My cat has enjoyed AFIFest 2020 Presented by Audi a great deal this year. She rarely has a chance to spend a whole afternoon on my lap when I actually have to go to movies. I doubt she realizes the qualities of movies she’s sleeping through. She’s missing out on some very good stuff.
The documentary Collective, by German-Romanian filmmaker Alexander Nanau, arrived at AFIFest with a load of festival awards. It takes place in the aftermath of a tragic 2015 nightclub fire that claimed 27 lives. The corruption that that fire exposed led to the fall of the government, and a new temporary government of technocrats. Yet, another 37 victims of the fire died over the next four months, mostly from infections. All the while the Minister of Health claimed the hospitals were among the best in Europe. When journalists discovered that the disinfectants being sold to hospitals were blatantly diluted, a new scandal erupted. This film takes us inside the controversy, the investigation, and the attempts at the new Minister of Health to create a better medical system.
The key quote I found in the film: “The way a state functions can crush people some of the time.” This is one of many films I’ve seen this year that portray the need of an independent and trustworthy press for democracy to function. Collective not only speaks to that need, but is clear that the power of government can be overwhelming. This film is Romania official submission for Best International Feature Film Oscar consideration.
In Ekwa Msangi’s Farewell Amor, an Angolan immigrant in New York is reunited with his family after seventeen years apart. Walter came to America following the Angolan Civil War, his wife Esther and daughter Sylvia went to Tanzania. It has taken all this time for Walter to get permission for them to join him. Meanwhile, their lives have gone in different directions. Esther has become quite religious. Walter has made a life for himself—with another woman. Sylvia, in high school, has her own dreams. There are chapters in the film that give us the perspective of each of these characters. It is interesting how dancing keeps coming into play within the film. The characters find identity, both separately and as family, in dancing. At times that dancing may be a source of conflict, but it can also be the beginning of healing.
You may wonder if there are ever any comedies at festivals. Yes, in fact I took one in yesterday with My Donkey, My Lover & I by Caroline Vignal. Antoinette, French fifth grade teacher, is having an affair with Vladimir, the father of one of her students. When he cancels a romantic getaway to take a hiking trip with his wife and daughter, Antoinette decides she will do the same hiking adventure and surprise him. Totally unfamiliar with hiking, she hires a donkey for the journey. Naturally, it becomes a comedy of errors as Antoinette must deal not only with Patrick the donkey, but with her total lack of hiking ability. When she does manage to run into Vladimir and his family, the awkwardness and revelations become a bit more than she expected. The trip turns out to be a way for Antoinette to come to better understand herself and opens up new possibilities for her.