51st Chicago International Film Festival Screening #1: “Three Days In September” (Bosnia/Macedonia)

“Three Days In September” (Bosnia/Macedonia)
Directed by Darijen Pejovski

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Thank god, the film festival is finally here since, for me, it’s easily the most wonderful time of the year! Perhaps an overstatement…the opening day of the baseball season trumps it, but not by much. I’ll be seeing upwards of twenty films over the next two weeks after spending hours pouring over the schedule and mixing and matching what sounds good, what has good buzz, and what fits my schedule. As proven by last year’s festival, you never know if what you’ll see is any good. Some with great buzz are just awful (“Fort Tilden”), and some that have not a whiff of press are unforgettable (“La Jaula de Oro”). But, perhaps more importantly, films at the Festival provide the following:

  • A look under the hood of cultures we would not otherwise come in contact with
  • An introduction to wonderful, and mostly unknown, actors, directors, writers, cinematographers and other film artists
  • A reminder, by way of emotion, of that which makes us all part of a larger, yet singular, community
  • A view in to the effects of historical events through the eyes of strangers…strangers who have vastly different perspectives than we might

My first screening, on Friday night, was the Macedonian film, “Three Days In September.” I went in to this screening totally blind, as almost nothing had been written about the film and I chose it based merely on the blurb in the schedule. Something about it stuck out…perhaps the word suspenseful. Suspense movies made outside the bubble of Hollywood are sometimes the best, as their creators know you don’t need car chases or explosives to make an effective thriller. And “Three Days..” is very effective.

Taking place in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Macedonia, “Three Days…” drapes itself as a treatise on the nature of memory, revenge, and the ways in which women must navigate through the constant specter, and effects, of abuse in an unchanging, misogynist Balkan culture. The two leads, Irina Ristic, as the stoic woman of mystery, and Kamka Tocinovski, as the, well, less stoic woman of mystery, are riveting…keeping us entranced as we attempt to understand what’s happening and guess what’s about to. Their performances are minimalist and true. There is one terribly written scene in the second act, where it all feels a bit false, but I’m willing to chalk this up to cultural differences in our emotional response to major events. However, except for that hiccup, the script is effective. The first act, while never dull, reveals itself very slowly and the payoff makes it worth the wait. The photography is, as you would hope, amazing, and filled with the lush beauty and decaying gloom of a town in the Macedonian countryside that has long since seen it’s zenith. Oh, and a word about the score…most small foreign films love to use the score as a bridge between scenes instead of as a way to force an emotion on us during a scene, a la big budget Hollywood films. “Three Days…” uses its score almost exclusively for this purpose, and I absolutely loved the director for doing so.

Not a perfect film, but if you have the opportunity to see it, you should.

Written 10/20/2015

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