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World Dramas

Bill Meyer: The Journey is an imagined dialog when Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness and staunch British loyalist Rev. Ian Paisley ended up in a car traveling to Paisley’s anniversary party.‎
World Dramas

Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney in The Journey

When you have over 80 countries represented in a major film festival screening about 400 films, it’s not hard to find great cinema from all the corners of the globe. Here are just a few of the more notable feature narratives shown at TIFF that might be of interest to progressive audiences.

Of course, any production with progressive activist Danny Glover’s name attached is a sure winner. In 93 Days, he plays a head physician at a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria where an outbreak of Ebola develops in Africa’s largest country. It’s based on the true story of the courageous workers and citizens who saved their country from a major outbreak back in 2014. Eventually only eight people died after the disease started in the main city hospital – far less catastrophic than the 11,310 who died in adjoining Libera, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Glover also produced the film which created the same drama and urgency of a war film but this time the soldiers were hospital workers battling a deadly disease, not unlike a deadly enemy like ISIS. Dramatic scenes showed families broken up when loved ones were discovered with the disease and taken to isolated treatment centers. Nigerian cinema was featured in the City to City Programme and this was one of the most compelling of them all.

Another ‘war’ that we’re all familiar with, was the longstanding battle in Ireland for independence. Just when it seemed there would be no to end the death and destruction, leaders from opposing sides found themselves across the table trying to hammer out a Peace Accord in 2006.

The Journey is an imagined dialog when Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness and staunch British loyalist Rev. Ian Paisley ended up in a car traveling to Paisley’s anniversary party.

The Journey is an imagined dialog where Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness (Colm Meany) and staunch British loyalist Rev. Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) end up in a car traveling to Paisley’s anniversary party. Paisley had broken off the peace talks to attend the party and McGuinness, former IRA paramilitary man who spent his life trying to drive the English out of Northern Ireland, unexpectedly chose to go along for the ride. The unlikelihood of seeing two bitter enemies in this setting is played up dramatically and comically in a film that depicts that crucial stage in the struggle – when determined opponents finally shake hands and sign a peace treaty. It doesn’t happen often in history, but this charming and highly entertaining play on history shows two stalwart enemies who went on to become known as the “Chuckle Brothers,” Paisley as First Minister and McGuinness as Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland. Extremely well acted by leads Colm Meany and Timothy Spall (who also appeared in the Festival as Holocaust denier and historian David Irving).

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It’s rare to find a film about North Korea, especially one that isn’t fanatically hateful and cynical about one of the least known countries on earth. Ignorance and anti-communism is a potent combination and The Net helps us humanize both the North and South Koreans who are living in one of the most tense military hotspots in the world. A simple North Korean fisherman accidentally breaks his engine and ends up floating into enemy territory. Captured by the South Korean military he is tortured, threatened and bribed to become a spy and stay in the country. One of his young guards is sympathetic to his situation and helps him escape so he can eventually return to his native home. But before he returns, he sees all the negative aspects of South Korea, crime, drugs, prostitution and the heavy worship of money and material goods of which he has no interest. He wants to return to his family and country. But not surprisingly when he finally returns he ends up facing the same torture and psychological games from the North, who can’t believe he wasn’t a traitor. The amazingly evenhanded film says as much about the Cold War victims on both sides, paying the price of living with the longest existing border feud sustained by the unnecessary US military occupation of the DMZ.

There’ve been many stories about courageous war photojournalists risking their lives to bring the truth to the world. Dan Eldon’s remarkable story is told in the colorful and creative film, The Journey Is the Destination. The style of the film mirrors Eldon’s exuberant approach to life. Colorful titles and drawings, an exciting world music score and the energy of youthful exploration, the film draws the viewer into the side of the story seldom seen. Dan is drawn to the war torn African lands where many suffer from poverty and famine, but he is searching for the simple truths and the joys of humanity. It’s thrilling to see every new person he encounters turn into his lifelong friend.

Eldon, born in London later moving to Kenya, had gone to 56 countries by the age of 21, taking pictures and creating colorful montages, often traveling with his young friends. His mother and sister have helped put together several journals of his amazing art work and photo collages. He spoke many languages including Swahili and made friends everywhere and loved everyone he met. His infectious personality and talent for capturing the beauty of his subjects, got him hired as the youngest employee of the Reuters international news agency.

Later in the film he started questioning US involvement in Somalia, whose first stated motive was to bring stability to the land but ultimately bombed and killed many innocent victims. Somalians became to hate Americans and he was stoned to death when he entered a village to help the people who had just been bombed. Dan Eldon was a rare journalist/activist whose passion and love of life is admirably recreated in this stunningly enjoyable visual feast.

His mother, Kathy, spent over 20 years getting this film to the screen. She says, “This is a film that’s uplifting, it’s energizing, it’s activating and it will make people, I hope, dance out of the movie, wanting to live life more fully, love more fully, and just enjoy life... After they see the film, I want them to head out of the theater to think about what they can contribute. What can we do with our creative spark to act more?” And it’s this energy and hope, despite all odds, that runs through the entire film.

bill meyer

Bill Meyer
People's World