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De chaque instant (2018)
Insightful documentary about hospital nurses and their years of training. They usually don't get the glamour but prove necessary
Saw this at IDFA, the International Documentary Festival 2018 in Amsterdam. We got a good insight in what is involved in such a training, eventually leading to proficient nurses. It is not something to take lightly, especially when seeing the overload of topics and activities compressed in the one and a half hour running timeof this movie. We see soo many things they have to learn, overwhelming even, at least for us watching it from our comfy chairs. On the other hand, they have the time to absorb it, spreading over several years. It may not be so tough after all, at least for the purely practical matters that can be rehearsed at length.
We also saw scenes where real patients were treated by these apprentice nurses, of course under supervision, but anyway. The patients knew that the nurse did it for the first time. It can be extra stressfull nevertheless, generating more tension than may be necessary, and it may not be good for the patient either. It all happens very close to the camera, and probably with a lot of other filming staff (sound, lighting etc), bound to be extra burdensome for the nurse and for the patient too.
The final scenes, in my opinion the most memorable part of the movie, showed interviews about past internships of a variety of students. These were heavy and intensive, even showing tears some of the time, with moments where all sorts of problems came about. Among others: It could be a hospital department in transit, or a head nurse who had too much to do so no time to supervise or evaluate, or they felt problems having insufficient interaction with the patients, and so on. Of course, this are inherent parts of the future job as well. It goes beyond their practical capabilities learnt at school in the three preceding years.
All in all, we clearly get to see that a job as a nurse is complicated for a multitude of reasons. In this respect, the movie does a good job and shows all intricacies from close by. The final chapter of the movie that covered the internships, wrapped it all up. It even did more than that, while demonstrating the non-practical (soft) elements of the job that prove as important as the day-to-day routines they learn at school. As a takeaway, this movie makes us aware that doctors may get all the glamour and the higher paychecks, and that the nurses may seem less visible yet cannot be missed to smoothly run a hospital and allowing patients to leave the hospital in a better shape than when entering the institution.
Informative documentary, also showing risks and counter forces. Only touching some problems needing a solution in the long run
Seen at IDFA 2018, the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam. It provides for a good understanding of what Bellingcat entails, and it is more accessible than I had imagined beforehand. I had feared ample techno babbles and screens full of gibberish that frighten people on average, turning them away from the subject at hand. The film makers even left out the seemingly inevitable images of busy data centers, flashing lights and network cabling as usually shown on IT-related news item.
By showcasing a number of well-known high-profile cases, the movie succeeds in keeping any viewer interested. The film makers are also honest in discussing counter forces that go at any length to discredit their initiatives and thus downplay their reports. They attempt to portray Bellingcat as amateurs or armchair investigators, using any argument to suggest their results cannot be relied upon. And with powerful adversaries against you, mostly state supported actors or with deep pockets, this is not something to ignore. In passing, some of the personal risks for the contributors (and their families) are mentioned, which is not to be neglected and can be a deterrent for new volunteers to participate.
A nice example of what they can accomplish was their investigation of a photo showing the aftermath of an apparently regular car bomb explosion with many dead/wounded lying around. They established that it was a fake, starting with a car exploding on an empty square, after which the "bodies" walked in to be randomly scattered around, all ready for a shocking picture to be taken. Of course, the original (fake) was picked up by the media, and it took a lot of effort to let the news outlets (like Reuters, CNN etc) retract the original version. And even when publicly withdrawn, the damage to the public opinion cannot that easily be repaired.
There is one thing that worries me. The movie mentions it yet without badly needed emphasis: how to archive all material so that it will sustain a court case, and cannot be dismissed by lawyers?? The underlying information can disappear, due to being deleted by the author, on his own initiative or due to pressure. Or it can be removed by the platform (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc), due to being too graphical or not politically correct. It should actually be sealed (as I call it loosely) to prevent it from being altered, and this "seal" has to be resistant against critical lawyers when the case is presented in court at a later stage.
(Full Disclosure.) As a former (now retired) IT-consultant, I may not be the perfect judge to state (see above) that this movie is devoid of techno-babble. Apart from that, I applaud every movie that succeeds in spreading information about contemporary developments like these, where new "media" take over from the established news outlets. Contrary to the well-known news media, these volunteers have no legal counsel behind them, and neither can they build on a tradition of many decades. They also lack the authority that the usual news media have, so are burdened with an extra task to guard their credibility. One talking head in the movie maintains that transparency is the answer, but it will not be sufficient. (End of Full Disclosure.)
All in all, this movie offers a fascinating insight in recent initiatives, where technical knowledge, lots of time and ample motivation to chase for the truth, is invested in fact-checking. This is desperately needed as powerful parties and even state sponsored actors do their best to create their own "fake" news that better serves their interest than real facts. However, there is also such a thing as responsibility to protect your sources, like witnesses and leaked documents, and premature naming and shaming of alleged perpetrators and their family, who have done nothing wrong but can be threatened or involuntarily damaged. And finally, can Bellingcat ever be wrong, in spite of their good intentions?? I don't have the answers, and neither has the movie.
American Dharma (2018)
Enlightening, at least for me, documentary about the Trump era, how it grew and how it will go on for a foreseeable future
Saw this at IDFA 2018, the documentary festival in Amsterdam. Difficult film to watch and sit through, not for being a bad documentary but because some of the things said and shown on screen that nearly make me throw sharp kitchen tools towards the speaker. It displays a clear vision of what the current politically correct elite does wrong in the eyes of the "common" man, failing to solve any of the issues we have nowadays, merely make toothless compromises and never take a real stand against things that "everyone" sees going in the wrong direction. There is an urgent need for change, as Bannon repeatedly states. And getting Trump elected is a blunt instrument (his words) to get things changed. Any of the other Republican candidates would only prolong the status quo, so Trump was in fact the only way out.
My problem, on the other hand, is whether this new approach will work out very differently. It reverses things arranged in the past, just for the sake of doing it differently, without a clear vision about a new future. But I'm not really politically interested, so I'm wrong on all counts while having no clear position either, nor a better alternative, nor any urgency to change things.
I can appreciate that Bannon wanted to have this film made, thereby getting a platform to explain things that did not work out the way he probably wanted. If he did make an attempt to make his role bigger than it actually was, he did it subtly enough and I was not aware of it (if he did). At least he flatly denied having written Trumps acceptance speech, that was not so well received in other countries. Given that it was sheer luck to win the presidential election on a narrow margin, he cannot (and did not) say that the strategy was so brilliant that they impossibly could have lost.
All in all, if you are a bit masochistic and can stand the things brought to you via news fragments and other existing footage, this movie illustrates the "Trump era" very well, how it grew and how it will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. The movie fragments that are supposed to enlighten us about Barron's strategy, did not all work for me, albeit most were a very good attempt, like several clips from Twelve O'clock High (1949). Also, the pivotal scene with Henry V and Fallstaff, in Chimes at Midnight (1965), could explain Bannon being sent away by Trump as inevitable.
City 40 (2016)
Worrisome documentary. Makes us wonder what other places kept hidden for us in the interest of National Security, but equally dangerous for environment and people living there
Saw this at the Movies That Matter film festival 2017 in The Hague. The first half of the documentary presents a good overview of the purpose of City 40, what is happening there, what binds its inhabitants to the city, and what urges them to stay there. All this is perfectly understandable, despite the fact that the people living there have a restricted life and cannot tell anything about it to the outside world. But its infrastructure and provisioning is far better than elsewhere in the country, and luxury goods as well as cultural events are available, also much better than in the rest of the country. And as one of the talking heads said: "scientists are busy with splitting atoms, and the rest does not interest them as long as they can continue with splitting atoms." Having a scientific background myself in physics, I fully recognize the truth in this statement.
The second half was more worrying and made us aware of hidden side effects, particularly considering environmental issues with nuclear waste and accidents, of which Chernobyl is just an infamous example. Same applies to the people living in the city, who must sustain radiation and related dangers much more than at other places. Though not proven, there were suspicious effects on offspring due to genetic problems, probably becoming worse in future generations. I would not be surprised when there are many more of such places, hidden for us in the interest of National Security, and certainly not in former communist countries alone, but also in "our" part of the world.
Reading the synopsis beforehand is essential to get the central theme, as several confusing and distracting scenes threaten to cloud the issue
Saw this at the Movies That Matter film festival 2017 in The Hague. I cannot avoid forewarning everyone that it is essential to read the synopsis beforehand, or you will be lost and miss the central theme. This movie is all about the difficulties around adopting a child in combination with hiding the fact afterwards that the child is not your own. This movie distracts too often and too much from the core theme. I assume all those unrelated scenes are intended as social commentary, still interesting to watch. Does not let it confuse you.
Nevertheless, me being unfamiliar with Turkish customs, I still assume I missed a lot of the message(s) that the film makers try to bring across. I think I only got the obvious ones. On the other hand, some things that I noticed specifically, like smoking in the office apparently not forbidden there and similarly in the proximity of a young baby, are both shamelessly shown in this movie, yet seem not intended as social commentary by design.
The very best example of some totally redundant and distracting scenes can be seen at the beginning, where we first witness how a bull fertilizes a cow, and immediately thereafter the birth of a calf. Maybe interesting for someone not grown up on a farm, but it does not add anything useful to the story. And particularly the first scene with the bull is far too long compared with its actual contents.
I scored a 2 (out of 5) for the audience award when leaving the theater, due to being not bad overall but meandering too much away from its central message, while at the same time withholding essential information in the process. The ultimate panic after discovering that their adoption was visible in police records, was a bit sketchy and had deserved more attention. The final scene with a waterfall in full view and our threesome family walking towards it, lost me completely, and I still cannot deduce its significance (suicide out of shame??).
All in all, witnessing how social norms about adoption are influencing everyone's behavior, and to what length the main protagonists go to hide their "secret", is interesting to see, despite it is all a bit alien to us. In our world it is not such a taboo to adopt a child. The tangled web woven kept me awake, and also helped me to plod through confusing scenes that were distracting rather than having a useful purpose.
Black Code (2016)
Technically nothing new for me, but I'm biased as IT security consultant, for many years interested in related subjects, partly professionally and partly personal interests
Saw this at the Movies That Matter film festival 2017 in The Hague. The primary topic of this movie is that surveillance can be used for good and bad purposes. An important example shown in this movie was indeed thought provoking. Images shot by the crowd were collected and used against the police, who at first indicted Bruno for having thrown a Molotov cocktail to a policeman. In retrospect, the actual offender proved to be an undercover policeman, who was tasked to demonstrate that the riots were serious and that the police should catch the perpetrator no matter what. We see this often, being a common tactic to provoke a forceful reaction from military or police, and to justify any means to achieve that goal. This time, luckily, the officials were forced to backpedal. Only one day later, when confronted with undeniable evidence, the police changed their position and released Bruno from prison, and the news media followed suit. We know the term crowd sourcing for raising money, and the above example showed that we can invent the term sub-veillance for this purpose, as the people's variant of sur-veillance, indeed a thought-provoking concept.
Strictly speaking, there is nothing very novel or revolutionary about it, given TV-programs like America's Most Wanted, Crimewatch UK, or the likes we see in many other countries. Common theme is that the viewer's assistance is solicited for an ongoing police investigation. Yet, the topic of this movie is something else. Said programs usually are on the lookout for tips after official investigations went dead. But sub-vaillance has other goals than helping the authorities, it differs 180 degrees from aforementioned TV-programs. It looks for yet unknown pictures and images with a heavy impact on public opinion when shown, though typically not in favor of the police or authorities in general.
The second main topic of this movie is that surveillance is commonly used by two very different parties. Firstly, we see it in the form used by commercial companies, who process personal data for their own corporate goals, like showing tailored adverts, or showing products you may be interested to buy, or collecting statistics about visitors. Secondly, we see it actively used by government and law enforcement to control people, to prevent crime and related matters, goals everyone deems important, no matter the side effects. Both use cases can work in our advantage or against it, but mostly a confusing mixture.
The final Q&A after the screening brought a very relevant question forward from the audience, whether the companies selling hacking tools are to be considered criminal organizations and thus deserve to be prosecuted. There was a recent discussion about this in Dutch parliament, with an outcome that was not exactly the one we were hoping for. On one hand, official policy is to get zero-day vulnerabilities fixed because eliminating these problems makes the internet safer overall. On the other hand, the police can add these to their toolbox and are thus not prepared to stop using these, nor are they willing to be open about their use. The latter was demonstrated in recent court cases about the covert usage by law enforcement of so-called IMSI catchers, aka Stingray. These devices masquerade as cell towers and trick mobile phones into making a connection, thereby facilitating the interception of private phone data. There is much secrecy about it being used, and the outcome is still unsure. In said court cases, the police were not mentioning the tools used to obtain evidence in fear of being declared invalid material for the prosecution, and thus dismissed from the court case, maybe even leading to a mistrial or a lesser sentence.
All in all, this movie presents interesting material and thus discusses interesting issues, that should interest everyone. It is important for daily users of the seducing information and social interaction tools on their computers and smartphones. And that "everyone" also includes politicians, who expect (too) much of the technical tools offered to law enforcement and governmental institutions. These politicians and are only prepared to consider the negative side effects when a scandal appears in the news media.
Kratki izlet (2017)
Showing a lot of the film maker's potential in several nice touches, making the movie much more interesting than the basic story suggests
Saw this at the Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) 2017. A proverbial knock out competition, like Agatha Christie's book And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Ni**ers), but without anyone being murdered and with everyone still standing afterwards. Excursion members got detached from the group one by one, mostly following an impulse underway and staying behind for some reason or other. No one is forcing them in any way. We have no reason to believe that they are better off, or worse for that matter, than the rest of the group.
It is entertaining all the time, despite the unrefutably truth that nothing really out of the ordinary happens. It is very well possible that the landscapes were helpful in keeping our interest. Based on a novel by Antun Soljan (1932-1993) that was used as a framework, yet the actual story deviated more and more from it during filming. The structure is retained from the book, however. Part of the text is improvised, e.g. the scene with the cooler.
Most actors were personal friends, only Roko was a professional actor. After 21 days of shooting, the voice over became the most important part to bind it all together. It took quite a while to get it right. We often hear a wooden clarinet, a local instrument. Part of the dropouts underway are derived from the novel, while other were invented later. The carnival group is well known, also a local tradition.
All in all, given price/performance this movie is a great achievement (budget is probably minimal). It includes several nice touches, difficult to describe here. I would not be surprised when a second viewing would reveal many more niceties, but I can offer no proof for this assumption other than my belief that this film maker shows a lot of potential. The festival audience thought otherwise and rewarded it a lowly 101st place (out of 172).
Demonios tus ojos (2017)
Many more surprising developments than could be derived from synopsis. Very original plot and inexhaustible turns of events. Not as far-fetched as assumed from description
Saw this at the Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) 2017, where it was nominated for the Tiger Award (but not awarded). Very original plot, unusual developments and it got much more complicated than the synopsis on the IFFR website already hinted to. The unexpected turns of events seem inexhaustible, but as soon as you think you've seen them all, a new unexpected thing happens.
It did not bother me that the original setup seemed a bit far-fetched. It became still more surprising after the sister was shown that he filmed everything, that she nevertheless knowingly kept the camera intact. The whole sequence of developments was compelling and there was not a single boring moment.
During the final Q&A, the director told he had ideas since a very long time about a movie that a someone makes for himself and not to show anyone else. He had a lot of friends telling about their private video's, out of which stories he got more ideas that were incorporated in this film. Second idea was pushing someone past the limit. Third idea was a confrontation with your background, your family and everything else that determines where you come from.
Finally, as a side remark, I noticed the very original format for the final credits. It started as a blue B-movie with a naked man and woman on a beach, suddenly changing into credits rolling by in an old-fashioned type cast. It was not obvious to everyone in the audience that this indeed were the final credits, until someone started an applause after which everyone got it that this was the end. It was a nice deviation from the seemingly endless credits that come after most movies, meticulously quoting everyone involved in the film making until the last caterer and chauffeur.
The Road to Mandalay (2016)
Seemingly piggybacking on the immigration crisis, showing the deplorable situation of immigrants. We also witness a love story that does not seem to go anywhere
Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival (IFFR) 2017. It may be heart breaking to witness the situations an illegal immigrant has to cope with, having no one they can trust. They cannot even rely on official looking "officials" who produce impressively looking documents, that however prove to be of no legal value after all. Similarly, when an accident happens in the factory where they work under abominable circumstances, the issue is settled with an amount that is non-negotiable. Even worse, a contract must be signed at the spot to relieve the factory of all burdens. The worker has no choice but admit he has been careless, so the factory is not to blame. By the way: this accident did not affect any of our main protagonists, but it was illustrative for their uncertain position without any legal rights to depend on.
Apart from the helpless situation of the immigrants, obvious being the main theme, the apparent love story between Guo and Lianging can be considered a second story line to bind subsequent developments together. Throughout the running time I had no idea what Guo's intentions were to be so helpful towards Lianging (there was no sex involved, as established later). The synopsis on the festival website talked about a "tragic love story that will not leave the heart unmoved", but it fails on me completely. At best, it leaves me with the assumption that I probably misunderstood it all, and I thus missed the whole point of this "love affair".
All in all, this movie has all the looks of piggybacking on contemporary themes like illegal immigrants, showing how deplorable their situation is, and how everyone is trying to take advantage of their helpless situation. A typical case of "opportunistic" film making?? Anyway, the festival audience did not fall for it either, as this movie got stuck at a lowly 102nd place (out of 172) for the audience award.
Mes provinciales (2018)
With over two hours, a long sit although it did not seem overly long. Much talking and name dropping, mostly showcasing my illiteracy in philosophy and literature
Saw this at the Berlinale 2018, where it was selected for the Panorama section. Every now and then, I was under the impression that I was lured into watching a copy of Woody Allen's "Irrational Man" (2015), his first movie, and hopefully the last, I saw in my life. Both are abundantly filled with name dropping, quotes from famour writers, and more such showing off one's education and literacy. It nonetheless leads us nowhere, leaving an impression of pomposity and verbosity that I cannot stand. But I may be prejudiced in that respect, since many people love such movies, as they assume that it has any bearing on real life, how their life could be improved when living along the guidelines of ancient philosophers and famous writers. But I digress.
Luckily, this movie has a story line that I can live with (contrary to the impossible story in aforementioned "Irrational Man", riddled with plot holes and unreal developments). However, with two hours and a quarter running time "A Paris Education" is a long sit. I wonder about having dozed off one or more times while the talking heads went on and on, as I did not have the impression that it took two hours overall. This may be construed as a compliment, but it does not prove anything given potential festival fatigue. I still may have missed important steps in the proceedings.
However, this is not the type of film where the story line brings us logically from A via B to Z. At first, our main protagonist must get settled in Paris, find new friends and start the education he longed for. The apartment he shares with many others, had been arranged beforehand via-via. He moves in without much ado on his first day in the city. A party that happens on his first evening, does not really include him, but he adapts gradually and finds some people to talk with (and some, like Mathias, he finds so much more educated and well spoken that he assumes never to befriend them). The first lecture day looks very much like the dialogues I hated in aforementioned "Irrational Man", but I noticed that some people in the audience laughed at inexplicable (for me) moments. In retrospect, I assume that the name dropping meant something to them and rang a bell with people more knowledgable about movies than I'll ever be.
Etienne sleeps around a lot, although he swears not to cheat on his fiancée far away. Yet, his relationship with her falters gradually, obviously offering no future for either of the two. It is a perfect demonstration of people drifting apart, as a natural result of their entourages drifting apart. Their pending separation is not caused by some other woman around. He merely exchanges glances and does not make a move to make more out of it, albeit some seem promising at first sight. For example, the secretary of the newspaper where he works for a short period as a reviewer (just for the money), apparently offers a case here with more future in the air, but both let it go (*** spoiler alert ***) until much much later.
All in all, the movie takes its time but does not feel too long, though (see disclaimer above) I may have missed some of the proceedings due to festival fatigue. The dramatic developments are nothing out of the ordinary, apart from the unexpected suicide of one of his friends. I assume that this movie offers more icing on the cake for people knowledgable in the field of film making, or literature or philosophy for that matter, but for a technical guy (IT) like me only the story line and how the protagonists act therein count. That leaves me behind with a feeling of illiteracy in the fields of film making, philosophy and literature, but I can imagine that others more fluent in these fields are better off.
La prière (2018)
Thought provoking prison-without-walls approach to be severed from an addiction. Nevertheless, it leaves us behind wondering whether it really solves anything for good
Saw this at the Berlinale 2018, where it was part of the Competition for the golden and silver bears. It got the silver bear for best actor in the role of Thomas, our main protagonist. Also, this film was nominated for the golden bear for best film, but it was awarded to Touch Me Not (Pintilie) instead.
I myself was primarily impressed watching the prison-without-walls approach, how it works out for real when wanting to be severed from an addiction. Yet, although it seemed to work for some on the short term, it left me wondering whether it really solves anything on the long run when returning to the place they originally came from. Prayers and hard labor offer a certain distraction. And the community with fellow addicts in various stages of disintoxication, helps a lot too. The rule that no one is to be left alone, not for a single minute, is a solid one, albeit it does not save everyone from the usual distractions. And neither does it prevent acting against the basic principles of the community or letting old bad habits take over by smuggling contraband into the community.
The dialogue between the founding mother and Thomas was both pivotal as well as confusing. She insisted that he did not really pray, though he maintained to know all the prayers by heart. She even struck him flat in the face, twice even, telling that his life was a lie. Had her verdict some negative influence on him and his general attitude, thereby making it to a self-fullfilling prophecy by definition??
His real conversion came about much later, when he lost his fellows in the mountains. He fell down and broke his leg yet found his leg unharmed the following morning. It was something he considered a miracle and an act of God. Eventually, Thomas had been clean for a considerable period when he left the community, heading to a seminary to become a priest, despite the wise words from the local priest that this is a commitment not to be taken lightly.
The day Thomas leaves the community starts with a heart moving gathering, during which everyone talls him how he has changed to the better, and conversely gives Thomas the opportunity to praise his fellow inha-bitants for their friendship and help.The bus ride towards the seminary (*** spoiler alert ***) is interrupted half-way, at which moment Thomas leaves the bus. He grabs his backpack and hitchhikes his way to Sybille, who we see at work in the final scene. After that, the movie ends, and we have no idea whether they are to live happily ever after.
Over two hours long and slowly paced but not overly boring. Failed to enlighten me about politics or culture of that time
Saw this at the Berlinale 2018, where it was part of the Competition for the Golden/Silver Bear. A lot of faces pass by, in crowded apartments or various other just as crowded places. Some of those faces will reappear several times. No need to remember all of them, apart from the main protagonist, his ex-wife and daughter of course, as there is no continuing story that brings you from A via B and C to Z.
The division in six days is also not really relevant. It gives you a clear marker, however, that the movie jumps to something completely different each time a date appears on screen. It provides for some structure albeit not crucially important.
There is room for humor, not too much as there is no happy ending (no spoiler: we know this writer was not recognized in his own country and emigrated later, and we also know his own country valued him not until after his death).
Be prepared for name dropping of several famous writers, most of whom I recognize vaguely by name, but have never read them in my life. Maybe you have better luck in fitting them in the context in which their name is mentioned, and judge the name dropping as appropriate or merely done out of pomposity (I assume the former, given the circles our main protagonist usually is in, where one surely knows these names and would protest immediately when improperly quoted).
Trick question: did this movie enlighten me about the period and Russian politics at the time?? No, I think not. But anyone who has read some of the writers who have been quoted, may think otherwise. Several reviewers mentioned that it was a time of a stand still.
What this movie makes abundantly clear, is that the regime does not allow frivolities with their policy, keeping a tight lease on all publications such as journals, magazines and books. It is something that all such regimes seem inclined to do as a matter of course. Is that only to close the ranks, out of fear that the communist dream is not so rosy as one is taught?? Or it is just to not endanger the positions of the current politicians?? I assume that all of the above applies. It seems to apply equally to contemporary dictatorial regimes (Turkey, Iran, and many others), a parallel observation that makes this movie more relevant than it intrinsiccally is when considering the Brezjnew period alone.
Combined Comedy/Drama/Western without the usual clichés but not covering all three genres proficiently. Especially the Comedy part leans heavily on making fun of some people
Saw this at the Berlinale 2018, where it was part of the Competition for the Golden/Silver Bear. For starters, all three genre labels that IMDB shows, Comedy, Drama and Western, are fully applicable to this movie. The only minus point that I can come up with, is that its running time may be deemed too long for its contents. On the other hand, in Westerns prairie time counts differently, and maybe the slow pacing is intended and appropriate after all. Take for instance the two men waiting for a passing coach to pick them up, obviously not running on a time table and the two men just are about to wait patiently. Apart from setting the mood for things to come, this scene also happens to connect a few props from the beginning with the ending, making the circle round so to say. It was something that I did not expect, and I still am not sure I understood it correctly.
I'm glad that the usual westerns clichés are avoided: no horse chases, no posse going after a suspect, no bar fights, and only one single Indian. I could not spot any good or bad characters in this story, in the tradi¬tional black&white sense, maybe only the Indian can be considered as bad, despite his coming to the rescue out of an impasse in an earlier scene. Of course, nice landscapes, plenty of it even, enough to call it a road movie, albeit that being a misnomer due to the absence of real roads in the wilderness.
One can argue whether the humor is really humorous, or that it is just making fun of some people not really fit to operate in the Wild West. The only capable survivalist is Penelope, so it seems, contrary to the men we see most of the running time as being helpless, despite everything they do is done with the best of intentions. They are portrayed rather demeaningly, which some people find hilarious (but I'm not). In other words, the "comedy" aspects are insufficient to come to a recommendable product. The two treated in the most condes-cending manner are Samual and the vicar, but the laugh is too easy, impossible to not feel a bit embarrassed, so cannot be considered humorous overall.
The "drama" elements of the movie can be amply found in the fact that everyone follows his own logic, all of them really full of good intentions, but what they do goes terribly wrong. They mostly fail due to being not up to the task of surviving in the prairie with many potential hostilities lurking around the corner. There are some unexpected turns of events, all of those very different from that we would have assumced given the situation. No raid by Indians, no shoot-out a la High Noon, no wolves threatening some campers, and so on. In fact, most turns of events are not due to humans being incapable to survive in this part of the world, but because of "normal" incompetence as also frequently observed outside the prairie.
Finally, a few positive words about some random aspects. Firstly, the opening scene with two people waiting for a stagecouch, one wanting to leave the West, and the other one wanting to go there, but both wanting a fresh start for compelling reasons. The Bible carried by one of them, appears lateron a few times in the story and takes care of some mild humor, nothing blasphemic however. Secondly, the wedding ring that Samual brought with him to offer Penelope, returns later in the final scene in totally different circumstances. Are both to be regarded as examples of clever script writing, or merely far fetched, or sought to add some extra to an otherwise shallow story??
All in all, mixed feelings about Damsel, although I applaud several nice finds as described above. A few weeks earlier, as part of IFFR 2018 in Rotterdam, I saw another Western without cliché western elements, Sweet Country (Thornton, 2017). When on the lookout for a recent (anti)western example, is was much better than this one in all respects.
Slowly paced but you will get used to it. Many things to watch while living with the two main protagonists fighting with the harsh weather and worsening hunting conditions
Saw this at the Berlinale 2018. Not much happens in this movie, and time passes there slowly by definition. One cannot expect many surprising turns of events and dramatic developments in an environment where not much happens as a rule. Having less than a handful of protagonists does not help either. Yet, I had little inclination to consult my watch, and it was over before I knew it, so something did happen all the time and kept us awake despite the circumstances. The harsh landscapes and the scarce animals living there, can be seen as extra protagonists too, unobtrusively helping to create a moderately lively image nevertheless. Their daily household consists of hunting (snaring and fishing), struggling with the weather, and maintaining their minimalistic shelter with the only resources they have: wood, hides and stones.
After an hour running time, ailing Sedna dies and Nanook sets out to meet their daughter Aga, who left years ago. She works in a diamant mine at some location far away. A daunting journey ahead, so it seems, never sure how it will end given the unaccomodating nature and unfriendly weather conditions. What has happened between Aga and her parents in the past, is left unclear, on purpose I assume. It seems to be something bad (we get no details), or at least something frowned upon. Still everyone agrees that there is a time to forgive and forget. Despite the latter, Nanook considers this journey as an ultimate step towards consolidation after Sedna's death, in fact only to comply with her last wishes. How the consolidation proceeds (*** spoiler alert ***) after Nanook meets his daughter, is left open, which seems to be the best finale possible.
La villa (2017)
More interesting than synopsis did assume. Not just reviving old memories but introducing several other relevant topics, together with ample protagonists having other issues
This movie proved much more interesting than I had assumed beforehand, after having read the various plot descriptions. This is not a movie with three talking heads, reviving old memories and related discussions, and so on. The threesome gathering around their ailing father, form the center of several related protagonists. Each has a useful role to clarify what is on everyone's mind. All of them bring ample extra story lines to make up an assortment of relevant human drama and unexpected developments. Especially the latter turned this screening into a positive surprise. Even the stranded fugitives who have a side role near the end of the running time, did not feel as unnatural nor introduced solely to add a contemporary issue like immigration to the mix just for the sake of it. Similarly, euthanasia is another contemporary topic, creating an extra story line that is introduced at a natural place, where it was understandable that the people involved arrived at a certain "useless" point in life (nevertheless, I had not expected them really doing it). Apart from these two examples of unexpected plot lines, several other people came around to liven up the overall story and causing even so many unexpected developments, yet the collection of protagonists did not feel over-crowding the plot.
Entertaining and humorous despite the sad undertone and the underlying cause (uncurable cancer). Strong story and movie populated with strong actors
Entertaining all the time, despite the serious undertone and the sad underlying cause that makes everything happen and keeps the story rolling on. It is the unpopular decision to stop medical treatment and scans, to merely await a certain death without all the burdens of hospitals and other forms of medical interference with inevitable death caused by his progressing cancer. Of course, everyone tries to change his mind but they all are doomed to fail (is this a spoiler?). He, on the other hand, causes several surprises while dealing with family, friends and colleagues, in the sense that his attitude is refreshing, far from depressing as could be expected. The dog named Truman that gave the movie his name, is the subject of several attempts to find a suitable new household for him, involuntarily being another cause to keep the story rolling, if not working as a running gag.
Apart from dog Truman unknowingly playing a central role, the two main characters are Julian, who is terminally ill and refuses further treatment, and Thomas, who is sent by his wife to let Julian change his mind. The two were close friends many years ago but pick up their friendship easily as if there had been no interruption. While Julian does not stop surprising Thomas with unexpected moves, they both behave very rationally and succeed very well in coping with pitiful scenes and dealing with people avoiding contact because of not knowing how to behave or what to say.
All in all, a strong story line and a movie populated with strong actors. Luckily, there is no tear jerking and I could not spot any overly emotional scenes. There is ample humor interwoven in the script, and the surprises induced by Julian and his sometimes-unorthodox behavior, keep our attention from start to finish.
No wake-up call when not already aware of Internet's dark sides. Topics loosely related to contemporary issues don't delve deep, albeit interesting in their own right
The mixed, even controversial user reviews that go along with this movie, reflect that some are disappointed because of having expected more deep delving treatments from this film maker, contrary to others who find the presented topics revealing and eye-opening and are happy with the given information. The professional reviews, on the other hand, are overall positive, with no exception, giving rise to the (possibly unfounded) assumption that this writer category is not familiar with the dark sides of Internet, and that the presented material is new to them and thus eye-opening.
For me, having worked in IT all my life, mostly in the field of information security, those dark sides are all in my day's work, regrettably. This movie is not relevant for me to upgrade my knowledge, but rather to welcome a serious attempt to involve the "end user" in all the bad things that can happen. It is very difficult to make the layman (m/f) aware how important these issues are for them, let alone emphasizing how easy it is to fall victim of people up to no good. Awareness is rising, luckily, especially after some recent incidents in 2018 that arose everyone's attention, specialists and non-specialists alike.
The sub-division in chapters is logical. It clarifies where a fresh subject starts, and never becomes artificial. I saw some subjects that have nothing to do with Internet, strictly speaking, like the problems some people have with radiation (conversely, WiFi and 3G/4G have considerably contributed to the growth of Internet, but it really is something else). Unlike many popular media, this movie did not show the dark sides of Internet along the path of sex, drugs, arms trade and similar dubious areas. Rather, a central theme was created out of the unmitigated distribution of embarrassing photos and intimate video's that could better be kept private, as well as hate mail that can have devastating effects on recipients. Along that line of thought, sending nasty e-mails is simplified and anonymized by Internet, and not not need any special hardware or software, so anyone can do it (conversely, the bare truth is that it would also have been possible without Internet).
Nearly all issues brought forward were indeed thought provoking, including guessing what the world would look like after and without Internet, e.g. in a post-apocalypse situation. There were irrelevant exceptions, however, like a scene in the beginning of the movie, showing the room where the Internet was "born". The equipment on display gave rise to nostalgic feelings, for me that is, but does that part of history have some bearing on the Internet as it became after 30 years?? We know the optimistic stories of that time, where self-regulation and self-mitigation was assumed as a matter of course.
As a final observation about the movie's format, several talking heads were introduced but their number was not overwhelming and they all got their speaking chance in several scenes, which allowed us to familiarize ourselves with them and their opinions. Unlike the usual voice-over that is annoying within the average documentary, this time the director himself (I assume) was not in the foreground too much, merely linking the scenes together without becoming too scholarly. He particularly did not try to showcase his knowledge (he himself admitted being ignorant on this subject, which could have served as a universal disclaimer, but I don't doubt his intentions here).
Given my primary reasons to watch this movie, not to extend my knowledge but to welcome any serious attempt to showcase the issues at hand, I conclude that It will make many people aware what's going on, but is bound to disappoint others who expected more solid information.
Mãe Só Há Uma (2016)
Unsatisfactory ending, unclear about intended message, if any. Central theme could have been interesting. Some plot lines seem misplaced
Completely unsatisfactory ending, and unclear what the intended message is/was, if any. The forced integration process of 17-year-old Pierre into a new family, was overly hasty as well as ineffective, rather counterproductive. Unnecessarily forcing elderly "love" without attention for Pierre as an individual, being the person at the receiving end, does not help much either. From the outside, I can understand the mother who waited 17 years to locate her son, who was stolen from the nursery, but she treated him like a new toy and overwhelmed him with motherly attention.
A parallel plot line is about Pierre's sexual preferences. While Pierre had hid most of his transsexual inclinations while in his "old" family, he overdid his coming-out after being forced into the "new" family. Maybe he did that to make a point, but I did not get what that point could be. And, if it had been intentional obstinacy, it was not clear to the receivers (his new parents) anyway.
The final scene with his new brother showed promises for a better future. Alas, if that was the intention, it did not land with me, because of the suddenly appearing final credits. It abruptly ended the story without closure and without a solution.
Im Schatten der Netzwelt (2018)
Probably failing to reach intended audience for this information. Pertinent issues demonstrated very well. May leave impression on social media users open for these topics
Being an IT-consultant myself, having worked in information security for many years already, the movie did not offer many new insights, for me that is. Nevertheless, I'm always interested in any serious attempt to get the negative aspects of Internet across. Yet it may shoot above the heads of the average end user, thus failing to reach the intended audience and probably also won't effectively work as an eye-opener.
An interesting approach is to revolve the story line around the so-called content moderators, to consistently return to one of them to delineate the respective sections of the documentary. Their jobs are not easy, for example 3% of their decisions are checked by their supervisor, and they can make only a few mistakes per month. On the other hand, they are paid very well relatively in terms of the usual salaries in that part of the world.
A continuous stream of violence and other hefty photos or video's, all bordering on what is tolerable, will have ultimate effects on these moderators, something that is rightly touched by the movie. Their jobs will have nasty side effects on their minds. Despite the short exposure times per photo (20 seconds??), the sheer volume and the high percentage of disturbing images is bound to leave long lasting effects. I assume some sort of PTSS, despite the moderator not being physically involved in the situations at hand. As a form of self-defense, he may maintain the position that what he sees is happening far away and not affecting him dangerously in a physical sense. Conversely, it may broaden their horizon and make them aware of things not common in their own country. For example, one of the moderators told she developed an interest in sex toys as a side effect of her job, being something completely new to her before.
There were a few relatively short scenes wherein general counsels of the most-involved companies (Google, Facebook and Twitter) were questioned in the US House/Senate. What we got to see seemed devoid of any real content, possibly merely added to demonstrate that these companies are closely watched by politicians. The trivial questions we saw put to them and their prepared responses, did not contribute to my feeling that they are really scrutinized by politicians. (Side note: In April 2018 Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance in the US House/Senate, in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica revelations. His questioning left a similar impression of triviality.). We cannot blame the politicians, as their inability is inevitable due to a lack of understanding how Internet works. However, in a way it was still relevant to add these sessions, if only to let the companies quote some numbers about people involved in the "cleaning" process. One of them mentioned even 10,000 employees, leaving unclear whether this also included contractors outside the US, like the ones in Manilla who were the main topic of this documentary.
The documentary provided also for some insight in the mistakes these moderators can make, for example because of little knowledge of (slang) vocabulary, missing cultural context, different norms in other parts of the world, and so on. Best example is the iconic picture that had an important influential role in showing the US people the truth about the Vietnam war, but it contained a frontal nude minor, hence had to be removed according to the written rules. My personal fear is that the deletion process tends to err on the side of caution and thus become too careful, thereby removing important documents about e.g. political conflicts (some examples were mentioned, but this topic got too little attention). Also pointed out were contemporary trends that some countries put pressure on the "platforms" to remove content that is not friendly towards the acting government, thereby suppressing the opposition and disconnecting them from their audience. These platforms prove to be lenient, just to prevent being blocked altogether which would render their business (e.g. advertising) impossible, with a negative influence on their profit/loss figures and their stakeholder value.
Though one of the reviewers complained that a beheading was shown on screen that took too long and was too painful to watch, I did not see his/her issue (maybe that scene was deleted afterwards). What they showed instead was an already beheaded body with the severed head on top, thereby explaining some details about the way this victim was beheaded, given the marks on the skin (apparently a kitchen knife was used, which is far from painless).
Nervous Translation (2017)
Saw this at the Rotterdam Film Festival 2018 (website: iffr.com/en). In two words: Completely incomprehensible. Though subsequent scenes were trying to tell sort of a story by themselves and thus were self-contained and somewhat watchable, the overarching logic completely went past me. If it were not that I had to attend the next movie in the same venue, I would have walked out prematurely. This movie was selected for the Hivos Tiger Award competition, the flag ship of the IFFR festival, hence arising expectations, yet I cannot imagine what was special or interesting about this movie.
It may be "cute" to make an 8-year old girl the main protagonist, and many will deem that an achievement in itself, but it does not work on me at all. I cannot avoid a comparison with the film Jimmie I saw yesterday, at the IFFR opening event, with a 4-year old boy as main character. In the latter case it was fully functional, carrying the core of the message how a 4-year-old experiences being dragged through a series of hostile environments (sea, borders, etc), hence it meant something there and fitting the context.
Back to the movie Nervous Translation: It is a proven fact that I'm not alone in this negative appreciation, as it received a lowly 170th place (out of 187) for the audience award.
Måste gitt (2017)
Seemingly impossible plot to turn into a good story, yet it worked out very well after all. Many unexpected turns of events. Ample humor as icing on the cake
Saw this at the Rotterdam Film Festival 2017 (website: https://iffr.com/en). After having read the synopsis on both the festival website as well as the distributors website (see: http://mastegitt.indiansummerfilm.se), I assumed the plot to be far-fetched and next to impossible to make a good story out of it. I was wrong with this a-priori assumption and I stand corrected.
The story develops very well, and unexpected turns of events are coming one by one. And as soon as you think that all possible surprises are exhausted, there is another one you did not see coming. Keeps your attention all the time, with a lot of humor as icing on the cake. Small but beautiful and useful roles of the father (seen a few times in flash-backs) and the mother (having an important effect at a pivotal moment), all of them having their logical place in the dramatic developments. Still more important are the fundamental laws of the street, where trust is of utmost importance and betrayal is severely punished.
Though not having won the VPRO Big Screen Award for which it was nominated by the Rotterdam film festival, it scored relatively high for the audience award, getting a deservedly 13th place (out of 172) with an average score of 4.322 (out of 5).
Un bacio (2016)
My minority viewpoint: disappointing contents, faulty storytelling, and emphasis on wrong scenes whereas other scenes seem neglected
Seen at the Movies That Matter film festival 2017 in The Hague. Disappointing, storytelling-wise as well as how the fantasies of main protagonists were visualized. The clearest example of the latter is Lorenzo's arrival at his new school. We see him drop his backpack and dance his way into the building with the other pupils applauding. Another example, not much better than the former, can be found in Lorenzo's dialogues with his dead brother.
Plot and developments overall are not involving, and as such not as moving as the film makers apparently had hoped for. The composition of the threesome is a bit artificial, seemingly only setup to expose and thus emphasize their differences, their sole binding factor being that all three were treated as outsiders by their peers.
The story around Blu does not receive the attention it deserves. It leaves unclear why she still hangs out with one of the guys who filmed her while she was sedated and seduced by him and his three friends, something that appears later to be a full-fledged gang-rape, less consented than Blu herself tells everyone repeatedly. The rest of the school has earmarked her as "easy to get", words like sl*t are graffiti-d on walls all over the area. The footage itself was not made public, yet the seduction was known all along by other means (gossip?? hearsay??). Near the end of the movie when Blu happens to see the whole footage and learns what really happened with her and the foursome "friends", it triggers her to take formal steps against them, together with her parents and eventually involving the police. How and why that developed is covered in only a few minutes, hence left us wondering.
When our three main protagonists are taking a swim at a deserted place outside, Lorenzo makes his move to Antonio and touches him, something that Antonio apparently does not take well and he leaves without saying anything, despite Blu calling after him to learn why he left. I cannot reveal further developments, in fear of spoilers. But in the end, also somewhat artificial, we see the very same scene where Lorenzo touches Antonio, with a totally different outcome, leaving us outguessing how it will develop. This is where the movie ends with showing the final credits, leaving us wondering again.
All in all, I feel a bit lost because of the generally positive reviews, by non-critics as well as critics. None of them even touches the objections I outlined above. In other words, this is a minority viewpoint. Most probably, my age (67) will be deemed the culprit.
Arranged marriage as per Pakistani traditions taking unexpected turns within a reasonably integrated family living in France
Seen at the Movies That Matter (what is in a name?) film festival in The Hague in March 2017. Perfectly written script with ample interesting and unexpected dramatic developments, keeping your attention for the whole duration. The synopsis on the festival website described the premise perfectly: "She has a good relationship with her Pakistani parents until they decide to marry her off to an unknown man. An unwanted pregnancy forces her to make a difficult decision". An extra interesting element is the lenience of her parents towards Western customs, allowing her to choose freely between three marriage candidates via Skype sessions. We even witnessed sort of a marriage ceremony over Skype. Very commendable but that is as far as it goes with adapting to our culture. Choosing a local boyfriend for marriage is not negotiable; however, he must be someone from Pakistan to follow-up on ancient traditions.
Upfront, this movie has all appearances of a traditional fairy-tale-like story, predictably starting with lots of tears, via heavy discussions and threatening to flee away from home, getting permission eventually to marry a local boy albeit reluctantly, thereby ending with everyone living happily ever after. Luckily, this is certainly NOT what this movie intends to show. Several unforeseen turns of events make this story very different, and it keeps your attention throughout. We see Zahira continuously torn between her family and her European environment. Her dilemmas are shown perfectly, and also her inclination to go along with her parents until a certain point. But it is still not enough as far as her parents are concerned.
One extra plot line comes from Zahira's sister, who has complied with ancient traditions, and repeatedly says that she is very happy about it, after all. Sister's quote: "Of course, this is unjust. But they are men, and we are women". A second, even more important plot line comes from her brother, who supports her in many ways and often acts as an intermediary or adviser, but he still insists on following her parent's wishes in the end. Apart from these two co-protagonists, a special mention for the parents is in order, as they act believable in their desire to uphold Pakistani's traditions. It may seem strange in our eyes, having lived in Europa already for many years and running their business amidst people of many cultures. Of all people, they should be aware that their tradition is not the only one.
All in all, although the plot line seems to go along the downtrodden path that the parents eventually give in, after lots of tears and threatening to leave home, this story however will head in a very different direction. The parents seem very flexible at first, yet maintain their persistence that ancient traditions are to be followed. Despite many unexpected turns of events, the movie is very compact overall by condensing all this in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Happy Hunting (2017)
The Horror genre label may be misplaced, so also a good watch for fans of other genres. Splendid casting and acting, in addition to original plot and unexpected developments
Seen at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 2017 (website: www.bifff.net). Starting with an original premise, it has even more original developments in its favor. Of course, the prey has slim chances to survive as per the initial setup of the hunting "game", yet it takes some time for the villagers to learn that the prey this time does not give in so easily as in previous years. In a series of scenes, switching from prey to prey, one falling after the other, yet this time with victims on both sides. Luckily for us viewers, it all went differently from previous years. Alcohol plays an important side role, primarily (of course) for main character Warren throughout the running time, but he also makes productive use of alcohol near the finale.
Entertaining throughout, apart from Warren's alcohol addiction and related cold turkey phenomena, and despite the unnecessary violence, the latter not shown in all gory detail yet suggested with not much left to outguess. For example, when someone's head is beaten with a baseball bat, the movement of the bat is clearly shown but not the ultimate effects on the receiving end. A concession towards content advisory ratings?? It won't help, as the whole movie is riddled with unmitigated violence all over. But it is not Horror in the old-fashioned and literal sense of the word, so no dark corners nor ancient buildings, no monsters nor ghosts, only ordinary (yet redneck) people operating in broad daylight (or some at night) with destructive intentions.
All in all, casting and acting make this movie stand out in the first place, in addition to the original plot with many unexpected developments.
Movie starts mysteriously promising. Yet after half an hour the film makers got overly obsessed with mixing reality and fantasy. They lost the story line, and lost us viewers
Seen at the IMAGINE film festival 2017 in Amsterdam. Despite technically nothing wrong with this movie, I fail to find anything remarkable in it, no logical dramatic development, and no plot whatsoever. I assume that the film makers were so obsessed with the basic concept of mixing fantasy and reality, that they forgot to add a comprehensible and edible story. The "help" given to Aloys for breaking out of his loneliness, went past me and I cannot imagine it offering any escape nor a solid path to achieve that goal.
All in all a pity, as the first half hour is mysteriously promising. After that, the jumps between reality, fantasy and the mix between what could be true and what seems fantasy, make you soon lose interest, particularly as it has no clear effect on the psychology of main characters and their future life. I don't think Aloys will improve his quality of living, and the life and motivation of the woman is unclear to such a degree that I cannot tell what her future looks like either.