Tuesday, 26 April 2011

DVD Review: Blame it on Fidel

When it played at the EIFF a few years ago I remember being less than impressed by the description of Blame it on Fidel in the programme (how I make my EIFF choices will be covered in a future post- I bet you can hardly wait).  As a result I decided to give it a miss and so I only got round to seeing it fairly recently.  It tells the story of a young girl, Anna, growing up in early 70s Paris whose parents embrace radical socialism.  The subsequent adjustments to their lifestyle- behavioural and material- naturally have a marked impact on her.

I think I was put off for two reasons: firstly I was fearful from the promotional comments that politically I would find it annoying.  I imagined a film full of gross caricatures of left activists, an over-simplification of ideas, and difficult to like characters.  To an extent this assumption turned out to have some justification.  Their house is soon full of barbudos who come out with such statements as "Mickey Mouse is a fascist" and "your child is a reactionary" while Anna and her brother feel themselves more and more neglected as a result of their parents' newfound priorities.

My second concern was given the subject matter and the fact that first time director Julie Gavras is the daughter of lefty director Costa-Gavras, that this could turn out to be a tad self-indulgent and that the lead character could be an unrealistic and overly sympathetic representative of her younger self.  On this I was most definitely wrong.  If anything, it's actually difficult to like the child at all to begin with given how spoilt and selfish she is at times.  As the film proceeds, however, we see an impressive level of complexity conveyed as Anna wrestles with her surroundings and education.  The scene where she puts into practice the lessons she's learned in solidarity is both touching and amusing.  It's in this more fundamental story, how children process and assimilate information and how ideas and experiences shape our perceptions, that the real interest lies and there's certainly enough here to make me look  forward to Gavras's next film, due out later this year.

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