Pablo Trapero, “Leonera”
Julia wakes up in her apartment covered with blood. Next to her, two bodies lie on the floor. Confusion blows up in her head. Julia is pregnant and she is sent to a special prison for mothers. This will be onwards her universe.
Leonera (2008), directed by Argentinean filmmaker Pablo Trapero and played by Martina Gusmán (the director’s wife and the producer of the film) is a movie in a documentary style. From the arrest, the cinematographic time seems to pass at the same rhythm as the real time. We do not see scenes of big conflicts, but the slow passing of the hours inside the four walls of a prison.
The lifestyle these women have to bear is not as severe as the common delinquents’ prison. The movie shows how they face their new situation. They must perform their maternal roles just as the women outside the prison, but suffering the lack of freedom. That is their challenge.
The prison environment creates close and intense bonds between mother and son. Also in the relation with others, prisoners and guardians. This is why the values of friendship, protection and mutual support are more visible in this context.
Julia is able to resist the overcrowded and, sometimes, turbulent environment of the prison. Her little son is her escape valve and her life engine. Nevertheless, when someone wants to grow apart a lioness and her cub, she prepares the claws to defend him and does not limit her acts.
Trapero investigated during a year the issue of women and their maternity in the isolation of jail. It is the feminine world of an unfamiliar situation. It is not the femme fatale, but the wild animal of a Latin American prison, who can be also anywhere else. It is the reality, without makeup and beautiful bodies. The intimacy in front of our eyes. It is the crudeness of those outside freedom. (Julisa Espinoza)
Fatih Akin, “In July”
Usually one (especially men) reads the words “romantic comedy” and says “ugh!”, classifying the movie as a strictly feminine one. Nevertheless, In July (Im Juli) offers a breath of fresh air in this overused and repetitive genre, delighting anyone who sees it.
Fatih Akin, German director of Turkish origin who filmed afterwards Head On (Gegen die Wand) and The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite), tells us the story of Daniel Bannier, a teacher whose monotonous life has awaked his desire for a change. He knows Melek, a Turkish woman who seduces him and then breaks his heart after going to Turkey the next day. Daniel, enlightened by this short affair, decides to chase her, and travels from Hamburg to Istanbul. During his journey he will find a lot of things, from crazy truck drivers to extravagant women, meeting also the power of love and fate.
Akin offers us a movie where — at least when I saw it — nobody laughed simultaneously, but in a spontaneous way when something touched his heart (excepting the “marriage”). It is, in addition, an authentic adventure movie, with plenty of adrenaline moments. It is not a movie which will leave you thinking about life, fate and other things, but it is a really funny one. One with a never ending atmosphere of joy and search. Perhaps it would be unfair to put it over any American romantic comedy, when the themes are not that different. But there is something in the colors, the people (whom the director knows very well, due to his multi-nationality) and in his genuine show of illusion that captivated me. It suctions you to a special parallel world, and you walk off the theater happy. Even when I am one of those mentioned before. (Enrique Valdez)
Matthias Luthardt, “Ping Pong”
In Pingpong we see how a family is more out of balance than it is already when Paul, a 16 years old nephew arrives unexpectedly to stay in the house. The only thing he wants is running away from his own dysfunctional family with the recently loss of his father. The relatives, on the other hand, do not want Paul to stay. The parents, Stefan and Anna, and the son, Robert, try subtly to find a way to get rid of him. The true reason is that they do not want their chaotic relation to be discovered. They are more concerned on people’s comments and views, and they do not want their bizarre reality to be revealed. Some days later, Stefan travels to Madrid and it is there, however, where the relationship between the other three become closer, but not better.
In a ping pong game, two players compete by hitting a ball to a point of the opposing side, in order to make his rival lose. This is how each player needs to answer the attacks of his rival, provoking a chain of reactions. Son Robert spends more time with Paul than playing piano, which is a reason for the anger of his mother. At the same time, Anna is attracted by the much younger Paul, who does not refuse her. While Robert and Anna grow apart, Paul is the one in the middle. Robert tried to find in Paul someone to join him in his family void of communication, while Anna wanted a romance with him. After both of them had sexual relations and were discovered by Robert, each character feels already known and aware of the other’s flaws. The relations between them become sour, despite nothing is revealed to the father, who comes back shortly after. Finally, Paul decides to run away of this home one morning, without being seen, only by Robert.
The value of appearances is respected between them. We can see it in the scene where Robert drinks alcohol and Paul asks him if his parents do not say something about it. Robert answers him that there is no problem, since the drink seems like water, and seconds after he approaches his father, chewing subtly a gum in order to avoid the smell of alcohol.
In this movie a very interesting analogy was used: when Paul felt he did not have much to do and he was making his relatives uncomfortable, he asked if he could do something. Paul himself proposes to fix the pool of the house. Paul does not leave the home until he finishes his task. However, the task was to show the family how important are the things they are worried about, while there are other things which are really vital for a family harmony.
Pingpong by German director Matthias Luthardt shows us different aspects of human personality, and a vulnerability which turns out to be bigger than we could imagine it. Many of us could identify with some of the situations, what gives us an opportunity of judging ourselves. (Ximena Esqueche)