Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Monday, October 23, 2006

MIFF: Boy Called Twist (Tim Greene, 2004)

For a few minutes of volunteer work at the Milwaukee International Film Festival, I also got to see Boy Called Twist, a modern South African interpretation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. Twist is born in a rural orphanage, his name decided by a book on the shelf and because there is already an orphan named Oliver. Twist is, at age 11, sold with other children to a farm and put to hard labor, then to a man's house where he is mistreated by the other servants and runs away, and finally ends up in Cape Town, where he is befriended by other street urchins and lives in an abandoned warhouse with them and their adult master Fagin. As anyone who has seen the other movie adaptations/read the book (which does not include me) knows that his life with the other pickpockets is as hard as anything else in his life, and once he gets away, it isn't for long.

Twist is played by young Jarrid Geduld, who brings a naivity and hardness to his character, often at the same time. When Twist finds himself in a real bed with a real breakfast for the first time after being taken in by Ebrahim, he embraces the maid Francine as if she was his mother he hadn't seen in years. Francine immediately understands the great meaning of the embrace, and treats it accordingly. A scene like this is hard to make touching and not just sappy, but that is the joy of Boy Called Twist; even though it is based off one of the most adapted stories in history, it brings a new understanding to it, especially because of its setting. Modern South Africa is a contradictory place, with absolute slums just blocks away from beautiful, picturesque mansions. When Twist is taken away from Ebrahim's house, he is only taken maybe a few miles away, but the two worlds are so completely different that he could never find his way back by himself. The Muslim community in Cape Town is also given a large role, and was very interesting, as I didn't know this sub-community even existed.

Geduld is pitch-perfect as Twist, and exudes a very adult presence in this small child. He is both a hard pickpocket and a boy who has never known parents' love, and these roles compete for dominance in him. The adult performances are also very strong, especially Kim Englebrecht as the doomed prostitute Nancy who was taken in by Fagin at the same age as Twist and has conflicting ideas about what's right for this boy. This years old story is given new life in this contemporary world. Definitely check it out if you can, as I can't find it on Netflix yet.


RIYL: City of God (a similar portrayal of street children)

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