6 p.m. — The Orator is a 110-minute Samoan film with English subtitles. From SIFF:
While The Orator's status as Samoa's first feature film makes it a native landmark, writer/director Tusi Tamasese's deft command of atmospherics, tone, and rhythm transforms it into a genuinely noteworthy achievement. Primarily employing first-time actors to bring this delicately wrought tale to life, Tamasese centers his film on Saili (Fiaula Sagote), a diminutive pariah who lives with his wife Vaaiga and her wilful daughter at the outskirts of a remote jungle village. When Vaaiga's estranged family suddenly demands her return, Saili must settle the dispute through the Samoan tradition of oration.
While frequent silent passages lend The Orator a meditative air, they also offer an opportunity to admire the resplendent cinematography of Leon Narbey (Whale Rider) and the subtlety with which Sagote evinces his character's remarkable transformation. Scene by scene, we witness a sense of self-worth being instilled in Saili, lending him the resilience necessary to fight for what he holds most dear. And when the climactic war of words erupts, we find ourselves hanging on every heartfelt word that leaves his lips.
8:30 p.m. — 38 Witnesses is a 104-minute French film with English subtitles. From SIFF:
The somber inception of 38 Witnesses catapults into a world of heightened senses: the noises of men and machines, clouds heavy with raindrops you can almost taste—and a dead girl lying in a puddle of blood in a dim hallway. Inspired by the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, Lucas Belvaux weaves a grim tale of social responsibility, or the lack thereof. One small Parisian neighborhood is ripped asunder by a brutal murder beneath their windows—one that evidently no one heard—causing Pierre (Yvan Attal) to question his own inaction. When brazen journalist Sylvie (Nicole Garcia) breaks the story of the murder’s “silent witnesses,” the reality of this broken social construct emerges and lives are shattered. Backed by poignant sound design that shifts effortlessly between subtle and all-consuming, Attal’s potent portrayal of guilt’s slow destruction of the human spirit haunts his every expression. The washed-out, bleak city provides backdrop to a story that starkly depicts the parts of ourselves we’d prefer hidden, but manages in the end to inspire hope for redemption.