Sunday, October 17, 2010

ANAHEIM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: INHALE


James Harrison (Sam Shepard) and Paul Stanton (Dermot Mulroney) in Inhale.

Organ-ized crime caper closes AIFF 2010

By John Esther

The inaugural Anaheim International Film Festival concludes today. Offering a mixed bag of very good films (i.e. A Small Act; Skeletons; Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story) and sub-par films (i.e. Circo; Mandrill; One Day Less) for a film festival in its first year and only running four days (Oct. 13-17) I was fairly impressed and look forward to the years to come -- especially when AIFF 2010 concludes with a film like Inhale. 

Paul Stanton (Dermot Mulroney) is a rising Santa Fe District Attorney who has a very sick daughter, Chloe (Mia Stallard). With time running out, Paul decides to close a controversial case -- one which his boss (Sam Shepard) agrees he should do for the sake of political expediency -- take some time off and set off into the dangerous world of Juarez, Mexico, in order to find a doctor who may be able to save Chloe's life.

Known as the "murder capital of the world," in Juarez, Mexico, kids Chloe's age die at a staggering rate from gunshots, stabbings and numerous sorts of diseases linked to poverty. Often they die without a caring father or mother around. And they may be the lucky ones. A slum of staggering portions, the children of Juarez are not living, they are merely surviving. 

As Paul searches deeper into the criminal web of the community, he and we see the death of far too many children -- often at the hands of each other. Yet thanks to the film's intelligent narrative, we never forget there is an innocent girl hanging by a medical thread back home. 

An action packed film increasingly offering more and larger dilemmas, director Baltasar Kormakur's film sets itself off for one big payoff that may ignite many an argument as its protagonist works toward what is arguably the grandest sacrifice of all for the better of humankind. I imagine parents will be less forgiving or surprised (if not shocked) at Paul than non-parents. That he is a lawyer working for the "law & order" side only complicates the issues.

A film festival full of gritty films, even if I did not necessarily dig a few of the films here, at least Inhale seems to seal the deal that AIFF is serious about providing smarter, more independent films than your average film festival.

Recommended.

(Inhale screens tonight, 8 p.m. For more information: http://anaheimfilm.org)

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