×

Film Review: ‘Map’

Equipped with a camera, a plane ticket to India, a relationship breakup and recent unemployment, talented, neurotic filmmaker Leon Siminiani has produced an intriguing debut with “Map.” Following several award-winning shorts, this deceptively artful travelogue uses the helmer’s Indian experiences as the platform for a look into those two often-entwined romantic obsessions, filmmaking and love. Such a description might make this sound like a recipe for navel-gazing tedium, but “Map” is actually witty and lively fare that uses a light touch, and reps buried treasure for independent fest auds.

After being fired from his TV job, Siminiani heads for India initially in search of material for a new feature, but his subject soon becomes the preparatory footage he’s shooting for the film. He travels from Delhi to Calcutta, with stops in various locations, urban and rural, musing in a deadpan, self-conscious voiceover about what he sees, seeking connections between his past and his present. For example, a girl bathing in the Ganges strikes him as the spitting image of what a former girlfriend must have looked like as a child.

Coming across a photo of Pasolini, the Italian novelist Alberto Moravia and his wife Elsa Morante on their own Indian travels, Siminiani decides he needs a female companion, and hesitantly sets about finding one, without much success. The helmer’s winsomely gauche, tousle-headed persona is one of the docu’s main attractions, and strikes a pleasant counterpoint with the sharply edited, polished feel of the film. One scene involving a local kid’s first interaction with a camcorder is an authentically laugh-aloud gem of spontaneous filmmaking; at other times, the pic is quietly political or melancholy.

Successfully balancing head and heart, the docu slips into self-absorption in its last third when, back in Spain to deal with a nation in financial meltdown and with his own romantic issues, Siminiani is no longer able to rely on striking, often surreal scenes of Indian life to break up his reflections. The pic’s last, strangely liberating scene reps the first in which anyone other than the director holds the camera.

Concerns about the potentially tedious, self-obsessed nature of the material and its big themes mostly evaporate in the face of the quick-thinking, witty asides and rapid, nervous pacing. The few lengthy, static shots used are meant as a parody of such shots. In one sequence, two years of real time are compressed into four minutes onscreen, a reminder that more than anything else, this is a docu about the process of making films — a fresh, vibrant record of a helmer feeling his way in what is for him a new format.

Matthew Sweet’s upbeat pop song “When You Look in the Mirror” is one of several musical and visual leitmotifs to which the deceptively cunningly structured pic often returns.

Map

(Mapa)

(Documentary – Spain) Reviewed at Cine Renoir, Madrid, Feb. 3, 2013. Running time: 85 MIN.

An Avalon release of an Avalon, Pantalla Partida Producciones production. (International sales: Avalon, Madrid.) Produced by Maria Zamora, Stefan Schmitz. Co-producers, Samuel Martinez, Mario Madueno.

Directed, written, edited by Elias Leon Siminiani. Camera (color, HD), Siminiani. Sound (Dolby Digital), Nacho Royo-Villanova.

With: Leon Siminiani.

(Spanish, English dialogue)

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Map'

More Film

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

  • Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’

    Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ Wins Top Prize in Sarajevo

    “Take Me Somewhere Nice,” Bosnian director Ena Sendijarević’s coming-of-age story about a teen raised in the Netherlands who returns to Bosnia to visit her ailing father, won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival Thursday night, earning the Amsterdam-based helmer the coveted Heart of Sarajevo Award. The jury heralded the “beautifully photographed, acted, scripted [...]

  • Khadar Ahmed - BUFO - photo

    Bufo Sets Key Cast for Co-Production ‘The Gravedigger' (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —   Actor Omar Abdi, who starred in the Ahmed-scripted short “Citizens,” and actress Yasmin Warsame, who made her name as a Canadian model, will topline romantic-tragedy “The Gravedigger,” the latest big screen project from Bufo, the Helsinki-based outfit behind Berlinale winner “The Other Side of Hope.” The film follows a Djibouti gravedigger [...]

  • Jacobs Ladder Movie 2019

    Film Review: 'Jacob's Ladder'

    It’s understandable that someone would want to remake “Jacob’s Ladder,” Adrian Lyne’s 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an overwrought but rather thin “psychological” horror film that was more punishing than pleasurable. And it wasn’t exactly a hit, [...]

  • Fiddler A Miracle of Miracles

    Film Review: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

    Still beloved and routinely revived 55 years after its Broadway debut — including a Yiddish-language version now playing in New York — “Fiddler on the Roof” is a popular phenomenon that shows no sign of subsiding. Max Lewkowicz’s “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” provides an entertaining if hardly exhaustive overview of how the unlikely success [...]

  • 'Weathering With You' Heads for $100

    'Weathering With You' Heads for $100 Million Box Office Haul

    Makoto Shinkai’s animated romantic drama “Weathering with You” passed the JPY10 billion ($94 million) mark in Japan on Wednesday, according to an announcement by distributor Toho. This makes it the tenth-highest earning Japanese film of all time. Since its release on July 19 on 448 screens in 359 complexes, the film has racked up 7.52 million admissions. The [...]

  • Burn review

    Film Review: 'Burn'

    There’s more smoke than fire in “Burn,” a reasonably promising single-location thriller that never quite settles on what it wants to be — a straight-up suspense piece, twisty black comedy, oddball character study, etc. “All the above” would be a tall but not impossible order to pull off. The problem is that writer-director Mike Gan’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content