TIFF ’15 – Day 4: Jorge vs. Predator

The Beeba Boys are going to get you.
The Beeba Boys are going to get you.

After a couple of rough days, a perfect game. Five strong interviews that you will get to read in the magazine in the near future. One of them, Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper herself), is grown up enough to star in her own horror movie. I feel old.

Beeba Boys (Canada, 2015): In an apparent departure from her usual output, writer/director Deepa Mehta (Water, Midnight’s Children) tackles gang violence in Vancouver in the lively Beeba Boys. Their lifestyle is uniquely dangerous: Gangsters’ life expectancy doesn’t surpass 30.

Inspired by real events, the Beeba Boys in question are a group of sharply dressed twenty-something of Punjabi descent. The leader, Jeet, is a loving family man, a proud Sikh, and the most coldblooded gangster in Surrey. Jeet is a thriving drugs and ammo trafficker, so much so, he wants to take control of the entire area. In order to succeed, he must take down a veteran gangster, who is as tactical as Jeet is hot-headed.

Within this fiery if muddled crime drama, Mehta deals with her favourite issue: The immigrant experience. Unwilling to fit the stereotype of the Indian immigrant, the Beeba Boys chose the extreme opposite. The film is flashy and has plenty of ideas, but the overarching storyline is not interesting (a by-the-numbers gang war) and Randeep Hooda as the antihero doesn’t fit the bill. Hooda has the looks but lacks the gravitas a Tony Montana wannabe demands. Two and a half prairie dogs that will cut you.

My Mother (Italy, 2015): Even his most ardent fans acknowledge Nanni Moretti is a bit of an egocentric. At his best, Moretti can mine his personal life to devastating effect as in The Son’s Room. At his worst, he inserts himself in stories that don’t require his presence (We Have a Pope).

My Mother fits somewhere in the middle of his filmography. Moretti writes, directs and shoehorns a supporting role for himself, but at least he is not the lead. The honour goes to Margherita (frequent collaborator Margherita Buy), a middle age filmmaker on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her mother is agonizing in the hospital, the American star of the movie she is directing (John Turturro) is a prima donna and yet another relationship is on the brink of failure. Given the levels of stress she is dealing with, Margherita explodes on regular basis, unaware her inability to care for anyone else is the main cause of her suffering.

You don’t need a master in semiotics to realize Nanni Moretti is talking about himself. The man paints in broad strokes: The fake movie Margherite is directing is pure agitprop and Turturro is more over the top than in Transformers (imagine that). Thankfully, Moretti has a knack to portrait family dynamics and nails the scenes between the protagonist, her mother and her daughter: Touching, but grounded. If Moretti could only dial himself down he could be a good filmmaker (as opposed to punching bag for the Italian right.) Two and a half needlessly loud prairie dogs.

The People vs. Fritz Bauer (Germany, 2015): Biopics left and right in this edition of TIFF. At least this one focuses on a little known yet fascinating character in the story of modern Germany. As the country’s Attorney General in the late Fifties, Fritz Bauer led Germany’s efforts to apprehend war criminals.

His self-imposed task was a tough one. There were plenty of former Nazis encroached in the judicial system and, through the use of red tape and other less orthodox methods, they protected their own. But Bauer wasn’t above bypassing the letter of the law to achieve his goals.

The People vs. Fritz Bauer concentrates on the attorney’s efforts to capture Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, hiding in Argentina. Even though Bauer had located Eichmann, the Interpol wouldn’t help him, let alone Germany’s powers to be (it was believed the arrest of the emblematic figure would cause a destabilizing effect). And if Bauer were to contact the Mossad, the most likely outcome would be treason.

The film works as a cross between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Imitation Game (Bauer was gay, behaviour that was still penalized in Adenauer’s Germany). It may be a bit dry, totally fumble a subplot involving transvestites, and yet remain fascinating. Three and a half prairie dogs hiding in Argentina.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking to the guy who plays the guy in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Movies.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.