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Bloody Beans at At BEVFF2014

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Director: Narimane Mari Country: Algeria/France Runtime: 77 min Venue: ICA Date: Wed 9th April, 2014 Time: 9pm

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Bloody Beans follows a group of children during Algeria’s War of Independence. Unique and and original, it was selected by David Lynch to play at his club Silencio in Paris. Manish Agarwal discusses why Bloody Beans is such a special film.

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Blurring the boundary between drama and documentary re-enactment, BEV is proud to be hosting the London premiere for Bloody Beans. Narimane Mari’s hallucinatory, sui generis feature opens on a bunch of scrawny children alternately lounging on a golden beach and frolicking in the sun-glazed sea. This apparently idyllic scene is swiftly undercut by rumbles of disquiet, specifically with regard to the youngsters’ diet, which has been reduced to a unappetizing selection of beans, beans and more beans.

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A trio of resourceful girls joins the predominantly male, argumentative protagonists and the conversation broadens. We soon learn the reason for their culinary dearth, as one of the newcomers remarks ominously about the occupying French Army and far-right colonialist terror organization OAS. The context for this tale is thus the Algerian War of Independence.

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Flush with youthful bravado and naiveté, our heroes decide to plunder the variety-rich supplies of a nearby barracks. In addition to stealing their oppressors’ comestible bounty, they also kidnap an inexperienced French soldier. Along the way the group liberates a captive Spanish woman from a violently abusive white man who, in the movie’s most pointed display of symbolism, is wearing a pig mask.

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On paper, a story in which seemingly feral boys abduct an ‘enemy’ and face down a porcine-visaged demon invites comparisons to Lord of the Flies. However, that iconic novel turns out to be too misleadingly bleak a reference point, since Narimane Mari neatly heightens then subverts our expectations of torture and worse. The spirit of poetic realism which animates her work goes back two decades further than William Golding, distilled instead from Jean Vigo’s hugely influential 1933 featurette Zéro de conduite (Zero for Conduct). The latter depicted, in gleefully anarchic fashion, students revolting at a repressive boarding school – the kind of establishment that only serves beans!

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The final act delivers both fatalism and beauty, but revealing specifics would spoil the surprises inherent. Suffice to say that this playfully trancelike picture resolves with a thrilling synthesis of magic hour cinematography, evocative soundtrack and deeply apposite poetry. As you might expect given the conflict setting, Bloody Beans provides much food for thought (pardon the pun) and thematic fat to chew on afterwards, but for its duration the viewer is entirely spellbound, all commentary implicit. As ever, these pleasures are best experienced via the big screen: tickets for Birds Eye View’s exclusive event at the ICA are on sale now!

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