Friday, August 10, 2012

The Lightning Testimonies(2007)

The Lightning Testimonies(2007)
Director: Amar Kanwar
Runtime:113 min

 Why is one image different from the other? Why does an image seem to contain many secrets? What can release them so as to suddenly connect with many unknown lives.

The Lightning Testimonies reflects upon a history of conflict in the Indian subcontinent through experiences of sexual violence. As the film explores this violence, there emerge multiple submerged narratives, sometimes in people, images and memories, and at other times in objects from nature and everyday life that stand as silent but surviving witnesses. In all narratives the body becomes central - as a site for honour, hatred and humiliation and also for dignity and protest. As the stories unfold, women from different times and regions come forward. The film speaks to them directly, trying to understand how such violence is resisted, remembered and recorded by individuals and communities. Narratives hidden within a blue window or the weave of a cloth appear, disappear and are then reborn in another vocabulary at another time. Using a range of visual vocabularies the film moves
beyond suffering into a space of quiet contemplation, where resilience creates a potential for transformation

Amar Kanwar is an independent film-maker whose lyrical and meditative work explores the political, social, economic and ecological conditions of the Indian subcontinent. Having directed and produced over 40 films, which are a mixture of documentary, poetic travelogue and visual essay, much of Kanwar’s work traces the legacy of decolonisation and the partition in 1947 of the Indian subcontinent into Islamic Pakistan and Hindu India. Recurrent themes are the splitting of families, sectarian violence and border conflicts, interwoven with investigations of gender and sexuality, philosophy and religion, as well as the opposition between globalisation and tribal consciousness in rural India.

Kanwar’s compelling films are created using image, ritual objects, literature, poetry and songs. Rather than focusing on traumatic or political situations, he attempts to move beyond trauma and its direct representation to a more contemplative space. He experimented with this strategy in his most celebrated film, A Season Outside, 1998, exploring the border tensions along the thin white line between India and Pakistan. Scripted and narrated by the artist, the work is a personal journey and poignant meditation on the philosophies of violence and non-violence.

Along with his numerous single screen films, Kanwar has also developed multi-screen video installations, in which projected films are choreographed to create sophisticated layering of image and meaning within a conscripted space. In The Lightning Testimonies, 2007, he reflects upon a history of conflict in the Indian subcontinent through experiences of sexual violence, especially in the wake of the political unrest that followed the Partition, where 75,000 women were abducted and abused. Eight synchronised projections present disparate narratives that converge. Women from different times and regions come forward as stories are revealed through people as well as through the images and objects that survive as silent witnesses.

The Lightning Testimonies explores how such violence is resisted, remembered and recorded and moves beyond the realm of suffering into a space of quiet contemplation, where resilience creates the potential for transformation. Beyond its immediate subject matter, the work also examines the contrasting methodologies and vocabularies used by different individuals and communities for archiving and recalling memory.

Kanwar’s latest work is a three-part installation, The Torn First Pages, 2008-, which examines the political and humanitarian situation in Burma and the struggle between dictatorial regime and the Democracy Movement. The title of the work is related to the story of a bookshop owner in Mandalay in the mid-1990s accused and subsequently convicted and imprisoned for tearing out the first page of every book he sold. The extracted pages were printed with a legally required slogan of the military regime and a denunciation of democratic forces. His action thus represented a private yet powerful resistance against the repressive authorities, pertinent to the artist’s experience of Burma. The Torn First Pages: Part I, a five-channel projection onto paper sheets, presents films shot clandestinely in Burma, India, Europe, the US and Thailand where Kanwar located exiled Burmese communities. Independent stories are connected by a metaphorical reference to the struggle for a democratic society, exile, memory and individual courage.

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Hit(1979)

The Hit(1979)
Directed by: Assi Dayan

This rollicking, romantic musical comedy features the winning performance and wonderful songs of internationally acclaimed pop superstar Ofra Haza. A dance teacher turned matchmaker who searches the obituaries for promising prospects and a boy who pumps gas but wants to be a rock star are among the many memorable characters who populate this comic classic from the celebrated Hagashash trio. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A celebration for the eyes(1975)

A celebration for the eyes(1975)
 Director: Assi Dayan
Country: Israel

 This film is THE most sought after Israeli film ever made due to long and complicated trial that is still going for 30 years and which prevents this tiny
masterpiece from being shown under any circumstances...
And all this started from the one screening in the (then) only public channel on television, way back. I've got this rarest gem from a dear man who taped it back then and amazingly, the quality's quite goof, all things considered.
I've translated the dialogues and now I present you Dayan's 2nd feature which to this day he considers as his greatest work.

