Skip to content

Film Festival Day 5, 30/07/2013

Film #20: The Best Offer

All forgeries contain an element of truth, claims the main character, because the forger cannot resist injecting a little bit of themselves into their work. This is a film about forgeries and deceptions of various kinds, with an excellent cast and beautiful setting distracting from the fact that some of the people in it are doing things that should make you dislike them.

This is the sort of film that has a section of the credits dedicated to thanking those who lent them furniture. Beautifully shot, and full of beautiful things; I noticed that the women’s portraits were credited as coming from, which I’m planning to check out when I have any time to do things other than watch films, write notes and clear my inbox. 🙂

Film #21: Gardening With Soul

An extended look at a ninety year-old gardening nun that I really enjoyed. One of the topics that the film-maker talked about with her, and one that I found really relevant, was the problem of being Catholic when the Church has been responsible for evil – the cover-up of paedophilia, for instance. And the fact that she had struggled with this, and decided to stay, that this wrong-doing did not wipe out the good that the Church does in the world; and that a good rule of thumb in determining good and right is to look at whether a thing is coming from love. I found it helpful, anyway.

I also liked the attitude that Mother Aubert had towards the church hierarchy, her determination to do what was practical, rather than what the bishop thought was appropriate – like ignoring his dictate that her nuns should ride side-saddle in rough country. I am glad that I’ve supported the Home of Compassion in the past, and hope I will again in the future.

Film #22: The East

A straight-up thriller, polished and clicking along nicely – former FBI agent is now working for a security firm, infiltrating groups to protect large firms from things that might hurt their image or bottom line. But is she doing the right thing? And what about the brooding, soulful-eyed leader of the group?

(It made me realise that not everyone has heard the story of the long spoons – not the “if you’d sup with the devil, use a long spoon” saying, but the one that basically goes: the narrator looks into hell, and sees a delicious banquet laid before the damned, but they’re lamenting because they have to eat it with these spoons that are longer than they’re arms, and they can’t get the food to their mouths. No, I don’t know why they don’t hold the spoon further up; maybe the rest of the shaft is all spiky or something. Or maybe there’s duct tape involved. Look, can we save the questions for the end? Anyway, the narrator then looks into heaven, and is confused, because the set-up is the same, but everyone is having a great time, and then the narrator realises that it’s because they’re feeding each other. It’s about community, I guess. Okay, who do you think I am, Aesop?)

Someone I was chatting to afterwards didn’t like what happened in the credit sequence, and felt it undermined the struggle of the main character in the movie. I think I disagree (and because it’s my blog, I get the last word 😉 – I think that it was just meant to be hyper-compressed, with the bare minimum to sketch what happens next.

Anyway, it has all the beats that you’d expect, and moves along at a good pace; I’d happily be engaged by it on the couch for an evening. Of course, then I’d turn off the TV, and pretty much forget about it. But that’s not meant as a criticism; you don’t always want something that makes you think too hard. I liked it.

Film #23: It Boy (and Friday Tigers)

For the short, a solo Mum takes her daughter to day-care and then goes to her neurology lecture. There’s a friend-and-possibly more in the lecture, and the loser ex lurking in the shadows. Stir, and bring to the boil. Well done, and well acted, with some nifty animations; but nothing that made me want to find it on YouTube to show C.

The main feature is a typical nice French comedy, though perhaps gentler than some. A middle-aged woman is being shut out of running the Fashion magazine that she works at because the current editor thinks she is too dull; she finds that her stock rises when people get the mistaken impression that she’s going out with a slightly awkward young architecture student. To give you a feel for him, the first time she rings, he’s in a pub with his friends; but he has a old beat-up “Hello Kitty” scooter (he protests that the pictures he saw when he bought it were black and white). Knowing that he quite fancies her, you can probably guess most of the rest of the story.

I liked that the movie didn’t think that the relationship was mock-worthy, even though some of the characters had problems with it. It was fun, and I enjoyed it.

Film #24: Upstream Colour

I was expecting this to be difficult, since it was made by the same guy that did Primer, and took him ten years to do. I wasn’t disappointed, though I was a little confused at the very end. I wonder whether I would have understood it better if I knew more about Walden? Most of what I know about this classic bit of Romantic literature, I’m sad to say, comes from Wikipedia and reviews of a computer game intended to make it more accessible – Thoreau talking about how he’s getting back to nature, and living with his hands, while his mum and sisters bring him meals and do his laundry, for example. Maybe I’ll have a look after the festival.

I understood most of it, I think, apart from their decision at the end. But one of the problems with difficult films is that you’re not sure whether the fault of not understanding something lies with the film, or you. Has the film-maker given you enough context to make sense of what you’re seeing? Not necessarily to know all the answers, but to at least understand the questions? I think I can come up with an explanation, but… I don’t know.

However, I liked that the characters didn’t explain what was going on, or use exposition to summarise what I’d already seen, and I thought the initial sequence of the woman and the unseen narrator worked really well. I think I might enjoy it more if I saw it again, and watched it as a story, rather than a puzzle.

Film Festival Day 4, 29/07/2013

Not sure of a theme today?  Maybe… families?  The ones you get born with, and the ones that you choose for yourself, for good or ill?

 Film #15: The Rocket

Set in Laos, it was a fairly simple story – in the main character’s hill tribe they believe that twins are unlucky (or more specifically, one is blessed, and one is cursed); he brother is born dead, but his grandmother has to be persuaded not to make sure by killing him. After a series of unfortunate events, the boy ends up needing to build a record-breaking rocket to win enough money to buy the family a house and land.

Really, really good performances from the child actors, and some excellent supporting cast. And the reason the explosions of old ordinance look so impressive is that they’re real – the film-makers conceived of the film while making a documentary about kids selling scrap from the left-over bombs that are scattered throughout the country, and were able to reuse some of the footage.

The film-makers where there, and talked about the issues that they faced working with a trilingual crew (Laos, Thai and Australian), and that they’d set up a scholarship for the two kids until they finish secondary school. Not, they hastened to add, from the profits of the film… since, like most independent films, they don’t expect to make their money back.

I enjoyed it.

Film #16: Ginger and Rosa

The Cuban missile crisis is looming, and Ginger is worried about everyone dying in a nuclear armageddon, while her best friend Rosa is more interested in snogging boys. Ginger’s parents, meanwhile, are splitting up, with her father proclaiming the need to ignore convention and follow what he thinks is right – a sentiment that should always be closely examined if it happens to mean that you get to abandon responsibilities and sleep with your students. Lots to like about this, including a really nice gay couple that just weren’t a big deal, and a strong feeling for the time.

I remember someone a few years older than me talking about having nightmares about nuclear war, and I’m really glad that it didn’t seem as pressing to me.

I wasn’t that excited about the adolescent poetry, but I thought that the film was good.

Film #17: The Act of Killing

This was a weirdly candid film, and not just about the Indonesian Communist purges that happened fifty years ago. One of the people in the film running for a political position openly talks about how much money he’d be able to extort if he got elected, while another dismisses his chances because he doesn’t have any money to bribe the voters. We follow gangsters around as they shake down ethnically Chinese traders, and hear an old gangster laughing about commiting horrific acts. A bright-eyed young woman interviews those who killed, chirping brightly about their service to the country, and encouraging the paramilitary in pink and black cammo the studio audience to applaud; and important officials talk about how the country needs gangsters, and repeats the mantra (heard throughout the film) that their word for gangster comes from the phrase “free man”.

And the main focus of the film is elderly grandfather who grins and plays with his grandchildren and enthuses about American cinema; in once of his first scenes, he slowly makes his way up the stairs to the roof of a building, and talks about how the blood got too smelly when they beat people to death up here, so they developed a very clean method with a bit of wire tied to a post and wrapped around their neck. And then he shows the camera, with the help of a grinning friend, the mechanics of how it all worked, and then talks about how he’d go out and dance in the nightclubs, and shuffles his way through a few moves.

As the film moves on, we see the film within a film that’s granting the movie-makers this access – re-enactments of typical events of the time, done in a weird, theatrical, self-aggrandising way, with sets, props, and dancing girls. We see also see a few snippets of the anti-Communist propaganda film that schoolchildren were made to watch in order to make sure they hated Communists properly. And as the film moves forward, we see various different reactions; those who deny they knew what was going on, those who seem to miss the rape and torture, and even those who say that what they did was wrong, and that the anti-Communist propaganda was nonsense – but that they refuse to feel guilty, because they’ve decided not to. And we get to see the main person we focus on move slowly from vague unease to unwilling empathy with the thousand or so people that he killed, in part by playing one of them as a role.

There is a lot that is really hard to watch about this film. The fact that these people have never even been told that what they did was wrong, that they still feel proud of it is hard to accept. I’m glad that I saw the film, but it was hard watching it at times.

A lot of the credits said “Anonymous”. I hope that those who helped make the film possible don’t get in trouble over it.

Film #18: Mistaken For Strangers

This isn’t really a film about the indie rock band The National. Instead, it’s much more about how you (as a film-maker) deal with the fact that your brother(as a rock-star who has invited you along as a roadie) is much more successful than you are.

I don’t really like the default Jack Black character – the irresponsible guy who wants to party and rock out, who’s a little insecure and easily distracted, and who annoys people trying to do their job by focusing on something irrelevant instead of what they’ve promised to do. And that’s what confuses me about the brother – in the film, that’s exactly who he comes across as. But he’s the one editing the film, so why make himself look bad? Why document his own screw-ups? And how does that person on the screen make this well-made, pretty engaging movie?

Film #19: Outrage Beyond

Ah. A simple old-fashioned overly-complicated Asian gangster movie, with slightly exaggerated characters, convoluted plots, honour, betrayal, trickery, revenge, and plenty of violence.

I enjoyed the fact that you had to work a little to keep track of who was betraying whom, and while some of the characterization was a bit pantomime, it meant that the action right in front of you tended to be easy to follow. I enjoyed it, but it definitely wouldn’t be for everyone.

Film Festival Day 3, 28/07/2013

 It’s weird the themes that jump out at you when you watch a bunch of very different films in quick succession. Today’s theme feels like “community” though I’m not sure I can completely justify it.

Film #10: Antarctica: A Year On Ice

This was the first film I’ve gotten to go to with C. I was a little worried when I realised that the director was there – that always means an intro, which means that the film starts late, and I only had twenty minutes to quick-step between the Embassy and Te Papa . Did I want to risk staying to hear the Q&A.

As it turns out, I did want to hear it – the film was a really cool (sorry) view into a world that I know very little about. The shots of the ice, dry valleys, skies and extreme weather were impressive and beautiful, but the interviews illuminating the culture that develops among those who stay on the ice over the Antarctic winter was what stood out for me; at times, it felt like it was a pointer as to how people going into space on long-term trips would talk about the experience. And the idea of being insulated from the world for six months, with nothing to do but work, read and keep yourself amused… I must admit, if it weren’t for missing family, I’d find it an attractive proposition.

And he also managed to show the feeling of impermanence amongst the unchanging landscape: the fact that most people don’t have much control about how long they get to stay, and the knowledge that the treaties protecting this unique place will run out.

Oh, and the way the extreme conditions affect life there – what happens when you throw a mug of boiling water into the freezing air, or the way that snow can work its way through any cracks to completely fill spaces.

Oh, and I liked the comment about a single woman’s romantic prospects on the ice: “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

I really enjoyed this film.

Film #11: 56 Up

You can’t understand a person from a bunch of snippets carefully edited together to tell a narrative. That’s an argument made by many of the subjects of this filmic experiment that has been going on for nearly five decades. (And, I suppose it should be noted, an argument that those who’ve put together the film have let us see them make.) And it’s certainly true – I can see why you might be frustrated if people told you that they know exactly how you feel, based on a few comments plucked out of hours of conversation.

But I think that another of the interviewees had it right when they said that you might not be able to show a particular person, but you could show a slice of people – a sketch of a group who, in this instalment of the series, can see old age coming with slow inevitability. Though I haven’t watched the earlier ones, it feels like these films might have moved away from illustrating the differences that class causes, and moved towards showing the similarities that a diverse set of people are experiencing. For example, the recession was something that made it’s presence felt in a number of different ways, though different people felt it’s effects differently – from the woman on disability forced back into work, to the well-to-do lawyer worried about the encroachment into the green spaces of England.

One of the other recurring themes seemed to be the importance of education for children – “that’s something they can never take away from you”, that sort of thing. (Which ended up raising one of the reasons that I was grateful to go to university here, rather than in Britain or the US – it doesn’t feel like there’s a great deal of difference perceived between a Massey degree and a Victoria one, whereas where you went to school seems to matter a great deal over there. I think it would be really weird to be in a situation where there’s an Oxbridge/Ivy League sort of thing, and to have that hanging over you all through secondary school. Though maybe the polytech/uni divide is our version of the same thing?)

I now want to go back and watch the others, if only to see how documentary styles have changed.

Film #12: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

I think that the most surprising things about the story is that they had such a visible trial, and that they were allowed to speak so freely. On the other hand, I guess that it could be seen as very shrewd, politically – everything that they said was likely to drive those who they’d offended further into the pro-Putin camp, keeping them silent might let more articulate (and more focus-grouped) people speak on their behalf, and the theatre of the justice system was seen to grind its way to its inevitable conclusion.

