TIFF 2016: Hunting Flies Review

Discovery 

This Albanian school comedy directed by Izer Aliu gets a passing grade from this critic. Like Boundaries,  this is a film where school stands in for the political stage. Even without knowledge of the regional divides Albania currently faces, the film is an enjoyable and absurd comedy worthy of your time.

Burhan Amiti plays Ghani, the sole good teacher in a school that has just recently been overhauled. There’s a new ruling political party and the only staff who are allowed to work at the school are the party’s supporters. Unfortunately, Ghani didn’t vote in the last election. In an attempt to convince his new principal to allow him to continue teaching, he enforces a very lengthy after-school detention with a group of boys (the girls, as always, are too mature to require intervention). His mission? To get these boys to get along with each other. 

I would have appreciated a little more exposition around the conflict. I was surprised by the punishment, and only saw them clash after the detention was implemented. The non-professional actors who play the boys really do give it their all and you come to sympathize with them when they don’t understand their teacher’s motivations. Mr. Ghani has the boys engage in a variety of group activities – including stepping on a taped line at the same time, debates, essay responses, and negotiation exercises where one boy needs to make an offer his partner will accept, otherwise they neither will receive a reward. I particularly liked how the teacher wanted students to focus on their strengths as well as the strengths of others.

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I must give kudos to the boy who plays the student with a disability (credit info not available to me at this time). He enjoys hunting flies a great deal and often his obsession and inability to comprehend what the rest of the boys are doing lends itself to the absurd, hopeful yet dark, comedic tone of the film.

Screening: 

Sunday Sept. 18, 2:45pm @ Scotiabank 10

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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