Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 9:33 am 
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A world of possibilities beyond the rational in storytelling and musing

The Canadian filmmaker Andrea Bussmann's debut feature, set near Oaxaca, in Mexico, is a philosophical and spiritual musing of words and pictures preoccupied with the spiritual, paraphysical, and inexplicable. Its running narration and sporadic interviews, most in Spanish, one in Lebanese Arabic, are to be taken with a grain of salt but also welcomed with open mind.

Fernando and Alberto, we're told, own this place. They're rarely seen at night. Ziad works for Alberto translating documents. Now he is working on a map that's very difficult because the coastline is constantly shifting. He won't say what it's for, but I know they're searching for a shadow. Of a charming young Frenchman who came to work in exchange for lodging, promising also to leave his shadow as an offering. When the moon is bright they look for it. In town they hear about a one-armed zookeeper who only comes at night because afraid of his shadow; all his animals are blind.

All animals are telepathic to a degree, the voiceover informs us, but blind ones more so. Messages from the future can be received even from stuffed ones, if one strokes them in a clockwise direction. One of the speakers, at nighttime, clad in singlet, meditatively smoking and sipping wine, tells of a local person, rich in academic lore, but bored with ordinary knowledge, who strikes a Faustian bargain. Another tale, told in English by a man with a big white beard, is of a woman who comes to talk to an untamable black panther, and learns why he's angry.

The beach here has a high iron content, which makes visitors' computers go dark. Once a year the sand is invaded by turtles that come to lay eggs. There is someone who has two graves. The secret is that she had two shadows, so it was decided to build one for each. The Homeric myth appears of men converted to beasts by a seacoast witch.

"On the Oaxacan coast of Mexico, rumblings of previous times are never far from the surface. Tales of shapeshifting, telepathy and dealings with the Devil are embedded in the colonization and enslavement of the Americas. Characters from the Faust legend mingle with the inhabitants, while attempting to colonize and control nature through a seemingly never-ending building project. Through literature, myth and local entanglements, the frontier between reality and fiction, and the seen and unseen, no longer apply."-IMDB.

"]Featured in the [Toronto Film] festival’s Wavelengths selection, Andrea Bussmann’s Fausto shows audiences why this particular programme is so important for a well-rounded TIFF experience. . . Part documentary, part avant-garde ghost story Canadian, Bussmann’s debut feature is mostly comprised of stories from the inhabitants of Mexico’s Oaxaca coast; stories of interactions with ghosts, spirits and other supernatural beings, creatures that haunted their ancestors as they staved off colonial powers. These stories are frequently fascinating while the narration holds a particularly powerful voice. Images of Mexico are also breathtaking, if not expertly shot. The film is a bit slow to start, but once the viewer realizes what they are in for, Fausto is smooth sailing from there. . . My only complaint is that the stories are presented in an interview format. With such rich material, the filmmaker really should have considered a different approach. However, this will not hinder your enjoyment." - Wylie writes.

"These images are lovely; but what do they amount to?" writes Daniel Glassman in POV Magazine. Sometimes as I watched, I wondered what they had been smoking. But mostly it only seemed to be tobacco. Mysticism and folkloric imagination seem to be inhaled in the coastal air.

Fausto, 70 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 2018 and was included in half a dozen other festivals, including New Directors/New Films, where it was screened for this review.

ND/NF Showtimes: April 6, 3:45 PM; April 7, 1:00 PM
New York Premiere · Q&As with Andrea Bussmann on April 6 & 7



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