That said, when the film interviewed the prosecution, and they joke about how people are saying Putin is giving them direct orders, and hiding behind every bush, I think they’re right – Putin has no need to be involved directly. But is he using them to make a point? Of course. And are they charging them with a grossly disproportionate penalty for what they did? No question.

But… there was laughter in the audience when the film showed a “protest” organised before Pussy Riot was formed, that had women going up to female police officers and forcing a kiss on the mouth; I felt deeply uncomfortable about that (both as a form of protest, and the reaction). And protesting in the cathedral seemed counterproductive – if the goal was to persuade people, and attack the hierarchy rather than the flock (which is what they claimed to be doing), then they made it tricky to discern that, and easy to spin for the people that oppose them.

On the other other hand… I’m not there, and not having rights stripped away by a state at the behest of an organization that’s just finished with being suppressed, and is out to do some serious suppressing of its own. In fact, if their goal was to show the amount of influence that the Orthodox church has on the apparatus of the State, and draw some of the scarier elements of that group out of the woodwork where people can see them, then they’ve definitely done that. And just showing people who feel isolated that they’re not alone, that’s important too.

Argh. Unsurprisingly, I have no useful insights.

Film #13: Oh Boy (with Here Now)

The short, which was well shot and well acted, felt a little first-world-problems. A girl works alone in a boring retail job in an upmarket clothing boutique. She gets phased by a guy she fancies asking her over dinner, “Do you feel you’re really living?” Which made me feel, “Bah!” On the other hand, I’ve never worked in retail, so I may not have the appropriate experience to empathise.  On the third hand, the summary says it “explores” the idea, whereas I’d say it just points at it.

The main feature focused on a young man who… basically made a bunch of poor (in)decisions, and kept having people try to share their problems with him. But as the film progresses, there are hints that there is a decent person underneath the indecision. I don’t know. The film didn’t make me feel strongly, but I ended up sympathetic to the protagonist. So I guess that’s something? Not a bad film, but not one I can imagine getting a yen to rewatch.

And it’s one that I can’t link back into the community theme again, unless it’s something about people ending up drawing you into their worlds, even if you’re trying to stay aloof.

Film #14: Cheap Thrills

Pretty much what you’d expect to be in the Incredibly Strange section – a more violent and gross Indecent Proposal, with a rich guy and his much younger and blonder wife leading a couple of guys who used to be friends in high school into exactly what you might think would happen if a rich guy started offering someone desperate money to get slapped by a girl at the bar, or pee on his friend’s shoes. It’s the story illustrated by the old anecdote that ends with the punchline, “We’ve established what you are, madam; now we’re just haggling about price.” Except with more seeing people poop, and eviller rich people.

I enjoyed it, I think?  I won’t see it again, though.

Film Festival Day 2, 27/07/2013

While I saw one or two people I knew yesterday (hi Nick Cole!), today was a veritable cornucopia of bumping-intos, with Fraser and Freya popping up before lunchtime, and Gemma turning up at the Paramount. Maybe I should go into town more often?

Film #5: Animation For Kids

The inevitable parson’s egg. The first one, Paper Touch was the (admittedly impressive) origami version of the dread “free jazz and paint on film” that plagues these sort of showcases – the absence of narrative seemed to leave the audience restless. But there were some good ones – I particularly liked Hannah and the Moon (which was told in text appearing on the screen that was integrated with the images in a very picture-book sort of way — here’s a trailer), and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore (which I felt had a bunch of well-communicated messages about how books “live” by being read, how we’re coloured by what we read, and how authors live on in their words).

There were some other ones that were worth a watch – and Snack Attack, for example. I’d watched Shave It before – wonderfully colourful and animated, but I’m not sure I agree with it. And the problem that I had with Big Mouth was… well,

Just because you’ve made it rhyme,
Doesn’t mean you’ve made it good.
Swing’s the thing, or half the time
The lyrics can’t be understood.

I was going to take some of my nibblings with me, but I’m pretty sure that they’re going to enjoy Toons for Tots more.

Film #6: La Jaula de Oro

Crickey. People viciously preying on other people, people throwing fruit to strangers passing on top of a train. Celebrations and dancing.  Violence, sudden and final, coming out of nowhere and snatching people we’ve grown fond of. And for those who finally make it to the end of their journey, who leave behind everything they know in South America and arrive in the promised land of the States; is it worth it?

A powerful film, but I’m not sure I’d want to see it again.

Film #7: Like Someone In Love

One downside to the tempo of modern popular movies is that any time the tempo slows down, and we’re seeing anything that would normally be cut out (waiting at an intersection in a car, for example), we’ve been primed for something horrible to happen – a truck to side-swipe someone, a car bomb to go off, something like that. I suppose that one upside is that it can make some slower films surprisingly tense, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Which then makes it all the more shocking when something actually does happen.

When you are lying to your boyfriend about where you are, that’s a problem; when he gets you to go to the bathroom, and tells you to count the number of tiles on the floor, so he can come by later and confirm your story, then it’s a little bit more than a problem. And when he says to the man that he thinks is your grandfather that he wants to marry you because then you’ll have to tell him the truth… and the man is someone your boss sent you to sleep with (though that doesn’t seem to be what your faux-grandfather has in mind), well, the place where all you had was “a problem” is a distant blip on the horizon.

It’s mostly a low-key sort of movie, happy for minor characters to break into monologues, and there’s a bunch of subtext about the Japanese character, and the weird role that women have there now. Overall, I quite liked it.

Film #8: Gebo and the Shadow

Slow, slow, slow, and the sort of thing that The Critic sang about. The husband lies to the wife about their son to keep her happy, but she’s miserable. The wife berates that husband for not bringing her more news of their son. Their son is the sort of puddle-shallow sociopath who is convinced that their lack of impulse control makes them deep. And all of them sigh deeply, and complain about how much they suffer in silence.

Now, you shouldn’t necessarily take all that to mean that I didn’t think it was well done – it was deliberately in a very mannered fashion, patterned after the play that it was taken from. But I’m not sure I enjoyed it, per se.

Film #9: The Source Family

So former WWII marine who robbed banks to open up restaurants, and went to jail for killing his lover’s husband with judo, ends up having a spiritual awakening, opens up a vegetarian restaurant which becomes an L.A. Hotspot, changes his name to Father Yod and starts up a religious movement and a commune. They change their names legally to things like “Magus The Aquarian” (“The” being his legal middle name) and “Sunflower”, “Isis”, “Octavian”… and they start recording psychedelic rock albums, and playing at high-school campuses to recruit. Oh, and the leader decides he can have thirteen wives, and also that he’s actually God.

They interview many of the former members of the Source Family, and talk about the good that people got out of the movement, as well as the bad. In truth, many of the initial tenets seem very positive, with a strong emphasis on service; but even then, there were problematic bits. And it was interesting that they showed a number of black people in the communes, but not appeared in the interviews. On the other hand, Father Yod didn’t poison his followers, or get them to kill anyone; people appeared to be able to leave, and while most of them said that they wouldn’t do it again, they also said that they valued that time in their lives.

