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Five types of flats that should be worn on the Cannes red carpet

19 May
Image by Chris Goldberg, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Chris Goldberg, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Some women were turned away from a red carpet screening of the critically acclaimed film, Carol at the Cannes International Film Festival earlier this week, because, according to reports, they were wearing flat shoes. Quelle horreur!

While some news reports are claiming that this isn’t true and the director of the festival, Thierry Fremaux, has claimed the reports are “baseless”, the internet outrage machine continues to cry out in indignation and whisper of a mysterious dress code.

However, in an industry where sexism and ageism are rife, where every detail of a woman’s face, skin, hair, weight, clothes, shoes and demeanour are dissected and consumed by all, have we really reached the point where only high heels will do? Of course not; flat shoes can be worn anywhere, in fact, here are five pairs of flat shoes that don’t just have to be worn, they need to be worn on the Cannes red carpet next year.

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Image by Cintia Regina, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Flip-flops

They’re comfortable, they’re oh-so-easy to slip on, so why oh why can’t the female stars that saunter down the red carpet next year do so to the plastic soundtrack of the flip-flop’s onomatopoeic warble if they want to? Because, who knows? After their debut on the Cannes red carpet, the world could be praying for flip-flop weather.

Image by Robb1e, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Robb1e, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Wellies

Sure, the weather in Cannes is beautiful right now, but what about tomorrow? There could be flash floods or a light drizzle, good Lord, what if it snows? The movers and shakers of the film world could all catch a chill!

That would never do. Wellies must be an essential part of the Cannes International Film Festival if they aren’t already. All colours and styles accepted. Animal prints are not only approved but actively encouraged.

Image by ro rro, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by ro rro, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Trainers

Are you a fan of Vans? Sketchers? How about DCs? In the new Cannes dress code ALL are welcome on the red carpet. Got a big premiere to go to? Forgo the Christian Louboutins and back away from the Manolo Blahniks; it’s all about multicoloured hi tops, canvas, shoelaces and sports casual in the French Riviera.

If you’ve ever been turned away from a night club because you were wearing trainers, whip out a pair of your best bad boys and watch the crowds part as you make your grand entrance on that red rectangle of destiny.

Image by Pink Sherbert Photography, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Pink Sherbert Photography, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Crocs

Durable, comfortable Crocs are the shoes of choice for everyone from toddlers to the stylistically-challenged fashionista. Bright and colourful as well as tough and breathable, some styles of this iconic clog are designed to not even look like Crocs (so I’m told). Extra attention will be lavished on all guests who rock up in their Crocs while wearing socks.

Image by thebristolkid, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by thebristolkid, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Dr Martens

Nothing says “Take my damn picture” like a film star wearing a pair of Dr Martens’ finest ankle boots. The pundits wouldn’t need to ask “Who are you wearing?” because, girl, it’ll be damn obvious who you’re wearing and why.

You wouldn’t mess with anyone wearing them; press junkets would last ten minutes and Q&A’s would become a thing of the past in the Cannes Film Festival of the future.

Special consideration will be given to those attendees that choose to accessorise their DMs with paint, glitter and spikes.

 

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Damn Your Spoilers

15 Jun
Image by Chris, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Chris, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

My spoiler story begins in 1999, not long after the dot-com boom, when the internet was seen as a luxury, not a necessity, and social media was in its infancy. Back then, Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist, the mainstream press were becoming aware of blogs and broadband was a distant dream. In my day, we had to rely on a dial-up internet connection for our kicks, baby.

In 1999, we feared the Millennium Bug, Y2K was something people genuinely said, and one of the films that dominated the UK box office that year, besides The Matrix, was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Being a teenager with an obscene amount of free time at the weekend (oh, those were the days) I was meant to see the film with some friends, but for some reason that has vanished in the sinking sands of time, I couldn’t go.

