Author Topic: March Around the World 2016  (Read 7553 times)

Offline Danae Cassandra

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March Around the World 2016
« on: March 10, 2016, 07:16:17 PM »
This is a challenge I took up on Letterboxd.   The challenge is to watch 30 films from 30 different countries in the month of March. I didn't get my last world film marathon ever finished, but ...

01.  On Each Side - Argentina - 3/5
02.  Waltz With Bashir - Israel - 4/5
03.  My Winnipeg - Canada - 4/5
04.  Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary - Austria - 3.5/5
05.  Trances - Morocco - 3.5/5
06.  W.R. Mysteries of the Organism - Yugoslavia - 4/5  
07.  Valerie and Her Week of Wonders - Czechoslovakia - 3.5/5
08.  The Book of the Dead - Japan - 3/5
09.  Kisses - Ireland - 3/5
10.  Ocean of an Old Man - India - 3/5
11.  For All Mankind - USA - 4/5
12.  Earth - Ukraine (USSR) - 3.5/5
13.  Be With Me - Singapore - 3/5
14.  Faraw! Mother of the Dunes - Mali - 3.5/5
15.  Caramel - Lebanon - 3.5/5
16.  Alamar - Mexico - 3.5/5
17.  The Last Homecoming - Cyprus - 3.5/5
18.  Nostalgia For the Light - Chile - 5/5
19.  Le Quattro Volte - Italy - 4/5
20.  Kilometre Zero - Iraq - 3/5
21.  On the Verge of a Fever - Haiti - 2.5/5
22.  Travelers and Magicians - Bhutan - 3.5/5
23.  Five Dedicated to Ozu - Iran - 3/5
24.  L'Age D'Or - France - 3/5
25.  Angel on the Right - Tajikistan - 3/5
26.  A New Day in Old Sana'a - Yemen - 3/5
27.  Margarette's Feast - Brazil - 3/5
28.  The Student of Prague (1913) - Germany - 3/5
29.  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring - South Korea - 5/5
30.  Persona - Sweden - 5/5
« Last Edit: April 07, 2016, 03:50:26 AM by Danae Cassandra »
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2016, 07:19:27 PM »


On Each Side  (A cada lado)
Year of Release: 2005
Directed By: Hugo Grosso
Starring: Juan Pablo Geretto, Luis Machin, David Olmos, Emanuel Rojas, Amalia Costa
Genre: Drama

Overview:
Evocative and lyrical, On Each Side follows the interconnected lives of several characters who are affected by the building of the Rosario-Victoria Bridge in Argentina – a gargantuan, modern undertaking that links two Argentinean cities.

Building the bridge takes years, transforming lives on both sides of the river.  A photographer discovers a key to his past when he meets an unlikely pair: a thief with a curvacious partner in crime.  Two sisters experience a sexual re-awakening after they take on a boarder – a German engineer who enjoys clandestine trysts with a transvestite chanteause across the river.  A pair of adventurous boys grow into young men as the bridge is constructed above them.  On Each Side is the story of a bridge that not only transverses a river but spans the traditional and the modern, the past and the future.

My Thoughts:
This is a film about connections. Connections between cities; connections between people. It's about our desire for true connection, and what keeps us from making that. A son prioritizes work over dinner with his father, losing the opportunity for a last true connection. A man finds that he waits too long to reveal certain things about himself, thereby losing the opportunity to truly connect with his lover. A young man finds himself unremembered; a photographer detached from the community. Even as the bridge promises to bring the communities together, the choices people make drive them apart.

The mostly amateur cast does a good job, though some seem more natural than others. While you can tell the budget was low, the camera work is quite good, especially the parts about the bridge. That interjected documentary footage of the bridge building adds interest to the film, and could be seen as a metaphor for how much work achieving true connection is - and in its destruction of the natural environment how one can cause damage with people as well. It's an interesting film, with some pointed observations; recommended only to regular watchers of foreign films however. For those weaned on a diet of Hollywood blockbusters this film would look cheap, disjointed and dull.

