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Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Grandma's Village (2007)

Director: Dragana Zarevska
My favourite No Festival Required screening of the year is always the selection of short films shown at the Phoenix Art Museum. Here's Selection 2011.
Unfortunately the longest piece in Selection 2011 was the least interesting to me, not because of it the story it told but because it didn't seem able to find a focus. The title refers to the village of Babino in Macedonia (Yugoslav Macedonia not Greek Macedonia), which is populated entirely by grandmas, fifteen of them, who live in relative solitude. The only descriptions that I've managed to find online suggest that filmmaker Dragana Zarevska aimed at a cinematic poem in honour of these women, but if so, it's in free verse. She did capture some character, both of the grandmas and the town itself, but a generous eighteen minutes of running time didn't leave me with either a consistent message or tone. For a while it seemed to be a sinister piece, with talk of witches and curses, footage of a stalking black cat and sped up reenactments of stories. Yet the women seem normal and characterful. Why the suggestion otherwise?

There are some good scenes. I enjoyed the ones where Zarevska sat down on a wall with a trio of grannies who simply talked, not about anything in particular but just to talk. What we get out of this is a good deal of character and humour, these old women in their isolated village able to make the young filmmaker laugh. Unfortunately this is as inconsistent within the film as a whole as anything else within it, some scenes engaging, others apparently superfluous. What I found most engrossing were the textures of an old village, from the architecture, which is worn, to the techniques these grannies use in their everyday lives. It was interesting to watch people in this modern day creating and dying fabric and dusting a mule. It was also fascinating to see the culture clash evident as they discover what a modern video camera can do. These scenes of different worlds connecting could easily have been the focus of the film. Sadly they weren't.

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