I began my day with a 3.45 pm screening of Ecuadorian Ana Cristina Barragan's award-winning feature debut, Alba. The film explores an extremely reticent and withdrawn 11-year-old girl's attempts at figuring out how to deal with her challenging world after she comes to live with her estranged father, Igor (Pablo Aquirre) when her beloved mother is hospitalised.
The insightful film is replete with symbolisms (the girl is working on a giant jigsaw puzzle even as she tries to work out her relationship with her father, a ladybird is gnawed by ants, a butterfly is crushed in a palm) but fortunately, never resorts to melodrama. It explores the girl's loneliness and her social isolation as expressed in her multiple inabilities to fit into an elite school milieu (she gets down at an affluent address instead of her own house and even rings the doorbell and embraces the man who opens the door to pull the wool over her friend's mother and her friends' watchful eyes.) A conversation during a car ride in which the father seems to weigh each word before uttering them, makes you ponder on the possibility of shyness being a genetic predisposition.
Alba finally finds a semblance of acceptance from her peers when she performs a dance at a party thrown by a school friend, but immediately thereafter she has to make a life-altering choice ... she learns that some emotions take precedence over the desire to fit in. Her choice holds promise that if two shy people find each other, they can make a functional family.
Macarena Arias who plays the titular role of Alba speaks volumes with her doleful eyes. It is by far the best performance I have seen in the festival so far.
The Tower (a documentary)
Based on the real-life shootings at the University of Texas at Austin, USA, in 1966, Tower is a documentary with all the ingredients of a reel thriller. A disturbed sniper, after killing his wife and mother, holes up on the top floor of a tower, and mindlessly kills whoever comes in his sight on the campus. Among the dozens of unsuspecting victims is a pregnant woman who has been felled by a bullet and is bleeding to death. She inspires a rare act of courage - a stranger risks being shot down, runs towards her and lies down next to her to help her pull through the ordeal by offering moral support.
Tower is an interesting blend of rotoscopic animation and real-life archival footage. It is reportedly based on interviews with more than 100 people (students, TV reporters, police officers) who had witnessed the event. The film makes a case for the anti-gun policy both implicitly and explicitly. A line from the film echoed in my head while I waited in the lounge outside Screen 5. The pregnant woman (who survived the encounter with death but lost her boyfriend) when asked if she has forgiven the sniper admitted she had because "I have been forgiven so much too."