Saturday, April 21, 2018

Talking Tribeca: Smuggling Hendrix

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

Smuggling Hendrix
Directed by Marios Piperides
International Narrative Competition

A dog is a man’s best friend, or so I’ve been told. As what many might consider the opposite of a dog person, it’s hard for me to understand the affection one can feel for a pet, but it’s certainly something I’ve seen presented in movies and on display in real life with friends who spend more time with their animals than with the people in their lives. The lengths people will go to in order to ensure the well-being of their pets are incredible, though I’d say that someone needing to chase his dog over a border would probably be considered the extreme.

Yiannis (Adam Bousdoukos) is getting ready to leave town, departing Cyprus to pursue his music abroad and run away from the debts that he has incurred and which follow him around as he makes his final preparations. The only thing that’s positive in his present life is his dog, Jimi, who turns his life upside down when he runs across the border separating the Turkish-held North from the Greek-held South. Told that he cannot bring a dog back over to his home, Yiannis must turn to more desperate methods to get Jimi home in time, enlisting the unwilling help of the man (Fatith Al) who lives in the home his family once owned, a questionably-reliable smuggler (Özgür Karadeniz), and the ex-girlfriend (Vicky Papadopoulou) with whom he shares custody of the dog.

This is a decidedly silly story, one that follows the hijinks of this absurd smuggling operation, which of course depend upon Jimi’s ability to keep from barking after it was the dog who caused the problem by running into an occupied territory from which he’s not permitted to reenter unless he does so unseen by the guards. The light plot pales in comparison to the intriguing political commentary presented on the way in which this real-life divided country sets the stage for this film’s tale. Examining the patrolled border and unrecognized status of a nation-state might make for a far better historical drama than this lackluster comedy.

Of the film’s performers, Bousdoukos is the least memorable, making Yiannis an unlikeable slob, hardly worthy of any empathy and not even concerned to dress in something more stable than flip-flops as he steps into another country to find his dog. Al and Karadeniz embrace the absurd situation in which their characters find themselves, and Papadopoulou shines as the most sensible personality in pursuit of this troublesome dog. This film accomplishes what it wants to, which isn’t much, and whether it needed to be made at all isn’t really justified by the end result.


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