Monday, 20 January 2014

Just watched: Heiwa

Some films these days are practically put together by the marketing department. A gap in the market is identified, or a big hit is replicated, and a film is made specifically to suit that situation. I can’t imagine anyone in a big film studio banging their fists on a table, demanding that this particular film be made. It’s too random for that. Too obscure.

Heiwa ("Peace") is a documentary, released in 2010, that follows a number of people who work with the disabled in the community or the elderly. Offering transport, or cleaning services. The film watches unremarkable scenes like going to buy a pair of shoes or simply take a woman from one place to another. It even takes time to describe the relationships of the various cats who gather outside one person’s house. These scenes are fascinating in how ordinary they are.

Perhaps the highlight are the final scenes: One house-bound old man, conscious of the film crew and aware that he might seem quite boring, starts talking about his time in the war, much to his carer’s surprise.

The film draws some interesting parallels between the service providers and the service users. The disabled are dependant on the help provided, but equally the helpers are dependant on their expenses being paid from government programs. It’s clear that both of these sections of society are undervalued and, sadly, ignored by society as a whole.

But this film doesn’t bang a drum or push these conclusions in the viewer’s face. In fact, this realisation dawned on me a couple of days after having seen it. This documentary is quietly observational, allowing the story to meander from place to place, and whatever the viewer wants to take from this is fine.

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