Monday, April 16, 2012
Dallas International Film Festival preview: Maya
Maya reveals the universal within the foreign.
Is there really such a thing as a “foreign film” anymore? Sure, where a film was shot and produced, and what language its characters speak, are markers for the category. But they’re far less important than the ideas one explores and the truths it reveals, which tend to be universal.
Consider what may be the most “foreign” film at the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival: Pluton Vasi’s Maya (playing on April 16 and 17 at Angelika Film Center Dallas). It was cast, shot and produced in Europe’s poorest nation, Albania. Though the recent political and cultural history of the Balkan country, which is located on the Adriatic Sea just north of Greece and due east of Italy’s heel, heavily informs the plot and themes, audiences everywhere can relate to it.
In the movie, Samiu returns to his expatriate father’s hometown in Albania to rebury him. But Samiu decides to stay after meeting Maya, the wife of his distant cousin, and inadvertently upsets the town’s balance of life.
“I wanted to explore the idea of love as a rebellious escape from the routine of hard life,” Vasi said. “Maya loves her husband and her family. Her affair with Samiu is only an escape from her unbearable life and the strangling mindset of the town.”
Samiu settles in by opening a hair salon. As the town’s men sullenly watch their women emerge from Samiu’s business with Westernized hairstyles, a familiar conflict develops: the clash between the modernism, liberty and money of the West and the cherished yet comparably constrictive traditions that have long defined Albanian society.
“In this small town, it’s hard to talk of people who live a happy life,” Vasi said. “They have no work: no means to live.
Halisa, a teenage girl, is a part of the town’s mindset, which includes the idea of family as a sacred refuge. Their unhappy life was always there…and it was Samiu who came and served as the means to uncover it.”
Another universal idea in Maya is the way envy and gossip can poison happiness. Samiu’s growing closeness to Maya draws the resentment of Bekim, the town’s chief police inspector, who harbors unrequited feelings for Maya himself. To drive Samiu out for good, he abuses his police powers to propagate a masterful campaign of rumor and innuendo.
“Gossip leads the life, as there isn’t much else to do,” Vasi said, and eventually Halisa—Maya’s daughter—takes action that leads to tragedy.
So why did Vasi choose DIFF to premiere his movie, which has amassed a number of festival award nominations overseas, in America?
“[DIFF] is a festival that promotes independent cinema, and that’s what we were looking for,” he said. “Our relationship with the organizers has been great since the very beginning. Everything is very well organized, and the staff is very responsible and friendly as well.”
Pegasus News Content partner - Dallas International Film Festival
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