‘First Look’ Post-Mortem – Murders in Unified Germany and Korean Realism

First Look, Museum of the Moving Image — January 4-13

Revision, dir. Philip Scheffner, Germany, 2012, 106 minutes

Sleepless Night, dir. Jang Kun-jae, Korea, 2012, 65 minutes

In case you missed First Look at the Museum of the Moving Image, which ended last night, you can hope that these films will surface again – probably not in theaters, but at festivals.

Here are two from this past weekend that I recommend seeking out.

Revision, by Philip Scheffner (Germany, 2012) revisits the murder of two Rumanians twenty years after the fact. Two Roma (gypsy) men who crossed the border from Poland are killed by two hunters stalking wild boar in a vast cornfield, at a time when people were fleeing newly independent East European countries, and zenophobia was raging in countries like Germany, where they arrived.

Rumanian Relatives of Murdered Men Whom Germany Forgot -- "Revision"

The filmmaker and his crew examine the evidence and find a damning story when they dig more deeply than the official investigation did, which wasn’t too deep. The hunter and a “guest” who seem to have fired the shots were arrested and not punished – for lack of evidence, we’re told by officials who say they couldn’t match the bullets found with the guns that were allegedly fired. The relatives of the dead men – some of whom were in Germany at the time– were deported back to Rumania, so they were not around to add any information to the probe.  No one told them that the hunters had insurance policies that could compensate the victims of any wrongful shooting or their surviving kin.  In Rumania, where Scheffner found plenty of information, the survivors are left with grim memories.

The story, told in vivid poker-faced HD, unblinking through understated thorough testimony, has unsettling parallels with the chilling violence along the border between Mexico and the US. Capital can move freely across borders, but people can’t, so they’re forced to do it illegally as they follow the capital that creates employment.  Locals in places where the migrants cross borders take the law into their own hands. The same government officials who turn the other way when undocumented immigrants work without papers find ways to make these cases involving illegal immigrants disappear – in Revision, by making evidence and witnesses disappear.

'Sleepless Night' -- Will Their Life Begin at Conception?

Sleepless Night (Jang Kun-jae, Korea, 2012) is a no-budget tale of a couple working for every penny and struggling to decide whether to have a child. Shot mostly in grey interiors, the 65-minute drama looks at love and family under stress.  Korean television directors have put wit and style into hour-long (and shorter) segments.  Delicate, poignant, starkly realistic, layered with emotion — this is subtlety in grey, an accomplished second feature by a young talent.

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