Another film from the region, but which shows a very different picture, is La Vierge, les Coptes et Moi (The Virgin, The Copts And Me) directed by Namir Abdel Messeeh. This film tells the story of a Coptic Christian family that has emigrated to France. The strictly religious mother firmly believes that an old videotape from her Egyptian village shows an appearance of the Virgin Mary. The son is a filmmaker and totally unreligious. He wants to get to the bottom of things and travels to his mother’s home village. With the amateur support of the entire village he tries recreate the appearance of the Virgin Mary using a blue screen. A wonderful and truly funny film within a film and - amidst all the serious issues from that part of the world – a true stroke of luck.
Two further films in our programme focus on a very different type of movement: nomadism. Sharqiya is about the Israeli Bedouins, who are supposed to move into newly, specially constructed villages, and Wilaya tells of the fate of the Sahraui in Western Sahara, a region that was long a Spanish colony and then finally divided up by Algeria and Morocco. This meant that the nomads could no longer travel as they had for hundreds of years. Both films impressively show the misery of staying put for these nomads, and how the resulting vacuum begins to be filled with the petit bourgeois model of life imported from the West. It is a paradox: in an era in which the cosmopolitan feels at home all around the world, nomads must stay in one place.
And how about other feature movies? Is the “wave of genre innovation” continuing?
Absolutely! Take, for example, Mai-wei from South Korea. As a European you can’t believe your eyes and ears while watching this war film. A totally mad work, that tells the story of World War II from a Korean perspective. The central characters are two boys, one from a Korean and one from a Japanese family. Both are sprinters, competitors and friends at the same time. It’s an elegant, deliberate way to treat both boys as equals. Then the curtain of history is drawn apart: both boys become soldiers in the Japanese army and meet one another again in German uniforms on a Normandy beach during the Allied invasion. In battle scenes, it rains bombs, blood spurts. When have we ever seen the events in Europe from a Korean perspective? That can really look different. The film draws on the myth or historical fact that during the invasion a photo of a slight Asian man in a German uniform was discovered.