Archive for March, 2009

2009

March 31, 2009
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA / Germany
English
125 Minutes — March 20, 2009
Crime / Thriller
Tony Gilroy [The Devil's Advocate; Armageddon; The Bourne Identity; The Bourne Supremacy; The Bourne Ultimatum; Michael Clayton]

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DUPLICITY is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 68. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 DUPLICITY Discussion
• Break
• 22:14 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 22:46 The Last Five®
• Break
• 45:15 Listener Feedback (3)
• 59:56 Credits and Outtakes

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*** Ebert
*** Phillips
6.9 Metacritic
6.7 IMDB
6.6 Critical Consensus

Duplicity @ Amazon

DUPLICITY

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THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
1928

March 22, 2009
Netflix Criterion DVD
France
Silent (Optional “Voices Of Light” Musical Track)
82 Minutes
Biography / Drama / History
Carl Theodor Dreyer
#17 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

On her last day on Earth, Joan of Arc is subjected to five increasingly threatening interrogations before being burned alive at the stake.

Most of the reviews mention that this may be the best example of silent film acting ever committed to film. I wasn’t sure what they meant until I saw this movie. I now find myself wholeheartedly agreeing. Maria Falconetti has this big, round, expressive face with huge eyes. Somehow, in a silent film with French title cards, she conveys everything we need to know about a character. She can cry with the best of them. She is typically filmed looking up at someone or something. It’s hard to describe. I thought I’d be bored senseless, but my attention was captured as I watched it twice. And I don’t know too much about the actual story. I was watching more as an exercise in filmmaking back in the 20s. The commentary track will tell you that this film had substantially more edits than any other for its time. The torture scenes are scary, the burning stake scene seems pretty realistic, and we even see real life human bloodletting. The actors were told to be available for the entirety of the long shoot. No makeup was allowed. Maria’s hair was actually shaved–she’s really crying while it happens.

The fact that this film even exists is amazing. The master print was destroyed after shooting. The director then used alternate takes to complete the film. Banned immediately upon its release in several countries, it was thought lost to fire and decay decades ago. Then a pristine print appears in the closet of an insane asylum in Oslo. It is translated back to French and cleaned up by the geniuses at Criterion.

“Austerely moving drama, using close-ups to give intense scrutiny to Joan and her accusers, drawing in the audience to become involved in the action.” **** — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“One of the greatest of all movies…Falconetti’s Joan may be the finest performance ever recorded on film” — Pauline Kael

“Dreyer’s most universally acclaimed masterpiece remains one of the most staggeringly intense films ever made. It deals with only the final stages of Joan’s trial and her execution, and is composed almost exclusively of closeups: hands, robes, crosses, metal bars, and (most of all) faces. The face we see most is, naturally, Falconetti’s as Joan, and it’s hard to imagine a performer evincing physical anguish and spiritual exaltation more palpably. Dreyer encloses this stark, infinitely expressive face with other characters and sets that are equally devoid of decoration and equally direct in conveying both material and metaphysical essences. The entire film is less molded in light than carved in stone: it’s magisterial cinema, and almost unbearably moving.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

“Masterfully directed, with groundbreaking use of closeups; Falconetti glows in the title role” — **** Maltin

8.1 IMDB

The Passion of Joan of Arc @ Amazon

THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC

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I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE
2006

March 21, 2009
Netflix DVD
Malaysia / China / Taiwan / France / Austria
Taiwanese / Malay / Mandarin / Bengali
115 Minutes
Comedy / Drama
Ming-Liang Tsai [What Time Is It There?]

