Saturday, July 23, 2011

Womb (2010)

Womb (2010)
Director: Benedek Fliegauf
Country: Germany | Hungary | France
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

A woman is torn between two sorts of love in this thoughtful fusion of drama and science fiction from filmmaker Benedek Fliegauf. When she was nine years old, Rebecca met a boy named Tommy and found herself smitten with him; before long, Rebecca and her family moved away and she resigned herself to the notion that she'd never see Tommy again. But at the age of twenty-one, Rebecca returns to the town where she lived as a girl, and to her surprise she crosses paths with Tommy, and she finds they still have feelings for one another. Rebecca and Tommy have entered into a mature and loving relationship when he dies in a car wreck, and Rebecca is shattered. However, Rebecca is given a chance to give Tommy another chance at life -- she was be implanted with genetic material that will allow her to give birth to a perfect clone of Tommy. Rebecca agrees, and nine months later she finds herself raising a baby who looks like the man she loved, who she names Thomas. However, as Thomas grows to be a man, she finds herself struggling between her maternal love for her son and a more troubling attraction to a young man who is a duplicate of the man who won her heart years before. ~ Mark Deming, Allrovi

Friday, July 22, 2011

Forgiveness (2006)

Forgiveness (2006)
Director.........: Udi Aloni
Country..........: Israel
Runtime:97 min

On April 9, 1948, a Jewish militia entered the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and killed over 100 villagers. Soon after, a mental hospital was built on the ruins. The first patients to be committed were Holocaust survivors. A legend says that to this day, the survivors have been communicating with the ghosts of the village. FORGIVENESS tells the story of David Adler, a 20-year old American-Israeli who decides to move back to Israel, only to find himself committed to a mental institution that sits on the ruins of a Palestinian village called Deir Yassin. Flashbacks and flashforwards reveal the events that led up to his hospitalization. A 10-year old female ghost holds the secret to the riddle. But only when the secret is revealed can she find rest and give David the option to end a perpetually-repeated destiny... Doctor Itzhik Shemesh, a psychiatrist at the mental institute, injects David with a chemo-technological drug in an attempt to build a bridge over the trauma zone and allow David to live a normal life. Even though he doubts its ethical consequences, his use of the drug is an act that mirrors his own deep denial... Doctor Shemesh is given permission to use the drug by David's father, Henry Adler, a Holocaust survivor who spent a short time in Israel before becoming one of the most pre-eminent musicians in America. Henry, who has the arrogance of Oedipus and faith in the rational overcoming of trauma via action, doesn't understand why his son has been hospitalized. But Henry's lust for life and his desire for normality make him live in denial of the past, which is unbearable for David, whose restless soul seeks the truth. Henry will confront a horror beyond all horrors when the truth reveals itself. A blind patient in the hospital named Muselmann, also a Holocaust survivor, tells David to listen to the ghosts that are haunting him, that they have something important to tell him. Like the blind prophet Tiresias, Muselmann knows that the truth does not hold redemption, and this is why he never tried to reconstruct his life after the camps. Because he lives between the world of the dead and the living, Muselmann can act as a conduit between the murdered ghosts and David. The flashbacks and flashforwards from the mental institute reveal, with the story of David's life, the story of the eternal return of the trauma and a destiny that seems unalterable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Uski Roti (1970)

Uski Roti (1970)
Director: Mani Kaul
Country: India
Runtime: 101 minutes

Mani Kaul's Uski Roti is one of the most significant Indian films for its use of scales closest to Indian classical music. Notice the use of two lenses to oppose Renaissance logic of perspective.

The burly bus driver Sucha Singh travels through the dusty, flat Punjabi countryside. His wife Balo spends long hours waiting for him at the bus-stop with his food packet. One day her younger sister is sexually molested, causing Balo to arrive late at the bus-stop. Sucha Singh is upset by her late arrival, rejects her food and drives away. She remains standing at the roadside until nightfall.
Mani Kaul's debut film is an adaptation of a short story by Mohan Rakesh and is perhaps one of the earliest formal experiments in Indian cinema.

