Part I: Movies—A Political Thriller and a Doc

This year, because our daughter Dee stayed for a whole week rather than a long weekend, I was able to go to five of the movies at the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF). Usually I am on dog duty as Clif and Dee start going to movies at noon and don’t come home until midnight. But because Dee stayed longer, the movies on their ten-pass were spread out, meaning they weren’t gone as long on some of the days. Hence, I,  too, could go on those days.

Each year, MIFF features nearly 100 films so picking out five movies is no easy task. However, I am happy to report that the five I picked were all very much worth seeing, and readers who are movie buffs might want to add them to their “to be seen” list.

Therefore, today and tomorrow, I’m going to post brief descriptions of the movies I saw, in the order in which they were viewed.

The Nile Hilton Incident
Sweden/Denmark/Germany 2017—106 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

This is a dark, political thriller set in Cairo during the time of the tumultuous 2011 revolution. The story follows Noredin (Fares Fares), a world-weary, corrupt detective who accepts bribes as casually and frequently as he smokes cigarettes. When a nightclub singer is murdered, and it’s clear the crime was committed by those in power, Noredin decides this is a line he can’t cross, despite his corrupt ways. While there are no true heroes in the film—the system degrades and punishes everyone at some level—Noredin, in the end, acts with bravery and compassion. With his magnificent nose and melancholy face, Fares Fares brings sympathy to a hard-edged, self-destructive character. The movie also shows—but never preaches—how government does indeed matter and how the bad ones pretty much make life impossible for ordinary citizens.

Lives Well Lived
U.S.A. 2017—72 Minutes
In English

This documentary came about as the director, Sky Bergman, started filming her ninety-nine-year-old grandmother as she cooked. Then Bergman began filming her grandmother at the gym “because I thought, no one will believe that my grandmother is still working out. I asked her if she could give me a few words of wisdom, and that was the beginning of this adventure.”

From there, as she approached her fiftieth birthday, Bergman became interested in the graying of America. On the film’s website she writes, “My grandmother was my guide for how to gracefully move through life and how to age with dignity, strength, and humor.”  Bergman wanted to find and film other people who were aging but who were still vital, creative, and engaged with the world.

And this she does, creating a film that is optimistic, inspiring, and moving. Many of the people profiled in the film suffered through dark times—through the Holocaust, through poverty, through racial discrimination, and imprisonment. Yet their resilient personalities somehow allowed them to not only survive but also to thrive.

If this doc comes anywhere near you, do not hesitate. Go see it.

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