Fireflies

As night descends on Rio de Janiero, the fireflies come out. Equally beautiful are the nocturnal inhabitants of Flamingo Park. There they pray, bathe, and make love beneath the moonlight.

The nightlife of a city always represents its unseen self, the truth we deny in ourselves in the bright light of day, beneath the righteous judgement of how we should be. Ironic then that castigated to the dark should be scenes so reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Naked and unashamed, queer men cruise the avenues of trees. With kindness and care towards animals, a woman pushing a shopping trolley distributes food to the city’s stray cats. An old man prays to the traditional gods, giving thanks for the trees that surround him.

A beautiful film, showing what is often unseen, but in its own way holy.

Love, Dad

One of my favourites of the festival.

Breathtakingly honest to the point of being painfully vulnerable, Diana Nguyen confronts the heartbreak at the centre of her and her father’s relationship. She rediscovers a cache of letters her father sent her when she was a child. He was in prison when she was young, but they wrote back and forth all the time, telling each other about their day, and being open about the things that mattered to them. Despite the physical distance, Diana felt supported, loved and seen.

That changed when he got out of prison. He seemed driven by the need to have a son, and after her mother had three miscarriages, he abandoned the family. He now has a new family, back in Vietnam, with a son, and doesn’t keep in touch with his daughter.

While her father is Vietnamese, Diana is Czech, and she doesn’t understand the hold the old traditions had over him, the idea that if he didn’t bear a son, he would be responsible for the end of his bloodline. The whole film takes the form of a letter, as Diana attempts to comprehend his choice, despite the obvious pain it causes her.

The visuals of the film are made up of these old letters, old family photos and videos. While I normally wouldn’t recommend collage animation and mixed media films for everyone, this is one I definitely would, because it is the most fitting match of media and subject, and while creative, its meaning remains perfectly clear.

The legacy of a love interrupted is laid bare in this brave and intimate film.

If you like this…

A Present Light

A depressed insomniac is driving in the rain at night when a tall, buxom woman in a glittering evening dress calls out, “Beware of the slippery road – it’s dangerous!” He comes off his moped, and so begins the start of tentative but nurturing friendship.

Diana is the woman. Despite her flashy dress and her ample frame, she is surprisingly gentle and tender. She visits him in the hospital, mending his torn up clothes. I like how the film doesn’t just expect us to assume that Diana is kind, like so many films just expect you to think well of the main character. We see Diana howf Goncalo’s moped up 4 flights of stairs to her flat, to keep it safe. When she scrapes the bannister, we see her go back and paint over the scratch using her nail varnish. In this small unnoticed act, you see her consideration for others.

Goncalo’s more stand-offish. Previous to coming off his bike, he had visited his therapist in the middle of the night, who fed him a sleeping pill for his insomnia. It’s probably that which made him come off his bike, but given his state of mind, it’s possible it wasn’t entirely an accident. He feels quite closed in his early interactions with Diana.

Slowly as they begin their friendship, after Goncalo leaves hospital, they bring a hope and companionship to one another’s lives. A straightforward and tender story.