Sucha Singh, a bus driver travels through the dusty Punjabi countryside, while his wife Balo spends long hours waiting for him at the bus-stop with his food packet. One day, her younger sister gets sexually molested, causing Balo to arrive late at the bus-stop with the food packet. Sucha Singh gets upset with her being late, rejects the food and drives away.

Here's a response from a student at the Redcat screening of the film in 2005:

Last night I had the opportunity to see Mani Kaul, one of the key figures of the New Hindi Cinema of the late-’60s and ’70s, present his first feature, Daily Bread (Uski Roti, 1970), at the REDCAT theatre in Los Angeles. Kaul’s career has been associated with somewhat experimental and documentary films. “As for autobiographical, experimental or otherwise self-reflexive strands [in documentary], these are almost nonexistent in India,” writes Tom Waugh in Cine Action. “Virtually the only exception is Mani Kaul.” Although Kaul studied under famed Indian director Ritwik Ghatak, his primary inspiration came elsewhere. “I think I was his favourite pupil,” Kaul has said, “but I betrayed him. When I saw Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, my outlook changed completely.”

Bresson’s influence can be seen in Daily Bread, a dramatic film full of silences, gestures, near-stoic expressions, and offscreen sounds. But Kaul is far from a simple imitator, and Daily Bread has a remarkable aesthetic all its own, particularly in its emphasis on time. Shots are extended beyond their usual limits, sometimes even incorporating flash frames where the exposure ceases to exist. Telling the story of a traditional housewife who waits at a bus stop for her working and often absent husband, the film artfully transitions between the present and past in a way that accentuates the woman’s subjective experience of time more than a traditional narrative structure would. Kaul has said that he wanted to make a film about waiting. At our screening, he referred to the film’s polarized audience reception in 1970 and joked about the people who hated its pace. (Reportedly, a member of the Indian parliament once said the film was so boring that she would never forget it in all her life. A criticism or a praise?)

Unfortunately, none of Kaul’s films have been distributed in the US, and the print screened at the REDCAT didn’t even contain subtitles. Not that it detracted from the film; on the contrary, there isn’t a lot of dialogue in it and not having to read the words allowed me to immerse myself more fully into the film’s lulling, evocative rhythms. (Kaul pointed out that Bresson often considered the various tones of a film’s dialogue as being more important than the actual words being expressed, anyway.) As the housewife stands beside a tree in the shade, flies buzzing around her, the sun-dappled foliage swaying, her thoughts drift through recent events and conversations, merging memories with the present moment in a fluid, seemingly unordered path.

Daily Bread is a highly impressive feature that makes me enthusiastic to seek out Kaul’s other work as well, and yearn for the day when some of his films might be released on DVD. His mastery of the medium, even in this debut feature produced at the age of 26, is readily apparent. In recent years he has lived in Rotterdam and is currently a visiting artist teaching classes on Bresson and cinematic sound at CalArts.
Description by the original uploader, devdutt@kg:

Monday, July 18, 2011

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

Director: Juanita Wilson
Country: Ireland
Runtime: 105 min

Few films this year—if not this decade—will challenge you like As If I Am Not There. The film is based on real horrific events that happened during the Bosnian War of the early 1990s. The film is based on real life experiences that were told during the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague and as told in Slavenka Drakulic’s book that covered the war crimes hearings after the war.

Samira (Natasha Petrovic) is a teacher in Sarajevo who gets a teaching contract in a remote village where the previous teacher has gone mysteriously missing. The village is a far cry from the modern city she is used to and the villagers are suspicious of anyone new. There is nearby civil war fighting going on but Samira doesn’t feel she has anything to worry about because she isn’t from the area.

Soon the village is overtaken by Serbian soldiers, and the villagers are separated into two groups of women/children and men. The men are immediately shot and the women and children are taken by bus to a make-shift prison camp on a farm. There the older women are used for laborers and the young, attractive and even a few children are used for ongoing rapes by the soldiers. This isn’t a one time event. The women are locked in a room where they are beaten and raped on daily basis. Even though Samira pleads that she isn’t one of the villagers, she is ignored and becomes one of the ongoing rape victims. The small band of women fight to survive the ordeal both physically and emotionally.

