The abduction of an Albanian-Greek orphan is the catalyst for an epic picaresque misadventure through Athens’ seedy underbelly, in this dazzling sophomore feature from director Menelaos Karamaghiolis.

City to City

J.A.C.E. - Just Another Confused Elephant

Menelaos Karamaghiolis

A sprawling baroque fable with a protagonist who is equal parts Odysseus and Oliver Twist, J.A.C.E. is the singular sophomore feature from Greek director Menelaos Karamaghiolis. Drawing on accounts of the child-trafficking syndicates that prey on the youth of the Balkans, Karamaghiolis has fashioned an epic, postmodern picaresque that is by turns tragic, dazzling, and seductive.

The film opens just before Jace, a seven year- old Albanian of Greek origin, becomes an orphan for the second time. His mother was a victim of an honour killing shortly after his birth; now he's forced to watch in helpless horror as gangsters massacre his adoptive family. Jace's life is spared, but the boy is left mute by the traumatic event. He soon finds himself a silent refugee amid Athens's seedy underbelly, where his upbringing takes the form of a nightmarish odyssey of vice and exploitation. Years later, an adolescent Jace finds succour in the ranks of a troupe of carnival performers, but it's only a matter of time before the clutches of the underworld threaten to reclaim him.

As the elder Jace, Kosovar actor Alban Ukaj (of the Dardenne brothers' Lorna's Silence) captivates with his near-wordless portrayal of a tortured soul, variously a victim of circumstance and a hardened anti-hero. Meanwhile, making his return to feature filmmaking after a thirteen-year absence, Karamaghiolis shows himself to be a director of enormous stylistic and narrative ambition, melding influences as disparate as Alejandro Jodorowsky and Pedro Almodóvar to improbably seamless effect. He exhibits, too, a keen social consciousness, with his operatic parable doubling as a trenchant plea on behalf of the victims whose real-life ordeals inspired it.

DIMITRI EIPIDES

Screenings

Fri Sep 06

TIFF Bell Lightbox 5

Industry
9:00am
Sat Sep 07

TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Regular
6:30pm
Sun Sep 08

Scotiabank 8

Regular
1:30pm