Saturday at Newport Beach Film Festival


It seems that most every festival has a time travel conundrum, which I love. Something about the paradoxes involved appeals to me. This year at NBFF that is the French film House of Time. A reclusive genius invites a group of his friends to spend a weekend at a secluded chateau. He has studied Nazi documents about a very secret project and claims he has found a way to travel back 70 years. When he pushes the button on his invention, it seems they are back in 1944. Almost immediately a wounded woman arrives at the chateau, claiming to be part of the resistance. There are German soldiers at the gate. Have they really traveled back in time or is this a very elaborate ruse with actors playing their parts? The mystery remains?and even grows?even at the end of the film. It was great fun.


Rwanda and Juliet follows a retired Dartmouth professor to Rwanda to stage a performance of Romeo and Juliet using Hutu and Tutsi survivors (mostly orphans) as actors. The idea is to use this play to speak of the need of reconciliation. Most of the film chronicles the rehearsal process, but also gives us a chance to meet some of the people involved and hear their stories. It is fine for that, but it really misses the opportunity to go deeper. A few days before they are scheduled to perform, the cast discusses what they are doing. Some issues come up that really need a deeper examination, such as whether twenty years after the genocide reconciliation has already happened or not, and whether it is the role of well-to-do North Americans to come to Rwanda to show them how to be reconciled. Such things are only touched on without going as deep as the questions deserve.


Canadian politics is the backdrop for the comedy My Internship in Canada. Souverain, an idealistic young Haitian, turns up in the office of Steve Guibord, a Canadian Member of Parliament from rural Quebec, to be his intern. Guibord is an independent who really has no political power, but serves the people of his district well?mostly by being available to hear their complaints (that he can do nothing about). When the Prime Minister wants to send troops to a war, it turns out that Guibord represents the deciding vote. He decides to travel his district to hear what the people want, but gets caught between various factions that each want something that has nothing to do with the war. He must also deal with a division in his own home: his wife supports the war and his daughter opposes it. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is offering a cabinet position for his vote. Souverain, however, has a better understanding of the political situation than his boss. He serves as the most lovable Machiavelli ever.

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