It's difficult to know who's the targeted audience for the ultra-worthy omnibus compilation "8." The results are often didactic, occasionally simplistic, and only rarely genuinely affecting.

It’s difficult to know who’s the targeted audience for the ultra-worthy omnibus compilation “8.” Helmers including Gael Garcia Bernal, Jane Campion and Gus Van Sant were asked to tackle the eight Millenium Development Goals established in 2000 to halve world poverty by 2015, including eradicating hunger, promoting gender equality and guaranteeing universal education. The results are often didactic, occasionally simplistic, and only rarely genuinely affecting. “8” is a good tool to get high schoolers thinking globally, but beyond classrooms and fests eager to promote the string of top names, pic has little hope for wider release.

An intro, voiced by Catherine Deneuve, runs through a potted history of the U.N. as newsreel images are projected onto body parts. Segue to the first short, Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Tiya’s Dream,” shot by the Mauritanian helmer in Ethiopia to illustrate the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. As the only African in the group, it’s unsurprising that Sissako expresses doubt, through Tiya (Nigist Anteneh), that eliminating poverty is a realistic goal.

Bernal’s short “The Letter” is inexplicably set in Iceland and deals with the right to universal primary education; a scene with a class learning about world cultures through a kind of fun fair reinforces the globalized village theme, though the entry is one of the weakest. Gaspar Noe’s “AIDS,” originally presented as an independent short in Cannes in 2006, is the most stylized, composed largely of fixed shots of Dieudonne Ilboudo, a man from Burkina Faso recounting his struggle with the disease in voiceover.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are the themes of Mira Nair’s “How Can It Be?,” in which a Brooklyn-based Muslim woman (Konkona Sen Sharma) leaves her husband (Ranvir Shorey) and son to seek fulfillment with a married man. Nair’s choice of story is certainly brave in this context, but it’s not the best illustration of the struggle for equal rights and feels unsatisfying.

More worked through is Jane Campion’s “The Water Diary,” which stars her daughter Alice Englert and, like the Noe, preemed as an indie short at Cannes in 2006. Tackling the goal of environmental sustainability, Campion sets her contribution in the Australian outback, where global warming has created extreme drought conditions and water conservation leads to drastic measures. Story, the longest of the group, has a satisfying narrative arc that incorporates its primary theme without didacticism.

Not so Gus Van Sant’s lazy “Mansion on the Hill,” featuring his now tedious skateboarder fetish via images of middle-class kids rolling down streets, intercut with titles explaining infant mortality statistics. It would take a sophistical character out of Moliere to package this as a meaningful device, and Van Sant doesn’t bother mentioning that the U.S. has the second highest infant mortality rate in the developed world.

Best of the bunch is “The Story of Panshin Beka,” by Jan Kounen (“Darshan: The Embrace”). Handsomely shot in sharp black-and-white, pic incorporates the folklore of the Peruvian Amazon in its tale of a pregnant woman (Loydi Hucshva Haynas) unable to get medical attention when deadly complications arise. On all levels, from narrative involvement and sensitivity to local culture to the superb tech aspects, Kounen’s entry easily stands alone.

Wim Wenders’ “Person to Person” sets itself apart in a different way, playing like an infomercial for micro-credit. Aiming to illustrate the Millenium Goal of a global partnership for development, Wenders has the Third World subjects of cynical and apathetic journalists pop off the screens to take back their identities, much like the toys in “The Nutcracker” coming to life. Blatant proselytizing pulls the entire pic into the realm of an upbeat instructional manual for community organizers.

Visuals throughout are varied and generally strong, from Sissako’s rich tonalities to Noe’s grainy, deep saturations. Lengths vary, though none of the pics is longer than 15 minutes.



