized societies, and festivals that show it, are becoming. 

My favorite film was Dad’s Stick; I hated Animals I Killed Last Summer. Having directors present made the experience more intimate as they shared background details. One of the Nomadic directors comes from that area of Kyrgyzstan, i.e. was their key to filming the nomads and their lifestyle. They want to make this into a feature, which I would love to see! Whereas Adrian Orr is such a close friend with the family in Good Morning Resistance that the children soon forgot he—with camera—was there. John Smith was delightful to laugh with, and listen to as he spoke about his late father. He explained many of his deliberate artistic choices—the “neutrality of text” vs. continuous Voiceover—in the film. It was a particularly nice evening at the cinema.

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