Amerika: A documentary about a Canadian grad student who goes over to the Czech Republic (where her parents immigrated from) to discover “tramping” and have an adventure. The film fails to introduce us to our two main characters. She, we come to know, is the Canadian, and he…well, he’s just there. No word on how they hooked up or how they came to be travelling together. Tramping is an alternative way of life for Czechs. It’s leaving everything behind and hitting the road, living on the land, sleeping in the open air. Some live like that permanently, off the grid and housed in a forest that feeds them. Others tramp on weekends and go back to their white-collar jobs during the week. It’s an idealized but dying culture, and interesting enough I suppose, but I felt pretty disconnected from the film, and not just because I really loathed the Canadian, applauding silently in my heart when she got dunked into a river. Of course the Canadian was on hand at the screening to answer all of our burning questions (I did not ask “Why couldn’t you have gotten eat by a bear?” or even “Does the Czech Republic even have man-eating animals in its wilderness?”) and it was revealed that the random travelling partner was in fact the film’s director. We didn’t notice that ourselves because he uses a “character” name in the movie. He recruited her for this film and set up all of their itinerary, and arranged for the tramps to be met along the way, the “cast” and crew sleeping in hotels at night while pretending to hike during the day. The whole thing was contrived and while I struggle to call it a documentary, I have no qualms at all about calling it bad.
Angry Indian Goddesses: This one won runner-up for People’s Choice at TIFF this year (Room nabbed the title) but we didn’t get to see it then and are happy to take it in now. Billed as India’s first female buddy movie, it’s a comedy-drama about the wild, bachelorette-style female bonding rituals enacted after one woman announces her engagement…and then it gets turned on its ear. Actually, that’s putting it too mildly. The shifts in tone in this movie are JARRING. On the whole I really liked this movie. It’s a lot more grown up than what Bollywood usually offers. The women are all compelling and we get to see a side of India not normally presented to us. But when the movie goes dark – and it goes DARK – there’s little warning. It’s pretty abrupt after the hijinks and singing and dancing. So steel yourself. But do see it. There’s not a lot out there like it.
Chasing Banksy: After Katrina, street artist Banksy arrives surreptitiously in New Orleans and leaves behind some mysterious pieces of art on the city’s abandoned, derelict buildings. Anthony, a starving artist in New York, knows that Banksy’s work goes for upwards of a million, so he plots to track down the artwork and retrieve it. He and a couple of buddies take the road trip of a lifetime to see if they can become rich stealing art. This movie appealed to me because its concept is really interesting. Is art that’s made for the public allowed to be taken by the public? Is it meant to be transitory? Should it be allowed to rot or be demolished? Or should it be preserved, even if preserving it means stealing it? Can you steal something that doesn’t belong to anyone? Does it belong to everyone? And should you monetize art that’s meant to be free? So many interesting questions and this movie just killed me because it failed to really wonder about any of them. It’s not a good movie no matter how you define the terms, and that’s a real wonder since the star and co-writer actually went to New Orleans to steal some Banksy art. Why, then, is he so bad at pretending to be himself? I’m not sure, but this movie really let me down.