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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad: Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Old

Director – M. Night Shyamalan – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

A family is trapped on an idyllic beach where people age rapidly – out in cinemas on Friday, July 21st

This was adapted from the graphic novel Sandcastle written by Pierre Oscar Lévy and illustrated by Frederik Peeters which clearly has caught the imagination of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, 1999; Unbreakable, 2000; Glass, 2019).

Guy and Prisca Capa (Gael García Bernal from Rosewater, Jon Stewart, 2017; No, Pablo Larrain, 2012 and Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017) and their kids Maddox, 11 (Alexa Swinton) and Trent, 6 (Nolan River) are driven to their tropical holiday resort which Prisca can’t believe she found on the internet. Not that they are so lucky in their personal lives: she has been diagnosed with cancer and the couple have yet to tell their children of their impending divorce.

As they ponder what to do on their first day, the hotel offers them a chance to spend it at an exclusive beach alongside other select guests. These turn out to include surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell from The Father, Florian Zeller, 2020) and his family – mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), trophy wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and Kara, 6 (Kylie Begley) – as well as married couple Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Beyond The Mask

Directors – Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds – 2021 – UK – 60m

****

People talk about their experiences of bereavement in the light of the COVID-19 lockdown – in cinemas and online at the Stroud Film Festival Sunday, July 4th, 7.00 to 9.30pm

In March 2020, the unthinkable happened as the world entered a global pandemic. In the ensuing year or so many people lost their lives while many more felt and indeed still feel a sense of loss for the ’normal’ life that existed beforehand. Directors Harris and Edmonds are no strangers to bereavement having lost their son unexpectedly at age 22 while he was travelling abroad in 2013 and part of their process of dealing with it was to make the excellent documentary A Love That Never Dies (Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds, 2018) in which bereaved parents talk about their different experiences of losing children.

Not everyone has suffered the misfortune of losing a child, but if you’re reading this you will invariably have lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, at least thus far. This latter condition is universal. So, what does the experience of bereavement have to say to our current situation of the pandemic – or, for that matter, what does our current situation of the pandemic have to say to our experience of bereavement?… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Apples (Mila, Μηλα)

Where are we now?

Apples
Directed by Christos Nikou
Certificate 12a, 91 minutes
Greece
Released 07 May on Curzon Home Cinema,
17th May in cinemas

A film whose time has unexpectedly come. People are suddenly losing their memories in a pandemic. A man (Aris Servetalis) nods off on a bus and, when he comes to, can’t remember where he was going, where he came from, or even his name and address. The amnesia is permanent and no one has been known to recover. As in our real life pandemic, the health service is set up to deal with the effects of all this.

The man’s pockets are checked for ID but none found. He is given a number: 18482. In hospital, he chats to the man in the next bed until one day the man has gone – having been identified and claimed by his family. Inevitably, some people remain unclaimed, as is the case for our man… [read more]

Full review in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

76 Days

Directors – Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous – 2020 – China, US – Cert. 12– 93m

***1/2

A US documentary edited out of footage shot on the Wuhan Covid-19 hospital frontline by two Chinese reporters allowed access – on VoD from Friday, January 22nd

Documentary film making is a curious medium – one might even say genre – and this is a curious piece of work. On the level subject matter, it hits paydirt. The city of Wuhan, China has a population of 11 million. When it went into lockdown on January 23rd, 2020 as the authorities attempted to curtail the spread of Covid-19, who knew a global pandemic was coming? Few if any in the West and perhaps no-one in China either.

Be that as it may, two journalists, Chen and one who has kept his / her name off from the film, started shooting what was happening in four hospitals in that city, a lockdown which continued for the eponymous 76 days until the local outbreak was considered safely under control. Given what happened later, interest in the footage they shot and the film subsequently made is now far greater than they may have initially imagined.

Documentary film maker Wu was appalled by China’s initial cover-up of what was happening in Wuhan and sought out journalists who’d had access to events and documented them on camera with a view to exchanging information and making a film himself about the pandemic situation in the US, a project eventually cancelled.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Totally Under Control

Directors – Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger – 2020 – US – Cert. 12 – 123m

***1/2

Documentary looks at the Trump administration’s handling of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd and on iTunes, Amazon, Google, BFI Player, Curzon, Sky, Rakuten, Virgin. On BBC iPlayer from Sunday, November 1st.

This is a documentary shot, as it were, on the hoof. It constitutes a record of near-contemporary events as they unfolded in the recent past, in two of three very specific geographic locations. Two or three because the subject is the early months of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic in the origin of which the third country, China, specifically the city of Wuhan, played the major part. But this film isn’t really about China beyond that country’s being the source of the infection.

Nor is it really about the second country, South Korea, here quite reasonably held up to the audience as a paragon of virtue in its handling of the crisis. The film is really about the first country, the US, during this period, which had a playbook ready and waiting should such a crisis come to pass.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

The Big Snit

Director – Richard Condie – 1985 – Canada – 10 mins

*****

Both sweet and funny. The first five minutes look like exactly where we are now under the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s basically the story of an old married couple who not only love each other dearly but also get on one another’s nerves. He looks at her Scrabble tiles while she’s out of the room. He is obsessed with sawing and tunes in to the TV Show, ‘Sawing For Teens’. She, meanwhile, compulsively removes her eyes from her face and shakes them.

Five minutes in, neither of them are watching when an emergency announcement interrupts regular TV programming. If the first five minutes are about a couple isolated in their home, the second five are an end of the world scenario with nuclear missiles flying through the sky and people panicking outside in the streets. Our central couple are, however, blissfully unaware of this, caught up as they are in their own domestic squabble. Richard Condie’s drawings, colour and overall visual sense are an absolute delight and the film is hilarious. Ten minutes well spent.

Nominated for Best Animated Short at the 1985 (58th) Oscars.

Free to watch on the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) channel.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Perfect Sense

Director – David Mackenzie – 2011 – UK – Cert. 15 – 92m

*****

Currently available to stream in the UK on Amazon Prime.

This love story from 2011 is set in a pandemic and captures something of the emotions we’re now feeling in the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

Glasgow, Scotland. Michael (Ewan McGregor) is a chef. He likes to sleep alone, so if he takes a woman to bed, he’ll turf her out afterwards so he can get his space. That changes when he meets Susan (Eva Green), who then does the same thing to him. And yet, there’s something between them. They’re drawn to one another. A relationship ensues.

Which might sound like just another boy meets girl movie, but Perfect Sense is different. Behind the foreground of walking along river banks and sleeping together lies a very different backdrop. Susan is an epidemiologist at a local hospital. A man has lost his sense of smell and is kept in isolation. There are other cases all over the country. Suddenly, people are being overwhelmed with grief and losing their sense of smell. Some time later, they eat ravenously then lose their sense of taste. Later still, they go berserk then lose their sense of sight.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Live Action Movies Shorts

La Jetée

Director – Chris Marker – 1962 – France – Cert. PG – 28m

*****

This movie has been resonating around my head these last weeks of the COVID-19 crisis as pertinent to where we are at present.

La Jetée / The Pier remains unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, black and white still images with voice over (which means that the English language dub, excerpted below, works just as well as the French language original). Little bits of it are really tough to watch in our current situation. For me, watching it again helps me deal with where we are right now. It’s about grief, about a world we’ve lost, to which we can never go back. It’s a film that regularly and rightly crops up on critics’ lists of the best films ever made. At the time of writing this, the film reads differently from the way it did three months previously. Not for everyone at the present time, but if you’re up for it, highly recommended.

Watch the opening minute below: