Kelin (2009)

Impression: A practically silent movie from Kazakhstan; there is no dialogue, but plenty of sounds made, and occasionally a score including traditional instruments and some throat singing. The story takes place in 200 AD, but feels timeless. The entire thing is beautifully shot, in snow, in majestic mountains. The bright open expanses are contrasted with dark, cramped interiors. Lots of interesting shots of strange shamanistic rituals, and quite a bit of nudity. Animals feature quite prominently, running wild, as background sounds, and as clothing and food and workforce. The plot follows the fate of a girl who gets married/sold to a man and returns with him to a hut where he lives with his mother and son. Conflict is introduced when the better looking guy, who in the beginning of the film did not have enough money to buy her, reappears. Well acted, it’s all in glances and look aways and stares. In order to keep interest for over an hour, a movie without dialogue has to be really compelling, and this one certainly is.  It provides a little bit of a voyeurism into a place and time that I’ve not thought about a lot. Besides how many movies from Kazakhstan have you seen? And no, Borat doesn’t count!

Facts: In 200 AD Kazakhstan, a girl gets married/sold to a man living in a remote hut in snow filled mountains with his mother and son.

 

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Presumed Guilty (2009)

Impressions: Mexican documentary about the inner workings of the legal system, might seem like a relatively dry topic, but it was actually fascinating, and compelling throughout. My favorite thing about documentaries is coming across one on a topic I know nothing about, and would not have even contemplated seeing, until I was already there. “A Great Day in Harlem” was another great example of this. This film follows a guy accused of murder through the whole ordeal including living in prison, his appeals, and a face-off with the witnesses. Some of the processes are mind boggling, especially the witness face-off, and the fact that once convicted no amount of evidence can convince anyone of anything is frustrating.  The two young lawyers who took on the case, use the filmmaking process itself as a tool in their fight to free an innocent man. Very interesting and really well done, you should see it! If you ever had your doubts, this one definitely makes you not want to end up in a mexican prison!

Facts: Two young Mexican lawyers fight to free a man convicted of a crime they have ample evidence he did not commit.

Extras:  I originally had very brief notes which I wrote in 2009 after seeing this film at TIFF. In order to write a more meaningful opinion, and jog my memory some,  I looked at the wikipedia page on it. It’s apparently become the most watched documentary in Mexico, breaking box office records, and was eventually banned in 2011, causing it to be even more popular. It would be very interesting to see what someone from Mexico thought about it. The system and the process were all very new to me, and made me wonder if it’s common knowledge that this is how the system works.