NZ IFF 2020 Day 3

A shorter slate today. While watching the festival at home has drawbacks, notably the plethora of distractions, it does save a fortune on snack food.

The Unknown Saint

The film opens in the Morrocan desert with a thief fleeing the police; as his car breaks down he is forced to abandon any hope of escape, and hides is bag of cash in a shallow hole that he piles up rocks and a headstone to make look like a grave. We cut to his release from prison. When he makes his way back to the hill, he is apalled to discover that a mausoleum has been erected over the fake grave of what locals have decided must be saint; along with the shrine a whole village has arrived to attend to the pilgrims who come seeking healing.

It’s a great setup for a film that cuts between the slapstick comedy of the hapless thief attempting to retrieve his ill-gotten gains, the social commentary on, and satire of, village life and desperation in an arid backwater, with small farmers torn between trying to work their barren lands and the easier life around the shrine, gender dynamics, and the tension between modern and age-old practises.

A witty, well-made, and generally affectionate film, any mockery is gentle and from a place of love. Well worth the watch.

Los miembros de la familia / Family Members

A simple and enjoyable slice of life, this film concerns two siblings who are reunited in small-town Argentina by the need to finalise the affairs of the recently-deceased mother. Their different paths and personalities - Lucas is a rather socially naive gym rat and Brazillian Jiu Jitsu enthusiast, while Gilda has packed a ton of sex, drugs, tarot, and parties in her life already - sets up a friction as they unpick both their relationship and their mother’s life, while working out how they’ll spend their lives together.

What starts off as a one-day-and-done exercise is drawn out as a bus strike strands them together without much in the way of money or existing relationships. There’s no big bad, no grand goal, no great revelation, just two people working through their lives. A solid, well-made, well-acted film that I thoroughly enjoyed.