Natasha Petrovic bravely plays the difficult lead role of Samira. Usually casting a woman so beautiful for the role would have been unrealistic, but her natural beauty actually would have made her a bigger target to the soldiers. Her performance is played for a large part of the film in silence, but she manages to perfectly to convey what she is thinking throughout film just by the look in her eyes.

The film deals with this harsh and brutal world realistically and still keeps its artistic integrity completely. Not only does it document the horror that these people went through, but it actually explains the cycle of hate without being at all preachy. Everything you need to know about the cycle of torture and hate is in the in the very first frame and the last frame. The ending manages to be both poignant and tragic at the same time and will likely stay with you long after. The viewer is left to ask “Is the ending a redemption or does she simply have no other options?”

The subject matter of this film isn’t for everyone and I can say without much hesitation that this was one of the more difficult films I have ever had to watch. In particular the ongoing rape and violence to a young girl is particularly hard to watch. Having said that though, the film is an artistic triumph that works both as a historical document and brilliant piece of film making.

Review by Kelly Stewart TIFF 2010

Soma: An Anarchist Therapy (2006)

Soma: An Anarchist Therapy (2006)
Director: Nick Cooper
Country: USA
Runtime: 49

In 2003, Nick Cooper, a 38-year-old independent journalist and activist based in Houston, came across an intriguing T-shirt in Brazil. It featured the anarchy symbol and an image of a capoeirista -- a player of capoeira Angola, an Afro-Brazilian art form developed by slaves that combines music, dancing and fighting. The T-shirt vendors explained it is for a practice called Soma, a kind of therapy that embraces anarchist politics as a way to achieve mental and physical health.

For Cooper, who'd played capoeira in the United States and who'd long had an interest in the anarchist movement, Soma piqued his interest immediately. And when he found out that the founder of Soma, 79-year-old Roberto Freire, is still alive and perfecting his technique, Cooper decided to buy a camera and return to Brazil to make a documentary on Soma.

The resulting 50-minute film, "Soma: An Anarchist Therapy," is finished, and Cooper spent the summer touring across the United States, screening it wherever he found an interest, from Unitarian churches to makeshift theaters in activists' backyards. He's enjoyed strawberry almond juice in Eugene and vegan chili hotdogs in Athens, and crashed on the couches of "crusty punks" half his age -- and all the while making biodiesel refill stops.

Cooper describes himself as an "anti-fascist fighting against nationalism, hierarchy, brutality and unsustainable living," and the ideas behind Soma therapy obviously resonate with him.

Beginning in the mid-1960s during Brazil's military regime, dissidents were disappeared and tortured. Psychologist Roberto Freire -- blind in one eye after being tortured by the military -- found that in a climate of mistrust, violence and paranoia, his fellow comrades were unlikely to seek out therapeutic help. Freire responded by abandoning psychoanalysis and inventing Soma, a therapy for revolutionaries that he calls "fast, efficient and liberating."

Soma is a group therapy where people come together for about 18 months to do physical exercises and engage in personal and political discussion. It combines ideas from Austrian Jewish psychologist Wilhelm Reich, capoeira Angola, and anarchism. And unlike traditional psychotherapy, Soma rejects the authority of the therapist: during a session, a therapist is present, but he or she participates equally with the other members of the group and does not draw conclusions or make analysis. There is an emphasis on pleasure and physical release. The documentary shows Soma groups deep in physical play, doing theater and movement exercises. Participants call the work difficult but "delicious."

Now decades later, Soma has spread across the world and is still liberating modern-day revolutionaries -- young people, artists and students -- who are fighting against the bourgeois and seeking liberation.

Cooper says that even learning about Soma can be helpful for "gringo activists," who Cooper believer are more familiar and comfortable critiquing the authoritarianism in the government or the larger society than within themselves. As he wrote in an email:

As I was first reading about Soma, I remembered meetings where American activists were screaming in each other's faces. So my initial target audience was here -- I was hoping to have some small impact on the tone of activism in the states. Later, nonactivists and people in other countries started expressing interest, so I broadened my conception and did subtitles for five different languages.

A great part of Soma's power comes from the collective nature of the experience, Cooper says. Rather than a miserable process of dredging up the horrors in your life, through group interaction, touch and play, Soma becomes a therapy that is a pleasure, something to enjoy that will keep you in the present.