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 3/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2016, 07:27:37 PM »


Waltz With Bashir (Vals Im Bashir)
Year of Release: 2008
Directed By: Ari Folman
Starring: Ori Sivan, Ronny Dayag, Shmuel Frenkel
Genre: Documentary

Overview:
Inspired by actual events, Waltz With Bashir chronicles one man's descent into his own half-forgotten past. Filmmaker Ari Folman, an Israeli veteran of the First Lebanon War, encounters an old friend suffering from nightmares of the conflict. Ari begins to wonder why his own memories are full of gaps. In an effort to uncover the truth, he reconnects with old friends and dares to confront the horrors of war. Hailed as innovative and devastating, Waltz with Bashir fuses animation and documentary to create an experience unlike anything you've ever witnessed.

My Thoughts:
What is a man's culpability in the face of the horrific? How does a man stand by while others are slaughtered? And how does a man live with the guilt afterward?

A highly personal film, a recollection of traumatic events and the attempt to reconcile with those events years later, this is one of the best films about the horror of war, for all involved.

If the animation isn't the finest I've ever seen, its lack of fluidity fits the subject matter. It's appropriately realistic, somewhat gritty and ugly. Powerful film, troubling, and illuminated at the same time. Highly recommended, but don't expect a feel-good, happy ending.

Bechdel Test:  Fail

Overall:  4/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2016, 03:40:18 AM »


My Winnipeg
Year of Release: 2007
Directed By:  Guy Maddin
Starring: Ann Savage, Louis Negin, Amy Stewart, Darcy Fehr
Genre: Documentary, Drama, Fantasy

Overview:
The geographical dead center of North America and the beloved birthplace of Guy Maddin, Winnipeg is the frosty and mysterious star of Maddin's "docu-fantasia." A work of memory and imagination, the film burrows into what the director calls "the heart of the heart" of the continent, conjuring a city as delightful as it is fearsome, populated by sleepwalkers and hockey aficionados. Take part in Winnipeg's epic annual scavenger hunt! Pay your respects to the racehorses forever frozen in the river! Help judge the yearly Golden Boy pageant! What is real and what is fantasy is left up to the viewer to sort out in Maddin's hypnotic, expertly conceived paean to that wonderful and terrifying place known as My Hometown.

My Thoughts:
Is the truth important? How important is truth to memory? What truly matters: what really happened or how you perceive it and remember it? Are the stories of your hometown important because they are true? Or because you believe them? If they are false, does that make them less true? Maddin's blend of memoir, documentary and fantasy asks these sorts of questions and doesn't exactly provide answers. We all have local legends that will never be proven, we all have memories that didn't happen the way we remember them, we all have embellished family stories. Maddin's ultimate point might just be that all of this is important in how we see the world - just as important as the actual truth.

Bechdel Test:  Fail

Overall: 4/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2016, 03:47:58 AM »


Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary
Year of Release: 2002
Directed By: André Heller, Othmar Schmiderer
Starring: Traudl Junge
Genre: Documentary

Overview:
The astonishing true story of Hitler's private secretary coming to terms with working alongside unspeakable evil after remaining silent for nearly sixty years.

In 1942, Traudl Junge was an apolitical 22-year-old chosen from a clerical pool to work as one of Adolf Hitler's private secretaries. Working day-in, day-out for Hitler, Junge viewed him as a surrogate father figure, private and polite, nothing like the crazed rhetorician of his speeches. Shielded from the knowledge of Hitler's acts of atrocity and convinced she was in the center of information, she was actually in a blind spot. As the Nazi regime teetered on destruction and Hitler plunged further into madness, Junge witnessed everything up to the final chaotic days in the bunker.

Completed just months before Traudl Junge's death, BLIND SPOT: HITLER'S SECRETARY is a riveting personal history which demands to be seen by all.

