In Your Face

in 19th Black Nights Film Festival, Tallinn

by Mike Naafs

Child and mother. Mother and child. No bond between two human beings is more natural than this one. The one gives life to another. We are the lifeline of mankind, sang the ladies of Boney M. Without birth, no human race. Men drop their semen within minutes, but women carry the load for nine months. But after that? A lot can go wrong after birth. The bond between the inseparable gets cut, disrupted, broken down or simply savaged.

A lot of films in Tallinn’s First Feature competition had women andd children together as main characters, especially women with children aged around seven. And almost all of the time the father was absent. In the French/Colombian Anna there was a substitute dad, but the biological man had disappeared forever. In the case of Anna, this was understandable because mother Anna was such a nutcase, that she could only exist in films – badly overacted and psychologically a mess, that is. In the Spanish Food and Shelter (Techo y Comida) the absent father had dropped the mother and son in poverty in such a way that dumpster diving was not a social pastime, but a socio-economic necessity. Again the woman here is a simplified social structure instead of a human being. Why did she not anticipate what would happen? She knew that it was coming, no? Rescue me, reads her T-shirt. The poor little thing can’t act, like a little ladybird she is so helpless that she can’t survive. And her poor child suffers from it… the film is as blunt as I put it here. Director Juan Miguel del Castillo slams the social economical crisis in Spain until the end titles are in your face, morality forever; But somehow, the same as in Anna; this magical bond between child and mother, the utmost beginning, the special connection between them, is lost. They are together, sure, but only as a script construction.The director needs them to keep the plot going.

And then, there was all of a sudden this little Colombian feature, Delivery (Nasciemento), by Martin Reija Rugeles. Halleluja! A concept film about (giving) birth. No screaming mothers here, no hysterical drama; And no lesbian relations with your neighbour either, amid a pseudo adoption and triangle-sex, as in the German gender bender Don’t Look at Me This Way [Schau much night so an]… No! Just a close-up shot from a pregnant belly, with, after a minute a little kick, a little movement of flesh, something visible living inside of there. Or, somewhere near the village in the Amazon jungle, a mare getting fucked by a stallion, and then the camera – post coïtum- gliding past the face of that mare. The expression of that animal! The melancholy and infinite sadness!

No need to say more.

No need to either. Not much happens in the village, anyway, although it is apparent that it is run by women. A vendor comes to the house, mother Annabel cooks some cassava, there is dried fish on a stick, grandma stares at the ceiling, the birds cry, the wind blows, it becomes day, night, and then day again, there is work to be done, crops to be harvested… Life goes on.

But life is also coming. At the end of Delivery, as the belly keeps growing and the movie keeps moving, you know that there should also be life. In the same way as the film began with death, the father drowns in the opening shot – no surprises there. In what has to be a reality shot, the child presents itself in full colour, straight into your face. First you saw it from the outside, now here is the inside. There you go. No filters, no fake emotions, no plot twists, just life at its very beginning, before everything gets ruined and destroyed. Full beaver birth shot. In your face.

Pure poetry delivered.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson