Keswick Film Club - Reviews - When Pigs Have Wings

Reviews - When Pigs Have Wings

When Pigs Have Wings

Reviewed By John Stakes

When Pigs Have Wings
When Pigs Have Wings
The second film in the club's 2013 season featured the 2011 directorial debut from a former reporter of events in the Gaza region, Sylvain Estibal. And what a clever and insightful first effort at presenting the futility of the Arab-Israeli conflict from an outsider’s perspective this turned out to be.

Set in 2005 on the eve of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (with Malta doing an excellent job substituting for this conflict zone), Estibal's professional credentials enabled him, impartially, to point up the absurdities of the differences between the protagonists through the medium of an absurdist satire spiced with flashes of slapstick particularly in the early scenes. A rather engaging "cochon" proved to be the catalyst for the deliciously entertaining events after "he" (his gender being an essential element in the plotting) was caught up in the net of our hang-drawn hero Jafaar Abbas, a fisherman so down on his uppers that even his only shoes needed soling.

The choice of a pig as catalyst was inspired as it connected the two sides by their mutual abomination of the animal fated never to touch the soil of either nation. Mercifully devoid of any CGI enhancement, the not so little beast impishly sniffed and snorted out his new environment as a reluctant stowaway on board Jafaar's barely seaworthy boat as its skipper tried first to sell the creature for its meat, and later conspired with cross border Israeli worker Yelena to supply its sperm for breeding. Cue lots of insemination gags which hit their targets with relish and brought Jafaar a much needed cash injection to mollify his long suffering wife Fatima. At times the pig was palmed off as a rather benign wolf in sheep's clothing when the need to disguise his existence arose, and the gently satirical sight gags came thick and fast at the equal expense of all involved.

Estibal's humorous take on cross-border life takes a darker turn when Jafaal finds himself arrested as a traitor for fraternising with the enemy, and is accused of allowing his pig to be part of a Jewish strategy of deploying porkies either for suicide missions tied up with dynamite or trained to unearth explosives. To atone and achieve a state of grace he is ordered to become, along with the pig, a suicide bomber with each being kitted out in dynamite loaded waistcoats. Both survive and Jafaar even manages to escape being forced to honour kill himself on home soil. Together with Fatima, Yelena and pig they all set sail into the setting sun in a far from beautiful pea green boat to find peace and harmony, united in their desire to escape but already bickering out their domestic differences.

Sasson Gabay's Jafaal was a delight throughout, never sentimentalising his pathos inducing depiction of a man burdened by an alien beast and family friction, but still managing with some low grade residuary guile and shed-loads of luck to supplement his meagre existence. His bemused and put-upon victim look was priceless. The rest of the cast indulged his antics but how they all managed to keep their faces straight was a miracle. The soulful musical violin and guitar score perfectly captured both Jafaal's general lugubriousness and the underlying resigned hopelessness of the conflict, but at the same time taking nothing away from the inventive satirical humour.

The screenplay was Estibal's own and how well the witty dialogue matched the visuals and with each scene skilfully fleshed out just long enough to keep our disbelief enjoyably suspended. The film's jaunty pace was propelled principally by Jafaal's actions, and the many comic surprises came across as the natural consequences of his now chaotic and unpredictable daily life.

If the effort needed by the committee to bring this film to the Keswick screen is anything to go by, it's no surprise that little is known about it. Pigs may be able to fly but apart from one London showing at the Renoir (following which it was returned immediately to France) the film has never had a general airing. It has resurfaced now thanks only to the vagaries of Studio-Canal and to some astute sleuthing by the committee for which they are to be congratulated, for this modest shoe-string film is nothing short of a little gem.

Next Sunday sees the regional premiere of "Holy Motors" a 2012 French film which has been described as "jaw-droppingly bonkers", and "a weird and wonderful amusement park ride through the subconscious". Sounds just the job to take your mind off the daily routine!

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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