Film Scouts Diaries

2008 Festroia International Film Festival Diaries
Diary #2: Sick Kids

by Henri Béhar

Setubal, Portugal, June 8 -- It may be too early to call it a prevalent theme of this year's selection, but children (preferably sick) seem to be everywhere on screen. So far, we have counted two one terminally asthmatic boy, one with a heart condition, one kid dying of cancer, and one running across the country for his mother dying of cancer.

A Serbian-Hungarian-German co-production, Sradan Golubovich's The Trap is one of the two more interesting of the lot. In post-Milosevic Belgrade, life is tough. The country is in turmoil, society a moral and existential desert. When a young boy suddenly develops a serious heart condition, the doctors urge an operation abroad. The cost: twenty thousand euros minimum. The problem for the boy's father: where to find that money? With his friends, families, colleagues unable to help (do you want to discuss the economy of former Yugoslavia?), as a last resort, he puts an ad in the paper, asking for donations. Quite unexpectedly, a man comes forward and offers him the money. On one condition: the father must kill the Samaritan's business partner – also a family man. The father's most nightmarish dilemma: save your son, lose your soul, or stay righteous and lose your loved one. The trap is set… and the situation will develop in an unexpected way. Well written, tautly directed and beautifully acted, The Trap is sure to see Hollywood snap up its remake rights at double-speed.

Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv's Strangers" (Israel, First Works, competition) casts a much wider net. Talk about serendipity. Eyal, an Israeli living in a kibbutz and Rana, a Palestinian living in Paris meet unexpectedly when they mistakenly switch their identical backpacks in the Berlin subway. They have both come to Germany to attend the World Cup finals and for some reason or other (his German girlfriend has just dumped him), they are forced to share an apartment. Of course, as the final match approaches, they fall in love, but Rana must return to Paris immediately, leaving Eyal on his own in Berlin.

When the Israel-Lebanon war erupts, he decides to go to Paris and look for the woman he loves… only to discover she has a child – and a sick one to boot…

It may read heavy and clumsy – in which case, blame this reporter. For the two writers-directors weave the personal and the political with remarkable subtlety and lightness of touch -- to the point that, with no small help from amazingly natural actors, the direction is almost invisible – and that's a compliment.

As we came out of that screening, there was something festival in the air. Cars honked, people chatting animatedly outside bars filled beyond capacity, beer bottles galore piled under huge outdoors TV screens that had popped up all over the town. No wonder: by scoring second-half goals, Pepe and Raul Meireles had just given Portugal a 2-0 win over Turkey in Group A of the European Soccer Championship in Geneva.

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