DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Sundance 2014 - Day One Wrap-Up

Saturday 18 January 2014

Sundance 2014 - Day One Wrap-Up

The Kristen Stewart starrer Camp X-Ray highlights a light load on this first day. Also included below are capsules for two other fine films Liar's Dice and The Overnighters.

Camp X-Ray (dir . Peter Sattler)

How can a naive female private Guantanamo Bay guard find common ground with a suspected Al Quaida terrorist? Hollywood can make that happen. Well maybe this isn't a Hollywood picture but Peter Sattler vision steers the film in a Hollywood direction without losing its indie cred.  Payman Maadi (A Separation) and Kristen Stewart square off admirably and make equal adversaries and partners. Sattler moves naturally from tension, humour, and genuine heartwarming fraternal emotion ultimately arriving at a controversy free prison film about the most controversial prison in the world. Sattler might just get slapped on the wrist for not taking enough of a stance on the injustices or immorality of detaining these prisoners, but he's able to make a prison film accessible and commercial which aids in any kind of cause. Handsome cinematography, intelligent and expertly crafted dialogue are juicey material for Maadi and Stewart. The fact is, a naive wide eyed but introspective soldier is the ideal role for Stewart's staid acting style. And Maadi riding two lauded Asghar Farhardi roles is a natural playing an intellectual but manipulative Muslim prisoner. Unique musical accompaniment and handsome cinematography create an impressive total package.

Liar's Dice (dir. Geetu Mohandas)

A low rent digital aesthetic result in a nimble ability of the director to put us into the harrowing journey of an unlikely trio bonded by their desire to connect with their lost loved ones. Well if you count the goat it's a foursome. Kamala and her daughter embark from their snow capped home in northern India to find Kamala's husband who has not been answering her cell phone calls after five months away from home trying to earn some money. His disappearance is not uncommon in India according to the postscript. Did he find another woman and leave his family? Did the city life of Delhi corrupt him, or worse has he been victim to the prevalent violence of the nation? This mystery simmers underneath the delicate and precarious relationship of Kamala and Nawazuddin  the wandering journeyman who guides her across the country. Nawazuddin Siddiqui's performance as a surly and money grubbing third world capitalist carries the film. Think a Hindi speaking Michael Douglas from Romancing the Stone but also a man holding deep emotional baggage as painful as Kamala's. The journey while visually vivid it's the uncompromising anti-dramatic realism which resonates most.

The Overnighters (dir. Jesse Moss)

This unassuming documentary premiering in the US doc competition program packs a wallop. In Williston North Dakota lives Pastor Jay Reinke, caring and selfless to the core, a man who since the oil boom in the region harbours migrants from out of town looking for work. Director Moss masterfully constructs the narrative with a number of unexpected turns, revealing a trajectory for Pastor Jay unexpected treacherous and which packs a wallop at the end.

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