Friday, 16 September 2011

TIFF 11: The Good Son and The Education of Auma Obama

For the last week-end of TIFF many films have gone RUSH, but if you have the patience to stand in line for a ticket check out these films:

In this nuanced Finnish film, Leila, a lead actress and divorced mother of two (Elina Knihtilä), takes off for the country to lie low after bad mouthing her latest film release. There she is joined by a few of her friends and begins a romance with one of their acquaintances. Her eldest son, Ilmari, played with maturity and depth by actor Samuli Niittymäki, is used to being the man of the house, taking care of his self-focused mother and his younger brother. When it appears that Ilmari's position will be usurped by the newcomer in his mother's life, Ilmari takes protecting his mother to the extreme. Leila's behaviour and abusive relationships in the past has marked both her sons: the elder son is a keg of resentment and protectiveness and the younger is constantly left on his own, where he finds solace and comfort in nature (rarely is he seen in the house). The mother-son interplay between actors Elina Knihtilä and Samuli Niittymäki is never over directed by Zaida Bergroth . As for the younger son (Eetu Julin)I particularly appreciated the way in which Bergroth captures his isolation through naturally lit scenes accompanied by the perfect auditory sounds.

Saturday September 17, Scotiabank Theatre 11, 4:15pm

If you go see this film because Auma Obama is President Barack Obama's half-sister, then I am sure Auma would not have a problem with your reasoning, especially since she played such an important part in his life. Once in your seat, though, you will realize that there is much more to this woman than being the Barack's sister. Auma is woman who seems compelled to help others, whether she is in Kenya helping to educate and inspire young people to create opportunities for themselves where they live, or in Germany, where, as a student and later a journalist, she opened the eyes and minds of many to rethinking the needs of Africa, and the value of "aid".

Auma, like her brother, is linked to their common ancestral past by values of education and community involvement. The documenting of Auma's life is intercut with scenes of Auma, other relatives, and the neighbourhood getting ready on Election night 2008. Director, Branwen Okpako met Auma at film school in Germany, so there is an ease with how she communicates with Auma and she definitely has the advantage in that she is able to access information about the family--a key point since many African cultures keep family issues extremely private. The Education of Auma Obama is a wonderful revelation to me, and I hope it is for you too.

Sunday September 18, AMC 7, 10:15am

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

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