7.8 Metacritic
7.2 IMDB

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone @ Amazon

I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE

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THE CLASS
2008

March 19, 2009
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
France
French
128 Minutes — December 19, 2008
Drama
Laurent Cantet [Time Out; Heading South]

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THE CLASS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 67. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE CLASS Discussion
• Break
• 15:15 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 15:43 The Last Five®
• Break
• 41:54 Listener Last Five® (3)
• 55:53 Credits and Outtakes

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9.2 Metacritic
8.0 IMDB
8.1 Critical Consensus

The Class (Entre les murs) @ Amazon

THE CLASS

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2008

March 15, 2009
Camera Cinema Club
USA
English / French / Wolof / Spanish
91 Minutes — March 27, 2009
Comedy / Drama
Ramin Bahrani [Man Push Cart]

8.7 Metacritic
8.2 IMDB
8.2 Critical Consensus

GOODBYE SOLO

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My 12th year. Will be remembered as the year the Twitter took off and updates were sent back and forth while the festival was in full swing. My biases are away from low-budget films in English and towards foreign dramas. I rarely find film festival comedies funny, which I believe is what they set out to be.

Countries represented this year: Hungary, Serbia, Switzerland. Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Liberia, Norway, Pakistan, and Turkey. Where else do you get a chance to see this kind of variety without the help of Netflix?

My final count was 28 films and one shorts program.

Best Fiction:

1-HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS — Argentina — Three characters and their stories are told by an unseen narrator
2-SOF SHAVUA B’TEL AVIV (FOR MY FATHER) — Israel — Suicide bomber has 48 hours to live among, learn about, and fall for, the Jews he set out to kill
3-JOHNNY MAD DOG — Liberia — Boy soldiers ruthlessly kill and rape while overseen by older violent men
4-THE PHOTOGRAPH — Indonesia — Nightclub singer attempts to improve her life by becoming the assistant to an ancient photographer
5-FIRAAQ — India — Intertwining stories of Hindus and Muslims unsuccessfully living together in the era of terrorism
6-A NYOMOZO (THE INVESTIGATOR) — Hungary — Humorless pathologist is offered a payday if he kills someone he believes he has no tie to
7-MANNEN SOM ELSKET YNGVE (THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE) — Norway — A boy in a high school rock band is conflicted when he finds himself attracted to the new tennis-playing, artistic, beautiful boy even though he knows he has an almost perfect girlfriend
8-PAZAR-BIR TICARET MASALI (THE MARKET: A TALE OF TRADE) — Turkey — Struggling businessman tries to bring much-needed medicine across the border even though he won’t make a profit
9-BE HAMIN SADEGI (AS SIMPLE AS THAT) — Iran — Housewife and mother feels invisible and artistically stiffled
10-CE QU’IL FAUT POUR VIVRE (NECESSITIES OF LIFE) — Canada — Inuit man taken from his home and family for TB treatment in Quebec City in 1952
11-NOME PROPRIO (CAMILA JAM) — Brazil — Passionate young woman with no sense of privacy exposes her thoughts, secrets, dreams, and body to an eager online readership
12-UN AUTRE HOMME (ANOTHER MAN) — Switzerland — Man with no opinions of his own becomes film critic in small village by copying better-known critical material
13-FINNISCHER TANGO (FINNISH TANGO) — Germany — Con man pretends to be disabled and falls in with a group home and learns a little something about himself
14-RAMCHAND PAKISTANI — Pakistan — Father and son are taken into custody for wandering too near the Indian border and adjust to life in prison
15-TANDOORI LOVE — Switzerland — Indian chef on a film location falls for Swiss woman working in an alpine restaurant
16-EL CAMINO — Costa Rica — Children flee abusive grandfather and attempt to cross the border into Costa Rica from Nicaragua, but the dangers are at least as great on their journey as they were back at home

[Avoid the ones below here]

17-LOS (CUT LOOSE) — Belgium — Journalist wants more serious stories to report on and begins writing about immigrant’s experiences coming to Belgium and falls for a beautiful Palestinian
18-UN ROMAN POLICIER (A POLICE ROMANCE) — France — Arab rookie and French police chief investigate drug dealers and a relationship with each other
19-ESZTER HAGYATEKA (ESTHER’S INHERITANCE) — Hungary — Woman with family home falls a second time for her scoundrel brother-in-law
20-CORPSE RUN — USA — Tech-savvy youth play videogames and talk incessantly about their generation
21-TURNEJA (THE TOUR) — Serbia — Semi-famous theater troupe takes a tour of the war-ravaged countryside
22-CAPERS — USA — Three different bumbling crime gangs filmed in three different cinema styles
23-NA LEPOM PLAVOM DUNAVU (THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE) — Serbia — Cabaret + Shortbus + Irreversible = Loveboat with value added sexual favors
24-WAKE — USA — Young woman tries her luck dating people she meets at funerals. I tried my luck watching this. I got through 30 minutes

