By Simon Dang | The Playlist August 8, 2011 at 11:00AM
More, somewhat belated reviews from the Melbourne International Film Festival. Firstly, a return from director Joshua Marston who burst onto the scene with his 2004 drug-mule drama "Maria Full Of Grace" and went missing, other than a few television credits. A whole seven years later, Marston unveils "The Forgiveness Of Blood," a unique spin on a family drama genre which explores the phenomena of blood feuds in rural Albania. After an argument over a blocked path through one family's property leads to a violent confrontation the details of which audiences are kept in the dark about, a stalemate is set in place between the two families as per a 15th century legal code called the Kanun.
The story predominantly focuses on the brother and sister pairing of one of the affected families, Nik and Rudina (non-actors Tristan Halilaj and Sindi Lacej), and the effect of their father's actions and disappearance from the town, leaving them under house arrest, as dictated by the Kanun. Honest and unflinching, the two-tiered coming-of-ager flails partly due to the house arrest plotline but shines a fascinating light at the shortcomings of tradition and nostalgia with Rudina (whose by far the greater leader and the more adaptable of her siblings) denied by the society's frustratingly misogynistic view, whereby her safety is no serious concern and her brother is provided more opportunities. Marston once again brings a unique, riveting tale to the independent scene. [B]
Set in the Toomelah Aboriginal Mission, a famously impoverished suburb housing Australia's indigenous community, Ivan Sen's lo-fi, verite-style drama is captivating viewing for the most part but is seemingly caught up with the helmer's focus on style over substance. Sen wrote and shot the film as a one-man crew even going on to edit and score the film himself but it's this ideal that may have plighted the film with narrative laziness (characters simply aspire to be "bad cunts," for example) holding back the film's underlying deeper voice, partly explored with the haunting silence of a scarred aunt.
Lead non-actor Daniel Conners flourishes in a role we presume was written around him, as his friendship with the much older Linden, a lowly drug dealer, drives much of the film. The supporting acting understandably struggles at times, though, with the documentary photography style, it is mostly forgivable. The film would be a great companion piece to Warwick Thornton's 2009 Camera d'Or winner "Samson & Delilah," which explores similar territory with a little more grace. [C]
A protege of Turkish-German helmer Fatih Akin, Seren Yüce debuts with the social drama "Majority," which unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of its exploration of the modern male psyche and misogynistic Eastern European culture. Opening with a middle class father-son combo and their despicable treatment of a domestic helper, an instant time shift to the child as a 21 year-old shows little development as he still falls under stern paternal dominance, escaping only to the hijinks of congregations with young male counterparts.
A relationship with a young girl, however, sees the lead's perspective change, setting up a clash with his father who disapproves of her background and pedigree. There's a lot of heart and joy in the subtle romance between the lead (a nuanced performance by Bartu Küçükçaglayan) and his catalyst for change but the narrative, as a whole, lacks any real punch. The plot is churned at a bit too heavily, particularly in the third act which sees Yuce throw subtlety out the window as he endeavors to drive the point across. [C+]