Here Comes the Devil (or someone who watched The Walls of Dakar)

The last couple of days in TIFF are normally dedicated to lesser films, a mixed bag that may include one or two jewels and a few duds.

Here Comes the Devil (Mexico): In spite of some unnecessary quirks that cheapen the outcome (let alone the goofy title), Here Comes the Devil is a fun and audacious entry in a genre not known for being original. The loaded flick from Adrián García Bogliano (The ABCs of Death) deals with a number of themes bound to make the audience uncomfortable, such as teenagers’ sexual awakening and extremely close siblings. I mean close.

A suburban couple loses their kids in a lugubrious looking hill. The siblings –a boy and a girl- eventually reappear, although now display the charming personality of the Children of the Corn. The parents suspect sexual abuse and proceed to investigate, with disastrous results (you wouldn’t want to babysit for them). Here Comes the Devil makes good use of parental anxiety and delivers some effective shocks. Ultimately, the film doesn’t take itself seriously and mistakes the grindhouse mise-en-scene with soap opera looks, diffusing the tension. Regardless, it’s unapologetic exploitation cinema. Three very still prairie dogs. Watching. Judging.

The Walls of Dakar (Senegal): Easily the absolute worst film I’ve seen since I started attending TIFF in 2010, this documentary is so unwatchable, one wonders about the criteria that allowed it in the festival. In paper about artists who use graffiti as only viable form of expression, the film never spends more than ten seconds in each piece. Worst, the doc is populated by aimless shots of the city (zero composition, by the way) that say nothing about the subject.

Whenever The Walls of Dakar decides to talk to said artists, instead of talking about the hardships of working in an impoverished town, the filmmakers allow them to go on pointless philosophical rants. There is no rhythm, dramatic arc or an actual goal. I was willing to give the film some slack for coming from a country not known for its cinema, but the level of incompetence annoyed me. Heck, even the graphics are poorly built (how can you possibly screw up the subtitles?). Zero prairie dogs. They all are hiding in shame, after ripping their eyes from their sockets.

A World Not Ours (United Kingdom/Lebanon/Denmark): This far superior doc also deals with a less than hospitable area, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Thankfully, director Mahdi Fleifel is wise enough to approach the subject from a personal perspective (Documentary 101: Pick a small subject. A bigger truth will seep in). Fleifel left the camp early in his childhood, but returned every summer to visit his family. He remembered the place as joyous, life affirming.

Eventually, the dramatic reality of the camp becomes too big to ignore. Unable to work outside the ghetto and disenchanted with the political developments in Palestine, the population grows frustrated and unpredictable, even those close to Fleifel. A World Not Ours has many moments of levity (people root for a country they have nothing to do with during the World Cup). Ultimately, however the predominant feeling is of melancholia. Aside of some aimlessness midway through, a solid effort from a first-timer. Three and a half relocated Prairie Dogs.

And that’s all for this year. Don’t know if I’ll be back again, but I’ll try. Next stop: VIFF!

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