Documentaries:

1-WITCH HUNT — USA — Working-class couples unjustly thrown in prison based upon coached evidence of children
2-JOHNNY CASH AT FOLSOM PRISON — USA — Landmark live album has interesting back story
3-ROCK PAPER SCISSORS: A GEEK TRAGEDY — Canada — These people take Rock Paper Scissors very seriously

Impossible To Categorize Or Review Without At Least A Half Dozen More Viewings:

1-CANARY — USA — Replacement organs are sometimes repossessed if the host doesn’t follow their care and feeding correctly?

Fell Asleep But Heard It Was Terrific:

1–YE CHE (NIGHT TRAIN) — China — I have no idea

CINEQUEST 19 2009 FINAL RANKINGS

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2007

March 8, 2009
Cinequest 19
Canada
English
88 Minutes
Documentary
Mike McKeown

Documentary about the World Rock Paper Scissors Society and how they took a child’s game, began to take it seriously as a joke, and how it took over the lives of the brothers who started the society. In the spirit of Spellbound and Wordplay and Helvetica, this is one of those “are these guys serious” type of documentary. Try not to laugh as players lament the loss of the integrity of the game. It takes compelling characters for a documentary to soar and this one has at least half a dozen.

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

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2008

March 8, 2009
Cinequest 19
Switzerland
German
92 Minutes
Comedy / Musical
Oliver Paulus

Strange mishmash of an alpine village and a Bollywood musical story. Somehow, it works. Lighter than the altitude, characters, all of whom are blonde, begin dancing in a supermarket while a noticeably brown Indian in town with a film crew, sings to the camera about love and food. Madcap, slapstick, romantic. The crowd couldn’t have laughed any louder. Everyone left smiling.

5.2 IMDB (94 Votes)

TANDOORI LOVE

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2008

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
France / Belgium / Liberia
French / Child-Soldier-Patois
97 Minutes
Drama / War
Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Notes:
Simply doesn’t let up from the moment the black screen tells us the title. On a frenetic pace not seen since CITY OF GOD. Boy soldiers, dressed in all sorts of costumes (wedding dress, superman, boombox around neck, top hat) roam around Liberia killing and raping and cheering about it. The true story is probably even more harrowing, but this will do for now. Women are raped, limbs are cut off, and the boy soldiers yell all the time. And that’s the once flaw I found. It was a one-note film. It is shaky cam and loud and on coke and young girls are sexual partners, all of which is well and good filmmaking-wise. But I’d like a few different paces, some down time to reflect on what I’ve seen and to get my heartbeat back where it belongs. I’d like a character to speak in a normal tone of voice. Maybe for five minutes, and then we can start the carnage and bloodshed again. And I don’t want the girl rape victim to change into a willing participant half way through the encounter.
None of what I’ve just written is as good as Jarrod Whaley’s take on his favorite film of Cinequest 19.
There are images in this film I’ll never forget, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed them.

6.8 IMDB

JOHNNY MAD DOG

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CUT LOOSE
2008

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
Belgium
Dutch
100 Minutes
Drama
Jan Verheyen

Notes:
Belgian pushover works for a tabloid newspaper where he is given the “wacky story” of the day. He visits a group that helps new immigrants to help them assimilate into Belgian society. Of course there’s a Palestinian woman and of course she’s beautiful–and single–but will she be nice to him only so she can emigrate? Our hero has a perfectly beautiful supportive girlfriend at home and we don’t know why he leaves her for the new woman–could it be her exotic foreign-ness? Her non-blondness? Her big brown eyes? Protagonist gets an interview with a reclusive rap star / social activist who sings for the downtrodden. The sensibility is all over the place. He speaks to the camera, he learns about racism, he stands up for himself, he deplores violence, he treats his alleged love of his life in subtle racist ways. Oh yeah, and his grandpa wants to kill himself as dementia takes over. Not hard to watch, but sort of unnecessary.

