Oct 21, 2009

25th Oct 2009; Ramin Bahrani's CHOP SHOP

A film by Ramin Bahrani
Year: 2007
Country: USA
English with English subtitles
Runtime: 84 min
25th Oct 2009 ; 5.45pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call : 94430 39630

If you own a car and you live in or around New York City, you've at least heard about the Iron Triangle of Willets Point. Not because it's a zone of spectacular urban blight right in the middle of the continent's richest and most expensive city -- although it certainly is -- but because it's where you can get your dents banged out, your windshield replaced and your muffler repaired at rock-bottom prices, at least if you're paying in cash and you're not too concerned about things like receipts and warranties.
This dilapidated and disreputable 20-block stretch of junkyards and body shops, some of it actually unpaved streets, sits in the shadow of Shea Stadium (home of the New York Mets) and the National Tennis Center (home of the U.S. Open); except for those points of reference, it's barely plausible as the United States.
It's oversimplifying Ramin Bahrani's extraordinary film "Chop Shop," which was showered with love at Cannes, Berlin and Toronto . Bahrani sees the Iron Triangle as the place where the American dream goes to die. He never judges the place or its people, who are neither heroes nor villains. You could just as easily say that "Chop Shop" is a classic American fable of immigrant pluck and zeal, of an innocent swept away in the undertow of capitalism, fighting like hell to keep his head above water.
Ale is enterprising and optimistic. In exchange for his work, he lives in a knocked-together plywood room under the roof of a shop owned by a man named Rob. He gets $5 for every passing car he flags onto the premises. This income he supplements by selling candy on the subway, peddling bootlegged DVDs, stealing hubcaps and snatching purses. He is not a criminal. He is a survivor. He goes at things as he has taught himself, and will make the record in his own way: first to knock, first admitted, sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent.
But if the story of Ale's life in a plywood-paneled room atop a Queens body shop, a room he shares with his gorgeous 16-year-old sister (Isamar Gonzales), who makes her own way in the world just as gorgeous older sisters have been doing since forever, is an American parable, Bahrani's movie is something else again. It's a near-masterwork of low-budget precision and improvisation, constructed and rehearsed over many months in collaboration with the actors and the entire Willets Point community.

Bahrani never forces the "Chop Shop" metaphor. He doesn't have to. In places like the Iron Triangle, Alejandro is just another of society's interchangeable spare parts.

Ramin Bahrani

Ramin Bahrani (born March 20, 1975 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.) is an American director and screenwriter. Film critic Roger Ebert called Bahrani "the new great American director" in his review of Goodbye Solo.

Bahrani received his BA from Columbia University in New York City. His first feature film, Man Push Cart (2005), premiered at the Venice Film Festival (2005) and screened at the Sundance Film Festival (2006). The film won over 10 international prizes, was released theatrically around the world, and was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards.

Bahrani's second film Chop Shop (2007) premiered at the 2007 Director's Fortnight of the Cannes International Film Festival, and then screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (2007) and the Berlin International Film Festival (2008) before being released theatrically to wide and universal critical acclaim. Bahrani was awarded the prestigious 2007 Someone to Watch Independent Spirit Award. In 2008, he was nominated for Best Director Independent Spirit Award.

With Bahrani’s third release, “Goodbye Solo” (2008), the filmmaker earned the prestigious critic’s prize at the Venice Film Festival and was now widely regarded as a key figure in a new wave of international filmmaking. Again he offered a story where class, nationality and worldview try to coexist with the tale of a Senegalese taxi driver in North Carolina hired to ferry an old white Southerner to the site of his promised suicide. Bahrani earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Director for his third success, prompting film critic Roger Ebert to comment “After only three films, Bahrani has established himself as a major director."

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