Rock’s Report From The 58th SF Intl Film Festival: Raoul Peck’s “Murder in Pacot” and Jennifer Phang’s “Advantageous”

Murder in Pacot

Murder_in_Pacot_02A lot of the films I saw at this year’s festival have been first time watches made by already seasoned veterans of filmmaking, something I too will be one day. Murder in Pacot by Raoul Peck is one of those films. Quite honestly it surprised me. I mean it literally surprised me. Not only was it good, it was explosive, taut, provocative, rich with sub-text, and featured shot compositions that were both settling and unsettling at the same time. Here is a film that knows what it is doing and what it wants to say.

This film is about a rich family struggling to pick up the pieces amongst the impoverished nation of Haiti after the earthquake of 2005. The sub-text is finger licking good rich, especially with the white savior complex being challenged, the darker Haitian women being used for sex vs the lighter women having more morality, and the… well, there’s just so much more. I want to meet this director and just talk cinema with him because he did exactly what I am aiming to do, let the mind tell the story. This is one of my favorite films out of the festival and when it is released it should not be missed.



Advantageous_02Mm-hmm! I was telling someone before this screening about not writing too negative reviews because as filmmaker myself, and for those of you who frequent this site know, I can be quite apologetic when it comes to watching a bad movie. But on some trill spill I’m giving into temptation. But first the preliminaries.

Here is a film about an aging woman looking for the best way to provide a future for her daughter within the woman-less job market. It’s directed by Jennifer Phang who already has a series of films under her belt, but because I haven’t seen any of her past work I can only critique Advantageous on its own merits.

My biggest critique of this film is that it just felt forced. Through wasted screen time of extended shots, which as far as I could tell had no poetic influence other than to say it was a nicely shot, all of he character depth became lost. There is a great story in here somewhere but I don’t know who told these filmmakers that this was a good script, then again we in this country seem to have abandoned all love for the beauty of words and replaced it with some quick text lingo. What you wind up with are these trite, forced sentences that lack any degree of subtlety. Also some of the edits were out place, as if this was a student film (which I thought it was and garnered a delicious scathing revue, but alas this is a 10 vet) and every acting choice was out of place as well. A film with this rich of a potential story was truly lost in translation from its idea to the screen. There many chances for the movie to branch off to other storylines, but instead it choose to stay on one story, a choice that did not help its cause.

But alas, all was not lost. I did appreciate the all Asian cast and villainous white people (lol). I also truly did enjoy the themes covered on ageism, parental roles, gender roles, white beauty complex, self-esteem, religion, and especially how the lead was an older Asian woman without the stereotypes that often go with such a role. But even with all this it still falls flat. My final say on this film: I just didn’t believe.



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