Film Scouts Diaries

2007 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Diary #5

by Henri Béhar

Foreigners and Families

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, July 7 - Although it has a lot going for it, Australia's Lucky Miles (in competition) has one uniquely striking feature: its subtitles. They are essential to the story, so their presence is not unusual. But their placement is.

Let me explain: Director Michael James Rowlands's full-length film debut charts the fate of three "boat people" (and their smugglers) coming from different countries - Iraq, Cambodia, Indonesia - who are abandoned on the west coast of Australia and, pursued by Aussie immigration officers, are forced to trek through the desert in search of the nearest town – their ultimate goal being Perth. And so, obviously, several languages are spoken in the film: English (some sort of, anyway), Arabic, Cambodian and Indonesian. The English dialogue is not subtitled (although sometimes it should be), the rest of it is.

BUT… instead of setting the subtitles at the bottom of the frame, as is the tradition, Rowlands had decided to place them near the head of whoever is speaking, wherever they are on the screen. Granted, he could have used a slightly bigger font (right now, you need a magnifying glass) and a different color (yellow lettering against sandy dunes???). But Rowlands is on to something here: by placing his translation in bubbles, as it were, he gives his movie the allure of a comic strip, thereby enhancing the comedic side of what, under the guise of a bittersweet narrative, is a serious tale.

As is its context – both from the human point of view and from that of the Australian film industry.

According to the director, interviewed at length in the Festival Daily, everything that happens in this film happened to people he has interviewed or (more rarely) from stories he read.

Now as far as the actors are concerned, "Asian and Arab actors don't get much work in Australia," Rowlands says, "and it's been 25 years since an Indonesian character walked across the screen in Australian film. So the guys that do work as actors usually find themselves playing marginal characters and need to be very committed to keep going in an industry that seems set on ignoring them." By thrusting Asian and Arab characters at the forefront of the story Lucky Miles reverses the usual order of his national film industry – and not a moment too soon!


As the first of Pudor's main titles tells you, "pudor", in latin, means a) "reserve, modesty, decency" and b) "stench". So right away you know where you going, you just don't know how you are going to get there. "There", in David and Tristan Ulloa's Spanish film (in competition), is a portrait of a totally ordinary and totally dysfunctional family. To put it mildly, Julia (Elvira Minguez) is having a hard time. She is facing a midlife crisis, her marriage is on the rocks, her mother just died, she has to deal with her father who balks at the idea of living under his daughter's roof, her seven-year-old son (adopted) lives a fantasy world, constantly badgered by teenage daughter Marisa who is trying to come to terms with her sexual awakening (and orientation) – imagine what family dinners are like!

It is definitely an ensemble piece -- with two soloists: Natalia Rodriguez (Marisa) whose raven-black hair, blue eyes and dry wit will remind you of Christina Ricci in The Addams Family, and above all to Elvira Minguez (Julia). Although she appeared in John Malkovich's The Dancer Upstairs (2002) and in Paul McGuigan's The Reckoning (2003), she has yet to become an international star. Well, filmgoers, she's done her part, now do yours.


The family in Daniele Lucchetti's Mio Fratello è figlio unico ("My Brother Is an Only Child", is no less dysfunctional, with lots of shouting, but with incredible affection, warmth and panache - after all, this is an Italian family. The goal of this film (shown in the out-of-competition section Open Eyes) is, however, to describe, through this family portrait, nothing less than fifteen years in the socio-political ébullition that affected Italy in the second part of the 20th century.

The year is 1962. Accio is an impulsive kid who, much to his parents' dismay, leaves his catholic school to follow the fascist ideals that a friend has instilled in him. More mature, and more charismatic, his brother Manrico is definitely an active lefty. (To complicate things a tad, they are both in love with the same girl). As the years go by, Accio balks at the increasing - and increasingly gratuitous – violence of his fascist friends and veers to the left. Meanwhile, Manrico the activist leaves the house and joins, one suspects, what might be an early configuration of the Red Brigades…

World-premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section, this captivating and exhilarating film, which features two very strong performances by Italian stars Elio Germano (Accio) and Riccardo Scamarcio (Manrico), should definitely grab the attention of a US distributor as well as that of audiences nationwide.

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