Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jimmy P, These Birds Walk and In Bloom

My last three Melbourne International Film Festival movies of 2013 were an intense selection, but maybe more to do with the fact that I had seen 10 already in quick succession!

Jimmy P
Inspired by a true story, Benico Del Toro plays an Native American who has returned from war and is experiencing a host of symptoms connected to a head injury. Admitted to a psychiatric facility by his concerned and frightened sister, it’s determined that there is nothing physically wrong, nor mating a full psychiatric criteria wrong, but something is amiss nonetheless. The hospital calls on anthropologist George Devereux to treat Jimmy’s condition, who has been out of favour, and is pretty eccentric. Devereux has a deep interest and body of work within Native American culture, and his language and learning process is fascinating to watch.

The sessions take on a journey for both men, and the film has you the viewer eavesdrop on the exploration of past, of dreams and intimate thoughts, and works through realisations, reframing and mental processing. The exploration of trauma and significant events, and the impact of racial discrimination, is powerful and gentle. Engaging in a mixture of curiosity and concern, this film is a study of who therapy could be when it is good and meaningful, and allowed the time to follow it’s own path.

These Birds Walk
I wonder whether MIFF fatigue with so many movies in one week impacted on my engagement with These Birds Walk, or whether my Social Work and International Development accountability background kicked in to overdrive and tainted my ability to just watch without judgement. This is a documentary bringing the work of the Edhi Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan to our screens – showing the man behind the organisation and shelter for children – which Wikipedia describes as the biggest welfare agency in the country. The film shows us the children who find themselves there – some runaways, some street kids, some kids who got lost, or were kicked out of home. It also shows us the work of the drivers of the ambulances of Edhi, who pick up the kids from the streets and bring them to the shelter, but of course they also need to balance this work with the need to make a living through morgue transportation and medical transport jobs. These are the staff members also responsible for returning the children in the shelter back to their families, and this is where my concerns are based.

We see a happy reunion, where an extended family receives their lost son back through one of these returns, and all seems well. But we also see one child returned to a dangerous area, to a family where the uncle states boldly to the camera that he would rather not have the child back. This boy exhibited serious stress and anxiety symptoms upon learning he was to be returned home, and the whole journey back and reunion is an uncomfortable watch.

In a world where accountability and assessment, and monitoring is so crucial, particularly to charities which pull donor monies in from so many different places, the level of care needs to be better. Safety of the child needs to be considered. Someone needs to check on the situation before this kind of child return is completed. This depiction of such a charity was disturbing and alarming.

I don’t want to belittle the work Edhi does because clearly this is just one little snapshot of their work, and further research outlines extensive medical support services in a country that needs so much, but these kind of practices bother me. There is a real need for care and accountability here, to the children that need protection and safety.

The documentary also spends time showing the kids as they stay at Edhi, playing, fighting, figuring out rank and little power balances, as any group of kids thrown together would. Some lovely moments of bonding and care, some painful displays of bullying and hazing. Altogether, an unsettling film and a glimpse into the difficulties of programs in countries where there are few regulations.

In Bloom
In Bloom was my final film for MIFF, and was a tale that made me despair for girls and young women in so many oppressive cultures the world over. Set in Georgia, the story follows a group of school aged girls trying to get through school, the ups and downs of being a teen in an adult world.

Complications in life come from boys, and a gun. A very early marriage changes everything, and teenage affection leads to tragedy.

This was another gem on the MIFF program by a female director from a land where women have such limited freedoms, and yet have such strong character.

Oh my word, I love MIFF, and the huge range of stories it brings to Melbourne for the two weeks in Winter.

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