My Thoughts:
Powerful testimonial from the now-elderly Traudl Junge, who served as Hitler's secretary. You might be surprised how much this will hold your attention, since the entire film is just her talking about her memories of that time. Really powerful stuff here, in how monsters are human beings ... and human beings are monsters. That one can be complicit in evil through ignorance, and that perhaps ignorance is not an excuse. What is your culpability, what are your responsibilities, and what is your guilt? Really a story everyone should hear.

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 3.5/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2016, 04:49:52 AM »


Trances
Year of Release: 1981
Directed By: Ahmed El Maanouni
Starring: Nass El Ghiwane
Genre: Documentary, Music

Overview:
The beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating musical documentary. Storytellers through song, with connections to political theater, the band became an international sensation (Western music critics have often referred to them as "the Rolling Stones of North Africa") thanks to their political lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on the Moroccan trance music tradition. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, Ahmed El Maânouni’s Trances is cinematic poetry.

My Thoughts:
Music is the voice and soul of the people. Part concert film, part interview, part documentary, Trances is an interesting look at Moroccan culture and music. It's worth seeing for Nass El Ghiwane's music alone, which is really wonderful. If you like folk music, or world music, you need to watch this film (or at least listen to it).

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 3.5/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2016, 04:52:49 AM »


WR: Mysteries of the Organism
Year of Release: 1971
Directed By: Dusan Makavejev
Starring: Milena Dravic, Ivica Vidovic, Jagoda Kaloper, Tuli Kupferberg
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Drama

Overview:
What does the energy harnessed through orgasm have to do with the state of communist Yugoslavia circa 1971? Only counterculture filmmaker extraordinaire Dušan Makavejev has the answers (or the questions). His surreal documentary-fiction collision WR: Mysteries of the Organism begins as an investigation into the life and work of controversial psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Reich and then explodes into a free-form narrative of a beautiful young Slavic girl's sexual liberation. Banned upon its release in the director's homeland, the art-house smash WR is both whimsical and bold in its blending of politics and sexuality.

My Thoughts:
Subversive, anarchic, but also ultimately a product of it's time; this was an interesting watch. It's very much a surrealist film - part documentary, part montage, part narrative, part social critique via music video - it's a weird film. It's also a film that shows its age. It could only be a product of the late 60's/early 70's, for all that it's actual critique is timeless. Some familiarity with Stalinist policies and Communist Yugoslavia is helpful in viewing. Recommended only to serious art film lovers.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Overall: 4/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2016, 04:55:35 AM »


Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
Year of Release: 1970
Directed By: Jaromil Jires
Starring: Jaroslava Schallerova, Helena Anyzova, Petr Kopriva, Jiri Prymek
Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Overview:
A girl on the verge of womanhood finds herself in a sensual fantasyland of vampires, witchcraft, and other threats in this eerie and mystical movie daydream. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders serves up an endlessly looping, nonlinear fairy tale, set in a quasi-medieval landscape. Ravishingly shot, enchantingly scored, and spilling over with surreal fancies, this enticing phantasmagoria from director Jaromil Jireš is among the most beautiful oddities of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

My Thoughts:
Firstly, let me say this is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. You could take just about any still from this film, toss it in a frame and hang it on the wall of a gallery. The cinematography, costuming, lighting, all of it is simply gorgeous. Valerie is worth seeing simply for it's visual beauty alone.

It's also a somewhat impenetrable surrealist film. The plot, such as it is, features Valerie, a young woman on the cusp of womanhood, threatened by vampires and religious authority, envied by her grandmother for her beauty, and flirting with an erotic relationship with a young man who may be her brother. I'm of the opinion the film is really allegory about Valerie's sexual awakening upon getting her first menstrual period. Recommended for lovers of art films - this is film as art, not as storytelling.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Overall: 3.5/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2016, 05:04:10 AM »


Book of the Dead
Year of Release: 2005
Directed By: Kihachiro Kawamoto
Starring: Kyôko Kishida, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Rie Miyazawa
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Anime

Overview:
In this ravishing film of mystical beauty, master animator Kihachiro Kawamoto's tour de force adventure tale tells the story of a young noblewoman in 8th-century Japan who leaves her home to follow the apparition of an executed prince.

