BIFF 2013 - Citadel and An Anthropological Television Myth - Cinema Reviews

'the inmates of San Pedro jail in La Paz, Bolivia, exist in an odd neverworld they cannot escape from. They can, however, nip round the corner to enjoy a home cooked meal at the local cafe.'

Screening together, Diego Mondaca's Citadel and An Anthropological Television Myth (co-directed by Alessandro Gagliardo, Maria Helene Bertino and Dario Castelli) are also worth considering together, in order to show exactly just what can go right and wrong when documentaries go for the extremely abstract.

The good, represented by Citadel, is an extremely potent sense of place, situation and distinctly odd confinement. Imprisoned in a penitentiary that's more local village than Cell Block H, the inmates of San Pedro jail in La Paz, Bolivia, exist in an odd neverworld they cannot escape from. They can, however, nip round the corner to enjoy a home cooked meal at the local cafe. Football tournaments are played in the square, prisoners build and sell model cars to other prisoners to fund their evening meals, family members without sentences come and go to support their loved ones. It's bizarre but also quite beautifully realised by Mondaca, who presents the scene without self-comment and with but a few words from the inmates.

There are problems with Citadel too, mainly stemming from the fact that it presents San Pedro as an idyll, where clearly there must be harsh realities to living there, but these problems are but a fancy when compared to Television Myth.

The Italian film takes footage from a independent Sicilian TV station that operated in the mid-1990s and... does absolutely nothing with it. There's no order, no consistency of message, no recognisable anthropological study. Comments on the mafia are posted next to news of a child killed in a fall, silent footage of a funeral screens next to ultra-exciting content of a T-junction. Someone has done some great research here and found some absolutely killer background footage, which could form the backbone to A History Of Sicily or The Sicilian Mafia In The 1990s. Instead it's all dumped here - anonymous, abstract, functionless - with little to tell. Three directors worked on this film. It is impossible to tell what any of them did.

The two films both, to some extent, show the dangers of documentaries that have such a desire not to lead their audience by the hand that they actually don't bother to lead their audience anywhere. Citadel captures such an interesting subject that its inadequacies aren't foregrounded but Television Myth is so bleakly uninteresting (unless you lived in Sicily, circa-1993) that it makes you pine for talking heads and Alan Yentob.


Citadel

An Anthropological Television Myth


The 19th Bradford International Film Festival ran from 11th to 21st April 2013 at the National Media Museum and other venues near to the city.

No comments:

Post a comment