6.3 IMDB

CUT LOOSE

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THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE
2008

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
Norway
Norwegian
98 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Stian Kristiansen

Notes:
1980s music references in this film: The Smiths; Combat Rock; Joy Division; Jesus and Mary Chain; REM The One I Love; The Cure Just Like Heaven; Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With; Just Like Honey.
This film has the greatest Rock N Roll girlfriend of all time–beautiful, passionate, drinks with the boys, goes to band practice, cries when boyfriend tries out new song on guitar, often initiates sex. Because I wish I was in a band and I wish I had a Rock N Roll Girlfriend like Cathrine, I’ll mention that she’s played by a woman named Ida Elise Broch. Look for her. Even this example of cool femaleness isn’t enough for our hero when a new blonde god arrives at school. They first talk in the lockerroom shower, of all places. Those crazy Norwegians and their lack of inhibitions! The band plays songs like “Pussy Commie Anarchy”. They are a rock trio. And they’re pretty good. Our hero is angst-ridden about being in love with two people. Blonde boy is sometimes shot in super slo-mo with sun shining down on his beautiful hair. The pacing is great. Jarle, the guy we’re following, speaks to the camera to get us up to speed on what era we’re watching. The new boy, besides being handsome, shows Jarle some of his sketchings. Music is interspersed throughout. The boys practice, deal with family issues, buy pot, the usual. Jarle and Cathrine have good sex, he can perform. He makes mix tapes for people he cares about, male and female. And who exactly did he write that heartfelt love song for?
Cute story about boy loves girl, boy gets girl, boy also loves boy, which takes place before bands seemed to be unhappy with their success.

7.4 IMDB

THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE

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2007

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
Indonesia / France / Netherlands / Sweden / Switzerland
Indonesian
98 Minutes
Drama
Nan Triveni Achnas

An actress named “Shanty” plays Dita–a supernaturally beautiful girl raises a rather pedestrian story higher than it probably deserves. Dita has a child back in the village with her grandmother. She pretends to work in a factory but is really a karaoke singer and occasional prostitute/companion. Losing her place to live, she rents the attic above a photographer’s studio. He believes he is dying and begins looking for an apprentice. Dita cleans up after him, cooks for him, and assists him with the running of the studio. Why she can’t simply take over is explained by her gender. Add in an evil pimp (is there any other kind?) and we have drama. No surprises, except how the man lost his wife and son. He goes to the train tracks each day to leave and offering and pray. Shows us a part of the world not often seen in western movie theaters.

7.1 IMDB (73 Votes)

THE PHOTOGRAPH

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THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE
2008

March 6, 2009
Cinequest 19
Serbia
Serbo-Croatian / English / German
107 Minutes
Drama / Musical
Darko Bajic

Notes:
Formula: Cabaret + Shortbus + Irreversible = BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE. Started as a multi-language sex romp as a cruise ship departs carrying all members of the sexual spectrum who will learn something about themselves behind the doors of their staterooms. The staff offers food, beverages, and sexual favors for all paying guests. There is also a nightclub show where incredibly beautiful bodies perform in various states of undress. A widow is ready to awaken her long dormant sexuality, a husband branches out with his new male lover, a woman seduces, then tries to sign a young, hot author to a contract. The crew hustles for tips. The envelope-pushing is welcome, the freak flags are flying, the bodies writhe and can dance and everyone is happy, if a bit nervous. There is orgasm and flirting and drinking and a little blow. We are happy, we are gay (often literally)–and then there’s the story of Carl. An incredibly rich, pathetic, mopey guy who knows why he gets girls. He pays them. He checks in and the new girl is sent to him. He calls her a whore, he pretends to engage in conversation until he bluntly asks for oral sex. I’m still fine as a viewer. They have a struggle, trying to gain the upper hand in the dance of dominate sex. I’m still okay. They slap each other, she calls him names. They are play-acting and I’m okay. They wake up bruised from a night of semi-violent passion, I’m fine. But everything goes to hell when he chases her into the dining room where he rapes her in front of the rest of the passengers. For more than five minutes, screaming, tears, horrified guests–five minutes–and the lightness and playfulness vibe is shattered–and people walk out–angry at the film–and at the very end, a bit of a shared wink at the camera–which was most definitely not earned.