At school that Monday, my dear friend Paul, who had gone to the cinema that weekend, bounded over to me at registration. I forget what he said exactly, but our conversation went something like this:

Paul: “The Sixth Sense was amazing!”

Me: “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.”

Paul: “It was one of the best films I’ve ever seen!”

Me: “Cool, I’ll try to see it this weekend.”

Paul: “It was amazing, the ending, Amy, the ending! Oh my God, I have to tell you…”

And that was how my dear friend Paul hurled the ending of The Sixth Sense into our conversation like a fraternity pledge on an Ipecac bender, and burned it into my memory. The ending was, at the time, a surprise and is, by now, one most people will be very familiar with, but I’m saying nothing, just in case.

I told him that I now wouldn’t be able to see the film, because he’d just given away the ending, to which he answered with all the innocence and confusion of a hungry toddler caught with their hand buried deep inside the cookie jar:

“Yes, you can! It’s still at the cinema.”

Spoilers don’t just come up in conversations with overly enthusiastic friends these days. They lurk in careless tweets, they are revealed in late night Facebook statuses, and they wait in poorly written reviews by inexperienced writers.

Unlike 1999, it’s now never been easier to have an online platform where you tell the world your opinions, and it’s the immediacy of the internet that has spawned a culture that thrives on not just new information, but the speed at which we can receive that information. It’s the ultimate competition, where those who hesitate instead of posting will not get those extra visits to their website, and they won’t have their thoughts retweeted hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

We have created an online culture that is saturated with opinions on just about everything, and the more controversial the article, the more notoriety and more attention it creates for the writer. But this yearning for affirmation on the part of the writer lacks something vital and human: empathy.

When my dear friend Paul told me the ending to the film, he did it because he was so amazed by what he’d seen. He wanted to share his experience of being in the cinema with me, because in his mind, I had missed out. However, by spoiling the film for me, he robbed me of the experience entirely, because it meant that I would never be able to view the film as he did when he watched it with no expectations. To him, and others who spoil things, he wasn’t in the wrong for giving the ending away; I hadn’t seen the film, therefore, it was my problem.

Spoiling a film is not the same as a real robbery in the street, nor can it ever equate to the violation of having your home burgled, but when someone spoils a film, it’s theft. It’s not a violent act at all, but they have taken an experience from you ensuring that it can never be yours.

I saw The Sixth Sense many years later, and although it’s no Citizen Kane, The Usual Suspects or Alien (films which, thankfully, all remained spoiler free until I saw them) I couldn’t help but wonder if my reaction to it would have been different if I hadn’t been aware of the film’s definitive scenes.

While we now know that Shyamalan’s movies typically contain some sort of twist, and his subsequent films have received very mixed reviews, whenever I think of The Sixth Sense, I remember that morning, in school with my dear friend Paul, telling me the ending to it, first, before the memory of actually seeing the film.

I want my memories of watching a film or TV show to be about that film or TV show, not of the person that spoiled it for me. I remember when I went to see Star Wars for the first time when the Special Edition was released in 1997. I knew nothing about the film, I sat there, mute and still as the action played out before me, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I went back to that galaxy again to watch The Empire Strikes Back and again to watch Return of the Jedi with an identical sense of wonder and ignorance, and there I realised the true joy of discovery. There was no friend desperate to tell me their opinion, and no spoilerific review waiting for me in the paper, I saw the films as they were meant to be seen; for the first time, by someone with no preconceptions.

I want to be that child in the cinema once more, with no preconceptions, no prejudices, no bias. The child that walked home on air, her head full of the memory of seeing a film that I loved, a film that hadn’t been ruined or tainted by a careless comment or selfish tweet. But, in our post-digital world, where we value the immediacy of our content, over the accuracy of our content, can we learn to be silent once more?

I’ve gone out of my way to ensure that my social networks stay spoiler free; muting specific hashtags, keywords and even the names of characters in shows or a new film that I want to watch. This works, but because I can only control my own behaviour online, and nobody else’s, the odd spoiler slips through.

