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wheeler-benjamin

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4 reviews in total 
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23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Stunning, Inspiring, Fascinating, 23 April 2008
8/10

I saw a special screening in Greenwich Village last night and the whole crowd was gasping, crying and laughing together. It's truly a tour de force, and you fall in love with these girls as they talk about their hopes, their painful experiences and the surprising, frightening truth about teenage prostitution in America. Highly recommended. You might think a movie like this would be a drag, but it's not--it's surprisingly entertaining, and really a fascinating, wonderful experience.

"Issue" documentaries carry the danger of being too focused on polemics and not enough on the people involved or the cinematic experience. The filmmakers avoid this nicely by focusing on the girls themselves, following their ups and downs and giving them the chance to express their contradictions. This is especially effective, I thought, in a sequence when one girl cannot help but call her pimp and tell him she loves him.

22 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Spectacular, absolutely worth tracking down, 11 August 2007
10/10

Saw this at Tribeca Film Festival in Spring 2007, and was absolutely floored. I walked out of the theater afterword amazed at what I'd seen and thrilled that such an amazing film existed and had been maintained by a tiny number of appreciators in such excellent quality for so long.

The story is not the strong point of the movie. Rather, as with Terence Malick films, the story is just a starting point for the film, which is another beast entirely. What shines and carries the film from scene to scene is the cinematography. I didn't know if this was happened elsewhere at the time, but I didn't expect to see hand-held camera work in a 1959 Russian film, let alone the kind of early spinning, impossibly-filmed shot that appears early in the film. Later, there is a sequence that makes me long to know how they created the opportunity to film in such conditions.

If you've read this far, you must track down this movie. My understanding is that Francis Coppola has a California archive maintain the only copy in the Americas, and that it's usually shown just one a year.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Gem of a doc you shouldn't miss, 4 August 2007
9/10

Just saw this the other evening at Cinema Village in New York and was floored.

I expected an informative and mildly boring doc about a forgotten chapter in the history of the American left. That's not what the film was at all. It was surprising and fascinating, and the entire theater was clearly riveted from start to finish; seeing it felt closer to the electricity of "Capturing the Friedmans" than the historical fare I expected ("The Weather Underground", for example, was interesting but not compelling in the way that "The Camden 28" is). At the end, the audience burst into applause, and I heard several couples chatter about how they must get their friends to see it.

Through the lens of a trial in New Jersey of mostly Catholic anti-war protesters, including several priests, the film connects gracefully and powerfully to broader questions of war, courage, honesty and loyalty. It does this all the more powerfully by giving different sides their say and resisting heavy-handedness.

Most remarkably, it does all this not through lecturing, but through remarkable first-person accounts and dramatic direction that makes the film gripping and irresistible. And there's even a twist that elicited gasps from the audience when I saw it.

I understand the film is airing on PBS on Sept. 11th, 2007. I strongly recommend that people go see it in New York if possible, and to watch it on PBS.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Quiet film that gives deep look into life in Georgia and as a lonely foreigner, 6 May 2007
8/10

I saw this at the Tribeca Film Festival in May 2007, and found it moving. Its depiction of life in Tbilisi, Georgia is pitch-perfect, with lots of convincing portrayals of all the conflicts that come up around emigration, access to bureaucracies, and the language barrier.

The direction is just right: not heavy handed, but believably passionate and intense. The ensemble cast is excellent, and the two leads are convincingly inscrutable, and in different ways. There is lots of ambiguity, and viewers will have to reach their own opinions and conclusions about what's going on, but it's an ambiguity that grows naturally out of the story, not one that's forced onto the material for affect.

The story will be too slow for some, but I thought it allowed time for subtle observations about all the ways people find to deal with unfamiliar situations. Bravo. It's great to see some of Georgia's great cinematic talent reaching US audiences.