Dirs: Mehdi Charef, Emir Kusturica, Spike Lee, KatiaLund, Jordan and Ridley Scott, Stefano Veneruso, John Woo. It. 2005. 131mins.
Portmanteau films arelike chocolate assortments: pretty boring once all the coffee creams have gone.The latest multi-director outing to test international audiences' limitedappetite for the genre, All The Invisible Children is a worthy butuneven series of riffs on the plight of children threatened by war andexploitation around the world.
Although credit must go toproducer Chiara Tilesi for turning the spotlight on the world's most vulnerableunderclass, the film lacks the topical and polemical edge that persuadeddistributors in several territories to take on a previous directorial relayrace, 11'09"01, and will be a much harder sell outside of its productionhome Italy, where the film is being released by 01 Distribution.
But an anthemic,chart-oriented soundtrack song performed by Tina Turner and Elisa will help tostir interest, as will a linked-in charitable initiative involving the ItalianMinistry of Foreign Affairs, UNICEF and the World Food Programme.
As in 11'09"01, theeight directors involved in the project were given complete creative freedom,the only requirements being that they should focus on the plight of childrenwho are in some way "invisible"- marginalised, oppressed, exploited, below themedia radar - and that each of the seven segments (father-and-daughter teamRidley and Jordan Scott co-directed) should be set in the director's hometerritory.
The result was always goingto be varied, but the well-meaning vagueness of the brief reduces the side lightingto zero: rather than mutually illuminating variations on a theme, we are givenseven stand-alone films on aspects of childhood today.
The standout segments areSpike Lee's incisive study of the problems and prejudices faced by anHIV-positive teenager (Jesus Children Of America), and Bilu E Joao,Katia Lund's vibrant portrait of two Sao Paulo street kids.
Lee's didactic DIY stylefinds a perfect dramatic outlet here, as we follow 13-year-old Blanca's gradualdiscovery that her parents are junkies, and that her frequent bouts of illnessare AIDS-related.
Fernando Meirellescollaborator Lund uses an on-the-run shooting style, snappy editing and astreetwise drum and rap soundtrack to celebrate the lives of two resourceful, homelessstreet kids - the Bilu and Joao of the title - who eke out a living bycollecting recyclable rubbish on the streets. The focus is the energy andresilience of children on the edge, the way they create their own families ifdeprived of a conventional mother-and-father unit.
Emir Kusturica gives us aclassic slice of Kusturiciana with Blue Gypsy, a film that sides openlywith a persecuted subclass, but which also shows the way kids are exploited andbullied within gypsy culture. Almost a parody of the director's raucous styleand prevailing obsessions (especially in the opening scene where a wedding anda funeral procession collide), the short functions as a coda to Kusturica'sfull-length meditations on gypsy life, Time Of The Gypsies and BlackCat, White Cat.
Co-producer StefanoVeneruso's paean to Neapolitan street children, shot by Oscar-winning DoPVittorio Storaro, is marred by an uncertain script, but lifted by the utterlyauthentic performance of its non-professional lead.
The other three segments areless compelling: Tanza, by Algerian novelist-director Mehdi Charef,plods along with a band of under-age African soldiers in enemy territory;Jordan and Ridley Scott's unresolved Jonathan charts a warphotographer's journey from self-doubt to new resolve thanks to a vision of hisown childhood; and John Woo gives way to schmaltz in Song Song And LittleCat, which juxtaposes the emotionally barren life of a rich little girlwith the hard but love-filled life of a street urchin.
MK Film Productions
Adriana Chiesa Enterprises
Maria Grazia Cucinotta
Tanza: Mehdi Charef
Blue Gypsy: Stribor Kusturica
Jesus Children Of America: Cinque Lee, Joie Lee
Bilu E Joao: Katia Lund, Eduardo Tripa
Jonathan: Jordan Scott
Ciro: Diego De Silva, Stefano Veneruso
Song Song And Little Cat: Li Qiang
Tanza: Philippe Brelot
Blue Gypsy: Milorad Glusica
Jesus Children Of America: Cliff Charles
Bilu E Joao: Toca Seabra
Jonathan: James Whitaker
Ciro: Vittorio Storaro
Song Song And Little Cat: Zeng Nianping
Tanza: Rasmane Tiendrebeogo
Blue Gypsy: Radovan Markovic
Jesus Children Of America: Sarah Frank
Jonathan: Ben Scott
Ciro: Annalisa Mucci
Song Song And Little Cat: Tim Yip
Tanza: Yannick Kergoat
Blue Gypsy: Svetolik Mica Zajc
Jesus Children Of America: Barry Alexander Brown
Bilu E Joao: Estevan Santos
Jonathan: Dayn Williams
Ciro: Ugo De Rossi
Song Song And Little Cat: Robert Ferretti
Tanza: Rokia Traore
Blue Gypsy: Stribor Kusturica, Zoran Marijanovic, Dejan Sparavallo, NenadJankovic
Jesus Children Of America: Terence Blanchard
Bilu E Joao: Antonio Pinto, Instituto Tejo Damasceno, Rica Amabis
Jonathan: Ramin Djawadi
Ciro: Maurizio Capone
Song Song And Little Cat: Lin Hai
Tanza: Adama Bila, Elysee Rouamba
Blue Gypsy: Uros Milovanovic, Advokat Goran R Vracar, Mihona Vasic
Jesus Children Of America: Hannah Hodson, Andre Royo, Rosie Perez
Bilu E Joao: Vera Fernandes, Francisco Anawake de Freitas
Jonathan: David Thewlis, Kelly MacDonald, Jack Thompson
Ciro: Daniele Vicorito, Emanuele Vicorito
Song Song And Little Cat: Zhao Zicun, Qi Ruyi, Wang Bin, Jiang Wen Li