By Bryce J. Renninger | feelingsoblahg.blogspot.com March 2, 2010 at 7:59AM
Starting tomorrow, with the opening night screening of "Alamar," Fort Greene's Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will host a series of films from the 2010 International Film Festival Rotterdam's Tiger Awards lineup through their repertory arm, BAMcinématek. BAMcinématek's Program Director Florence Almozini says of the collaboration, “The Tigers have a strong focus on diversity and discovery. They are geographically diverse, and diverse in terms of genre and style. They are alternative, non-commercial films from uncompromising filmmakers. We have a really great audience for them here in Brooklyn. They are open-minded, ready to discover new horizons in cinema, and happy to take a chance on films they know nothing about. Our audience is extremely supportive, enthusiastic and grateful to have access to more than just the regular Hollywood fare.” The New York Times' Stephen Holden calls the BAM series "a groundbreaking collaboration between a respected European film festival and an American institution."
This year's winners of the VPRO Tiger Awards were “Agua fría de mar” (“Cold Water of the Sea”) by Paz Fábrega (Costa Rica, France, Spain, Netherlands, Mexico), “Mundane History” (“Jao nok krajok”) by Anocha Suwichakornpong (Thailand), and “Alamar” (“To the Sea”) by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio (Mexico). The Tiger Awards honor films from first- or second-time filmmakers. Past winners of the Tiger award include Christopher Nolan, Kelly Reichardt, and Hong Sang-soo.
By far the most buzzed-about film of the three winners, Gonzalez-Rubio's "Alamar" ("To the Sea") will open the series at BAM tomorrow night. "Pedro González-Rubio’s 'Alamar' depicts the oceanic idyll of Jorge, a Mexican fisherman and his 5-year-old son, Natan, whom Jorge takes to a coral reef where he teaches him the ways of the sea, before the boy goes to live with his mother, Roberta, in Italy," starts The New York Times's Stephen Holden. He continues, "Because the characters’ names are identical to those of the actors, 'Alamar' occupies the shadowy area between documentary and feature film...most touchingly, the movie captures a primal father-son bond as Jorge, who suggests a hippie Tarzan, passes his knowledge and skills on to the next generation."
Hammer to Nail's Michael Tully describes the film as "a breathtaking little gem that is executed with such seeming effortlessness I was convinced it was a documentary. While it might be lazy—and not entirely accurate—to call it Malickian, Gonzalez-Rubio shows a similar reverence for nature that isn’t overly simplistic and hippified." On twitch, Peter van der Lugt concludes, "At the very end 'Alamar' lacks something hard to define be a real masterpiece, though in a true and honest way the film shows both the good fortune and tragedy of being a child with divorced parents. Perhaps it is a wish for more complexity, but on the other hand Alamar's simplicity is where it's strength lays. A very enjoyable work that explores themes of love and freedom, "Alamar" almost makes you smell the sea, the fish and... happiness."
Summing up "Agua fría de mar" ("Cold Water of the Sea"), Jay Weissberg says, "A family is vacationing at a campsite on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Fábrega evokes the beauty and mystery of the beach at night, where the unexpected emerges from darkness: Horseback riders holding lamps suddenly pass 7-year-old Karina (Montserrat Fernandez) and head back into the shadows. The child wanders away from her family and is found asleep by Mariana (Lil Quesada Morua) and her fiance, Rodrigo (Luis Carlos Bogantes). When she's awakened, Karina tells Mariana that her parents are dead, and that her uncle kisses her using his tongue. But viewers already know Karina's parents and three brothers are very much alive. The shockingly detailed piece of information acts as a virus, infecting audience perceptions even when everything says Karina is lying." He concludes, "Fábrega shows a marked talent and a fresh new voice able to achieve impressive results on a small budget."
"Male nurse Pun (Arkaney) moves into the household of Thanin (Paramej Noieam), to take care of his son Ake (Phakpoom Surapongsanurak), who is paralyzed from the waist down after an unspecified accident. Thanin is reticent, cordial and extremely distant. Ake reveals his resentment towards his father in small gestures of defiance. His attitude to Pun oscillates between rapport and irritation," describes The Hollywood Reporter's Maggie Lee. She concludes, however, "Critics and programmers of independent cinema should recognize her distinctive voice. But even an art house audience might conclude that the film is perplexing and abstract despite the simple story." In a similarly nonplussed but nuanced critique, Variety's Jay Weissberg says, "Calling the film 'Mundane History' is meant to draw attention to life's quotidian tasks, partly repeated through the shifts in time. But the helmer is wise enough not to push the concept too far. More of the father-son relationship would have helped, but the presence of the servants, who are allotted ample screen time, adds nice layers."
The three Tiger Award winners and eleven other feature films will screen with a shorts program at Rotterdam@BAM. For the entire Rotterdam@BAM lineup, visit the BAM site here.