Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back to Cleveland Film Festival blogging

Although a squealing noise from underneath the hood of my car added some drama to the trip to Cleveland this morning, the vehicle is driving fine. It's a good thing because I got up early to swing by the local auto mechanic's shop and get a more expert diagnosis of the problem (and if it needed to be worked on immediately). They're closed for the week--vacation, I guess--so my fingers are crossed that it isn't a big deal.

So I'm back at the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival inhaling films like a sprinter sucks down air after a race. So far today I've seen A WONDERFUL NIGHT IN SPLIT, a Croatian film whose title must be intended as irony because watching this dreadful movie is anything but wonderful. The film is set on New Year's Eve and tells three stories which occur from the same 10:00 p.m. to midnight window. There are incidental overlaps among the three stories, not that the connections add anything. Each story concerns drugs. There's a man leaving for Munich to complete a narcotics sale, a woman in desperate need of a fix who prostitutes herself to score some dope, and a young couple seeking somewhere for her to lose her virginity, an experience heightened by dropping acid. Some nice black and white cinematography aside, A WONDERFUL NIGHT IN SPLIT wallows in the misfortunes of these characters without anything interesting to say about them or their situations.

A nice change of pace was THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET, a documentary whose primary focus is the start up of a Bangladeshi version of the educational children's TV show. SESAME STREET and its offshoots air in more than 120 countries. The Children's Television Workshop is sensitive to charges of cultural imperialism and go to great effort to ensure that the international versions of the program are tailored to specific cultural needs and customs. It's fascinating to see how the Bangladesh production company with whom they've partnered runs with the SESAME STREET model and make it their own, all the while uncertain if the government will approve of the show for the single state-run network.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET also visits Kosovo for the genesis of two versions of the show. The challenge of mounting the show is increased with ethnic strife between Kosovar Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, who are united in wishing to educate the children but are still wary of the other side because of the violent history and current events between them. This section of the film is a little underdeveloped, but it shows a different struggle in producing the show.

The documentary highlights how these various SESAME STREETS are made with the best of intentions to educate children who otherwise may receive little or no schooling. It's an extraordinary endeavor but one that appears to be well worth the tremendous difficulties faced in bringing them to air.

I have four more films on tap for tonight but should get out of Tower City Center before midnight, which will be nice. Maybe I can even catch the tail end of an NCAA game at the hotel. More later when time permits.

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