El Laberinto Marroquí (The Moroccan Labyrinth)

90 min., Spain-Morocco, dir. Julio Sánchez Veiga

An excellent documentary showing the political complexities in northern Morocco after Spain lost Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States in 1898. Sánchez Veiga reveals the colonial conflict as the Spanish military attempt to conquer the territory and how this eventually led to the bloody Spanish Civil War. Using Moroccan combatants, who joined Francisco Franco´s Falangist movement to escape famine and poverty, the "African militarists¨launched a revolt in 1936 against the Spanish Republic. Very interesting archival footage of propaganda films, interviews with the Moroccan combatants who fought under Franco, and leading international historians. What struck me the most in this film were the interviews with the elderly Moroccans who fought in the Civil War, expressing their disappointment with Franco, because they were sent back to Morocco right after Franco´s victory, with no pension and no medical benefits, particularly for those who were wounded during the war.


Letter to a Child

100 min., Slovenia, dir. Vlado Skafar

Although this documentary has profound insights on the eternal questions of life, love and loss, I found it a bit long for a documentary. I also felt that the filmmaker needed to focus more on a certain topic rather than jump from one theme to another. I didn't see any connection between the "letter to a child" and all the interviews with different people, from children to octogenarians, interviews that were redundant and interspersed as the letter was being read. There were some scenes that somewhat redeemed this documentary from total collapse. I was intrigued by the interview of a couple whose teenage children died in accidents one after the other, and how the father recounts that in the the diary of the daughter, she had predicted her oncoming death. Technically, the use of blackouts and the long takes, many of which were wobbly as the camera wasn't held steadily, needed more editing.

Island of Dreams

83 min., Japan, dir. Tsuta Tetsuichiro

This 25-year old filmmaker, in his notes, says "I want to become a roll of film". He goes against the mainstream of digital moviemaking and goes back to the old-fashioned analog technology of editing negatives and film printing in this film. Even his style goes back to early 20th century filmmaking: cinemascope sized images, exaggerated orchestral scores, scratchy images, muffled sounds--all part of the way Japanese film was done in the 60s. However, the topic is contemporary: eco-terrorism. The story is quite interesting: an employee who works on an artificial island in Tokyo made of trash called "Dream Island" becomes a terrorist bomber. The way the filmmaker handles the storyline is quite intriguing, and I do applaud his unique approach to returning to the way film should perhaps be executed, although I don't think it's going to happen because it's a lot of work, and only very rare, dedicated filmmakers like this one would do it.

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© 2009 Ed Farolan