Even though it was conceived during a time of brutality, Soma is for people experiencing varying levels of oppression, Cooper explains. "Most of us who have the tools and free time to question the system are also getting benefits from the system. This is a mechanism of co-optation -- an extraordinarily successful technique of oppression that often does what threats and violence can never achieve."

Cooper says that one of the most subtle aspects of this mechanism is that it turns each of us into oppressors, in as much as we buy clothes made by slaves in sweatshops in other countries, eat food from tortured animals or buy gas from countries we have constantly attacked, subverted and overthrown. And at the same time, he explains, we are also afflicted individually by our "constant state of fear, our impending sense of doom, and our growing hopelessness. Individually, we are insulted, threatened, silenced, ignored, and limited by families, boyfriends, bosses and so on."

Soma draws heavily on Wilhelm Reich, a psychologist who was once part of Sigmund Freud's inner circle but eventually broke away. Reich believed that everyone has a type of energetic body armor, built up over time as we react to threatening situations. This armor, which makes us physically rigid and pained, impacts our relationship with the world and limits our ability to express ourselves emotionally, sexually and socially.

Cooper explains that Freire developed Soma to free people from this armor, so that they can express themselves without restraint. Freire writes in Soma: An Anarchist Therapy Vol. III: Body to Body, (the entire book is available for download as a PDF), "We have no doubt that human brilliance occurs only when we are ourselves."

Reich found that people who can't advocate for their own pleasure and health also couldn't reject the system that oppresses them. "He did a study once about the German worker and discovered that the sex life of the German worker was absolutely miserable," Freire writes in his book. "So, he has no means to fight for socialism because he couldn't even fight for his own pleasure."

Capoeira Angola is used in Soma to bring a kind of physical pleasure that can break down armor. The tricky, friendly interactions of capoeira Angola and its use of the entire body with low, sweeping and sometimes acrobatic movements, Freire found, was one way to awaken the body. And the history of capoiera Angola is similar to Soma. Both were conceived as a way of liberating oppressed people.

When Cooper was filming, he found that the capoeiristas, anarchists and Soma practitioners in his generation in Brazil came of age in a world very different from their parents. In 1986 the military dictatorship ended, and in a moment all things became possible: punk, ska, straight edge, veganism, D.I.Y. But, he says, there is still a need for Soma, in Brazil and elsewhere.

"Many doing Soma are not anarchists, revolutionaries or activists," Cooper wrote in an email. "And Soma is just one of many therapies which consider state and institutional forces. There are many radical therapists who oppose the notion that one's problems are all in one's head."


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bi, Don't Be Afraid (2010)

Bi, Don't Be Afraid (2010)
Director:Dang Di Phan

In an old house in Hanoi, Bi, a 6-year-old child lives with his parents, his aunt and their cook. His favorite playgrounds are an ice factory and the wild grass along the river. After being absent for years, his grandfather, seriously ill, reappears and settles at their house. While Bi gets closer to his grandfather, his father tries to avoid any contact with his family. Every night, he gets drunk and goes and see his masseuse, for whom he feels a quiet strong desire. Bi's mother turns a blind eye on it. The aunt, still single, meets a 16-year-old young boy in the bus. Her attraction to him moves her deeply

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Electric Blanket Named Moshe

An Electric Blanket Named Moshe (1995)
Director.........: Assi Dayan
Country..........: Israel
90 min

