Seen 20th November
This year I had the honour of being an official reviewer for the Lift-Off Film Festival. Over three days I saw four feature films and dozens of shorts, grading them all as I watched them and I genuinely enjoyed the experience. I’ve been to film festivals before but never in any form of official capacity and I hope to do it again. Now, a few days later, I present my reflections on each film that I saw. Specifically the features. If I did a review for every short I’d be writing 20 of them and I still have to have time to review Daddy’s Home 2 at some point because I hate myself.
Caina is the story of a humanitarian crisis brought on by a wave of illegal immigration along the Italian coastline where bodies keep washing ashore from various nations. This is so prevalent that an industry forms around the collection and disposal of those bodies. Our main character (whose name I wish I remembered, keep in mind I saw this 3 days ago in a crowded theatre, the film is in Italian and thus, because I’m a dumb Australian who knows exactly one language I couldn’t read the credits, and IMDB is not helping me!) is played by Luisa Arnatucci and her character is possibly the worst of all human beings, a racist bastard who used to kill people for a paycheck but now just collects their corpses and takes them somewhere so they can be turned into concrete. One day a young Muslim man, played by Helmi Dridi, comes into her life and so she uses him in order to help her drag the bodies to where they’re needed. Could this man change the racist’s bitter heart or will her unending hatred be her own undoing?
The performances in this film are next level in terms of brilliance. Luisa Arnatucci is incredible as the lead, she plays this vile human being who will spout out racial epithets like they’re commas and makes her living basically defiling corpses and yet something about how Luisa plays her makes it impossible to look away from her. Even when she is verbally berating the man who has decided to help her, you want to know more about this person who seems too far gone to ever change. She puts enough quirks in the characterisation to make it a step above a garden variety racist and it’s incredible. Helmi Dridi just brought me to tears, his character goes through the wringer in this film after he leaves a group he’d been with in order to stay with Luisa’s character. It’s genuinely incredible the stuff he pulls out but no scene hits harder than one where he is screaming prayers to Allah in the pouring rain after he’s been left out there by Luisa’s character in one of her more wicked moments of racist evil. It’s a powerful scene and a touching character that slowly grows throughout the film. There’s also a really great character played by Isa Danieli who is basically Luisa’s boss and my god is she a lot of fun, she’s almost as vile as Luisa’s character is but there is something about her… it’s like she’s relishing being such an evil person.
The power of this film is that it doesn’t shy away from how genuinely cruel and vile the actions of these people are. They are, quite literally, taking the corpses of refugees from the beach and making them into cement that’s used to construct dwellings in town. It doesn’t get more evil than that and at no point do they try and sugar coat it. You get a few moments from Luisa where there’s a hint she may feel some remorse for denying these people a decent burial but that’s swept aside when the promise of money makes it palatable for them to drag a few more bodies onto the truck, and if there aren’t enough dead to go around then you can always just drown some poor random passerby and use that body to get the 800 bucks you’ll get for it in the end. It’s dark, it’s depressing, it’s an emotional wrecking ball of a story and it’s done brilliantly.
There are a few scenes that do feel pointless, one with a side character hooking up with a prostitute goes no where and feels tacked on because they had these actors for a day and damnit they were going to get their moneys worth but for the most part the film is brisk and in the 90 minutes the film has your attention it’s going to show you the dark side of what people will do in order to get by, especially if them getting by means they get to embrace the racist beliefs that they’ve long since held. It’s strangely timely in that fashion, we live in a time where it seems as though racism has the run of the place and so here comes a film where they take that to the logical extreme, racism and the deaths of the innocent can be used for profit by those with no morals.
A dark film that will chill you to your core, Caina does not hold back or treat the audience with kid gloves. It knows you can handle the dark gritty tale it has to tell and it doesn’t hold back. Hug a teddy bear when you watch this one, you’re going to need it.