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Friday, December 07, 2012

EPILOGUE by Amir Manor [Tokyo Filmex 2012]

Having attended the Tokyo Filmex three times, this year marks the very first time when I actually got to catch the Grand Prix winner in the festival.

"Epilogue" (Hayuta Ve Beri), the directorial debut of Amir Manor, is the Grand Prix winner at the Tokyo Filmex. The film chronicles the life of an 80-something elderly couple in Tel Aviv during the span of a day. I went into a screening with a bit of trepidation because I feared that it would be too depressing. Especially in a nice sunny afternoon.

The two protagonists, Beri and Hayuta, are from a generation which helped to build Israel in their youth only to realize that the country, in its current form, had no place for people like them. They are both in their 80s, their only income is from the social security pension. They have gotten so poor that Beri has to steal newspaper from their neighbours, while Hayuta struggles to pay for her diabetes medicine in a pharmacy. A Labor leader from the 40s, Beri's ideals are berated as naive by a loudmouth deejay when he calls into the radio show to share his thoughts.

It's a heavy subject matter, but not a difficult film to watch. The cinematography is quite wonderful, the construction of each scene is meticulous and very cinematic.

The trailer of the film makes it more sentimental than it really is though.

When the film ended, some around me remarked about the film's heavy-handedness in conveying its message, that some of the characters who are mean towards the protagonists have behaved like cartoonish stereotypes, but then, if this story is meant to represent the subjective viewpoints of the couple, I don't find it strange that these people are depicted in such a way at all.

I have a lot of lingering resentment towards people who have wronged me, and as time goes by, I find myself thinking of them less as individuals and more as a mere concept, or an embodiment of ideals that irk me. It just happens.

The performances of Yosef Carmon and Rivka Gur, both with filmographies that stretched back to the 60s, are the obvious highlights of the film. I was easily convinced by their chemistry (I agree with the criticisms that the middle part of the film suffered when both of their characters are separated) and believe that they share more than half a century together.

Where can I try to find actors like that in Malaysia? My mind wandered a little. Not Malay ones, because there are indeed many veterans who are this great (and I was fortunate to work with them earlier this year), but looking for Malaysian Chinese actors of this age had been a constant problem. Perhaps circumstances had made it impossible for any of them to pursue acting, the marginalization of the older generation is, as always, a universal issue.

Q and A session with Amir Manor after the EPILOGUE screening at Tokyo Filmex