Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Adelaide Film Festival

There it was, the mysterious manifestation of the "festival atmosphere". The bar-cum-coffee lounge materialised in the courtyard of the cinema complex. The tables and chairs and stools, ashtrays and program guides and the assorted members of the cinema cognoscenti, resting and reflecting between screenings or sipping wine or coffee and waiting for friends. Then there were the long queues of ticketholders snaking into the cinemas, the staff with their dangling IDs, the conference delegates also with dangling IDs. They were at the documentary film conference and I was in to see and review a documentary - world premiere of Dennis O'Rourke's "Landmines - A Love Story". A very intimate portrait of the human aftermath in Kabul. A landmine-disabled woman beggar. Her life. Why a person is begging in the streets. Where she goes when she goes home. Her domestic life with a doting husband also crippled by landmines, but in his case, landmines he, as a Mujahideen, also had planted. Their quest for government help - overwhelmed officials and piles of crumpled paperwork, signed with thumbprints. George Bush trumpeting American compassion. Children in the schoolroom parroting not tables but the names of landmines and the distances of their impacts. Everywhere people with prostheses, limping, learning, trying to get on with life. A wise, sensitive and revelatory documentary.

Afterwards, with two colleagues, I sat in the street and ate good Lebanese food as a stranger regaled us with his madness. He asked to sit with us and, all three of us being curious journalists, we assented and listened fascinated as he played the clever word games of the bi-polar and listed the dreams he harboured of living in his headspace. He was a clean and fit young man, a former bodybuilding champ who fell into a hole, he said. I did not finish the vast plate of food I was served. He said he would not see it go to waste as he gladhanded us farewell. It was another little slice-of-life documentary in its way, that encounter. O'Rourke would have done wonders with our gentle madman.

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