It was nice to get a glimpse inside a cult that drifted apart, rather than imploded – if only because that meant that the other weirdness wasn’t overshadowed by a single climatic event.

Film Festival Day 1, 26/07/2013

So, the first day. A bad start – I was meant to pick up pies for my parents, Celete’s parents, her brother, and us, but when I popped in to work to pick them up, it turned out that they weren’t going to turn up until “sometime before noon”, which was no use to me. (I sent a note to my team lead, asking that they be handed out among the team.)

And not a stellar finish – on the bus home, my Snapper card seems to have gotten a terminal case of “Please try again”s. This is particularly annoying because I’d put $50 on the card only last week, in anticipation of the Film Festival.

However, to balance that out, I got some good time with my two wee nieces, who are here briefly from Oz; and I got to see four pretty decent films. So overall, I can’t really complain. 🙂

Film #1: Stories We Tell

My first movie was the documentary Stories We Tell, about the Canadian actress Dianne Polley, though it’s less about her as an actress, and more about her relationship with the people in her life after her second marriage. The film was made by her youngest daughter, and it could have very easily been terrible; but instead, I found it very, very good. One of the people she interviews objects to her approach – art should stive to reveal truth, he claims, and you can’t get truth by talking to people who weren’t directly affected. But I think that this reveals more about the person than about Art, or perhaps that the truth he was interested in was narrower than the one the film-maker was looking for – all of the people she talks to were affected, and they all reveal things, on purpose or otherwise. I never felt that this was a movie just about the film-maker, even though it obviously involved her so deeply, and features her on screen in what feels like a very honest way… and that’s a great a tribute as anything else I could say.

One thing I’ll note – while watching, I thought, “Gosh, there’s some really good footage of stuff they’re talking about, she’s really lucky that so many of them had home movie cameras back then.” And then, during the film, they show her shooting some of those scenes, which makes you go, well… which of the clips were real, and which were fake? But that’s the sort of the point, I think – even the things that were “real” are just the bits that the director has decided to show you, and by pulling the rug out from under you a little bit, she’s reminding you to keep that in mind; another thing I admire her for.

Film #2: Omar

Next was Omar, a Shakesperian drama of loyalty and betrayal set in Palestine, with as excellent an Iago as you could ask for. One of the really interesting things that sprang out at me was that the main protagonist is what Robin D. Laws would call a “iconic hero” protagonist. His idea, and it’s an interesting one, is that the heroes that Hollywood films are good at are dramatic heroes – they go on Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”, being transformed by the situation they find themselves in. Iconic heroes, in contrast, come into a situation, and change it by being true to themselves – something that you see more in television and books that are in a series. (He suggests that this is why Hollywood is much more comfortable with the origin stories of superheroes, rather than their stories once they’ve become heroes; and he also talks about the picaresque hero, but that’s not important in this context.)

Anyway, it might be a bit too violent for some tastes, but I felt that it did everything it should do well, and enjoyed it.

Film #3: Miss Nikki & the Tiger Girls

Miss Nikki & the Tiger Girls was an interesting thing to follow with. Nikki May is an Australian ex-pat and ex-singer/dancer, who decides to put all her resources and determination to help five girls to become Myanmar’s first girl pop band. There are a bunch of things going on – the hard-nosed Burmese businessman contrasting with the slightly idealistic Aussie, the different girls backgrounds and reasons for being involved (illustrated by giving each of the girls the opportunity to sing a signature song), the slow loosening of political control that goes on in the background, and the girls slightly cautious reaction to the looseness of Bangkok.

I felt a bit weird about a white Westerner coming in and trying to start a girl band, since there are weird cultural imperialism vibes going on there. But it was the people from their own culture, much more than Nikki, that seemed to be trying to exploit the girls; if anything, she was a bit too soft, determined to push the girl with the poor singing voice to do better, rather than booting her out.  And the contrast between the political attitude  of Nikki (and the film’s intertitles) and the attitude of the girls was sometimes a bit weird, though it underlined that these girls had no intention to be a Burmese “Pussy Riot” — just a pop band.

Not a deeply profound doco, and not an incredible band – but I’m glad I watched it.

Film #4: Who Will Be A Ghurka?

And finally, Who Will Be A Ghurka. Is the British Army’s relationship with Nepal exploitative? Yes… and no. There’s something very Roman about offering citizenship for military service, and while you can empathise to some extent with the Maoists in the Nepalese government who denounce the practice, the number of applicants that they get strongly suggest that the people struggling for this chance do not see it the same way. And while it comes out of the weird Victorian views on “warrior races” and the like, there is a certain mystique to the Ghurkas, and the impression that I get is that they are respected as soldiers.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if, by and large, the selection process was as free from corruption as they claim – and letting people in a culture where connections are so important compete on merit, even if it’s just military merit, seems like a good thing to do.

The documentary kept a very tight focus on the selection process, comparing archival footage of some of the testing with the present day. The film-makers kept themselves out of the film, letting their footage (and occasional snippets of other media) tell the story. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure how much deeper (rather than wider) my understanding of their situation is.

Film Festival 2013

Here’s my current schedule, formatted in the way that I have it printed out.  Italics mean that you can’t book ahead, a star means that the director will be there… the rest, I think, is pretty self-explanatory. 🙂

