Yesterday was a full day at the San Francisco International Film Fest. It began with a bang, detoured for a fire alarm and full-theatre evacuation, and ended with a whimper.
First up was The Orator, ostensibly the first Samoan-language feature film, written, directed and starring all Samoans. More later (once I can do some research) on this quiet powerhouse of a tale about an outcast dwarf and his banished wife that had the 3 of us weeping. And laughing. And thinking about the intersections between Pacific and African cultures, between the living and the dead.
Second was The Double Steps, an over-the-top Spanish production set Mali's stunning landscape (the ancient city of Djenne and the Dogon escarpment - 2 of my favorites - make stunning cameos). There appeared to be 3 storylines happening in 3 different temporal spaces, based on a true-life mystery about a French painter who died in 1971. Suffice to say there are same-sex relationships, treatises on art, a breathtaking nighttime scene with albinos in hiding, a rooftop dance scene evocative of the Malian dandy culture of the 60s, and an Easy Rider/Zapatista/Mad Max-like gang of thieves on motorbikes bedecked with cow skulls, themselves sporting Tuareg turbans, artillery shells, mudcloth ponchos, and bushwacker caps.
Last and most certainly least was Sleeping Sickness, a German feature that started out as a possible medical thriller (albeit a very slow one), possible trenchant critique of post-coloniality/aid work in present-day Cameroon and then without explanation jumped 3 years ahead and into Heart of Darkness. Yep, Mr. Kurtz, he dead, alright. And I need a shower.
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