Maine International Film Festival roundup: ‘Heading South,’ ‘Protektor’

After having several opportunities to see “Heading South,” and missing it every single time, I finally attended a screening yesterday at MIFF.

It’s an impressive film from Laurent Cantet that delves into a side of Haiti that has seldom been explored. In the late ’70s, despite have a dangerous underbelly, Haiti was still a vacation spot for many.

Cantet’s film focuses on three middle-aged women, Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), Brenda (Karen Young) and Sue (Louise Portal), as they escape into their own little paradise at a Haitian resort. In this world, untouched and unjudged by the outside, the three buy the love of Haitian men, who become their prostitutes.

“Heading South” blurs the line between genuine and manufactured emotions. Who’s lying to whom? Or better yet, who’s lying to themselves? That’s what I love about this movie. It’s really quite a film, one that I should have seen years ago. If you haven’t seen it already, you should.

Karen Young, one of the stars of the film, did a quick Q&A after the screening.

• • •

The other film I took in yesterday was “Protektor,” a movie set in WWII-era Czechoslovakia, about a radio host named Emil Vrbata (Marek Daniel), who compromises himself to work for a Prague Nazi propaganda station in an attempt to protect his Jewish wife.

He puts his wife, Hana (Jana Plodkova), whose acting career was blossoming before the German invasion, under house arrest for her own good. As he does so, their relationship spirals out of control, as they both lose a piece of their identity.

What director Marek Najbrt brings to this story is an energy that will draw comparisons to Tom Tywker’s “Run Lola Run.” There’s a maddening yet brilliant repetition to “Protektor,” as it returns to the same shots of the characters peddling aimlessly on bicycles, which serve as a recurring theme in the film. The score is pulsating and catchy, inspired by the movie’s WWII-era setting, yet also very modern.

Much like the score, the film’s muted colors are a nice nod to the era. At moments, the cinematography almost convinces you that it’s a black-and-white movie, then the occasional dark shade of red pops up.

“Protektor” is all so stylish and frenetic that it just pops off the screen. Add to that an incredible performance from Jana Plodkova as the impulsive Hana, and you have one of the stand-out films at this year’s MIFF.

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One Response to Maine International Film Festival roundup: ‘Heading South,’ ‘Protektor’

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