Friday, July 26
Em   1:30pm -  3:20pm  Stories We Tell (108)
Em   4:00pm -  5:35pm  Omar (94)
TP   6:30pm -  7:45pm  Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls (75)
TP   8:30pm -  9:45pm  Who Will Be a Gurkha (75)
Saturday, July 27
Em  10:15am - 11:25am  Animation for Kids 2013 (69)
Pa   1:15pm -  3:00pm  La Jaula de Oro (101)
Pa   3:30pm -  5:20pm  Like Someone in Love (109)
TP   5:30pm -  7:05pm  Gebo and the Shadow (91)
TP   7:30pm -  9:10pm  The Source Family (98)
Sunday, July 28
Em  11:00am - 12:35pm  Antarctica: A Year on Ice (92)
TP   1:00pm -  3:25pm  56 Up (144)
Pa   3:45pm -  5:20pm  Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (91)
Pa   6:00pm -  7:45pm  Oh Boy (88) [& Here Now (14)]
Pa   8:30pm - 10:00pm  Cheap Thrills (87)
Monday, July 29
Em  11:15am - 12:55pm  The Rocket (96)
Em   1:30pm -  3:00pm  Ginger & Rosa (90)
Pa   3:30pm -  6:10pm  The Act of Killing (159)
Pa   6:45pm -  8:00pm  Mistaken for Strangers (75)
Pa   8:30pm - 10:25pm  Outrage Beyond (112)
Tuesday, July 30
Em  10:45am - 12:50pm  The Best Offer (124)
Em   1:15pm -  2:55pm  Gardening with Soul (100)
Em   4:00pm -  5:55pm  The East (115)
Em   6:30pm -  8:20pm  It Boy (92) [& Friday Tigers (16)]
Em   8:45pm - 10:25pm  Upstream Color (96)
Wednesday, July 31
Pa  10:45am - 12:15pm  The Missing Picture (90)
Em   1:30pm -  3:25pm  The Broken Circle Breakdown (111)
Em   4:00pm -  5:50pm  Utu Redux (109)
Em   6:30pm -  8:05pm  Camille Claudel 1915 (95)
Em   8:45pm - 10:20pm  The Spectacular Now (95)
Thursday, August 01
Em  11:00am - 12:40pm  Wadjda (98)
Pa   1:45pm -  3:20pm* This Ain't No Mouse Music! (92+Dir)
Pa   4:15pm -  5:50pm  Blue Ruin (95)
Pa   6:30pm -  8:00pm  Dirty Wars (87)
Em   8:30pm - 10:40pm  The Past (130)
Friday, August 02
Pa  10:30am - 11:30am  William Yang: My Generation (58)
CG  12:15pm -  1:05pm  Making Utu (48)
Em   1:30pm -  3:00pm  Frances Ha (86)
Em   3:30pm -  5:50pm  North by Northwest (136)
FA   6:30pm -  7:45pm  The Strange Little Cat  (72)
Pa   8:30pm - 10:15pm* Starlet (103) (+Dir)
Pa  11:15pm - 12:55am  V/H/S/2 (96)
Saturday, August 03
FA  10:45am - 11:40am  Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World (52)
Em   1:00pm -  2:40pm  Ilo Ilo (99)
Pa   3:30pm -  6:05pm  Three Sisters (153)
Pa   6:30pm -  8:05pm  The Selfish Giant (93)
FA   8:30pm - 10:20pm  Silence in the House of God (107)
Sunday, August 04
PH  11:00am - 12:35pm  The Spirit of '45 (94)
PH   1:00pm -  3:10pm  We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (130)
PH   3:45pm -  5:15pm  Fill the Void (90)
PH   5:45pm -  7:30pm  Blancanieves (104)
PH   8:00pm -  9:35pm  My Sweet Pepper Land (95)

Monday, August 05 (PH?)
Em  11:00am - 12:50pm  Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song (107)
Pa   1:30pm -  3:45pm  A Touch of Sin (133)
FA   4:00pm -  5:35pm  Terms and Conditions May Apply (79) [& #Postmodern (15)?]
Em   6:15pm -  7:50pm  The Human Scale (83) [& The Mobile Meat Processing Unit (10)?]
Em   8:30pm - 10:40pm  Mud (130)
Tuesday, August 06
Em  10:15am - 11:35am  Ernest & Celestine (79)
FA  12:30pm -  1:50pm  The Venice Syndrome (80)
Pa   2:30pm -  3:50pm  Die Welt (80)
Em   4:00pm -  5:30pm  The Bling Ring (90)
Em   6:15pm -  7:50pm  2 Autumns, 3 Winters (93)
Em   8:30pm - 10:25pm  The Summit (104) [& Maul (9)]
Wednesday, August 07
Pa  10:30am - 11:50am  Village at the End of the World (76)
Em   1:15pm -  3:15pm  Like Father, Like Son (120)
FA   4:15pm -  5:45pm  Valentine Road (88)
TP   6:30pm -  8:00pm  Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (89)
TP   8:30pm - 10:05pm  Blood Brother (93)

Thursday, August 08
Em  10:30am - 12:25pm  Hannah Arendt (113)
Em   1:00pm -  3:05pm  Mood Indigo (125)
Em   3:45pm -  5:40pm  Much Ado About Nothing (107) [& The Captain (6)]
Em   6:15pm -  8:10pm  What Maisie Knew (99) [& I’m Going To Mum’s (13)]
TP   8:30pm - 10:15pm  The Gatekeepers (101)
Friday, August 09
TP  11:45am -  1:20pm  Maidentrip (81) [& Strongman (11)]
TP   2:00pm -  3:20pm  He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan (80)
FA   4:15pm -  5:55pm  Gideon’s Army (96)
Pa   6:15pm -  7:40pm  Fantail (83)
FA   8:30pm -  9:50pm  Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? (78)
Pa  10:45pm - 12:20am  You're Next (95)
Saturday, August 10
Em  10:00am - 11:05am  Toons For Tots (62)
FA   1:00pm -  1:55pm  From the Bottom of the Lake (52)
Em   2:30pm -  4:15pm  The House of Radio (103)
Em   5:00pm -  6:50pm  Dial M for Murder 3D (106)
TP   8:30pm - 10:10pm  Computer Chess (92) [& Destination Pioneer City (6)]
Sunday, August 11
Pa  11:00am - 12:35pm  Cutie and the Boxer (82) [& Butterflies (12)]
Em   1:00pm -  2:30pm  Twenty Feet from Stardom (90)
Pa   4:00pm -  5:40pm  The Crowd (98)
Pa   6:15pm -  8:05pm  Museum Hours (106)
Em   8:30pm - 10:35pm  Only Lovers Left Alive (123)


Film Festival Day 17: Sunday, 12/08/2012

The final day of the festival.  Due to careless programming, a whole lot of running back and forth between venues today  And back to work as normal tomorrow.  I’m relieved.  I’ll miss it.

Film #83: Pink Ribbons, Inc.

This was a really interesting film. For example, did you know the original breast-cancer awareness ribbons were a salmon/peach sort of colour, and became pink only because the campaigner who created them refused to let corporations market them? They decided to make their own, and focus-groups told them that pink was the best, most appealing colour.

There is a lot of this – Avon splitting off a charitable trust that shares its name, to sponsor runs and other fund-raising… which goes towards “cures” (that is, treatments, which means pharma dollars) and early detection (which leads to treatments, which means pharma dollars), rather than research into how to prevent cancers from occurring in the first place (like banning various chemicals from use in cosmetics).

Pink ribbons are being used as cross-marketing opportunities for things like grilled chicken from KFC, draining off anxieties by pushing women to choose one brand over another, rather than getting them to push for research about what is causing cancer, or to change laws to remove known carcinogens from products. A side affect of telling women, “You can beat this, if you try!” is that those that don’t beat it mustn’t have tried hard enough. And the lack of coordination and large buckets of money sloshing around means that there are significant amounts of repeated and redundant research, the film contends.