7.0 IMDB (57 Votes)

THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE

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THE INVESTIGATOR
2008

March 6, 2009
Cinequest 19
Hungary / Sweden / Ireland
Hungarian
110 Minutes
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Attila Galambos

Notes:
Incredibly dead-pan pathologist dates and works without cracking a smile. He favors one word answers and seems to take pride in his job, putting on makeup carefully and helping discover how people died. He has a “relationship” with a cafe waitress with whom he sees movies without reacting in any way. She likes him and wants to have sex (or “get together”) but he replies that he “doesn’t get together.” One day a man offers him $50,000 to kill a person. Our hero’s mother is dying of cancer and he needs the money to send her to a clinic in Sweden. He is cool, doesn’t speak much, is desperate for cash, and comfortable around dead people. A perfect person to ask. He commits the crime and then begins learning about the victim and several ties he may have had with the deceased. Its a why done it, rather than a who done it. What could the dead man have done to have made someone want to kill him. Fabulous, mostly on the strength of the main actor, Zsolt Anger (a misnomer if ever there was one). I’m adding this to my Netflix queue.

8.2 IMDB

THE INVESTIGATOR

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THE TOUR
2008

March 6, 2009
Cinequest 19
Serbia / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Serbo-Croatian
108 Minutes
Action / Adventure / Comedy / War
Goran Markovic

Notes:
The Bosnian War. A formerly glorious acting troupe, in need of a change of scenery (and some pocket money) embarks on a tour of the divided country. The manager insists that they’ll be thought of as heroes from Belgrade coming to help the troupes with morale. They arrive in a huge Bosnian Hummer-type vehicle after dodging mortar fire. An indifferent general has, of course, changed the itinerary. They will play once in town and they again at the front lines. Mis-steps ensue. Some humorous. Some funny in a more “we’re all in this together, why are we shooting each other” way. It turns out that no one cares that these actors have appeared on a TV series. Music is terrible. Bad news is telegraphed by single low note on a piano.

7.9 IMDB

THE TOUR

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CAMILA JAM
2007

March 6, 2009
Cinequest 19
Brazil
Portuguese
120 Minutes
Drama
Murilo Salles

Notes:
Takes place in July of 2001 which is a way of explaining the dial-up modem Camila uses. Girl is more angsty and more naked because it takes place in Brazil. Her blog is called CAMILA JAM. The official TMI film of all time. Camila is hot, lives internally, and is unlucky in love–every interlude, every man she fancies becomes some life-long love affair which no other human being has ever experienced. The men, it goes without saying, don’t see it that way. But her internal life, which is published on her blog, CAMILA JAM, writes a much better story than her real life recognizes.
The tone is set early in the film when a man angrily packs up his girlfriend’s stuff in boxes while she sits naked on a chair crying. We then get a rather physical fight as she makes no attempt to cover herself up–we’re not in an American multiplex anymore. As the film progresses, we will see every inch of Camila, she’ll vomit after a night of drinking, she’ll bleed, she’ll fall down some stairs (quite scary actually), we see every tattoo and every bruise, and she wants us to see inside her soul, which is easier said than done, especially in a movie. There are only so many ways to show a character typing on a keyboard–the clickety clack of the keys on a screen, voice over while she sits in front of a monitor. We see a combination of every way a filmmaker has tried to show computer work before and somehow it isn’t boring. Especially because Camila is just moments away from doing something ridiculous or dangerous or, worst case, she’ll continue writing in the nude, and who isn’t in favor of that?
Had this been a moderately attractive indie-girl from the US, there would have been no reason to watch. Chloe Sevigny or Zoe Deschanel, etc. It’s in a foreign language, the people look exotic, Brazil has a certain moral looseness, so we hang with it as if atching the natural habitat of an exotic creature we’ll never have the money to visit.

