Day 5 - Walking Under Water and Rosewater #LFF

Day 5 and only two to share today. Jo's review of X+Y (seen today) is below and I have to admit to bailing on Ne me quitte pas as it was late, I was tired and it was pouring down. I will get to that one..... Today though, we have nomadic nautical tribes and Iranian shenanigans....

We always go on about the LFF being a great place for us to catch movies that would otherwise go unnoticed and Walking Under Water is a perfect example of this. Filmed on and around Mabul island off the coast of the Malaysia, Eliza Kubarska's documentary is a wonderful document of a vanishing lifestyle.

Trapped between the advance of tourism and their traditional way of living, the Badjao tribe have fished the oceans for generations. Initially free divers but now forced to adapt to compressor diving to find the scarce fish left after commercial fishing, the tribe are known as 'sea gypsies' - they have no land and no nationality. Roughly located between the Philippines, Borneo and Malaysia, they belong to none of these countries. On Mabul island, a tiny speck of land in the Celebes Sea, the tribe lives in squalor adjacent to a plush diving resort catering for rich foreigners. Like us.

Kubarska's movie isn't here to score points on one side or the other though, her political agenda isn't at the forefront. Instead she lets the camera do the talking. Filmed and translated during post production, her camera follows Alexan, Mabul's last compressor diver as he attempts to keep alive the spirit of his ancestors and teach his young nephew Sari the ways of the fisherman. It's a naturally affecting tale and the neutral stance does it good service. The scenery is beautiful and Kubraska raises some genuinely interesting and difficult questions about modern society's treatment of nomadic people.

I'm a huge fan of Jon Stewart as I made clear in my preview of Rosewater so hopes were high for his first foray into movie directing. In truth, they were just about justified. Just. Based on Mazier Bahari's account of his time in an Iranian prison, Stewart's movie stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Bahari, a Newsweek journalist how returns to his native Tehran on the eve of 2009's disputed election. Picking up with a Mousavi supporting taxi driver at the airport, Bahari ends up on the wrong side of the subsequent protests as Ahmadinerjad goes on to win a landslide despite all polling to the contrary.

On the plus sides for Stewart's movie (and there are many), it's a movie that assumes a decent amount of intelligence in its viewers and one that contains an impressive performance from Bernal. Repressive regimes and their tactics for repression are ripe material for a satirist of Stewart's calibre and it's good to see him stretching his talents in more significant directions. The script is as witty as you'd expect and Bernal does a great job in his character's decent into despondency and out the other side as the sheer ridiculousness of the accusations finally hits home.

On the negative side, I can't help but raise a weary eyebrow at some of the direction here. The music scored over the top of images of citizens exercising their democratic right to vote is a long way from subtle and the various social media messages manifesting on screen during the protests had me cringing in my seat. It's not exactly god bless democracy stuff but it sailed perilously close. On the whole, well worth seeing for the subject matter but hopefully Rosewater is just early teething for Stewart rather than a statement of his directing ability. Oh, and for crying out loud, don't ever cast  Lindsey Hilsum in an acting role again. Amazing journalist, not a gifted actor, her presence was jarring on so many levels.