So, how do we stop the spoilers spreading? The answer is simple: shut up. Seen a film and can’t believe the ending? Be quiet. Did your favourite character die in Game of Thrones? Grieve quietly. Writing a review? Then be mysterious and subtle when writing the synopsis. Don’t assume that everyone you know has seen what you’ve just seen, let them discover it for themselves.

Be silent, or be damned.

A Cynical Critic Analyses The Oscars

3 Mar
Image by Alan Light, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Alan Light, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

I have a confession to make: I didn’t stay up late to watch The Academy Awards last night.

I wanted to, I really did, and in my defence, I usually manage to watch part of the awards during the early hours. Although the only ceremony I’ve ever watched in full was the 1998 Academy Awards, also known as The Year Titanic Won Everything. It was a Sunday evening, and I was still at school, but I managed to get the TV in my room and watch it with the volume turned almost all the way down, and I got away with it. That is, until this confession.

So, while most of my contemporaries reported live from the ceremony, or watched online while playing some kind of Oscars Drinking Game, I was happily snoozing, and like much of the rest of the world, I woke up and read the results, alongside a plethora of tearful acceptance speeches, Oscar selfies and red carpet interviews.

It might sound like I’m dismissive of the Academy Awards, but I’m not, I think recognising the world’s film industry is a wonderful thing and is something that we need to champion. But over time, the hype surrounding the awards has become less about the films nominated and more about the celebrities in attendance and the outfits they wear for the ceremony.

I used to love watching televised award ceremonies; I loved the glitz and the glamour and seeing talented people be rewarded for all their hard work and dedication. To those in the industry, that little gold statuette is the ultimate stamp of approval, it is acceptance and celebration of their work. To the outsider, the mere mention of an Oscar lends authority to a film, and adding the words ‘Nominated for an Academy Award’ on the DVD cover of a nominated film can make the difference between a quick sale or a long stay in the Bargain Bucket.

After all my years of illicit night-time Oscars viewing, I’ve come to the conclusion that the actual awards ceremony is pretty boring; it follows the same formulaic structure; there’s amusing and usually inoffensive host, (last year there was an offensive host, and he didn’t go down very well) bad jokes, gold envelopes, aggressive clutching and waving of the statuettes, and then a big party afterwards. Preferably the Vanity Fair party, but you know, any party will do. The Oscars are so damn reliable, Hell, even the speeches are predictable nowadays.

The evening isn’t an honest glimpse inside the inner workings of the mysterious Hollywood machine – after all, we know very little about the 6,000 voting members of The Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Science who decide the winners – because the event itself is nothing more than an exercise in PR, fashion and inane interviews. The Oscars has become extremely safe television for an extremely wary industry.

And herein lies the problem; while The Oscars has witnessed various, and very nasty smear campaigns against nominated films and individuals over the years. For example, in the run up to this year’s ceremony, Stephen Frears’ Philomena, which was nominated for the Best Picture Award, was slammed as being “anti-Catholic propaganda”, while historical allegations of child sexual abuse against Woody Allen were brought out into the open once more after his latest film, Blue Jasmine, started winning accolades at the start of the awards season.

And yet, while the standard of the films nominated are always excellent, the awards themselves suffer from what the journalist Boyd Tonkin has called “…the Hollywood pattern of belated  bravery”, that is that Hollywood, despite all the razzle dazzle, is at least 20 years behind in representing major scandals and failures of society. For example, Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club chronicles the AIDS epidemic and homophobia of the 80s, which killed thousands of people in America alone, yet the film was only made last year, 20 years after Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning turn as an AIDS sufferer in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, because no one was willing to back the project.

Meanwhile, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, which took home the coveted Best Picture Award and a much-deserved Best Supporting Actress statuette for Lupita Nyong’o, received a markedly different response to Gordon Parks’ 1984 adaptation of Solomon Northup’s journey from free man to slave, which failed miserably, as seemingly, America just wasn’t ready for a real tale of human suffering from the 1850s.

