Film Reviews

Review: ‘Harvest Moon’

Hot Docs 2018


Harvest Moon
(Canada, 70 min.)
Dir. Zaheed Mawani
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (North American Premiere)

Slow cinema nuts are in for a treat with Harvest Moon. This observational film demands and rewards patience. Harvest Moon offers a methodical and contemplative portrait of a family of walnut farmers in the forests of Kyrgyzstan. It reflects on a way of life that moves at a different pace from most of this fast-running world.

Director Zaheed Mawani lets life play itself out in pensive long takes as the family readies for the impending nut harvest. These strikingly shot frames offer sharp compositions of deep focus that allow one to nibble on the full atmosphere of the surroundings. The subject of the camera‚Äôs gaze isn’t always apparent and Mawani invites audiences to see the family as closely rooted to the landscape while one takes in the complete picture.

Harvest Moon offers a full sensory experience. In addition to the lingering images, Mawani layers the film with a soundscape that keeps one actively engaged. Dialogue is minimal but the few words that pepper the film are significant for conveying the family’s close relationship and the legacy that endures with the harvest. Ambient sounds of the surrounding environment, like the chants of the Imam at the nearby mosque or a rustling of leaves through the trees, saturate the soundtrack. The immersive audio intimately connects the family with the forest that provides their livelihood. It’s a relaxed and thoughtful portrait of a family and lifestyle that endures in an era of hyper-connected globalization. Films like Harvest Moon might be an acquired taste, but the unhurried pace seems like the only cadence to do the farmers justice.

Screens with:

At Home with the Horses
(Canada, 15 min.)
Dir. Dima Alansari, Eric Sanderson

A young girl finds herself at odds with the pace of the world in this touching family portrait. The poignant film observes a family of refugees from the Syrian Civil War as they wait in Lebanon for a better future. They tend to a handful of horses and life seems to flow with lyrical poetry as the young girls tend to the beautiful animals and enjoy a new home away from violence and conflict. However, this new life also brings its own frustrations as the eldest daughter, Reem, realizes that she cannot continue the education she cherishes. Her life stripped from her for a second time, she waits impatiently for the world to change its pace.

There are many stories of the horrors of the Syrian Civil War, but very few tales of its survivors. At Home with the Horses adds to the conversation by taking audiences into the lives of one family that escaped, but now lives in a new kind of exile. Unlike the horses for which they care, they cannot run freely.

Hot Docs runs April 26 to May 6. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more info.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!

Pat Mullen is POV’s Associate Online Editor, etc. He covers film at Cinemablographer.com, and has contributed to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, BeatRoute, Modern Times Review, and Documentary magazine and is a member of the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. You can reach him at @cinemablogrpher

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