Machan (No Fuckin' Handball)

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Venice Film Festival

VENICE -- In 2004 of a 23-member Sri Lankan handball team suddenly showed up in Bavaria. The team had fooled the German Embassy in Colombo, got itself an invite for a tournament, then boarded the plane with the sole idea of never returning home. When the bluff became apparent, with even the audiences wondering why a national team did not have a clue of the game's rules, the entire team vanished, probably into Italy. Not one of them has been traced.

Director Uberto Pasolini, a producer on "The Full Monty," uses this incident to dramatize what he feels is a flawed immigration policy in the West. He -- and his film -- argues there must be a free movement of human capital as there is of financial capital. He collaboarted with renowned Sri Lankan playwright Ruwanthie de Chickera to script the story of the 23 men, who had never heard of handball let alone played it. The movie's emotional roller-coaster run is all set to attract crowds at festivals and perhaps even art house cinemas.

Much of the film zeroes in on the squalid conditions the men live in as they are plagued by poverty and buried in debt. Stanley (Dharmapriya Dias) hawks fruits on the streets of Colombo and feels guilt over his sister having to leave her husband Suresh (Dharshan Dharmaraj) and children in order to work as a maid abroad. The family may not have reached this point had Stanley not let himself be cheated of a considerable sum of money by a travel agent, promising a plum job in the West.

Suresh is a toilet attendant in a star hotel. When it lays off his senior colleague after the installation of a hand-drying machine, he knows the worst is not far away. Piyal (Sujeewa Priyalal) keeps his body and soul together by working as a gigolo for foreign women.

The film's weakest moments are the ones where the men try to learn a little about handball. The script seems to be in such a hurry to put the men on the flight, it's never clear why in this age of information the men fail to get even the basics of the game right. So the focus falls on reasons for them to get away illegally: The roof of one's home is ripped apart and taken away because he is unable to pay his debt. Another is abused by women seeking kinky sex. Pasolini uses human suffering and poverty to argue the case for relaxation of immigration laws, perhaps to the detriment of his film's drama.

Production companies: Redwave Films, Studio Urania, Babelsberg Film and Shakthi Films. Cast: Dharmapriya Dias, Gihan de Chickera, Dharshan Dharmaraj, and Sujeewa Priyalal. Director: Uberto Pasolini. Writers: Ruwanthie de Chickera, Uberto Pasolini. Producers: Prasanna Vithanage, Conchita Airoldi, Umberto Pasolini. Director of photography: Stefano Falivena. Music: Lakshman Joseph de Saram. Costume designers: Sandhiya Jayasuriya and Rob Nevis. Production designer: Errol Kelly. Editor: Masahiro Hirakubo. No rating, 110 minutes.

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