It wasn’t always like this, The Oscars used to be great television; in 1974, a streaker attempted to upstage David Niven, while in 1973, Marlon Brando refused to appear in person to collect his Best Actor Award for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, and chose to send civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to draw attention to the plight of Native Americans across the country who had been let down by the government. Littlefeather used her time on stage to criticise Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans, while in 2003, Michael Moore’s acceptance speech for the Best Documentary Award for his film, Bowling for Columbine was cut off by music and a chorus of boos when he condemned the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. 

If The Oscars is about celebrating every aspect of filmmaking, then it can’t shy away from the more political and less PR-friendly side of the industry. So, if films reflect the world around us, why, in the 21st century, are we still struggling to commit mankind’s more difficult side to celluloid? The Oscars needs to be about passion, truth and freedom of artistic expression, something which The Academy, and the industry at large, must consider for next year.

The ‘This is Not a Best of List’ Film List of 2012

3 Jan

Films of 2012

I have a confession to make. Actually, I have two confessions to make. First of all, I hate these ‘Best of 2012’ lists that have been popping up everywhere since mid November. I find, for me, that they get very tiresome very quickly; especially if they are published before the end of the year; Christmas isn’t the only thing that happens in December, lest we forget.

My second confession is about the films themselves. The truth is, when I sat down to write this list, I realised that while I had seen lots of films in 2012, they were either new, and as yet, unreleased films shown at festivals, or they were one-off screenings of classic films that I hadn’t seen before, so they weren’t exactly ‘new releases’.

So after much thought, here is my ‘not a list, don’t call it a list’ of my three favourite films of last year.

The Shining (1980)

Ok, I know that Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation Stephen King’s most famous novel, The Shining, isn’t a brand new piece of cinema, but the release of the extended US cut of the film in the UK in November brought a new dimension to Kubrick’s cult horror. While the US cut, which features an extra 24 minutes of footage, which were omitted from the European release, wasn’t Kubrick’s favourite version of the film, this cut brings something else to the familiar plot. Initially ignored and misunderstood upon its release for its ‘Art House’ style, and also due to Kubrick’s many changes to King’s story – which King didn’t approve of – The Shining has now become a right of passage for almost every film fanatic.

Featuring Jack Nicholson’s infamous turn as the out-of-luck writer with a dark past, this film showcases both Nicholson’s performance and Kubrick’s ability to create real, lasting tension and unease. In part, King’s tale of a haunted hotel and the evil of the spirits contained within, The Shining is also a piece that explores a family at breaking point, and analyses the effects of isolation whilst delving into the more extreme aspects of mental illness. Intriguing, masterful and still chilling more than 30 years after its original release, the extended version of the film is an unforgettable piece of late 20th century horror cinema.

You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.

Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott’s long-awaited addition to his Alien franchise, Prometheus was released to great fanfare in June, and quickly split the critics and the viewing public. Featuring an all-star cast, the film was initially marketed as a prequel to Scott’s highly influential 1979 sci-fi horror, however, Prometheus, while featuring terrifying creatures like ones featured in the original film, was designed to be a companion film, and not a prequel.

Although the film came under some harsh criticism for its somewhat unexpected back story, and a few other plot points – Guy Pearce’s make up, anyone? – Prometheus is, at its heart, a film that’s less about sci-fi and more about horror. Exploring Alien‘s existing themes of body horror, gender, and perhaps, most importantly, of violence, rape and unwanted pregnancy, Prometheus is concerned with humanity, and our fears. It taps into our most basic terrors; the fear that we are not alone, that our bodies are not our own, and that we are powerless and important when compared to the vastness of the universe.

Best viewed as a companion film to Alien, rather than a direct relation, the thing to remember about Prometheus is that while it can’t emulate the shock  created by or be the game changer that Alien was, it doesn’t have to, it’s concerned with deeper things.

