Wednesday, 16 January 2013

BETWEEN BOUNDARIES - THE SHORT FILMS OF IGOR DRLJACA including: "The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar" (TIFF 2011 TOP 10, CSA - Canadian Screen Award Nominee for Best Short Documentary), "Battery Powered Duckling", "Mobile Dreams", "On a Lonely Drive" and "Woman in Purple" - Review By Greg Klymkiw

Igor Drljaca's Krivina is one of the most important films about identity and war made during the past 20 years. That it's a debut feature is even more extraordinary. Before Krivina (Klymkiw Film Corner TEN BEST LIST and Klymkiw's TOP TEN CANADIAN FILMS) begins its theatrical run at Toronto's Royal Cinema on January 25 via Stacey Donen's newly unveiled and more-necessary-than-ever film distribution company College Street Pictures, I hereby DEMAND that you RUN, DO NOT WALK to a screening of Between Boundaries: The Short Films Of Igor Drljaca playing at the Royal January 17, 2013 at 7pm. Tickets are available at the door for $5 smackers. It'll be the best fin you've parted with in a long time.

The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar ****
(2011) dir. Igor Drljaca

Mobile Dreams ****
(2008) dir. Igor Drljaca

On a Lonely Drive ****
(2009) dir. Igor Drljaca

Woman in Purple ****
(2010) dir. Igor Drljaca

Battery Powered Duckling ***
(2006) dir. Igor Drljaca

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Given the fact that our screens are inundated with American propaganda all connected in one way or the other with war - one great (Zero Dark Thirty), one neither here nor there (Lincoln), one mediocre (ARGO) and the latter two being ludicrously overrated - the appearance of Sarajevo-born Canadian filmmaker Igor Drljaca and his extraordinary work couldn't be coming at a better time.

Drljaca was a child during the Bosnian War of 1992 and fled to Canada with his family. Always artistically inclined, he studied film at Toronto's York University and created an impressive body of work prior to shooting his first feature Krivina.

Given his own personal experiences, it's no surprise that the work on display in this program of short films focuses upon the effects of war upon children - works that are filtered through memory and often presented with healthy dollops of actual footage of the war in Bosnia.

There is, of course, an astounding tradition of cinema that deals with children during wartime and in terms of exposing the utter idiocy of war, what always strikes me is how war affects the innocent - adults, yes - but children even more. Children somehow represent an eternal hope for the future and to see depictions of their innocence stripped from them by the greed and stupidity of people who should know better is heart-wrenching.

Some of the great works include Rene Clement's Forbidden Games with a tiny Brigitte Fossey searching for family, any family, after watching her own family gunned down, Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants, the autobiographical portrait of his tragically shortened friendship with a young Jewish boy and last, but not least, Steven Spielberg's greatest film, Empire of the Sun, the adaptation of J.G. Ballard's autobiographical novel which features a very young Christian Bale as a child who goes - quite literally - insane during the Japanese occupation of China.

Drljaca continues this tradition with his own unique style - a strange blend of Neo-realism with the sheer poetic power he shares with many Central and Eastern European filmmakers - most notably Alexander Dovzhenko and Sergei Paradjanov. Drljaca's work is infused with a purity, if you will, of poetic realism.

The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar is considered to be a documentary portrait of Drljaca's experiences during the outbreak of the Bosnian War, but it's crafted with such exquisite attention to narrative detail that until the final credits, I thought I had been watching an astounding recreation of home movie footage blending real video footage from the war.

It's not, but it might as well be, because the footage Drljaca uses plunges the picture into some mighty cool post-modernist territory.

The simple tale involves a young boy who receives a school assignment to paint a picture representing the coming of spring. He runs out of the proper paint and uses what he has. He's dissatisfied with his work because he fears the picture will now represent the Fall. He spends the entire Spring Break worrying about displeasing his teacher and receiving a poor mark.

And then, war strikes and the film veers into territory that will move you beyond words. There's one shot on the street after a massive shelling in the boy's neighbourhood that's as devastating as an early moment in Clement's Forbidden Games. Realizing that this is a documentary, using actual footage, it is an image that would have haunted me anyway. but knowing it's the real thing, puts it on another level altogether.

The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar is playing with four other Drljaca shorts.

Mobile Dreams features some of Drljaca's stunningly composed long takes in this profoundly moving tale of an old couple who fit each other like a glove in spite of their seeming non-communicative relationship. When the old man brings his wife a gift that will presumably keep them in touch, the inevitable amusingly and touchingly takes place.

On a Lonely Drive will rip your guts out. It depicts a lonely drive, indeed, just after a domestic altercation and, with tragic results.

Woman in Purple opens with a stunning shot of high rise buildings full of shell and bullet holes. It's post war and Drljaca follows the J.G. Ballard-like adventures of an orphaned boy who engages in criminal activity - seeking freedom through illicit means, but also struggling for dignity. Yet another perfect short that will knock you on your ass.

Battery Powered Duckling is a clever, ambitious dystopian SF drama. It's always engaging and while not quite as accomplished as the others, you'll recognize Drljaca's burgeoning style and wonder if a feature length version will ever exist.