Here's a translation I've made of a nice article from a local blog, "it's not McGuffin":

A celebration for the eyes - a cinematic wonder no one can see

Due to a complicated legal dispute, there's no legal way to watch "a celebration for the eyes"- Assi Dayan's second film as director. The relatively Positive side to that is that the conflict broke out following the film's broadcast on Channel 1 in the early nineties - which means there were (very few) people who have recorded it and with their aid I managed to watch the movie which the title of this post indicates the high esteem I have for it.

I feel that if the film was available today, more people would share my feeling. Although when the film was released in 1975 (two years after created) it did not get much of a crowd, but in many ways the film was ahead of its time - its use of the Hebrew language, its humorous attack on the militarism of Israeli society, by its mix of European influences with a local ,Mediterranean flavor.
I think that nowadays it can become a cult favorite and win a new critical evaluation.

It's enough to hear the story written by Dayan with Naftali Alter to understand the spirit of the film: a man comes to town that lies on the northern border and intends to commit suicide. The townspeople rescue him, but later they discover he's a well known poet, the kind whose death place can become a site of pilgrimage. Since a wave of tourism would do wonders for the bleak economic situation of the town, the residents try to encourage him to commit suicide and even arrange a local celebration for the occasion of the suicide. A girl that falls in love with him try to resist. In addition, the town is preparing for a wedding full of colorful characters. A military exercise held near the town also has an impact on the plot.

An upgrade factor for the film are the dialogues. I believe that Dayan (who is 67 years old now) is the most unique dialogue writer ever in Israeli cinema, a writer with a personal style, with a slang and spoken language awareness, a writer whose sentences often work on more than one level. In his good moments, he reminds me of Hanoch Levin (The greatest Israeli playwright). He takes ready-made phrases and delves to their bottom, often in order to expose a painful (while funny) dimension in his characters - so that when a girl falls in love with the poet, she tells him about the way the soldiers treat her: "I was a mattress" -and all that during a sex scene, of course.

Dane creates in the movie a carnivalesque atmosphere, reminiscent of Fellini's films and more than that, the movies of Emir Kusturica which were made later. Many shots end with blurring of the frame - a breaking of cinematic language which communicates with the breaking of language produced through the dialogue.

Not for a single moment is the film heavy handed nor too complex. This is primarily a movie that never stops to make you laugh and at the end manages also to touch your heart deeply even though it has no positive characters and there's cynicism at almost any moment. It was not easy for the Israeli public to accept such a wild work in real time. Dayan turned to make movies which were easier to digest and managed to make some great popular movies which were smarter than most give them credit for, all that before he created in the nineties his "trilogy" which made him one of the most respected directors in this country.

All the characteristics of Dayan's cinema are already there in this early work - from the military humor of "Halfon Hill" up to the lyrical touch of "Life According to Agfa". Dayan's latest film is a comedy about a psychologist who rents his medical clinic for people who wish to commit suicide, so its a full circle...

Friday, August 03, 2012

Caesar Must Die (2012)

Caesar Must Die (2012)
Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Country: Italy
Runtime:76 min

 The performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar comes to an end and the performers are rewarded with rapturous applause. The lights go out; the actors leave the stage and return to their cells. They are all inmates of the Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia. One of them comments: ‘Ever since I discovered art this cell has truly become a prison’.

Filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani spent six months following rehearsals for this stage production; their film demonstrates how the universality of Shakespeare’s language helps the actors to understand their roles and immerse themselves in the bard’s interplay of friendship and betrayal, power, dishonesty and violence. This documentary does not dwell on the crimes these men have committed in their ‘real’ lives; rather, it draws parallels between this classical drama and the world of today, describes the commitment displayed by all those involved and shows how their personal hopes and fears also flow into the performance.

After the premiere the cell doors slam shut behind Caesar, Brutus and the others. These men all feel proud and strangely touched, as if the play has somehow revealed to them the depths of their own personal history.