You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.

Killer Joe (2012)

When I saw Killer Joe at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival, I couldn’t speak properly for a few minutes. I hate writing in clichés, but William Friedkin’s film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ 1993 play of the same name does everything film is meant to do. It entertains, it unnerves, it terrifies, it shocks and, most importantly, it gets into your head and stays there. A tale of a dysfunctional family hiring a contract killer that they can’t afford – the ‘Killer Joe’ of the title, expertly realised by Matthew McConaughey – to kill their mother for her life insurance takes the viewer on a number of twists and turns throughout. But the real power of the film lies in its overarching theme of exploitation, and of course, the film’s final scenes, which culminate in an explosion of violence so unexpected and so frightening, that they really has to be seen to be believed.

A true return to form after Friedkin’s last few films, Killer Joe was not only one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but also one of the strongest new releases of the year. For me, this tale of contract killings, exploitation, selfishness and greed is perfectly realised and completely and utterly disturbing. A must see.

You can read my review of the film here.

The Last Employee (Der Letzte Angestellte)

1 Oct

Der Letzte Angestellte

Germany/2010/83 mins/Dir: Alexander Adolph

[rating:4]

A good old-fashioned ghost story lies at the heart of Alexander Adolph’s chiller, The Last Employee (Der Letzte Angestellte). Featuring themes of mental ill-health, revenge, unemployment and the unknown, this German horror film brings the ghost story into the 21st century, with startling results.

When David (Christian Berkel) begins his new job of liquidating a failing company after three years of unemployment due to mental ill-health, he meets the unstable, but seemingly harmless former worker Mrs Blochs (Bibiana Beglau). But Mrs Blochs’ own mental health issues soon arise and she begins threatening David and his family, leading David to doubt his work, and perhaps more importantly, his sanity.

Adolph’s modern ghost story is a tense and clever addition to the horror genre that taps into a number of common fears. Stripped of excessive special effects and complicated plot twists, this ghostly tale is both unsettling and mesmerising, as the story of a simple family man returning to work becomes something altogether more frightening, haunting and deadly. Combining issues of mental health, the loss of control following unemployment and bereavement, Adolph’s film preys on our most powerful weapon: the monsters and fears that live in our minds. This is a film for anyone who’s ever taken a job that they don’t want to do, or had to work late in a deserted office, where the many of the daytime sounds of the office take on a more sinister tone after dark. The power of The Last Employee lies in its combination of all that is mundane and familiar, with themes of the unnatural, the supernatural and claustrophobia lead the film to its brutal conclusion. Eerie and unforgettable, this film perfectly recreates the tensions of the cinematic ghost story for a contemporary and cynical audience with ease.

Killer Joe

27 Jun

William Friedkin/2012/USA/ 103 min

Showing @Festival Theatre, Wed 20 June, 21:30

4 Stars

William Friedkin’s long-awaited Killer Joe, adapted by the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, Tracy Letts from his play of the same name, is this year’s Festival’s Opening Gala film. And while this darkly comic thriller has been the most anticipated film at the festival, they hype is to be believed, as Friedkin, Letts and Matthew McConaughey have committed one of the most inspired and memorable pieces of film committed to celluloid.

When Chris (Emile Hersch) needs $6,000 to pay off a debt, he and his family (Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church) decides to hire ‘Killer Joe’ (McConaughey) to kill his estranged mother in order to get at her $50,000 life insurance policy, which will be paid out to his younger and very innocent teenage sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). But the lack of a cash deposit for Joe’s services means that he has to take a retainer, in this case, Dottie, before he carries out the murder, which takes Chris and his family into a deadly game of betrayal, violence and degradation. A strong mix of black comedy, thrills and explosions of violence, Killer Joe is a defiant and unapologetic film that explores and questions just what we would do for money by presenting this question in an extreme situation. While the film does leave certain questions unanswered and maintains a certain air of ambiguity throughout, the strength of Friedkin’s piece lies in its ability to not only get under the skin, but also to sink its teeth into your skull. Completely mesmerising and ultimately unforgettable, Killer Joe is an utterly unique and powerful film, that shows how vulnerable we all truly are, and how easily situations can spiral out of control. McConaughey’s turn as the cold, calculating, yet complicated hired killer, is both terrifying and inspiring; his performance is flawless, natural, and completely believable. Perhaps one of the darkest, yet most impressive films on the festival programme this year, Friedkin and Letts have created a simple yet catastrophically effective new piece of cinema that could become a masterpiece.