7.5 IMDB (58 Votes)

CAMILA JAM

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2008

March 5, 2009
Cinequest 19
India
English / Hindi / Urdu / Gujarati
101 Minutes
Drama
Nandita Das

Notes:
Slickly produced story of Hindus and Muslims in India who can’t get along. We hear stories of Indians brandishing swords and burning people and raping thousands. But every Indian blames those “Jihadist” Muslims for the trouble. They are brought up to hate. We see a vast cross-section of people from rich business owners to a small Muslim child who witnessed his whole family being killed by fire and sword. The rich people, like many in America, believe their money and breeding put them above any racial or religious differences. The one mixed marriage is a couple of rich people. Also two young women are friends though one must pretend to outsiders that she’s Hindu.

7.4 IMDB

FIRAAQ

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2008

March 5, 2009
Cinequest 19
Pakistan
Urdu / Hindi
103 Minutes
Drama
Mehreen Jabbar

Notes:
Bratty Pakistani Hindu boy explores a bit too close to the Pakistan/India border and is detained by Indian soldiers as is his father who follows to bring him back. After strip searching to determine their religion, they are transferred to a jail where “everyone wandered close to the border.” Mom/wife tries to get them back but they aren’t registered and therefore can’t be traced. A year passes quickly. The father and son learn the prison culture, Ramchand goes to prison school and gets a crush on his teacher, who is less than thrilled to be teaching a member of the Untouchables class.

8.0 IMDB (191 Votes)

RAMCHAND PAKISTANI

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AS SIMPLE AS THAT
2008

March 4, 2009
Cinequest 19
Iran
Persian
97 Minutes
Drama
Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi

Notes:
Attractive wife-mother is polite to everyone she meets. She timidly offers advice when people insist, she is highly thought of. She may even be a genius. But we’ll never know because she is stuck in the rut of obedient housewife. Her eight-year-old daughter would rather sing along with songs on the radio than learn how to cook from her mother. Her son is even less enamored of his mother, insisting that he can get to English class on his own by using cabs. Her husband is invisible but we know he’s an architect or engineer. They aren’t wanting for much. People borrow from her household because they have it and Taraneh is always willing to help. Quiet, the woman has much poise even though everyone around her is acting psychotic. She keeps an incredibly even keel, even while packing her things in a suitcase and calling a “Koran helpline” where on two occasions she is hung up on. There is a big wedding going on upstairs and a very pregnant neighbor continually reminds her of a life she thought she’d have. When she is asked to bless the wedding for the young couple because “she’s so happily married” its all she can do to not break down. She also dabbles in painting and has begun writing poetry, although its clear that none of her family or friends have any idea. She seems to have just one real friend, a woman who lives apart from her husband and daughter and runs a clothing boutique. A self-made woman who isn’t afraid to be alone. Is the grass greener?

8.9 IMDB (23 Votes)

AS SIMPLE AS THAT

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A CHRISTMAS IN TENT CITY–Poor immigrants recall a long-ago Christmas when there was no money. Several colorful paintings are used Ken Burns style. Very short. Sort of a “remember the migrant children” type of film.

DRAG KING–Loud people talking about cars. Old, old cars. They race with boats dragged behind their cars. Not on trailers, just dragging on the ground. One race filmed. Crashing boats and cold cars–funny and “cool” but shallow and very short.

FORCED INTO “COMFORT”, FIGHTING FOR APOLOGY–Korean comfort women. Uses old footage, semi-colorized, and a weird effect with “motion waves” around the movement of the footage. Interviews with survivors. Some very angry. The survivors protest every Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Some of the old footage seems extra sinister in light of present-day knowledge.

NAMING PLUTO–Old English eccentric scientists discuss the Planet Pluto. We meet the old woman who initially named it when she was eleven years old. Her father ran the Oxford library at the time. Not much more story here. There is a scientist with an honest-to-god monocle in his eye.

