Berlinale Forum 2011 – Osmdesát dopisu | Eighty Letters


Osmdesát dopisu | Eighty Letters
Director: Václav Kadrnka
Czech Republic 2011
Cast: Zuzana Lapčíková, Martin Pavluš, Gerald Turner, Andrea Miltner, Martin Vrtáček, Radoslav Šopík, František Březík, Vlastimil Homola, Hana Březíková, Katze Oskar

The most gorgeous, luminous film I’ve seen this year. Every shot is a masterpiece. A film essay on the interface of aesthetics and humanity, composition and the human experience.

A boy searches for his mother in the early morning commute. Mother and son want to go to the UK to reunite with the father who has emigrated there ahead of them.

A lesson in attentive observation. A most closely observed sound design. The scratching of a pen.

A mother’s perfectly organized file. “If they throw me out one door, I’ll come in another.”

Two brilliant actors playing mother and son, maestro Zuzana Lapčíková and the genius Martin Pavluš. Re-creating the great silent film actors. Falconetti.

Two moments of score as the past comes alive – Arvo Pärt. Accompanying old classroom photo, and letters the two read together.

“It’s always the details that take roots in your memory, never the whole.”

Re-creation of documents and journal must have been a formidable task.

Read the Forum essay.

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Halaw | Ways of the Sea


Halaw | Ways of the Sea
Director: Sheron Dayoc
Philippines 2010
Tagalog, Sama, Tausug, Cebuano
Cast: Romeo John Arcilla, Maria Isabel Lopez, Arnalyn Ismael

The film opens with a call from the Malaysian Border patrol – “Turn around or we will fire on you.” Running through forest, avoiding gunfire. Carrying all that you have, hoping your baby stops crying.

In his directorial debut, Sheron Dayoc researched this tale of human trafficking as a documentary, and realized it as a feature film. The story of illegal migration from Mindanao, the southernmost island group in the Philippines, to Malaysia is little known even in Manila.

The plot is simple and proven, from Canterbury Tales to John Ford’s Stagecoach to Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. Strangers brought together for a journey. Human trafficker Hernand rounds up his candidates for the trip to Malaysia. A beautiful, time-worn prostitute who has already made the crossing numerous times. Two sisters who are looking for their mother, who has disappeared without a trace in Malaysia. A little girl and her older brother, who speak a different language than the others.

It’s what you do with the material. Unforgettable.

Read the Forum essay.

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Territoire perdu | Lost Land


Territoire perdu | Lost Land
Director: Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd
France, Belgium 2011

A 2,400 km wall cuts across the western Sahara, built by Morocco to contain the Sahrawi – once nomads, now condemned to immobility. More than a hundred thousand people who have been forgotten. The destruction of millennia of indigenous knowledge in a generation.

Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s revelatory documentary opens with camels behind a fence. Herodotus wrote of these camels and their keepers. In the 40 years that the Sahrawi have been living in camps, their nomadic knowledge of the desert has disappeared except in a few surviving old people.

Chased off their land when Morocco demanded possession of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, the Sahrawi refugees have been forgotten by the world. The last chapter in a trilogy that began with Le Cercle des noyés and Les Dormants, Territoire perdu literally brings them back to light.

Read the Forum essay.

Berlinale Forum 2011 – El Mocito


El mocito | The Young Butler
Directors: Marcela Said, Jean de Certeau
Chile 2011

A man alone, living in a lonely cabin in the hills. We learn he was an unwilling participant at DINA extermination center. A 14-year-old boy who wasn’t allowed to finish primary education.

“Since I have grown, I have realized this was wrong.”

He demonstrates his duties in detail in an empty detention center. Bringing coffee during torture sessions. He describes the slow death of a pregnant woman.

From the directors:

Our purpose in making this film is to get to know the “monster,” to confront my own fears, and those of a whole society. To get to know the “monster,” not in order to judge him but to try to understand. To get to know his surroundings, his family, his daily life. To tell his story from the present, the banal. I hope to help people to reflect on these complex realities.

El mocito is a powerful first feature-length documentary from Marcela Said and Jean de Certeau.

Read the Forum essay.

Calling for a Global Ban on Asbestos


LaDou J, Castleman B, Frank A, et al. The case for a global ban on asbestos. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jul;118(7):897-901. PubMed PMID: 20601329

Although asbestos is banned in 52 countries, many countries still use, import, and export asbestos, often in the form of chrysotile asbestos, which is often exempted from the ban. Investigators from The Collegium Ramazzini examine and evaluate the literature used to support the exemption of chrysotile asbestos from the ban, review the evidence regarding asbestos as a carcinogen, and renew their call for all countries to ban the mining, manufacture, and use of all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile.

Read the full text via PubMed.