Thursday’s MIFF program included My Country, My Country, a documentary that followed Sunni doctor, Dr Riyadh in the build up to the 2005 Iraqi elections. Dr Riyadh runs for a place in the new government and the film shows him to be a compassionate, clear headed and even tempered man. We see him in his practice doing GP type stuff : sore throats, stiff necks, issuing prescriptions and on one occasion giving money to a woman so that she can feed her family as her husband had run off to fight with guerillas and provided no income. We see the doctor down at Abu Ghraib prison speaking with men and boys from beyond the razor wire, taking down their particulars before making an appointment to speak to the American military on their behalf.
With Fallujah sequestered at the time of the election and bombs falling all around the city, many Sunni’s do not vote on election day and Dr Riyadh scores a paltry 21,000 votes (compared with the millions of votes recorded elsewhere). He does not go to vote himself, disappointed and disgusted with the turn of events in his country.
A small highlight of the film is his wife and teenage daughters who do go to vote and come back brandishing their inked fingers with cheeky remarks like, “You have to pay others to vote for you but we voted for you for free !” There is a sense that Iraqis are proud of having been able to vote in a fair election but the number killed in the ongoing violence is over 100,000 with no likelihood of it stopping soon.
The Nine Lives of Korean Cinema was a French documentary that covered the renaissance of Korean film, both North and South since the Japanese tried to wipe out Korean culture during their occupation between 1905 to 1945. While both Koreas are fairly conservative countries with censors influencing very heavily what could and could not be shown, South Korea has relaxed its rules in the last 10 to 15 years and this has produced a current crop of filmmakers whose work I enjoy, for example, Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron, Spring, Summer, Autumn , Winter, … and Spring) and Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance : next week at MIFF).
Referring as I was to Kim Ki-duk, Margaret and David reviewed this week 3-Iron which is gaining a cinematic release in Australia. I saw this film at MIFF 12 months ago and would not have hesitated in awarding it 5 stars. It is a wonderfully tender love story, some bursts of violence and very little dialogue (and absolutely none from the main actor).