The last few days in the foreign films section in JioMAMI Star 2019 have been interesting. Among the absolute passable have been Brad Pitt’s, yes THE Brad Pitt, Ad Astra. What it was, poor man, only he can explain. Their mission to the moon, Mars, Neptune and other heavenly bodies is like a walk at Marine Drive. That apart, the whole astronaut-with-daddy-issues was right out of one of Karan Johar’s mindless extravanganzas.
But two movies that stood out, absolutely -- the French film ‘Les Misérables’, co-written and directed by Ladi Ly, is a French drama on the 2005 riots in Paris. It reinforces the feeling, do not trust anyone in a uniform. Life on the streets for this police trio is not easy. Having said that, the excesses of the white French cop leave you agape and you want to taser him. It also tells you how universal the language of gangs and communities is, across the continents. We saw the same pattern in Black Hawk Down. Interestingly, in both instances, it is blacks versus men in uniform.
The conflict between the different ethnic groups, gypsies and the blacks and the French gendarmerie forms the plot. It revolves around one pesky lad and his daring to steal the most unthinkable animal. No, not giving any hints. What follows after is a nail-biting chase, drama and the mistakes made by police which boomerang. The kids are a riot! Fantastic casting, be it the Greaser policeman or the head of their unit, the local mentor or godfather, the gangsters and the gypsy circus man. Gripping drama, scenes and the last 20 minutes are a lesson about a community coming together to teach all the parties concerned a darn good lesson.
The second film, Wasp Network, is a Cuban drama, written and directed by Olivier Assayas, starring a fiery Penélope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez, Wagner Moura, and Gael García Bernal. The film is based on the story of the Cuban Five. It just makes you want to visit Cuba. Until now, the Hollywood film production machine has ensured that audiences only get to see its version of Cuba, a Communist regime. Be it Andy Garcia’s main lead film, Havana, The Lost City, or Cecilia, the American fascination for all non-democratic countries never ends. It is always a romantic fantasy of deprivation. There is no doubt Fidel Crasto has been America’s favourite ‘tyrant’. But this film exposes how American-led espionage made many attempts to finish Castro, used illegal means like cocaine trade from Central America to purchase arms and ammunition to equip the rebels. Wasp exposes this and shows how many patriotic Cubans defected to America to expose this ring of rebel groups that were actually helping launch violent terror attacks on Cuba. The Cuban government deploys a counter-espionage group to bust the elite group of spies, who undertook acts like bombing hotels and murdering innocent local and foreign tourists. It depicts the die-hard loyalty of families to Castro and his Communist regime. This is one honest, contrarian view. The popular outsider view of a beautiful country with breathtaking beaches, green-blue waters, great music, food and fabulous drinks juxtaposed with the grim reality of loadshedding, toil, limited food and poverty. So far, one has seen a capitalistic view of this land of contrasts. This film, however, portrays life in a country piecing itself together against a superpower that has constantly waged war against their government.