London Film Fanatiq vs the London Film Festival: Part 4 – Tall as the Baobab Tree, Good Vibrations and The Loves of Pharaoh
The fourth day holed up at BFI Southbank continued the march of eclectic fare from the 56th London Film Festival with the first representative of “Dare” (“in your face, up-front and arresting: films that take you out of your comfort zone”, so explains the official festival programme) rearing its head with Tall as the Baobab Tree. Good Vibrations brought the first glimpse of the “Sonic” field while The Loves of Pharaoh was the first of several “Treasures” to be put on show.
Tall as the Baobab Tree: this debut film from Jeremy Teicher is based on the true stories from his earlier African-based documentary whilst still at university. Focused on a rural Senegalese family, Tall as the Baobab Tree presents the conflict between tradition and modern views and education. As Coumba, Dior Ka hopes to save her young sister (her real life sister, Oumoul) from being sold into marriage at her father’s behest. Teicher’s film is strikingly framed, yet retains a naturalistic feel. Consisting entirely of local villagers, the cast appears surprisingly comfortable in front of the cameras in making a considerable impression. The story is a heart-breaking one, but at times moves at a snail’s pace with little happening at times. Still, Tall as the Baobab Tree is a worthwhile view of a slice of African culture and the conflict it faces as the world’s views change. 8/10
The Loves of Pharaoh: this 1922 German tragedy in six acts launched German filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch’s Hollywood career and has recently been restored with the missing footage (nearly a fifth of that originally shot) patched with still photos and scene descriptions. Pieced together from a handful of partial existing prints from around the world, The Loves of Pharaoh is a beautiful example of the love and dedication that goes into film restoration. The plot is engaging enough, but is somewhat secondary to the marvel of such a large scale film from 90 years ago. Over-the-top and entirely un-PC (the “Ethiopians” would never fly in today’s world), The Love of Pharaoh is a real treat for film geeks. 8/10