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The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears


The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears certainly sets out to be “The Film That Grabbed Viewers’ Attention”, subjecting Helena (Abril) to a brisk rape by her own son Noah (Gjorgjievski) in the opening minutes, before — claiming abuse by his father Emil (Galey) — he leaps to his death from the balcony of their Paris apartment. Teona Strugar Mitevska’s second feature — her

short, Veta, won a Jury award in Berlin a decade ago — is made with her sister Labina (Welcome To Sarajevo) as the second female lead, playing a young country peasant, Ajsun. Single mother of IIkin (Varka) and cause of her violent father’s dis- honour, Ajsun is one of Macedonia’s Juruci people, who live near the town of Radovish and wear brightly coloured costumes (to the delight of Monika Lorber’s costume department and Matyas Erdely’s camera). Helena and Ajsun are connected via Lucian

(Bajraktaraj), IIkin’s father, a paroled drug smug- gler who comes under the professional care of pro- bation officer Helena in Paris — but who wants desperately to get back to his fiancée and son in Macedonia. Lucian’s quest meets Helena’s need to set the

past right in The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears, with the Mitevska sisters — Labina also pro- duced — turning in an ambitious film which


A better fit for TV programming than theatrical release, not only because of its running time but also its approach, Silvina Landsmann’s eye-open- ing documentary Soldier/Citizen (Bagrut Lochamim) — made in 2006 but released now — runs the risk of being considered dated by close


Mac-Ger-Slov-Bel. 2012. 103mins Director/screenplay Teona Strugar Mitevska Production company Sisters and Brother Mitevski International sales Urban Distribution International, www. Producer Labina Mitevska Executive producer Ana Jordanova Cinematography Matyas Erdely Editor Nicolas Gaster Production designer Vuk Mitevski, Stephan Von Tresckow Main cast Victoria Abril, Labina Mitevska, Jean Marie Galey, Arben Bajraktaraj, Firdaus Nebi, Kaeliok Fonenimum Varka, Dimitar Gjorgjievski

works better in Macedonia for the first part than it ever manages in Paris. Abril’s character is always an uncomfortable fit in the story, though it is her name that will pique limited viewer interest. The sequences that truly sell this picture, however, take place in Macedonia among the Juruci as Ajsun and Ilkin go about their daily business together. Parallels are drawn throughout between Helena,

whose family is in the process of total destruction, and Ajsun, who seeks only to reunite hers. Playing Ajsun, Mitevska is as attractive here as in either of

observers of Israeli politics. A fly-on-the-wall por- trait of an army course in civic studies for young soldiers going back to civilian life after three years in uniform, it is better at suggesting a prevalent climate in a certain type of Israeli society than at discussing the burning issues being brought up. Often unfocused, repetitive and terribly talka-

tive for a non-Hebrew speaking audience, it may turn out, despite the relevance of the subjects dis- cussed, to be a tough international sale. Argentinian-born Landsmann, who served in

her Michael Winterbottom films (she also stars in I Want You), but the role itself is fairly straightfor- ward. Much more is asked of Paris-based Abril from the film’s very opening moment, and she does not always have the support of a credible arc (at one point she is brandishing scissors around a shower; at another, her character is levitating). Erdely’s camera follows Abril from behind cur-

tains and doors, while Ajsun is set against the expanses of the Macedonian countryside. Paris exteriors are minimal.


Isr. 2012. 68mins Director/producer/ cinematography Silvina Landsmann Production company Comino Films International sales Doc & Film International, www. Executive producer Marek Rozenbaum Editor Gil Shnaiderovich

the Israeli army, studied film in Tel Aviv but lived for the last 10 years in Paris. She first heard about the courses — organised by the IDF for its soldiers who had not completed their matriculation exams before being drafted — from her brother, who was teaching in one of them. She accompanied him with her camera in July

2006, observing the soldiers, still in uniform and carrying their weapons wherever they go, and once she had everyone’s permission started shoot- ing the civic studies course, trying to do it as unob- trusively as possible. The course is no doubt a thorny subject in

Israel, a country that pretends to be Jewish and democratic at the same time and has still to find a satisfactory solution to what appears to be a con- tradiction in terms of its legal system. Thus, for instance, its laws distinctly discriminate in favour of the Jewish population and have been taken to task more than once, for instance in the recently Sundance-awarded The Law In These Parts. Though there is much to mull over in Lands-

mann’s film, in a politically volatile situation of the kind Israel is going through, six years is an eternity and the same film, made now, might have offered even more polarised, extreme reactions. Since the film was made, a new Law of Return has raised the pitch of arguments between right and left into the stratosphere; the clash between the secular and the rapidly growing Orthodox fundamentalist Community is more virulent than ever and the constantly stalled peace talks have brought most to the brink of exasperation. In comparison, Landsmann’s soldiers are relatively tame.

n 20 Screen International at the Berlinale February 13, 2012

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