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Mikael Wistrom (#110 of 2)

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2011: Familia

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2011: <em>Familia</em>
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2011: <em>Familia</em>

Like Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home, Mikael Wiström and Alberto Herskovits’s Familia manages to make a universal issue—the plight of the many immigrants who leave behind their loved ones to make a living far from home—personal by focusing on one family in particular: an older Peruvian couple, their grown son and daughter, and young school-age son. The filmmakers follow both the matriarch, Nati, as she begins her new life as a maid in Spain, and those forced to fill her void back in Lima. What’s most remarkable, however, is the intimate access the Swedish co-directors get, a result of their having known Nati and her kin for over 35 years. This allows not only for the family to be completely open and at ease in front of the lens, but also for black-and-white flashbacks that aren’t recreations but real-life footage, giving us a contextual glimpse into the couple’s hardscrabble past as pickers at a massive landfill.

True/False Film Fest 2010: Restrepo, Familia, and It Felt Like a Kiss

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True/False Film Fest 2010: <em>Restrepo</em>, <em>Familia</em>, and <em>It Felt Like a Kiss</em>
True/False Film Fest 2010: <em>Restrepo</em>, <em>Familia</em>, and <em>It Felt Like a Kiss</em>

[Click here to read the second dispatch.]

“Thanks to our incredible volunteers, who are getting drunker as the day goes on but still doing an incredible job.” That intro—I forget for which film—was right on both parts: the 600 strong volunteers of True/False surely make a lot of things possible, even if they were all drinking (one of the big venues has a full bar) to while away the tedium of passing out queue tickets. (Special points for inventiveness to the man who stayed in character as Captain Jack Sparrow. He had the swaying walk down and everything.)

But, arguably, the main thing that makes True/False so unspeakably awesome is that they do not care about premieres. At all. Without a doubt, the premiere culture is one of the worst aspects of any festival that can’t get any good ones but still wants their red carpet moment. It’s always some kind of damn mediocre ensemble drama starring Glenn Close or someone, and it always fades into oblivion, and it’s pernicious.

The True/False guys—by which I mean festival heads David Wilson and Paul Sturtz—clearly don’t care about any of this, which is fantastic. (What’s even better is that the Secret Screenings—an idiocy necessary to preserve the “premiere status” of terrific films—are really, really good. The one I saw has the potential to be one of the Films Of The Year. I hope more people pay attention when it’s officially “premiered” or whatever. You get the feeling even if they had premiere status, they wouldn’t abuse it.) What they’ve constructed is a micro-festival that offers a strong personal voice and an argument (roughly, form matters just as much as the polemic, and your righteousness alone will not save you). This is a micro-fest done right.

OK. Let’s wrap up these films.