The 58th SF Intl Film Festival: Day 10 – Hajooj Kuka’s “Beats of the Antonov” and Lucie Borleteau’s “Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey”

Fidelio_Alices_Journey_01Having to, or should I say “wanting to” commit a big chunk of my weekend to both my band (#VulgarTrade) and my significant other (#wife), as well as get some much-needed pinball time in, I wound up only seeing two movies between Friday and Sunday, a great documentary from Sudan, and a not so great, but very easy on the eyes titillating drama from France.

Beats of the Antonov

Beats_of_the_Antonov_01Are you familiar with the term “food porn”? It’s used to describe movies that heavily feature the photographing of food. In that same vein I’d like to offer up the term “musical instrument porn”, something Hajooj Kuka‘s debut feature is choc full of. Whether plucked, smacked, blown into, or even worn, the various ways in which the Sudanese people were shown expressing themselves through their handmade instruments was enthralling to say the least. However, as infectious as these spirited songs were, and as cool as their instruments may have been, what’s not so cool is the constant and very real threat of violence surrounding these musical people. For those of you who don’t know, Sudan is at war and everyone in the Country is effected by it, including the main focus of this documentary, the people of the Blue Nile region. Not only are their lives at risk every day but more importantly so is there very unique culture and identity, as was made apparent via some very tense scenes of gunfire exchange and dead bodies.

Well shot and well edited (both done by Kuka as well), Beats makes for one harrowing an eye opening experience, one I will not forget anytime soon. Now if I can somehow get my hands on the soundtrack…


Remaining showtimes for Beats of the Antonov: Monday, May 4th, 6:30pm (PFA – Berkeley)

Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey

Fidelio_Alices_Journey_02“What happens at sea, stays at sea”, as is the motto of the very sexual Alice in Lucie Borleteau‘s coming-of-agematurity drama, Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey. The trouble is, it doesn’t.

This is the story of what happens when an unfaithful person is confronted with her promiscuous ways. And although the setting may be unique, shot mostly on a giant container ship with scattered mainland scenes here and there, and the story’s POV may be refreshing, that of a female in a male dominated cinematic landscape, in the end I didn’t really find it to go anywhere exciting (not counting the sex scenes of course, for which there are plenty). Nor did it go anywhere non-exciting for that matter. It just sort of – here come the apt metaphors – drifts, or sits there like an anchored ship as if it’s afraid of navigating its undercurrent subject matter. For instance, there’s the whole idea being put forth of double standards in the sexes, like why is it not as socially acceptable for women to brag about their sexual conquests as it is for men, etc., but other than a conversation here or there, there really isn’t that much weight given to this idea of sexist hypocrisy. Instead the focus lies more on a woman coming to terms with what it is she wants out of love. The results of this aspect of the story which is at the heart of the movie I found to be just plan blah.

Okay, the movie wasn’t a total dud though. Due to its setting there are plenty of beautiful widescreen cinematography on display to marvel at, and DP Simon Beaufils, whose past credits include Human Capital (2013) and The Intouchables (2011) seems to be having himself a field day while exploring all these many possibilities one would have when framing something so small as a boat on something so vast as the ocean. Also, the film proved to be kinda educational, as I learned all about what a Chinese Dragon is. Hint, it’s not what you think it is, unless it is, in that case you already know the benefits of wearing nose plugs during sex.



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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival


  1. The 58th SF Intl Film Festival: Day 12 – Shira Piven’s “Welcome to Me” | - May 6, 2015

    […] though the movie was kind of a dud, running into Hajooj Kuka (director of the excellent documentary Beats of the Antonov) was not. After praising the man for making such a great film I then challenged him to a quick game […]

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