A reflection on historical memory and on the conflicts of yesterday and today: this is how “Tommy Guns” by Carlos Conceição, Portuguese director born in Angola in 1979, can be summed up.
Set in the African nation in 1974, the film opens by showing the progressive abandonment, by the Portuguese and their descendants, of a territory that is gradually being reconquered by the separatists. As the colonization comes to an end, the path of a local girl crosses with that of a Portuguese soldier, who will bring her love and death.
This is just the opening of “Tommy Guns”, a film that continues by telling of a Portuguese platoon barricaded inside a walled space, from which it seems practically impossible to exit. Among the most interesting titles seen in competition at the Locarno Film Festival up to today, this film mixes influences ranging from the novel “The Desert of the Tartars” by Dino Buzzati to the film “The Village” by M. Night Shyamalan: despite the many ideas coming from the past, Conceição’s feature film manages to maintain its own originality, to surprise and shock for almost all the two hours of duration. Very ambitious and not a little complex, “Tommy Guns” takes decidedly anomalous paths to talk about war and make us reflect on it, stressing several times how conflict is above all a state of mind where the real enemies are ourselves.
A reflection on history
Using the political metaphor of the zombies, the film is also a reflection on history and tyranny, with an often metaphysical sense and with reasoning that reaches up to the present day and also touches a certain topicality. There are imperfections and some passages are very confused. but the general design offers a considerable thought on the cyclical nature of oppression and on the desire of many human beings to maintain their power over others at all costs. Also equipped with a remarkable photograph, “Tommy Guns” is appreciated for the general aesthetics and for a packaging that manages to overcome some dramaturgical limitations. For many reasons, it is a film that could find space in the final palmarès of the Swiss event.
Unfortunately, different results are achieved by Ming Jin Woo’s “Stone Turtle”, a co-production between Malaysia and Indonesia. Also presented in competition, the film stars Zahara, a stateless refugee who lives on a remote island in Malaysia. where he earns his living by selling turtle eggs. One day Samad, claiming to be a university researcher, visits the island, and wants to hire Zahara as a guide. As the day progresses, the two will find themselves at the center of a series of unexpected events. According to the director’s own statement, “Stone Turtle” would like to be a deeply metaphorical journey of a woman in search of personal and social justice but, despite good intentions and an evocative starting point, the film gets lost very soon resulting too messy and confused. The elements related to folklore and popular traditions are fascinating, but they risk being more an evocative choice of magical atmospheres than a real valid reason to offer insights that struggle to arrive. Better the frame of the painting, in this film that risks being forgotten very quickly.