Film Scouts Diaries

2005 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Day 2: Crack of Dawn

by Henri Béhar

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, July 2, 2005 — And so, at the crack of dawn (or so it feels after last night's party), it was time to see the first two films in competition. As its title does not indicate, "Chinaman" is a Danish movie. At the beginning, you have the feeling you've seen this movie a thousand times. Dumped by his wife, a 50-some year old chess player champ turned plumber (don't ask) spends most of his evenings across the street in a Chinese restaurant. After the water pipes explode (and after he's fixed them), he becomes part of the Chinese restaurateur's family, so much so that eventually the owner asks him, as a favor, to marry his sister so she can get a permanent visa. Which he eventually does. Little do they know that they are going to fall in love with each other. Are you bored already? Here comes the turning point: just before the immigration officials have been able to check on the validity of the marriage, the Chinese bride dies of a heart condition. At which point, Henrik Ruben Genz's film turns into something completely different. Unfortunately, that point is too close to the end at which I am not going to be.

Roberto Faenza's "Come into the Light" (Italy, in competition) also gives you a sense of déjà-vu all over again. It is the true story of a priest who retires to the Sicilian village where he was from and realizes firsthand the damage to society, and particularly to the children, caused by the Mafia. As he tries to turn his little church into a playground/football field/haven for the village's children, the Mafia honchos (whom he grew up with) get more and more aggravated and will try everything to get rid of the priest. Although it is well made and based on a true story, the film doesn't pack the political and dramatic punch of, say, "Il Caso Mattei" or "The Abduction of Aldo Moro".

But of course, today's main event was Robert Redford's press conference. More about that later, as it's time to rush to a screening.

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