After three days of prefestival films earlier this week, the Martha’s Vineyard International Festival’s official opening-night reception and film will take place Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. A host of intriguing movies await viewers at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and Capawock Theater, both in Vineyard Haven. “Meet the Patels” (reviewed last week), an Indian romantic comedy, follows the reception. Throughout the weekend, three films will play daily at each venue.
The setting for Friday, Sept. 11th’s, black comedy, “Zero Motivation,” is an Israeli military outpost. Its female recruits demonstrate how to avoid work while kowtowing to their more privileged male colleagues and finagling romantic encounters. The officer in charge of the women is Rama (Shani Klein), a queen-sized bully who hands out menial tasks to her administrative crew. Her biggest threat is to ban miscreants from Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. Watch out for the group’s potentially dangerous weapons, a pair of staple guns, hidden in a file cabinet.
It’s hard to understand who is responsible for what in “Zero Motivation,” except in the case of Zohar (Dana Ivgy), who is supposed to shred discarded documents. Daffi (Nelly Tagar) compulsively sends letters to her superiors in hopes of transferring from the remote Shizafon military base to Tel Aviv, where she figures she’ll have a better life. Irena (Tamara Klingon), the group’s one blonde, of Russian extraction, acts more and more bizarrely, apparently from frustration at living in this den of discontented malingerers. By the movie’s third chapter, Daffi has fantasies of prancing through Tel Aviv in high heels, and Zohar compulsively plays video games. Director Talya Lavie determinedly portrays the life of Israeli female soldiers as dreadful, landing “Zero Motivation” the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Also playing on Friday is the documentary “Listen to Me Marlon.” Its compelling subject, the movie star Marlon Brando, created a private archive of audio recordings and visuals that director Stevan Riley relies on exclusively. Through them, Mr. Riley creates a fascinating portrait of one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. The “On the Waterfront” star and the details of his legendary life provide a riveting subject for both camera and viewer.
An Australian film, “Charlie’s Country,” offers another kind of portrait on Sunday, Sept. 13. Actor David Gulpilil, who won a Best Actor award for his role as Charlie at the 2014 Cannes Festival, also appeared in such well-known Australian films as “Crocodile Dundee” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” Charlie is an indigenous Australian aboriginal who resists assimilating into the nation’s white-dominated culture. He laughs a lot, and although he’s not quite of Marlon Brando’s stature, he nevertheless provides an alluring subject for the film’s many close-ups while he goes about the day-to-day business of life. Director Rolf de Heer visually structures “Charlie’s Country” around the fires Charlie sits next to and the recurrent passage of night and day. Charlie has regular run-ins with the local police, who confiscate his gun, the buffalo he had recently caught, and the spear he fashions to replace his firearm. He ends up in a Darwin hospital, drinks himself silly with a clan of other aboriginals, and ends up in jail for awhile.
Disgusted with the compromises necessary to living as a second-class, government-supported citizen, Charlie takes to the bush, the place where he feels most at home. He builds himself a lean-to, catches and eats a fish, then waits out the rains that plague his bush life. His health deteriorates from too many cigarettes and too much ganja (marijuana), as well as the weather. Although “Charlie’s Country” depicts aboriginal life as relentlessly grim, Charlie is an iconic character. He carries on despite poor health, poverty, and discriminatory abuses, helping to keep alive his race’s cultural traditions.
The festival wraps up Sunday night with a party at La Soffitta Restaurant in Vineyard Haven. For information on all of the festival’s films, see mvfilmsociety.com/festivals.