PICKIN’ & TRIMMIN’–A barbershop in Drexel, NC. One man has cut hair for 69 years, his young apprentice for 42 years. Old men talking story. The place is famous for musicians stopping in to play bluegrass in the backroom. Nothing is scheduled, it’s all jam sessions. All are welcome: kids, old people, people passing through. Funny in a down-home, small town way. Has some great music as well. The head old barber keeps a collection of gag gifts which he enjoys showing off. Really a warm film, full of men. There is nary a woman or person of color in the whole thing. Really well done.

RARE CHICKEN RESCUE–Heavy-set, unkempt depressive loses his job and goes inside his family’s cottage for “four or five years” and only comes out when the sound of the farm’s poultry (mostly turkeys) make him go outside to investigate. He considers this a sign. They “call” him when he needs to get out of the house. They require his food, his water, his egg incubation skills. He realizes his purpose in life now. He may never trust humans again, but he’ll become a best friend to chickens, going so far as to help sustain them as extinction nears. He goes on a road trip to locate eggs of rare species no one has seen in years. He has paintings of these species in books but has never seen them. Very compelling in its fetishization of chickens. Studio interviews are held while chickens sit on laps. A really compelling documentary, the best of this bunch.

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2009

March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
USA
English / Vietnamese / Russian / German
91 Minutes
Sci-Fi
Alejandro Adams

The most talked about film of Cinequest 19.

CANARY

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2007

March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
Costa Rica
Spanish
90 Minutes
Drama
Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez

Girl and boy leave abusive Grandpa and their life of picking over trash in a dump in order to hop the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica. They are in search of their mother. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Symbolism all over the place. Two guys find a table at the huge Nicaraguan dump and we see them in the background carrying the thing along the same trail that the girl and boy use to cross illegally into Costa Rica. As the group is led by their coyote, one guy calmly walks back towards Nicaragua carrying a bottle or jar of some kind. The boy, who is mute, stumbles into a posh home where a woman is swearing at an empty rocking chair as if yelling at her invisible husband. We leave the home and there is no further explanation. There are butterflies pinned to walls which obviously mean that the pretty girl we’ve been following has few, if any, choices she can make for survival. She is constantly reminded that men will pay for girls of her age. She’ll be given nice dresses, but it’s not a life to be envied.

7.3 IMDB (49 Votes)

EL CAMINO

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THE MARKET: A TALE OF TRADE
2008

March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
Germany / Turkey / UK / Kazakhstan
Turkish
93 Minutes
Drama
Ben Hopkins

Notes:
Clearly has a Turkish sensibility. “God-willing, I’ll make a lot of money on this deal.” Everyone wants a deal. Gambling and drinking man doesn’t want to be part of any larger group of shady businessmen. His wife is supportive of most of his business efforts, though she shakes her head at the gambling and drinking. When a local doctor asks him to find some much needed medicine, he is off across the border in search of it. He is embarrassed to tell his wife of the no-profit deal. She tells him heaven will reward him for his good deed.

He risks his life to go get the medicine. And he hopes that when he gets back he can open the mobile phone story which he feels will be his ticket to wealth.

7.1 IMDB (41 Votes)

THE MARKET

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FINNISH TANGO
2008

March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
Germany
German
90 Minutes
Comedy
Buket Alakus

Notes:
This film could never be made in the USA. Is it exploiting the disabled or empowering them? There’s a fine line. Downs Syndrome woman wants sex and offers to pay. A man with MS play-acts his own suicide. Our “hero” steals and ID from a guy at a bus stop with no arms. We know our guy will come to love this motley crew of special needs adults, but how long will it take and what about the cutie who runs the group home?

A young man, in love with his accordion, suffers the death of his band mate, becomes homeless, and has no job until a headhunter tells him that if he were somehow disabled he could get a job right away. He’ll need a disabled ID, which is why he steals one from the armless man at the bus stop.

Even though our protagonist is a total dick at the beginning (including saving his accordion from a car crash instead of a second buddy), we can’t help but feel like he’ll be redeemable by the end of the film.

6.4 IMDB (42 Votes)

FINNISH TANGO

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Written by Michael W. Cummins