I’m not sure I agree with everything in the film, but there were certainly a bunch of interesting things in it

Film #84: The Last Ocean

A film about the campaign to stop the catching of “Chilean Sea Bass” (or Patagonian toothfish) from the Ross Sea. Basically, there’s good evidence that the area is being just as overfished as everywhere else, with scientific catch-and-release sampling falling from hundreds caught a month prior to the fishing fleets, to just five a month now. (Although the nations involved, including New Zealand, claim that it’s incredibly well managed.)

One interesting contrast to the previous film was the role of the chain store Safeway. Someone inside the corporation decided that, despite having official approval as sustainable, this wasn’t a fish that they were willing to stock. This seems to me to be a better use of corporate power than the examples in Pink Ribbon Inc.; it gives the corporation publicity for doing the right thing, it reduces demand directly, and gives publicity to the cause.

One thing that it refreshing about this protest is that it can actually happen. I mean, politicians and the affected industry are being self-serving and/or evasive, but it’s all out in the open, where people can see it, and no-one is going to get arrested for holding an unpopular opinion (though they might get pulled up in front of the press council by a complaint). After seeing all these other films in more repressive countries, it’s refreshing to not have to worry about the safety of the film-maker.

The film had beautifully shot footage, plenty of relevant information, and was well put together. The issue is still unresolved, though both New Zealand and the United States have (limited) proposals to reduce fishing. There’s a website with more information available.

Film #85: A Bitter Taste of Freedom

Unfortunately, the film-maker was present for the previous documentary, and the length of his introduction meant that I was 15 minutes late to this film, even though I ran from the Paramount to the Film Archive (and didn’t stay for the Q&A). This is a real shame, because all of the film that I caught was really good.

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006. This is a fact that colours the whole film. She was a journalist, and had a special interest in the disenfranchised, including refugees; this is a dangerous interest to have in Putin’s Russia, especially since she became famous for her advocacy for Chechnyan refugees and victims.

The documentary didn’t exclude her critics, though it wasn’t particularly kind to them, insofar as their idiocy wasn’t edited out. For example, one author criticized her book for having only evil Special Forces soldiers and good and noble Chechnyans; and then said something like, “But what can you expect? Women cannot write objectively about war, and will always get emotionally involved.”

I wanted to give his smug face a good slap.

She seemed funny, smart, passionate, and human. The bits of footage where she talked about meeting a boyfriend in Norway (or where a colleague described her talking about him) were heart-warming, and it is a real tragedy and loss that she’s dead.

I think I might try and find this, so I can get to watch the first 15 minutes. It was good.

Film #86: Mantrap

This was the silent film of the festival; another quick run back got me there in time to hear most of the pre-show ramble, and to watch A Better Man, the 11-minute short where the stereotype of the shifty Mexican is thoroughly subverted.

But to the plot of the main piece – a divorce lawyer is sick of the sort of woman he has to deal with at work, and agrees to go on a trip into the northern wilderness with a neighbouring businessman. Meanwhile, Clara Bow’s character, an incurable flirt, marries a keeper of a general store in the remote town of Mantrap. When the store-owner separates the two businessmen (to keep them from beating each other to a pulp after two weeks of forced cohabitation), the young woman immediately starts her campaign to charm the lawyer, so that she can get back to civilization.

Laura Bow is adorable. There are plenty of amusing bits, the common-place props (like celluloid detachable collars, used in a minor gag) are cool, and the offensive stereotypes of the Native Americans are a reminder of a different time. And the music was well done, too, though I’d be interested in hearing a more traditional arrangement as well.

I enjoyed this.

Film #87: The Sapphires

A pretty typical girl-band-makes-good story, except that the place that they make good is Vietnam, and the prejudice they face is as Aborigines, rather than African Americans (though that is referenced as well). The abduction of Aboriginal children is a plot-point, and the assassination of Martin Luther King turns up as well.

It was funny, friendly, and fun, as well as being based on a true story.

Film 88: Holy Motors

I could just about make a coherent sci-fi backstory for what we saw – something along the lines of a group of people who are employed to enact little slices of drama, coming together in different combinations to act out various bizarre or mundane scenarios, which are watched by hidden cameras for an unseen audience (and/or passers-by, possibly). But that doesn’t account for… well, a whole lot of stuff.

There were numerous sly touches – the headstones imploring you to “Visit my website”, with names that (I believe) turn up as later characters; or using a Kylie Minogue song at a party and as a ringtone in one “appointment”, and then having the singer turn up as another… actor? Operative?

I think that it was a clever film, but I think I’ll need a break before I’d want to watch it again.

* * *

And that’s a wrap for another year.

Film Festival Day 16: Saturday, 11/08/2012

Except for the first movie, today was my day at the Paramount. This was not as idyllic as I hoped  it would be. (First World Problems follow.) For example, the $3 pot of tea was large, true; but it had a metallic tang to it, suggesting that they may need to descale whatever they use to boil the water (though I suppose it could have been the mik). And the iced chocolate was more merely chilled than icy. And the gaps between movies were quite small, meaning there was always a crush at the counter between films, and no real time to order and eat food. (I scooted out to Burger Wisconsin in a 20-minute gap instead.) Still, I’ve no complaints about the theatre, or the slice I actually managed to order.

Film #77: Chasing Ice

This film is undeniably beautiful, and the guy organising the Extreme Ice Survey is definitely dedicated, both to the project and to his calling – three knee surgeries in pursuit of pictures says something about how much he pushes himself. And I think that, sadly enough, images are much more convincing to most people that statistics; these are definitely striking images.

But – and did I foreshadow the “but” sufficiently? – I don’t think that this film would convince a climate change denier. Not just because people seek out material that confirms their views, rather than things that challenge them; but because that’s not who the film is really aimed at. There’s no attempt to win people over; it’s more, “I used to be sceptical, but I was wrong.” So, if that was a goal, then I’m not sure it succeeded.

But if the main goal was to show the beauty of the glaciers and ice, the scale of the change, the challenge of filming these things, and the tenacity of the people doing it – well, they succeeded just fine.

Film #78: Bully

This was a very difficult film to watch.

In a way, I’m a little ashamed that it affected me more than some of the other documentaries I’ve seen about people in far worse situations. For example, the story of the boy with no friends who gets punched and stabbed with pencils on the school bus, who finds out that his younger sister is worrying about going to middle school because she already gets harassed in primary school because people think that he’s weird; why should that be more affecting to me than Mexican prostitutes addicted to crack, or gay Ugandan men who have to live in fear of being murdered? It’s a boy who is bullied for, essentially, being awkward, dorky-looking, and sufficiently desperate to be accepted that he’ll take the punching-bag role because at least it means they’re interacting with him; he’s not starving, or having legislation passed to allow the state to kill him.