The Book of the Dead takes place as Buddhism is being introduced to Japan from China. Iratsume, a woman of noble desent, becomes obsessed with this mysterious new religion. One night, in a rapturous trance, she sees a luminous vision that she believes to be the Buddha, compelling her to leave home and journey to a sacred temple. Once there, she sees Otsu, a young prince who was executed 50 years earier. While Iratsume mistakes the prince's spirit for the incarnation of the great Buddha, the ghost mistakes Iratsume for the last woman he saw at the moment of his death. As an act of great devotion, she decides to make a giant shroud for the prince to heal his soul, after which he begins to haunt the young woman and those around her. The pair embark on an impassioned battle of wills, one longing for the material world, the other striving for the spiitual.

This strange story of outherworldly romance is the work of stop-motion animator and puppet-maker Kihachiro Kawamoto, a former student of the master Czech animator Jiri Trnka. Already a legend in his own right, with The Book of the Dead he has created an intricately detailed magnum opus, a summation of themes explored in all of his work: the transience of existence, the ambiguity of human behavior, and the search for perfection and beauty in an imperfect world.

One final note for animation buffs: The film also features the work by the acclaimed Russian animator and director Yuriy Norsheteyn, who was involved in The Book of the Dead as a "guest animator."

My Thoughts:
This would be a better film if any of the stories here got resolved. The model work, the stop motion animation, the visuals of the film are simply gorgeous. I mean, seriously beautiful. But the strands of stories here - the men who wish to court Irartsume, her quest for enlightenment, the desires of the ghost for release and an heir, none of this ever feels truly resolved. The closest any of them come is Iratsume - her weaving that depicts the Bodhisattvas feels like movement toward Buddhist enlightenment, but the ending doesn't really confirm this either. I'm guessing the filmmakers ran out of money, and rushed a finish. It's too bad, because there was so much potential here. Recommended for lovers of stop-motion animation - you'll want to see it just for the work put in. It's a beautiful but ultimately frustrating view.

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 3/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2016, 05:06:45 AM »


Kisses
Year of Release: 2008
Directed By: Lance Daly
Starring: Kelly O'Neill, Shane Curry
Genre: Drama

Overview:
Kisses is the story of Kylie and Dylan, young runaways living on the fringes of Dublin who discover both beauty and danger in the big city. Kylie lives with five siblings and an overworked mother. Next door, Dylan is growing up with an abusive father and the memory of his runaway brother. After a violent altercation with his father, Dylan and Kylie flee. Together they make their way to the magical lights of downtown Dublin to search for Dylan's brother and hope for a new life. Dublin, as shown through the innocent eyes of our young protagonists, is a kaleidoscope of magic, wonder, and mystery. But as the night wears on, the city takes on a darker character, and the two must rely on the kindness of strangers and sagely wisdom of Bob Dylan to persevere. Featuring incredible breakthrough performances by Shane Curry and Kelly O'Neill, Kisses is a tale of two children who test the limits of what life can become, and learn what they can do for each other.

My Thoughts:
Sad, bleak little film about the cycles of poverty and abuse and the inability of children to escape them. Here we have two children, fed up with their abusive homes, striking out on their own, only to find the streets even more terrifying. Yet the truly bleak part, to me, is that when they approach a police officer all that occurs is the return to their homes. No hope of relief is offered from authority. The only scrap of hope they have is in their bond with each other.