This review was originally published on Caledonian Mercury

The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus

27 Jun

Alexandre O Phillippe/USA/2012/English, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian Dialogue with English subtitles/72 min

Showing @ Filmhouse Fri 22 June @20:45, @Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 15:05

4 Stars

Returning to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, following the success of his standout documentary, The People Vs George Lucas, director Alexandre O Phillippe, turns his unique style of filmmaking towards the world’s most unlucky football pundit, an octopus named Paul, in this witty, funny and thought-provoking film, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

Beginning with the oddly moving scenes of Paul’s cremation, Phillippe’s film uses interviews with those closest to the mysterious cephalopod to create a portrait that says more about humanity and world culture, than it does about Paul’s infallible legacy. Filmed in locations across the globe, including the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia and Paul’s former home at the Sea Life centre in Oberhausen, Germany, and featuring songs, films, animations inspired by Paul, the film delves into a number of issues ranging from the mathematical, the psychological, the philosophical, the mythological and the absurd. Like The People Vs George Lucas, Phillippe’s latest documentary, while impeccably researched and filmed, is very aware of its limitations; after all, just how much can you say about a supposedly psychic octopus? But what Philippe is concerned with is creating a film that presents all the sides of the story of Paul’s unique rise to fame, resulting in a piece that is well-rounded, philosophical, and at points, side achingly funny. From Paul having his own agent, to the ongoing debate about Paul’s official nationality, to a discussion about whether some animals are psychic, this film is as fulfilling as it is entertaining. While Paul’s position as a modern-day animal oracle is argued well, logic and numbers are also at play, as Paul’s chances of correctly guessing eight out of eight games at the 2010 World Cup are revealed to be 256 to one. A highlight of the festival this year, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus is a surprisingly educational but ultimately cheeky new documentary.

This review was originally published on Caledonian Mercury.

Sun Don’t Shine

27 Jun

Amy Seimetz/USA/2012/79 min

Showing @ Cineworld Thu 21 June @ 18:30, @ Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 13:05

Rating: 2 Stars

The great American road movie has come in many forms over the years, and while Roger Corman’s The Trip is probably one of the best-known examples of the genre, Sun Don’t Shine, written and directed by Amy Seimetz, attempts to bring a new dimension to the road trip movie, but fails because of its clichéd and dull characterisation.

Following young and dysfunctional lovers, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) as they drive across the US to Florida, in the stifling heat, whilst trying to hide a terrible secret, the film’s premise is promising, but the characters’ odd relationship soon makes Sun Don’t Shine difficult to watch. While Seimetz does attempt to challenge the audience with flashbacks, allusions to mental illness, abuse and an overall sense of foreboding, her characters simply don’t sit well within the piece. Crystal, is emotional, stressed and childlike, while Leo is insular, violent and unpredictable, and together they are a volatile and toxic combination. And herein lies the problem with Sun Don’t Shine; the audience simply can’t sympathise with the two main characters. This could be Seimetz’s intention, given the name of the film, but all road movies, especially those about couples on the run from the law, the audience need to be able to sympathise with them, to make them the heroes, to want them to escape from the authorities. But it’s impossible for the audience to like Crystal and Leo, because of their irrational behaviour, due to their past circumstances, and their conjoined history is irritatingly ambiguous, and the few clues to their past actions introduced a little too late. While the acting is strong, and the film harks back to a very different age of cinema, this tale of love, crime, fear and betrayal it’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as the films in the same genre that came before it.

Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape (Soma kanka: dai ichi bu – ubawareta tochi no kioku)

27 Jun

Yojyu Matsubayashi/Japan/2011/Japanese dialogue with English subtitles /109 min

Showing @ Filmhouse Thu 21 June @ 20:05, @ Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 18:50

Rating: 3 Stars

The aftermath of the Japanese tsunami in April last year is the basis of Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape, a new documentary from Yojyu Matsubayashi , the director of the 2004 documentary For Those Who Work. Filmed just one month after the tsunami and the associated nuclear disaster at the Fukishima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant devastated north east Japan, freelance filmmaker, Matsubayashi travelled within 20 km of the plant in order to document the effects of these destructive events on the remaining residents, including the inspirational Tanaka family.

Moving, informative and entertaining, Fukushima is more concerned with capturing the very real human cost of these disasters than it is of sensationalising the events of last year. Through interviews with survivors, Matsubayashi paints a portrait of contemporary Japan through the eyes of the older generation; revealing a country on the verge of great social change. This snapshot of Japan in its most vulnerable and most transitional state is what gives this film its power, as alongside scenes of destruction, are moments of comedy, tragedy and selflessness from all the film’s subjects, including the Tanakas. Issues of tradition are also brought to the forefront of the film, as the desecration of old temples and other ancient structures is juxtaposed perfectly with the film’s documentation of the younger generation’s apathy towards the older generation. A thought that’s only cemented by the elderly subjects of the documentary having to cope on their own, without the help of their children, or even their grandchildren. While the film does reveal some painful truths, it’s in essence, a celebration of all the contrasting pieces that make up humanity, including our fallible nature, our need for comfort, and above all our instinctive desire to survive, Fukushima provides a fascinating glimpse into the changing nature and attitudes towards the elderly in a country scarred by terrible natural disasters, but manages to remind us that hope and patience can get us through anything.

Originally published on Caledonian Mercury

Him, Here After (Ini Avan)

27 Jun

Asoka Handagama/Sri Lanka/2012/Tamil dialogue with English subtitles/104 min

Showing @Filmhouse Tue 26 June @21:00, @Filmhouse Fri 29 June @17:45

***
The legacy and social problems caused by the Sri Lankan civil war is the subject of Asoka Handagama’s Him, Here After, which has its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The first film since the war ended in 2009 to discuss the lasting effects of the war on everyday Sri Lankans, this piece presents the challenges of trying to rebuild shattered lives after a prolonged and deadly war.

When a former Tamil rebel fighter (Dharshan Dharmaraj) returns to his village following the end of the war, and after a year of ‘rehabilitation’, he finds that his former neighbours both fear and despise him. But as he attempts to create a new life, the ghosts and actions of his past continue to haunt him, and he soon takes a job that could not only threaten his own life but the lives of those closest to him. The UK premiere of Handagama’s film, which is one of only a handful of films made in the Tamil language directed by a Sinhalese director, is a hard-hitting portrayal of country struggling to rebuild and create an identity following a 26-year long war. While issues of betrayal and death are apparent throughout Him, Here After, this is a film that’s primarily focused on forgiveness, inner strength, and repairing both the country’s and that of its inhabitants’ fractured psyches. Compelling, absorbing, but most importantly, eye-opening, this film sheds new light on contemporary attitudes towards war and conflict, and most importantly resolution. While the civil war is over, the fight that the characters in Him, Here After fight every day is one against ignorance, one for forgiveness, and above all, a desperate battle to survive. Moving, uplifting and absorbing, if a little long, Handagama’s latest film is a compassionate and thoughtful representation of the very human costs of war, where casualties continue to mount up long after the physical battle has stopped.

This review was originally published on the Caledonian Mercury website. 

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