I think – I hope – that at least part of it is that these are kids. They’ve been taught that they shouldn’t tell on other kids (both by peer pressure and the fact that it hasn’t worked when they’ve done it), and they haven’t had time to learn any coping mechanisms. I remember an incident on a school bus when a kid was mocking me, but I was lucky enough to realise that the best response was to do a double take, and act confused as to why he thought what he was saying was a big deal, which diffused the situation nicely.

And that, I suspect, is the reason why this was such a difficult film for me – because I recognized myself, and it’s a little disappointing that the visceral part of my empathy is tied so closely to having similar experiences to the people suffering. Nothing like the degree that these kids suffered, of course: St Patrick’s College, at least my year, was by-and-large decent, and there certainly wasn’t any of the physical stuff (at least that I saw). Oh, except there was one vile kid (who had a couple of hangers-on, as I recall), who would pick on anyone they thought they could get away with; eventually, I remember, he stole a car, crashed it into a telephone pole while trying to escape police, and returned to school with a scarred face. I don’t remember whether he stayed past fifth form, and while I know that his behaviour probably indicates that he had problems I didn’t know about, I find it hard to let go of my dislike… which isn’t the sort of person I’d prefer to be.

But I never experienced anything like the girl who came out of the closet in a small southern town: she had kids run into her with a mini-van, teachers humiliate her in front of her class (talking about “burning faggots”); her parents were ostracised, and after trying to stick it out and change people’s minds for a couple of years, they all ended up moving out of town. That made me frustrated – how can people ignore what a person is genuinely like, day after day, and reject them based on what they think that people “like that” are like?

And even for the kids that weren’t butting heads with cultural stereotypes – it was frustrating to see the teachers tell the bullied, “Can’t you be friends?”, and to the bullies, essentially, “Don’t let me catch you doing that again.” I mean, if they’re bullies, if they’re attacking a kid and saying that they’ll cut off their face because they’re awkward… well, telling them “don’t do this particular action” isn’t going to address why they’re acting in that way, any more than just sticking someone in prison is going to stop them re-offending when they get out. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for bullies, but if it’s a way to feel powerful, well, find them better ways to do that! Which is easier to say than do, I’ll admit.

(Oh, and the kid who felt that she had to take a gun on her bus to stop bullies in Texas, who was initially charged with a separate count of kidnap and attempted assault for every kid on the bus, which makes 22 felony charges… there’s something weirdly disproportionate going on there. I also heard the white, middle class, middle-aged male saying that there’s no justification for bringing a gun onto a school bus unless they had been physically assaulting her… and while she did a wrong, dumb thing, I’m not sure I’d be so quick to dismiss verbal threats and browbeating.)

I hope that the internet lets some of these kids in small communities find other kids like themselves to bond with; but that has it’s own set of problems, since there are horrid places and people online too, and social media can be just another avenue to ostracise people.

Watching parents of kids who have killed themselves because of bullying, and kids who are being bullied, is hard. It was a good documentary.

Film #79: Bonjour Tristesse

An older French film, about a spoilt girl who doesn’t want her playboy father changed from his life of gay parties and young women by an older, more responsible woman who he’s decided he wants to marry. While there are some comic turns, it’s essentially a tragedy. The structure of the film is a little odd, with extensive use of narration; but Niven is excellent in the role, as are many of the others, and overall I’m glad I saw it (though I’m not sure I’d re-watch it).

Film #80: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei was travelling to testify on behalf of another dissident in a trial accusing him of trying to undermine the power of the State. While in his hotel, police broke down his door, and one assaulted him (hitting him hard enough that a shot time later, in Berlin, he had to have surgery to relieve swelling on his brain that would have killed him); he and his companions were held in those hotel rooms, without any reasons being given, until after the dissident’s conviction.

He isn’t perfect, but doesn’t claim to be – he has a son (who he obviously adores) by a woman who is not his wife, and admits that it’s something that hurt his wife, and that it’s not a good situation; but he isn’t afraid, and he makes other people less afraid. Subtly protesting the demolition of his brand-new workshop by organizing a river-crab dinner (where the word for “river crab” is a pun on a popular Party slogan), the fact that the authorities detained him without reason, but people turned up and did it anyway, is indicative of how freeing his actions have been.

This was a good documentary about a good-humoured and brave artist doing something important.

Film #81: Tabu

I saw four or five people walk out of this film. I wish I had been one of them. It was told in a stilted style, and I was reminded of nothing so much as the parody ArtHaus that featured in the 48HR film competition many moons ago. There were a few moments that I found interesting – for example, I think I will be able to reuse the essence of the fable about the explorer devoured by a crocodile, whose repilitian form continues to be haunted by his lost love — but it was all so awkward and slow that I found it very hard to care. Given the rapturous reviews, I feel I must be missing some key that would make it marvellous; perhaps someone with a more sophisticated palate might enjoy it more.

Film #82: Our Children

I don’t know why I decided to watch a bunch of difficult films in one day. A movie that starts with a woman in a hospital bed tearfully demanding that her children be buried in Morocco is never going to be a barrel of laughs; I am pretty sure that I am glad that I had read the summary, and so knew who killed them throughout… although I can see that the tension of not knowing could add something as well.

It’s not just a film about post-natal depression, it’s a film about power – the balance of power between men and women, between immigrants and those who sponsor them, between doctor and patient, between the person earning the money and the person looking after the home. It’s about what some people think an act of “charity” entitles them to, and family relationships – both those we are born into, and those we choose. And it’s about a couple of selfish men, each insensible to their selfishness. It’s not an easy movie, but I’d agree that it’s a good one.

Film Festival Day 15: Friday, 10/08/2012

I was lucky enough to get to drop into Te Papa today, where my Mum is participating in the ongoing weaving exhibition, demonstrating her craft and answering questions. She’s a talented woman.

Film #72: Death Row: Portrait of Hank Skinner

The last of the Werner Hertzog films, and an interesting one. We got to see a man with hope – Skinner has had stays of execution, and been granted the right to get evidence tested even after his conviction. There were lots of details about prison life too – for example, the prisoners who prepare the last meal try to do the best job they can, both because it’s the prisoner’s last meal, and because they always order a lot, and often can’t eat any of it – at which point the cooks get to eat the leftovers.

It would probably have made more sense to just buy the documentary, rather than go to all these individual films. Nevermind, I’m glad I saw them.

Film #73: Sound of My Voice

A couple is making a documentary about a cult that they’ve infiltrated – a cult dedicated to a woman claiming to be from an apocalyptic future. There is a nice amount of ambiguity, and the film-maker splits up the narrative into chunks to good effect, with events in some parts throwing into question other, later events that we’d simply accept otherwise.

It reminded me of the game Phoenix, and I’d recommend it to the other people who were in that game. And others, actually – it was well done.