This Israeli black comedy is the second entry in Assi Dayan's trilogy that began with Life According to Agfa (1993). The story centers around the lives of three down and out people who played bit parts in the first film. They are Malka, an aging whore who dreams of being a singer, Levy, her self-destructive pimp, and Moshe, a homeless old man who dreams of owning an electric blanket. Fragmentary scenes from their dreams comprise the beginning of the film; Malka is also seen hawking her body on the outskirts of town. Later the three are badly beaten by rival pimps and they must go to the ER for treatment. They are next seen entering the bar where Agfa is being filmed. They talk the director into giving them small parts. In the end they are seen, as if appearing in an earlier film, discussing philosophy on a park bench.
About the Trilogy:
Life According to Agfa, shocked Israeli audiences as it used a Tel Aviv pub and its neighborhood to portray a self-destructive Israeli society tearing itself apart. When Dayan, the enfant terrible of Israeli cinema one, followed "Agfa" with the chaotically existentialist and intentionally foul-mouthed "Electric Blanket Syndrome," even his most devoted followers were taken aback, some arguing it was intentionally horrifying, others rejecting it as hopelessly vulgar.
Assi Dayan wrapped up the trilogy on his personal "accidental philosophy of life" (which started with "Agfa,") with "Mr Baum," the story of a man who is told in the first sequence of the film that he has 92 more minutes to live; and he indeed dies some 90 minutes later, in the last sequence. This third episode states that everything, including life itself, is an accident, that every man is an island and no one gives a damn about the rest of humanity, though they all pretend to. Don’t believe your father and mother, wife, children, friends or relatives, it’s all one to them whether you live or die, as long as it does not affect their personal comfort.

La princesse de Montpensier (2010)

La princesse de Montpensier (2010)
Director:Bertrand Tavernier
Country: France | Germany
Runtime: 139 min

Bertrand Tavernier is in top form with this gripping, superbly mounted drama set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century. Based on a novella by the celebrated Madame de Lafayette, the action centers on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise, thwarted when her father's political ambitions force her into marriage with the well-connected Philippe de Montpensier, who she has never met. When Philippe is called away to fight, she is left in the care of Count Chabannes, an aging nobleman with a disdain for warfare, and soon becomes exposed to the sexual and political intrigues of court.

The Last of the Crazy People(2006)

The Last of the Crazy People
Director: Laurent Achard
Country: France
Runtime: 94 min

A stark corrective to the tradition of lyrical Frenchfilms about the tender joys of growing up in the country, Laurent Achard's Dementedis a Gothic but soberly-executed melodrama about childhood as hell. Based on anovel by Canadian writer Timothy Findley, Achard'sfilm gives us a child's-eye view of an adult world that seems irreparablydamaged, while maintaining a controlled stylistic distance that keeps us, likeits young protagonist, guessing at the nature of what's really going on.

The film's control andintelligence more than merit Achard's best directoraward in Locarno, and should put him on the map (hislast film was Rotterdam Tiger winner PlusQu'hier, Moins Que Demain in 1998). Goodpress and word-of-mouth should help the exports of a subtle piece that isn'teasy to encapsulate in a brief hard-sell pitch, while festivals will latch ontoit as one of the year's most clear-headed art-house statements. The Englishtitle, however, is more suggestive of B-movie shlockthan thoughtful Euro fare and could be a disadvantage.

The story focuses on 11-year-oldMartin (Cochelin), a gauche, unprepossessing lonerwho lives with his family on a run-down farm. When school breaks up, a grimholiday seems to lie ahead of the boy. At home, no-one seems too happy to seehim around, expect for the house's Moroccan domestic Malika,the nearest Martin has to a mother figure. Martin's grandmother (veteran Cordy) has an icy, unforgiving presence, while his mother (Reymond) lives behind locked doors, the ebb and flow of hermental condition keeping her husband in a state of nervous anxiety.

The boy has an uncertainally in his big brother, a mercurial arty type in a volatile state of psychicand sexual meltdown, who has never recovered from a schoolteacher failing torecognise his apparent genius as a poet. With family stability crumbling, andthe farm on the verge of being sold to wealthy neighbours, things come to aconclusion that Achard executes with coollyunderstated shock effect.

Much of the film's effecthinges on the inscrutable presence of young Cochelin,who at first seems oddly vacant, but whose blank manner turns out to provide anuninflected conduit for the traumas that surround him. Among the familymembers, Dominique Reymond (Will It Snow For Christmas'), whose presence in French films isinvariably a positive sign, has a magnetic presence as the much-feared,too-little loved mother - and a single long close-up of her calm, implacablestare is perhaps the most terrifying sight that recent cinema has had to offer.

Without laying on anydramatic rhetoric or expressionist effects, Achardhas succeeded in making a film that functions brilliantly as a psychologicalhorror story - although, this clan's extremity notwithstanding, the horror atissue is simply the standard one of childhood solitude and the approach toadolescence.

