Pieces on Film, Prose and Music by a Nigerian

Tag: the european film festival


The Saviour? The Crush?

It is easy to see why the first Spanish film screened at the European Film Festival, Camino was greeted by controversy in Spain. It subtly accuses the Catholic Church organization Opus Dei, of domestic extremism, murder- or perhaps euthanasia- and arguably worse of all, stupidity.

It is also easy to see why it won six Goya awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars): the acting is admirable, script is beautiful and cinematography exquisite.

Camino is a young girl who has a crush on a boy with the ‘unfortunate’ name, Jesus- a common male name in Spain, when she takes ill, her mother a fervent follower of the Opus Dei, overrides her husband’s will, insisting on total dependence on Jesus to the point of neglecting medical advice. The central drama involves that name: one is the name of the Saviour, the other is the name of a schoolgirl crush.

The drama off screen is between the structure and content. For those with Christian sympathies and still, a palate for good cinema, whether Camino is any good, depends on if it is possible to separate technical prowess from message.

It is an uneasy battle. But no one said, cinema had to be easy.





Sergio Nicolaescu is arguably the most popular director in Romania, so that his 2004 film Orient Express, is the sole Romanian film at the European Film Festival is significant.

That significance is possibly the greatest aspect of the movie.Suspicion always abounds when a director is the lead character in a film- Woody Allen readily comes to mind- and it gets worse with age. Nicolaescu is lead in Orient Express, playing an old prince who after a wild youth spent squandering the family fortune and breaking the hearts of many women, killing aggrieved males in duels, comes to settle in a snow covered idyllic village. There several women are seduced by his charm in spite of the jealousy and gossip he provokes.

Clearly haunted by his past and intrigued by youth and beauty, the Prince is constantly talking to the ghosts of his past in his castle. Soon a young woman falls in love with him and the greatly immoral prince takes a somewhat moral stand in a series of events that would lead to a startling revelation.

At nearly 2 hours, Orient Express is long and quite tortuous. Nicolaescu is not a great actor though it can be argued that the inescapable stiffness is an intentional makeup of the central character.

It is quite possible there are some underlying concepts that may be missed by the average viewer, but something must be said for a film that does not encourage too many people to wait for its denouement.




A young man says to a girl, “I like you.”

“What am I to say to that?” she asks smiling

“Nothing.” He moves to kiss her and she dances away.

It is such a lighthearted scene full of chemistry, full of romantic possibility and suffused with beauty. It is this light touch that characterizes much of The Winner Poland’s second and final entry at the European Film Festival: the friendship between Oliver (the guy in the dialogue above) and an elderly man, Frank is a light depiction of male friendship; the romance with the beautiful bookie, of whom Frank says, “She’s weird- she reads books, listens to classical music,” is devoid of tension; the dialogue is light and crisp and much of the action takes place in well lit cafes and well illuminated racecourses.

The plot follows a brilliant pianist, Oliver, who having cancelled a tour contract after personal upheaval, befriends the elderly Frank, a gifted horse race gambler who amidst the joys and intrigues of horse race betting, tries to get Oliver to play again.

The Winner is light but there are serious questions at its heart.  A judge tells Oliver, “All artistic competitions are fiction…how do you compare the incomparable? How do you measure the immeasurable?” Later this judge will offer Oliver number one on the list of greatest pianists in the world, when Oliver asks why, he replies, “Perhaps it’s a whim. Or maybe I just want to appall the world.”

The stance of the judge calls into question the value of prizes and contests in the arts since there is no rigid parameter by which any one painter, writer, poet, might be said to be heads and shoulders above the others. It is perhaps why director, Wieslaw Saniewski devotes more screen time to horse races where the competition is more direct and the results are less subjective. At various times in the world of arts, there are controversies over who wins what prize: Citizen Kane should have won Best Picture at the Oscars, Kanye West should have gotten a nomination in Best Album category at the Grammys, Arundhati Roy should not have won the Booker Prize. It goes on and on.

These ‘serious’ issues are placed on the background while more focus is put on the human relationships in keeping with the lighthearted approach. It just might be a loss for the ‘serious’ cinema lover. For all others, The Winner is a welcome distraction.


By choosing The Dinner Club, The Netherlands has perhaps chosen the most conventional of the films screened so far at the European Film Festival.

Karen and Michel have just moved into a highbrow area where they join an exclusive club comprising rich couples. Soon there is trouble as two members of the group die in mysterious circumstances. Upon discovering both deceased members were involved in extramarital affairs, Karen turns investigator unearthing several misdeeds among the members of the club.

The Dinner Club incorporates several elements- recalling Sliver in its use of sex with a suspicious character as plot device, and Stepford Wives in its well behaved wives depiction- but it never rises from the conventions. It is much too light to be a criticism of the suburbs and/or capitalism and too mistimed and severely underwhelming to be a good thriller.

If the classifications, for the variety the film festival seeks, are taken broadly and perhaps facetiously as: the good, the bad and the ugly; one cannot begrudge this particular film its selection for the festival, though it unequivocally falls outside of ‘the good,’ some space can be made for it between the last two adjectives. Quite obviously, a lot of thought was not put into the selection process. Someone must have thought, “It is only a film festival, what’s the fuss?” and then decided on a girls’ night out flick that does not engage and consistently fails to hit the right notes.

Still, it shows a variety to European cinema. And that may well be the greatest thing about it.



You have seen this before: the wheelchair for pity and empathy- Tom Cruise in Born on The Fourth of July; the defiant inmate of an institution- Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, death as a bountiful spring of tears- any number of Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation. Yes, there is a lot of formula in Ireland’s Inside I’m Dancing to suggest it is a lazy choice seeing as the country only has one film entered in this year’s festival. But it will be a fib to say the movie is without heartrending moments. It was Noel Coward who posited: “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.”

In Inside I’m Dancing, troublesome Rory O’Shea is transferred to a home for the disabled where he insults the staff, usurp the order and peace of the place a la McMurphy in Cuckoo’s Nest, and forms a friendship with Michael Connolly, a quiet inmate with cerebral palsy and a speech only Rory, it so happens, can understand. The pair engages in wild behaviour, breaking several rules and eventually seeking independent living- which they get after few complications. They employ a female personal assistant with whom Michael falls in love with- as Rory looks on in embarrassment- and experiences the inevitable heartbreak as part of the unpredictabilities of independent living.

The film stars a younger James McAvoy, seen in 2011’s X-Men: First Class but it is Steven Robertson that delivers a more eye-catching performance as Michael Connolly. And together with Romola Garai as Siobhan, the PA, they give a worthy performance of three young people learning and relearning the ways of the world.

The screenplay avoids potential sentimentalities by placing the two unlikely heroes at the center of the movie and at the end, the sight of Michael going into town on his own, upon Rory’s prompting, is a triumph. 

Un Blog de Sel

Je pense, donc je ne suis personne.

radio ife

streams for the love in you


A pan-African writers' collective.

%d bloggers like this: