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An interesting take one African tradition, 1 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Kirikou is the story of an African boy in a small town that in the end proves that you do not need to be of great stature to be an important asset to your community. Although Kirikou was unbelievably tiny, he saw things that others did not. He was able to see the true problems with Karaba the sorceress. When the watering hole no longer produced water, Kirikou went right to the source of the problem and fixed it himself. He was unlike the other people in his village; instead of fearing and complaining about Karaba the sorceress, Kirikou sought a way to fix the problems Karaba had caused for the people of the village.

The fact that this film is a cartoon drastically changed the way in which I perceived the message that it was relaying to the viewer. By using animation the viewer is much more able to focus on the points that the story is making socially about modernity versus tradition. Because almost every person in this story is partially nude I think that the important social commentary that Kirikou has made might be lost on some audiences. In America we are not used to seeing as much nudity as is exposed in this film, especially in a story that is intended for children, so in my opinion it is nice that this film is a cartoon as opposed to real actors and actresses. I do not think that this film would have been nearly as helpful in the understanding of the struggles that African's have with modernity if real people were used as opposed to the cartoons that were. For example the men of the village have all been taken by the sorceress Karaba and are being used as her slaves. They represent modernity because they have been transformed into robots. This is a not so subtle way of showing the evils associated with modernity as seen by the African people.

Anyone that enjoys films like the Lion King or Aladdin will love Kirikou. The thing that I found most interesting about this film was that it gave American's a way to see what stories African's use to teach their children lessons. In America we use animated films to teach kids lessons much the same as they do in Africa. The main differences between the two are the lessons that are taught. I thought it was fascinating how Ocelot taught such an important lesson to children and people alike with the use of animated people in Kirikou and the Sorceress.

Please watch this movie if you DO NOT want to be depressed by a movie about Africa!, 15 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If there is one thing I am sure about Ça Twiste á Popenguine it is that, I enjoy the story much more than other popular movies about Africa. This is mostly due to the fact that most movies that are American made, such as Blood Diamond, have horribly tragic endings, which seem to do a good amount of damage to my psyche. This movie about Africa actually had a happy ending, which is a direct rebuttal to many great African minds such as Franz Fannon who said that there was nothing good about being colonized. This film certainly puts a very different perspective about Africa in my head.

The ending to this film was something that certainly stuck with me. When I saw it, I was very stunned that it ended so abruptly with no real summary of any sort. At first I was quite confused, but after letting it settle in, I am actually satisfied with the ending to this movie. I think that it says a lot about what Absa is trying to relay to the viewer the way nothing really happens at the end of the film. To me it said that although there are a lot of people that have a very large problem with colonization, it is clearly something that works just fine on a day- to-day basis. Although many have argued, in countless works of African literature, that colonization is something to be feared, and in some cases dealt with by means of extreme force. Absa presents the viewer with a stark contrast to this idea, which is quite refreshing. For me, this film gives Africa a new, much more respectable face, a face that does indeed smile, as most African films would suggest otherwise. For me, this film just presents us with a much more realistic point of view of what daily life is like in an African village.

One of my favorite parts of this film was the music. The music said a lot about the culture of Africa and specifically Senegal. There was a fantastic mix of American Rock, French and traditional African music. The fact that everyone at some point enjoyed all of this music during the film helps to explain how much colonization has spread across Africa. The fact that everyone in the village was fine with their colonization, as it caused them no real problems, was one of the main things I took away from this film. Absa does a great job of giving a much more realistic and more enjoyable view of Africa in this film. Although it has its shortfalls, it is certainly one worth watching, especially if you don't want to be depressed by a movie about Africa.

Entre nos (2009)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A film every parent should view, 7 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Entre Nos is the intriguing true story of a newly immigrated family from Columbia, attempting to assimilate into their new home in Queens, New York. Only being in the United States for two weeks, the father of the family leaves the family for Miami to fend for themselves. Mariana and her two children Gabriel and Andrea are left in New York City with no money and little hope. The struggle that unfolds is Entre Nos.

