Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2009 - Day 6

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival graciously sent me a HUGE ENVELOPE of screeners of nearly the ENTIRE festival! (One must be careful for what one asks for!) The festival continues at the LaFont Sandy Springs, until Sunday, January 25, 2009.

DIAMOND ROAD (dirs. Nisha Pahuja and Manfred Becker, Canada, 2007, 99 mins.) Though the subject matter of tracing the path of the diamond industry sounded a bit dry, it was instead totally engrossing! This documentary tosses in the added counterpoint of the attempts at a "fair trade" diamond trade to address the incredible inequity of the wages earned at the diamond digs compared to the multi-million dollar product they are "farming". The film is a world wide travelogue and fascinating economic expose of each step of the product: from the poverty stricken mines in Sierra Leone, to the middle class rough cutters in India, to the finishers and traders in Antwerp and their final destinations at the millionaire phoned-in auctions and the MULTI-million dollar fashion runways of New York. The directors have done an excellent job of putting human faces on what is a particularly object oriented industry. One of the central characters of the film is Martin Rapaport, an Orthodox Jew who witnessed the tragedies of Sierra Leone and feels compelled to try to empower its poverty stricken populace with fair trade diamond mining, even in the face of the government's reluctance. The film also profiles one of the rough cutters in India, a 10-year old boy whose family pride towards his apprenticeship is palpable. There is also some extended footage of the high-end traders in Antwerp and New York as they play with the numbers for their anonymous buyers. in fact, for such a high profile product, it is ironic that the end-users are what is anonymous and conspicuously missing. If anything that takes this excellent documentary into the area of opinion/editorial, it is the absence of the wealthiest link in this chain and what is their purpose in spending the millions of dollars they do for these tiny little polished rocks.

FOUL GESTURE (dir. Tzahi Grad, Israel, 2006, 98 mins.) Sometimes, when you see that it has taken more than a couple of years for a film to travel from its homeland to the foreign fests, this can raise a red flag. FOUL GESTURE has taken three years to make it over here, not so mention to a lack of quality in production and performances, but because it is not really overly remarkable for the foreign markets. It could be regarded as another "milquetoast goes vindictive" melodrama. In fact, the character arc is portrayed with some extremity that I found a bit annoying. His passivity during the early scenes is almost annoyed me as much as it does his wife. She is a bit too acerbic to take so early in the film, but it is sort of understandable considering how inept the husband is. His passage into vengeance reaches melodrama since the target for his anger is a mobster, a situation that I found stretched credibility, particularly in its selection in a such a fine film festival setting.

Maxxxxx says
re DIAMOND ROAD: "Such a pretty bird!"
re FOUL GESTURE: "Is it bedtime?"

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