Possible Worlds Film Festival Review: Diego Star (Canada/Belgium, 2013)

In it’s eight year, the Possible Worlds Film Festival has broadened its focus, premiering ten films from the United States in addition to the usual Canadian cinematic experiences offered to Australia. Within the ten Canadian films on the programme sits exploitative drama Diego Star, a probing look at social justice directed by up and comer, Frédérick Pelletier.

The Diego Star is an aging cargo ship kept barely afloat through dodgy maintenance practices and cost cutting. Second engineer Albert Traoré’s repeated attempts to warn his superiors that the engine needs an overhaul have fallen on deaf ears, resulting in a major malfunction which leaves the ship stranded on the Saint Lawrence River. His position and presence at the time of the incident leads to wrongful accusation and scapegoating, lead by ship Captain Koperkine and supervisor Petoukh. Stuck in limbo and awaiting investigation from Canadian authorities, the crew are housed within the local township (Lévis). Traoré is assigned to board with Fanny Ouellette a young woman coming to grips with being a single mother, who works preparing meals in the shipyard’s Cafeteria. As the investigation intensifies, Traoré struggles to keep his dignity, whilst searching for solace and aid in the people around him.

There are a lot of great points to this film, firstly the acting is executed well, Isaka Sawadogo (The Invader, Cabo) is formidable as the outspoken yet contradictingly gentle-natured Traoré, his performance allowing insight and connection to the emotional wringer he’s put through. Chloe Bourgeois is just as convincing as a tough Ouellette, balancing between a lost withdrawn parent and a bold risk taking youth . The pair’s relationship is fragile and complex and refreshingly not a romantic one, leaving the audience to make their own assumptions as to how they view one another.

The script is well thought out and beautifully written with poetic lines thrown in every once in a while. Elements of deception, betrayal and distrust are worked in as organic occurrences to be realised, rather than thrust upon the viewer. The realistic plot is reflected in a flawed, corrupt system which ultimately fails it’s victim through a bureaucracy full of false promises, all too eager to wash their hands of the situation. Faint glimmers of hope that humanity will prevail are quashed, as each involved party be it the crew or Ouellette herself, faced with the option to have their silence bought or make a stand, disappointingly go for the former.

The realistic approach to the film is also refreshing, but the abrupt far from happy ending may polarise audiences, especially those who love to cheer on an underdog. Set in the cold depths of winter, it’s understandable that the landscape be foreign and dark, but in a lot of cases shots are so dark that shapes and faces are barely discernible, disrupting whatever is being conveyed. Pacing seems a little slow with a few unnecessary scenes that serve no purpose other than filler, which could have been better utilised to develop the story.

All in all, Diego Star is a captivating and thought provoking effort from Pelletier, which will hopefully give audiences relatable insight to the frustration experienced by those who find themselves rendered powerless by their circumstances and give rise to questions around social responsibility.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 91 minutes

Diego Star will be screening as part of the Possible Worlds Film Festival Monday 12th August, 6:30pm at Dendy Opera Quays. Tickets are on sale now.

For more information about the festival programme please visit: http://www.possibleworlds.net.au/