And now we get to two of the films that I’ll have to put down as not exactly my favorites. As I’ve said before, I don’t normally beat up on small films, but as the title of this piece might indicate, these two films need to be exposed for what they are. Claudio Assis’s Bog of Beasts (Brazil) and Jilani Saadi’s Tender is the Wolf have both, according to their filmmakers, been misunderstood. Well, I’m pretty sure that’s complete bollocks. Not only that, but I can find no excuse for the 2007 IFFR VPRO Tiger Awards jury to have given an award (even one ex aequo) to Assis’s film. From my second day in town, the words being used to describe this film included such “superlatives” as: loathsome, repugnant, vile, irredeemable and misogynist.
I cannot remember if I have ever seen a more contemptible or brutal film. This story of life in a small Brazilian village is so chock-a-block with despicable characters as to defy description. It’s something like I’d imagine a town would be if it were almost completely populated with pederasts, rapists and incestuous (not to mention pedophilic) old men. This village is so far to the fucked zone of the moral compass, the drunks, pimps and whores are the among the more virtuous citizens. It’s a village where the sons of the rich fit in the narrow range between being only morally bankrupt and being psychosexually sociopathic, all without any sort of consequence. This is a group led by a caricature of a man so insane, that gang-raping a prostitute isn’t enough for him, he also need to sodomize her with what appears to be a 2 x 4.
Only one of the noxious characters in this film get his comeuppance and that’s the aforementioned old man who has been whoring out his 14 year-old daughter (who turns out to also be his grand daughter…ICK!) to truckers and locals behind the gas station. But it’s ok, because they only get to look. Only grandpa gets to touch. ICK! Eventually she too is raped by a local rich boy and ends up as a prostitute, living at the gas station after her grandpappy gets kicked into a coma by a local dance troupe….I shit you not.
According to the speech he made at the awards ceremony (during which his film was cited for, among other things, its “crudeness”) Assis hopes that his film will help to end the violence against women in his country and around the world. At that point it was all I could do to refrain from howling with laughter while at the same time smashing my head against the wall in a futile attempt to selectively purge this film from my memory.
Compared to Bog of Beasts, Saadi’s Tender is the Wolf almost bearable. Sort of like being beaten with a bamboo rod is bearable compared to 24 hours of water boarding. Not really a choice one likes to make. This one is another “winner,” but seeing that I blew my wad of vitriol on the first film in this screed, my pen of scorn runneth low. Want a logline for the film? If you don’t stop your three idiot friends from gang-raping the local call girl, she won’t agree to marry you later. Oh and she might sick her brother on you.
Honestly, this film is so backwards in both its plot elements and ideas about women as to be almost farcical. A friend told me that the director is a progressive and that the film is not meant in any way to be anti-woman and if that’s true, I am truly worried about the definition of “progressive” in Tunisia. Rarely have I seen less understanding of a lead female character and bigger missteps in story. The quasi romance that develops between the hulking male lead Stoufa (Mohamed Graya) and working girl Aziza (Anissa Daoud) is so absurd as to make one think that maybe he brained her while we weren’t looking. Compounding the insanity around this film, the following sentence appears in the Rotterdam catalog: “As is often the case, the innocent Stoufa gets punished even though he didn’t touch her at all.” True. He didn’t touch her. So he’s only an accessory to gang-rape. Oh. That’s ok, then.
Ok. Got my venting out. Seriously, this was the best IFFR in years and these two offensive films are the exception to what I saw. I promise I’ll be getting back to the good stuff in my next report, but I really couldn’t let these two films get away with being so execrable.
Photo: A prostitute in Bog of Beasts minutes before she’s brutally beaten.