7:00 PM, 27th October, 2018
There are, it seems, endless possible twists on the ‘road movie’: this one, in particular, features a man and his elephant. The man is Thana (Warakulnukroh) an architect in Bangkok with a flat marriage and a flagging career, whose one visible achievement is about to be demolished. Then he comes across a circus elephant – the 'Pop Aye' of the title – whom he recognises as an elephant from his childhood. Thana resolves to take Pop Aye back to the distant village where they both grew up.
The writer-director, Kristen Tan, is from Singapore but has lived in Thailand, and as a former cinematographer ensures every location has its own striking look and mood. Besides which, landscape shots are kind of a necessity, if we are to be able to see both Thana and his elephant at the same time.
The elephant – played by Bong the elephant – is really the driving force and dominant presence, and the catalyst for every encounter Thana has on the journey back to his childhood home. Nothing wrong with any of the human cast, of course, but the elephant is the one to watch.
8:52 PM, 27th October, 2018
Set in the African country of Zambia, a small girl living in a remote village is accused of witchcraft after a seemingly banal event. She is given a choice by the local authorities: to be transformed into a goat (presumably to be eaten soon after), or to live with other banished witches in a camp where all have been tethered from flying away!
I Am Not a Witch is hard to describe, as it contains intricate elements of magic realism, fairy tale, dark humour, and gender politics. And although actual witch camps do still apparently exist in some countries, it’s presented here as a fictional satire that is both exhilarating and disturbing as it prods at modern-day superstitions.
Made by first time Zambian/Welsh director Rungano Nyoni – and beautifully shot by the brilliant cinematographer of Embrace of the Serpent – this film, as seen through the eyes of the small child Shula, is arty and highly original.