Achard and co-writer Natalie Najemastutely maintain a balance between the viewer's sense of a world out of kilterand a sense of Martin's own partial view of things, while dangling intimationsthat all may not be right with the boy either. Sober, classically framedphotography make this a visually handsome film too, providing just enough ruralprettiness to appeal to admirers of French ruralism -who will quickly realise that Cold Comfort is the name of this farm. (screendaily.com)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Surrealist Motion Volume One (2008)

Surrealist Motion Volume One (2008)
Director: Jonathan Knape
Country: Sweden
Runtime: 41:30 min

The people at Filmic Art have 'intended to create Surrealistic works with motion suited for flat LCD-plasma screens. Influenced by some well known surrealist paintings, this silent collection of four animated vignettes is an attempt to bring to life Salvador Dali-esque artwork in the comfort of your own living room. How much you get out of it will likely depend on your appreciation of painted surrealism and/or the state of mind you're in when you watch it.

So without further ado, here's a look at what happens in the four 'paintings' contained on this disc:
Directed by Jonathan Knape Sweden, Ambient, 2008,

Room With A View: (10:10)
In this work we have set-up a room with some objects that we have paraphrased from Rene Magritte. The idea with a painting within a painting is not new and could be seen already in early Dutch 14th ... still photo from the film

This Castle Is Not Located In The Pyrenees: (10:00)
The painting Castle in the Pyrenees 1959 by Magritte has obviously been an inspiration for us in the creation of this work. Magritte gave the title as a play on the French expression "Châteaux en ... still photo from the film

Prairie Serenades: (7:02)
In Magritte's work Voice of the Winds from 1928, three iron bells hover above the ground symbolizing the sound of the wind. In our work there are three wooden churches on a prairie that slowly lift ... still photo from the film

Persistence of the Watchful Eye: (13:00)
In this work, we have used Salvador Dali and his painting Persistence of Memory from 1931 as inspiration. However, the only object that we actually have paraphrased from this painting is the idea ..

It's hard to know exactly what to make of these four computer generated moving paintings. It is meant for a specific audience and if you're not a member of that target demographic, you may not have a predisposed inkling to appreciate what they've done. What can be said is that this material does effectively capture the look and feel of the work of the surrealist painters who inspired it. At the same time, watching 41 min of slow moving paintings shift and turn and morph and change isn't exactly a recipe for excitement...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Karen Cries on the Bus

Karen Cries on the Bus(2011)
Director:Gabriel Rojas Vera
Runtime:98 min

Karen discovers, after 10 years of marriage, which to have left behind his dreams to devote herself to the home chores has been a mistake that cost him his youth. She decides then to separate and go in search of a life of its own. With his savings she rents a room in the center of Bogota and try to get a job, but his age and inexperience will make it difficult. Karen will have to decide between returning to the stability of a relationship or face life for herself.

Maya Deren's Sink

Maya Deren's Sink (2011)
Director:Barbara Hammer
Runtime:30 min

Maya Deren's Sink, a 30 minute experimental film, is an evocative tribute to the mother of avantgarde American film. The film calls forth the spirit of one who was larger than life as recounted by those who knew her. Teiji Ito's family, Carolee Schneemann and Judith Malvina, float through the homes recalling in tiny bits and pieces words of Deren's architectural and personal interior space. Clips from Maya Deren's films are projected back into the spaces where they were originally filmed appearing on the floorboard, furniture, and in the bowl of her former sink. Fluid light projections of intimate space provide an elusive agency for a filmmaker most of us will never know as film with its imaginary nature evokes a former time and space. Written by Anonymous

True Noon

True Noon(2009)
Director Nosir Saidov
Run time:
83 min

Nilufar, a girl living in town below, is about to marry a man living in town above. But one day, soldiers come and plant barbed wire to separate the two towns. The life of people, who have thus far enjoyed peace, now falls into severe chaos. Students must take classes with the barbed wire in the middle of the class, and it becomes difficult to go to the hospital. However the biggest problem is Nilufar`s wedding. Kirill, the chief of the climate observatory, tries his best to help her wedding, but then a terrible tragedy occurs.