by Neil Morris
The worst kept secret at this (or any) film festival is often the identity of the unpublicized “sneak preview” screening. Tonight, I attended the showing of this year’s Full Frame sneak, which I can now publicly reveal is director Ian Olds’ FIXER: THE TAKING OF AJMAL NAQSHBANDI, which played to positive reviews in January at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and will make its “official” North American premiere later this month at the Tribeca Film Fest in New York City. Olds, together with the late Garrett Scott, directed the acclaimed 2005 Iraq War doc OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND.
Olds’ latest revolves around the 2007 kidnapping and murder of an Afghan “fixer” – a local hired by foreign journalists to facilitate, translate, and gain access for their stories. Olds, who attended and participated in a post-screening Q&A, dovetails off the film’s central personal tragedy into a broader examination of the current travails plaguing the war in Afghanistan. It is not a transcendent film, but certainly one worth seeing.
During this second day of Full Frame, however, I was reminded of two things endemic to the festival each year. First, I am constantly amused by the bemused and/or semi-horrified looks that interstate/international visitors give the tray of chopped pork barbeque served for dinner in the hospitality suite and, come Sunday, the festival’s awards banquet.
Second, and far more unfortunately, is the grand tradition of grandstanding under the guise of rambling, rhetorical “questions” some self-aggrandizing filmgoers pose during post-screening Q&A sessions, particularly following such issue-oriented docs as FIXER. Please ask relevant questions about the films and filmmakers themselves; you aren’t going to solve the Middle East’s geopolitical strife with your two-minute blather inside Cinema 3.