Kisses is obvious in its low budget, but they make the most of what they've got with creative use of black and white vs. color cinematography and an effective use of music montages to take the viewer through their adventure in Dublin. At first Kelly O'Neill came off very stiff to me, but once the scene with her uncle occurred, she really impressed me with how much she was able to convey in body language and expression and my appreciation for her performance continued through the rest of the film. Shane Curry did a credible job as well. Recommended with caution. This isn't a feel-good film.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Overall: 3/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2016, 05:09:58 AM »


Ocean of an Old Man
Year of Release: 2008
Directed By: Rajesh Shera
Starring: Tom Alter
Genre: Drama

Overview:
In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and amid the stunning natural beauty of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, an elderly British teacher struggles to run a small primary school despite the loss of many of the islands' children to the recent tragedy. Ignoring the overwhelming grief that washes over the islands, he continues to teach his few remaining students until a government official delivers a relocation order to all residents, causing him to embark on a heartbreaking search for his missing students, convinced they must still be alive.

Blending exquisite vistas with the ubiquitous sound of the ocean to convey the precarious balance between human life and the inexorable forces of nature, Rajesh Shera's debut feature quietly unfolds as a delicate meditation on grief and loss.

My Thoughts:
This is a nearly wordless meditation on grief and loss. How does one cope in the aftermath of unimaginable tragedy? How do you go on, seeing the empty spaces once inhabited?

This is the first movie filmed in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, and it's a good thing that the setting is beautiful, because this is a slow, slow film. It held my attention, but I enjoy a story that plays out slowly. Not that there's much of a story here. It's really more of a study of this teacher trying to deal with the loss of his family, his young pupils, his home, as well as the future and an entire way of life.

This is a very low budget film, but it really doesn't need more money. Tom Alter does an excellent job conveying the depth of the teacher's grief and his increasing desperation to find any of his missing pupils. In many ways what The Old Man and the Sea should have been, in that here you see everything instead of it being told by a narrator. Recommended only if you have a background in slow film however.

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 3/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2016, 05:13:13 AM »


For All Mankind
Year of Release: 1989
Directed By: Al Reinert
Starring: James A. Lovell Jr., Russell L. Schweickart, Eugene A. Cernan, Michael Collins
Genre: Documentary

Overview:
In July 1969, the space race ended when Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy's challenge of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." No one who witnessed the lunar landing will ever forget it. Al Reinert's documentary For All Mankind is the story of the twenty-four men who traveled to the Moon, told in their words, in their voices, using the images of their experiences. Forty years later, it remains the most radical, visually dazzling work of cinema yet made about this earthshaking event.

My Thoughts:
Excellently done film about the early years of the space program, and the moon landings. Simply told by the astronauts themselves using footage from them, this is documentary filmmaking at its purest state. Here are the events, make of them what you will.

I feel like this is a film that was meant to be inspiring. Look at our achievements! Look at what these men did! They went to the moon! There is so much passion, excitement and courage in their words and achievements that you can't help but admire these people.

Yet I felt an overwhelming sadness watching this film. Where have our dreams gone? Once they were big. Once we reached for the stars. It seems like all our dreams are gone these days. We haven't landed a manned mission on the moon in 44 years. For all our technological advancement, what have we done with it? We have more computing power now in our pockets then they did to go to the moon, and we do nothing of any import with it. It doesn't feel like we look to the stars, to the future, to the greater good of mankind any longer.

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 4/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2016, 05:16:25 AM »


Earth
Year of Release: 1930
Directed By: Alexander Dovzhenko
Starring: Stephan Shkurat, Simon Svashenko, Julia Solntseva, Ellen Maximova
Genre: Drama

Overview:
One of the undisputed masterpieces of the cinema, no single viewing of EARTH will ever reveal all of its poetic brilliance.  The third in a triptych of films by Ukranian director Alexander Dovzhenko (after Zvenigora in 1927 and Arsenal in 1928), EARTH is strikingly simple in plot.

