Friday, 29 September 2017

Romantic Road opens the 2017 Edmonton International Film Festival

I am now in Edmonton for the 31st annual Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF). This is my third year at the festival. I was blown away by the quality of the films during the past two years. Many of the best films of the year were shown there (including my favourite film of the year during the past two years). So I am very much looking forward to watching about twenty films during the next ten days. This also means writing lots of reviews, with probably one a day for the next three weeks. Stay tuned!

The EIFF opened last night with Romantic Road, a documentary by Oliver McGarvey, a young local filmmaker. Romantic Road chronicles the adventures of Rupert and Jan Grey, who, at the age of 65, drove an ancient Rolls Royce all over India and Bangladesh in 2012/13. The remarkable journey took them six months, during which they encountered some predictable and unpredictable challenges. For me, the biggest challenge they encountered was simply daring to drive a car in India (400 people a day are killed in traffic accidents in India). On occasion, Romantic Road felt more like a horror film than a documentary. 

While the Rolls Royce and the adventure of the trip take centre stage, Romantic Road is also the story of a very unique (eccentric?) couple (who, along with McGarvey, were present for the screening) and how they viewed their journey together and their interactions with the Indian people they encountered. Rupert was understandably anxious about the potential links between a wealthy white couple in a Rolls Royce and the legacy of colonialism, not to mention how their trip would be perceived in a country with so much poverty. This was an important element in the film, but I wish it had been explored with more depth and with more reflections from the Indian people.

Nevertheless, Romantic Road exceeded my expectations. I was particularly impressed by the editing. The documentary flies along with a perfect blend of interviews (including many fascinating comments from the couple’s three daughters) and action. I don’t want to think about how some of those live action shots were filmed. Very impressive. A solid ***+ for the opening film. My mug is up.

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