12 years old Iska is put into care in an orphanage where she is interrogated for possible signs of physical abuse by her parents. She replies: "They don't beat me every day". She then sets ...
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12 years old Iska is put into care in an orphanage where she is interrogated for possible signs of physical abuse by her parents. She replies: "They don't beat me every day". She then sets out on her first voyage from her small town to the Black Sea, where she becomes the victim of human trafficking, meeting on her path other children in the same situation yet determined to escape their harsh destiny.Written by
A bold and ultimately shocking reinterpretation of the concept of "docu-drama"
Since the Eighties, there have been countless variations on the documentary "genre": from the mockumentary (This is Spinal Tap), to Michael Moore's body of work, various techniques have been employed to tell true or less true stories, generally to powerful effect. One of the most interesting exercises of recent years is the "docu-drama", i.e. a picture where archive material is blended with "traditional" scenes that recreate certain sections of the event that's being covered. Iska's Journey takes that idea one step further: even though certain aspects of the plot are fictional, it is hard to tell what is fake and what is real.
Actually, talking about a plot, at least in conventional terms, is rather incorrect, as the script was actually a very lose thing which could be adapted to the protagonist's situation: the director met Maria Varga and decided to ditch his planned Oliver Twist movie (perhaps he remembered Polanski's version had been released only two years earlier, too), favoring a daring exercise in style that would have him follow Varga in her home environment and add certain made-up elements to what is essentially a true story.
Iska (Varga) is a twelve-year old girl who lives in a Hungarian village with her ill sister (played by Varga's real-life sibling) and abusive parents. After one beating too many she runs away, although, it is revealed, that is something she does on a regular basis. In fact, when her mother comes to take her home from an orphanage, she complies with the same enthusiasm she showed when answering "Not every day." to the question: "Do your parents hit you?".
The only explanation to this bizarre behavior is perhaps the fact that it could be her own way to deal with the negative environment (both social and geographic) she was brought up in, or at least it appears so since the film's producers were willing to adopt Maria and her sister once the shoot was completed and were turned down not by the parents, but by the girls themselves. This unconventional attitude, which is clearly not faked, sets Iska apart from any other child character that's ever appeared in a movie and provides the picture's biggest point of interest, her almost unnatural (given the premise) vitality injecting every scene with energy and charm.
That can't completely cover the lack of a proper narrative, though: apart from Iska, none of the characters are granted more than one minute of attention, and key scenes are treated with a lightness that borders on superficiality. All of this is atoned for, however, in the last fifteen minutes, which deliver the most shocking revelation of all: the cynical, but fictional ending turns out to be a lot scarier than the based-on-fact build-up. It won't be to everyone's taste, but it is a bold experiment that deserves to be seen.
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