Not only was the acting in Entre Nos fantastic, but the directing and production was equally as well done. Every actor in this film was shown to be capable of emitting perfectly personified emotions. When making a film about such a grave subject, there are a lot of ways in which a director can go. In Entre Nos, the director takes us through the emotional roller-coaster that is Mariana's life and portrays the battle that is being a mother. This amazing story of motherhood follows Mariana and her two children around New York City as they struggle to make ends meet as immigrants in a new country.

One of the scenes that caught my attention most in Entre Nos was about two thirds of the way through the film, when, like several other times throughout the film, Mariana goes to a pay phone to call her man that has left for Miami. When she gets to the phone, instead of being tolerant like Mariana normally is, she picks the phone up and after dialing several numbers, almost instantly starts slamming the phone as hard as she can into the receiver. The other times that Mariana called him she either left a message asking him to call her, or left a very angry message. It is very significant to the film that this time she does neither of these. Mariana's frustration is depicted in this scene, and seems like this is how just about anyone would react in this situation. This scene in the film is when Mariana seems to realize that there is no way that she would consider seeing her man again, let alone moving to Miami to find him. The reason that I like this scene so much is that I find the emotions that are shown here seem to be so real. I feel that it is very difficult to capture real emotions on film, especially through actors. However, in this scene we see a perfect portrayal of real emotions. Although I have no idea how Mariana must actually feel, she does a nice job of making me think I do in this scene.

Anyone who is a parent will love this movie. Entre Nos does a magnificent job of showing the viewer not only how important mother's are to their children, but also how much of a struggle it can be to relocate a family to a new country. Mariana shows us that although money is a part of being a parent, it is clearly not the most important thing when raising children. From this film, we can see that the most important ingredient in parenting is love. We come to understand this as the film comes to a close, and we see that although Gabriel and Andrea grew up in extreme poverty, they went on to become successful and contributing members of society.

A brilliant portrayal of the novel, 28 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After reading and viewing Like Water For Chocolate, I can say, without hesitation that this is not only a fantastic novel, but also a very nice movie as well. The emotions that are captured in this film are fascinating and are what makes this film as well made as it is. The emotions captured on film through Mama Elena and Tita alone are enough to make a movie of. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, despite knowing what was about to happen, waiting for another snide remark from Mama Elena, or an emotional breakdown from the resilient Tita. When a film has this ability, to keep me not only wanting more, but also, waiting for it, I know it is a well-made movie.

Although this movie is certainly one for women, as a man, I had no trouble enjoying it fully. Part of this may have something to do with the fact that I love to cook, however I think that anyone who enjoys well developed characters and feeling a strong emotional connection to these characters should have no problem enjoying this movie. Even secondary characters like Rosaura and Gertrudis are very well developed to the viewer, despite their lack of screen time in this film. When a director like Alfonso Arau takes hold of a film like he does in this one, the characters are the part of the film that benefit the most. Arau does a nice job of portraying his characters in the light that he wishes to.

One of my favorite scenes from Like Water For Chocolate was the scene that occurs at the dinner table, when the family is dining on quail in the rose petal sauce. While preparing this meal, Tita was fully consumed with love, passion and lust for Pedro due to the fact that he surprised her with beautiful roses. Her passion is shown through the meal she prepares. While the family is thoroughly enjoying this meal, I love the emotion that Arau shows us through his characters on screen. We see extreme lust from Gertrudis, while Rosaura, her sister shows the viewer her bloated nature, which serves as a metaphor for the life she lives. On the other side of the table we see how thoroughly Pedro enjoys his meal. In fact, everyone at the table besides for Rosaura absolutely loves the meal (including Mama Elena). Although Mama Elena does suppress her signs of pleasure while dining, Arau makes it very clear that she can also taste the passion in Tita's cooking.

Like Water For Chocolate is a film that can be enjoyed by any viewer that sees a strong correlation between food and love, as this is one of the predominant messages of this film. Also, those that find themselves easily encapsulated in any story with strong emotions emitted by even stronger characters should have no problem reveling in this fantastic foreign film.