Film #74: Whores’ Glory

This was hard to watch. A lot of hypocrisy on all sides, with the customers in Thailand complaining about their wives cheating on them, or the Mexican man alternatively praising or swearing about the working women. The attitudes in the different cultures seemed different, with the Thai women feeling the least socially outcast, but that may be because we were looking at a higher-end establishment than the others. The bars where women pay for extravagantly expensive drinks in order to be doted on by good looking boys also indicate a different sex culture.

I was astonished about what the customers were willing to say and/or do in front of the camera. I wonder whether that’s cultural, as well? Speaking of cultural, the worship of the White Lady, Lord Death in Mexico were interesting; I might need to read up about this some more.

This was a sad documentary, with a lot of sad women in it; but also some who were able to find humour in their situation as well. So… people, in other words.

Film #75: Tongan Ark

An inspiring film about a weird tertiary institution set up in Tonga according to one man’s vision, taking students rejected from elsewhere and teaching critical thinking, Greek philosophy and opera, while respecting Tongan culture. The founder was also important in pushing forward the democracy debate in Tonga, which didn’t make him popular with the current elite.

I don’t agree with everything that was said – the dismissal of computers as “empty knowledge” because it is constantly changing displays an ignorance of the difference between I.T. and computer science, and I’m not sure that I’d fit into the faculty of what’s essentially a quirky liberal arts college plunked in a swamp without any cushy grants or foundations. But I’m glad that it’s there.

Film #76: No

This was a good, cleverly shot film. They deliberately graded very Kodachrome yellow, and gave it a definite grain and slight shadowing, so that it blended in with the archival footage that they used. I believe that many (or all?) of the advertising was from the original campaign, so the ominous steamroller of Communism crushing household appliances and threatening the little girl for the “Yes” campaign was contrasted with the upbeat and funny (for the 80s) ads for the “No” campaign.

(I was reminded of the infamous “Dancing Cossacks” attack ad that National used here in the 1970s.)

Anyway, it documents a remarkable event – not just in the result of the plebiscite, but in the fact that the result was actually allowed to come out, and was actually honoured. The film’s focus on the warring ad-men gives it an interesting structure and focus, and the advertising is eerily familiar to me (though I wonder what it would look like to children of the 90s or 00s). I’d probably watch it again.

Film Festival Day 14: Thursday, 09/08/2012

I feel a bit less guilty about missing my last film yesterday, after managing to get between the Embassy and City Gallery in under three minutes. (Admittedly, a taxi may have been involved.)

Film #66: A Monster In Paris

The short, Snap, was a nifty story about a group of fish-men and a frog. And a plesiosaur. It would have worked perfectly well in Animation For Kids.

The main feature was a fun film, though I was a little distracted by the music for the songs, because while it was good, itwasn’t particularly period-appropriate (which won’t really matter for kids). Paris is pretty, as usual, and many of the landmarks were recognizable (though Sacre Coer had significantly smaller number of beggars trying to intimidate money out of tourists with “friendship bracelets” and menacing groups than I remember).

Sorry, not relevant. It was fun, the small child behind me found it tense, and it kept up a good pace. I will recommend this to my little sister, and will probably pick up a copy.

Film #67: Our Newspaper

A Russian man decides to set up a newspaper, Our Newspaper, in competition to the official one, The Leninist, because he’s a reporter, and they’re not reporting. It looks like they publish a lot of what I’d regard as rubbish – horoscopes culled from the internet (selected for brevity and with the depressing bits cut out), for example, or researching a story about a ghost banished into army tunnels with religious icons (which the locals didn’t seem to have heard of), and they’ve given a column to a local traditional healer, who seems to advise garlic in various forms as the cure for most ills. But they also report on roads left unrepaired, water-towers left broken for months, and butter factories killing fish with their waste discharge.

They say that they won’t report on everything – as it says in the summary I’ve linked to, they want to keep their licenses and car, so the traffic police are off limits. And because they’ve been doing it for a few years, the main journalist seems weary of the constant obstacles, and how easily they could be shut down.

I could have easily watched more of this.

Film #68: Liberal Arts

I really liked this movie. The summary labels it “romantic comedy”, and I guess I can see that, if I squint in the right way; but it’s a pretty unconventional one, if it is. Or rather – I guess it’s a romantic comedy in the same way that Stanislaw Lem is science fiction. It’s more about… well, growing old, and growing up. I also like that it has a magical stoner dude, rather than a manic pixie girl.

If I have a bone to pick, it’s the cliché about there being a secret about no-one feeling grown up. If that’s a secret, it’s the worst kept secret in the universe, seeing as it’s the basic plot for about a tenth of everything committed to celluloid.

Oh, and that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly are even weirder and cooler than described.

Both those points to the side; I will see if I can take C to this one.

Film #69: Shadow Dancer

A tense Northern Ireland spy thriller. I liked it, and it made me think about how I’d feel about someone who saved me by sacrificing someone I loved. Actors were generally excellent, tension was ratcheted up, and there were interesting details about life there at the time that I hadn’t known; but I’m not sure I’ll watch it again.

Film #70: Bert Stern, Original Madman

If Salvador Dali was a good artist and a bad man, Bert Stern seems to have been a good photographer and a weak man; or at least, a man who let his libido lead him to make poor decisions. But was it the same passion that led him to take beautiful pictures? And make no mistake, one thing that I wished in this film was more time to take in some of these pictures.

As an aside, I don’t think that you have to act poorly to make good art; but people will let you get away with more if you do; it’s good that the people in his life are okay with his tendency to stray.

I thought that it was interesting that the film-maker exposed so much of herself in the film, both figuratively and literally. The interviews were interesting, the old footage was neat (and makes me want to track down Jazz On A Summer’s Day); ideally, I’d like to see a whole bunch of the photos, with an idea of the people in them, and when/where/why they were taken. Failing that, this documentary will have to do.

Film #71: Policeman

An Israeli anti-terrorist policeman is going to have a baby daughter soon; his squad-mate, who is almost certain to die of a brain cancer soon, is taking the guilt for an op where two innocent civilians were killed, and a boy badly crippled. There’s a certain amount of girl-ogling from the men, despite them all having partners; there’s a feeling of a bunch of jocks hanging out.

The other thread is one of the other youth clichés – rich kids who’ve discovered leftist views, who hate their own class, and have decided to take radical action on behalf of the unmet common man. There’s a patronizing righteousness, all tied up with hormones and love triangles; the girl writing their speech calls herself a poet, but is simply adapting an existing piece.

I hadn’t really thought about what all the rich Israeli kids would be getting up to; we see a bunch of punk rockers wandering up a street, kicking off wing mirrors and smashing in car windows, not to steal stereos, but to hear things break.

I’d ask where the nerds were; but I guess they’re the AV club, sitting behind the camera.

I liked the main actors, and the film was fairly good; but I wouldn’t be eager to watch it again.