  • Production: An LDM Films presentation of an LDM Films production, in association with Ace & Co., Media Screen. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Marc Oberon, Lissandra Haulica. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (noncompeting), Oct. 23, 2008. Running time: 103 MIN.<br><br><B>TIYA'S DREAM</B><br>Produced by Franck-Nicolas Chelle. Directed, written by Abderrahmane Sissako.<br><b>THE LETTER</b><br>Produced by Gael Garcia Bernal, Pablo Cruz, Finni Johannsson. Directed, written by Gael Garcia Bernal.<br><b>AIDS</b><br>Produced by Marc Oberon, Lissandra Haulica. Directed by Gaspar Noe.<br><b>HOW CAN IT BE?</b><br> Produced by Mira Nair, Ami Boghani. Executive producer, Anadil Hossain. Directed by Mira Nair. Screenplay, Rashida Mustafa, Suketu Mehta.<br><b>THE WATER DIARY</b><br>Produced by Christopher Gill. Directed, written by Jane Campion.<br><b>MANSION ON THE HILL</b><br> Produced by David Cress, Neil Kopp. Directed, edited by Gus Van Sant.<br><b>THE STORY OF PANSHIN BEKA</b><br>Produced by Marc Oberon, Lissandra Haulica. Directed by Jan Kounen. Screenplay, Regine Abadia, Kounen.<br><b>PERSON TO PERSON</b><br>Produced by In-Ah Lee, Philipp Steffans. Directed by Wim Wenders. Screenplay, Erin Dignam, Wenders.<br>
  • Crew: <B>INTRODUCTION</B><br>Music, Nicolas Jorelle. French dialogue.<br><B>TIYA'S DREAM</B><br>Camera (color), Dominique Gentil; editor, Nadia Ben Rachid; sound (Dolby Digital), Philippe Welsh. Amharic dialogue.<br><b>THE LETTER</b><br>Camera (color), Rain Kathy Li; editor, Alex Rodriguez; sound (Dolby Digital), Gunnar Arnason. Icelandic dialogue.<br><b>AIDS</b><br> Camera (color), Noe; editors, Noe, Marc Boucrot; sound (Dolby Digital), Issa Traore, Boucrot, Cyril Holtz; assistant director, Olivier Thery-Lapiney. Original title: SIDA. French dialogue.<br><b>HOW CAN IT BE?</b><br>Camera (color), Declan Quinn; editor, Allyson Johnson; music, Mychael Danna, Rob Simonsen; sound (Dolby Digital), Dominick Tavella. English dialogue.<br><b>THE WATER DIARY</b><br>Camera (color), Greig Fraser; editor, Heidi Kenessey; music, Mark Bradshaw; costume designer, Jane Patterson. English dialogue.<br><b>MANSION ON THE HILL</b><br> Camera (color), David Hupp, Rick Charnoski, Buddy Nichols, Tristan Brillanceau-Lewis; sound (Dolby Digital), Leslie Shatz; casting, Simon Max Hill.<br><b>THE STORY OF PANSHIN BEKA</b><br>Camera (B&W), David Ungaro; editor, Anny Danche; music, Jean-Jacques Hertz, Francois Roy, Nadine Kaiser. Original title: Panshin Beka winoni. Shipibo-Konibo dialogue.<br><b>PERSON TO PERSON</b><br>Camera (color), Franz Lustig; editor, Toni Froschhammer; production designer, Sebastian Soukup. English dialogue.
  • With: <B>INTRODUCTION</B><br> <b>Narration:</b> Catherine Deneuve.<br> <B>TIYA'S DREAM</B><br> <b>With:</b> Nigist Anteneh, Tefera Gizaw, Fekadu Kebede.<br> <b>THE LETTER</b><br> <b>With:</b> Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Hringur Ingvarsson.<br> <b>AIDS</b><br> <b>With:</b> Dieudonne Ilboudo.<br> <b>HOW CAN IT BE?</b><br> <b>With:</b> Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey, Birsa Chatterjee.<br> <b>THE WATER DIARY</b><br> <b>With:</b> Alice Englert, Tintin Kelly, Isidore Tillers, Harry Greenwood, Genevieve Lemon, Miranda Jakich, Justine Clarke, Russell Dykstra.<br> <b>THE STORY OF PANSHIN BEKA</b><br> <b>With:</b> Loydi Hucshva Haynas, Olivia Aravelo Lomos, Denis Rafael Barbaran; Auristela Brito Valles.<br> <b>PERSON TO PERSON</b><br> <b>With:</b> Pendo Duku, Tsehaie Abraham Kidane, Megan Gay, Bhasker Patel, Robert Seeliger, Ian Dickinson, Thomas Spencer, Gerhard Gutberlet, Aminata M. Kalokoh, Mena Z. Kalokoh.
  • Music By: