Monday, October 09, 2006

MAN PUSH CART - immigrant story

MAN PUSH CART is a quiet, moving film about a street vendor called Ahmad. He was a one-hit wonder back in Pakistan but now he lives a passive existence in New York, hauling his cart around Manhattan, doling out bagels, selling the odd pirate porn DVD and doing odd jobs for arse-hole investment bankers. Half of the time the camera lingers on the mundane detals of Ahmad's monotonous existence - putting teabags in paper cups and lighting the toaster. He's often filmed in close-up, or with the camera focusing on his hands or feet - emphasising the automatic nature of his daily routine. The rest of the time, we see his mournful face observing the sharp practices of Ali-G style Desi players, concert organisers and the sleazy IBDer. The players provide the broad comedy, Ahmed's marginalised existence provides the pathos, and a sweet Spanish news-kiosk girl provides the hint of romance. Overall, we get a small slice of a life that most of us have no connection with - a chance to empathise and explore. Best of all, despite a rather obvious denouement, I never felt preached at or harangued into liberal guilt. The movie has a light touch - a resistance to manipulation and easy endings. Despite the low budget, it looks and feels like an accomplished and assured piece of work. This is all the more impressive given that it is only writer-director Ramin Bahrani's third film and the lead actor had no previous acting experience.

MAN PUSH CART played Venice and London 2005 and Sundance 2006. It opened in France amd Spain earlier this year and is currently on limited release in the UK and US.

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