Oh boy, do I love movies about making movies! Casting By, a documentary about the unsung heroes—casting directors—who suggest and promote actors to directors, was an absolute treat. Marion Dougherty, the star of this documentary, began her career casting talent for Kraft Television Theatre. Around the same time, “method” acting was gaining popularity while the Hollywood star system and typecasting were losing ground. With an instinct for an actor’s range and potential, Dougherty compiled an enormous catalogue of young unknowns—Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, the list goes on and on of those who credit her for their big break. Dougherty was one of the few casting directors to get a “single-card credit” on a film (her name only on the screen). A perpetually under-rated aspect of filmmaking, several of her fans launched a campaign to get Dougherty a special Oscar, but the Academy rejected the idea. She was adored and praised by all who worked with her—directors, actors, and the many casting directors she mentored throughout her long and brilliant career. “Casting By” is definitely an “A” movie.
Halima’s Path opens with a young Muslim woman, Safija, running to her aunt, Halima, for help. Safija is pregnant by her Christian boyfriend and fears her father will kill her if he finds out. Fast forward 25 years later, after the devastating Bosnian war has ended. Remains of the Muslim dead are being returned to their families for burial. Halima needs Safija’s help to identify the remains of her son. It’s a poignant story about a two women making peace with their past. B+ for “Halima’s Path.”
My third movie today, Pieta, from South Korean, is the first film in my six years of festival going that I am unable to rate. On my way out of the theatre, I heard the terms redemptive, revenge, gimmicky, and genre movie and I’m not sorry I saw it, but puzzled as to its meaning. It’s a brutal tale of a loan shark’s enforcer who cripples his victims, often in front of family members. A woman begins stalking him, claiming to be the mother who abandoned him 30 years earlier. I looked for, but failed to find, the Jesus-Mary parallels. I’m left with only strange and different to describe this film.
In the Ooops! department: I forgot to mention, in my last blog post, the distinctly unmemorable Chasing Rainbows (from Romania)—the parallel stories of two unappealing losers, each in search of his impossible own dream, and a punchline one could spot coming a mile away. C- and 103 minutes out of my life that I’ll never get back.