On the eve of collectivization in the Ukraine, an old farmer dies peacefully in bed.  His grandson Vasil has a new vision: the village council will buy a tractor to be shared among the farmers.  Struggling against the superstition, rich landowners and nature itself, Vasil is ultimately the victim of a tragic murder, but the dawn brings forth a new life and the promise of prosperity to the poor village.

The story itself is secondary to the visually stunning images that Dovzhenko creates.  His love for the Ukranian people and land intoxicates the viewer with the sensual splendors that fill the screen.

My Thoughts:
Looking at the beautiful vistas captured in this film, it's easy for me to imagine what Dovzhenko might do with today's technology. It's a poetic, stunning little film. The thin plot - conflict between richer landowners and collectivist peasants culminating in murder - is political propaganda, but Dovzhenko isn't really concerned with that here. His film is really a love letter to the land and the people of Ukraine. Still, I wish the plot had been fleshed out a bit more, and the actors could use some work. That aside, this is an important film just begging for a high quality restoration. It seems criminal this is only available on a disc with two other films, and the other films in this trilogy are completely unavailable in an R1 release. I'd love to see a company like Criterion pick up Dovzhenko's entire Ukraine Trilogy for a bluray release.

Bechdel Test: Fail

Overall: 3.5/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2016, 05:10:05 AM »


Be With Me
Year of Release: 2005
Directed By: Eric Khoo
Starring: Theresa Chan, Chiew Sung Ching, Lawrence Yong, Seet Keng Yew, Ezann Lee, Samantha Tan
Genre: Drama, Romance

Overview:
Be With Me is a tapestry of three stories woven around the themes of love, hope, tragedy and redemption. Although the main characters come from different backgrounds and lead different lives, they are bound by one common desire – to be with their loved one. Unbeknownst to them, these different souls will share the same stage in a play written by Fate. The protagonists in the movie are fictious bar one – Theresa Chan, a courageous deaf and blind woman whose life story inspired the film.

My Thoughts:
This is an interesting but somewhat frustrating film. It had a lot of potential - but it would have been better if Khoo would have focused on either the stories of the two lonely people (the overweight security guard's story and the increasingly desperate break-up girl's story) OR the story of the blind/deaf woman and her interactions with her social worker and his father. Both could have been good films, but joined together they just don't fit well. I'm still rating it above average because the pieces were good, but it could have been a lot more.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Overall: 3/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield

Offline Danae Cassandra

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Re: March Around the World 2016
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2016, 05:15:11 AM »


Faraw!  Mother of the Dunes
Year of Release: 1997
Directed By: Abdoulaye Ascofaré
Starring: Aminata Ousmane, Safiatou Mahamane, Safiatou Mahamane
Genre: Drama

Overview:
FARAW! recounts twenty-four hours in the life of a woman in Songhoi country. Zamiatou, the mother of three young children, is fighting for survival in a town in northeastern Mali, on the edge of the desert. Her husband is to weak to work and her children are exasperated by their situation of poverty. Life is very hard in this devastated, almost desolate region haunted by the specter of drought. Zamiatou endures many ordeals, refuses to put her daughter into prostitution and finally gets help from her old friend, Morou, who lends her a donkey and a few water skins....

My Thoughts:
A powerful and moving portrait of one woman's indomitable determination and strength of will. As George Monbiot once said, "If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire." Zamiatou is the embodiment of that quote. She isn't afraid of difficulty or hard labor. Indeed, that is her life and she accepts it. She is unwilling to take the easy (but morally repugnant) way out, but instead holds her head high and clings to her honor and her faith. If you don't admire her character by the end of the film, you have no soul.

The casual misogyny of her two sons toward their sister, and Zamiatou's acceptance of that, is less easy to accept, and mars this otherwise excellent film. That may be my Western bias speaking. I'm rather sad that no one else on Letterboxd has logged this film, as it's well worth seeing.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Overall: 3.5/5
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-- Thorin Oakenshield