Social Motives By Viliam Jablonický

in 54th Mannheim International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg

by Viliam Jablonický

For many young filmmakers, and not only those from “The Third World”, social motives again play a very important role in their works. There is a tendency to show the reality of a people and a society. Some directors create fictions that are very close to documentaries and again and again return to the neorealist style, taking it as vital for modern and postmodern film strategies.

Man Push Cart written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, an Iranian from the United States, is one of the last best examples of a suggestive film with a simple idea, a few protagonists and made for not very much money. Ramin Bahrani graduated not having studied film direction, but having studied film theory at Columbia University in New York, and this background very strongly influences the style of his second film, Man Push Cart. His first feature film was Strangers and he made numerous short films before. The history and theory of modern European and Asian-Iranian cinema very strongly influences his efforts to make a strong non-commercial and subjective film.

Man Push Cart’s central protagonist is Ahmad (actor real name is Ahmad Razvi), a hard working Pakistani in New York, a famous pop singer in his homeland who is today serving coffee in the busy Manhattan from his push cart during the day, and selling music DVDs by night. At a first glance the film is a “beautifully drawn character study”, a sad story about one unlucky man struggling for a dream which could be very difficult to fulfil. But on a deeper level, it is also strong metaphor about the future of our world – about the personal conflict in a metropolis super civilisation of a good and spiritually strong man with his own values brought form a vastly different culture. Visually the film mostly shows the city under the darkness of night, supporting not only loneliness of the hero, but strengthening the sense of his hopeless fight for survival. Director Ramin Bahrani said: “My main actor was a non-professional, a former push cart vendor, found in the real location. I build my films from location and the real people who inhabit them.”

Irish director Perry Ogden tells another aesthetically strong social story about young Winnie and her family: Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl. This one of many “traveller girls” that lives with her mother in trailer on the side of the road in a suburb, in a “desolate industrialised area of Dublin”. The film is a reconstruction of several weeks of her life as she struggles for her identity in a contemporary economically-successful Ireland. Her mother Rosie struggles to get her family housed by the local council. It’s a suggestive portrait of a marginalised community that is more common in the Third World, but not so much in modern and prosperous countries. Again, this movie was filmed with a mostly non-professionals who are playing characters near to their own stories and in their own life experiences. These gypsies are shown in an intimate portrait as living apart from the rest of the population, and the film shows how this often makes them the victim of misunderstandings and prejudice as they unsuccessfully struggling with bureaucracy and poverty.

In many others works of International Competition at the International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg 2005 social and ethical problems played a very important role which influenced characters in mostly tragic stories. In the Turkish film Toss Up (Yazi tura), director Ugur Yücel presents a civil war that is not being covered in the media, together with an earthquake that has destroyed many innocent lives and created poor postwar conditions. Social determination and motivation is a very important theme in films like the Swiss-Romanian Ryan, Flowes and Binding (Kukkia ja sidontaä) from Finland, and Love and Happiness (Krama Mig) from Sweden, and lastly from Mexico, On The Other Side (Al Otro Lado), by director Gustavo Loza, are all emotional stories of small children whose fathers have emigrated to prepare for their families at home a higher standard of living.