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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 – playing in a free webinar on Zoom (donation suggested) Thursday, September 30th, 6.30 to 9pm GMT

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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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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Animation Features Movies

Violet Evergarden The Movie (Gekijouban Violet Evergarden)

Director – Taichi Ishidate – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 139m

***1/2

Violet Evergarden struggles to come to terms with the loss of the man she loved in the war… then discovers that he may still be alive – in cinemas for six days from Thursday, July 1st

Being a companion piece / coda to a long-running anime series, it’s possible this may leave the newcomer feeling somewhat adrift, at least for the first reel or so. Young girl Daisy’s grandmother Ann has just died. We learn very little about Ann beyond the fact that she used to regularly receive letters from her own mother beyond her mother’s death.

This was accomplished by Auto Memory Dolls, not as you might suppose some sort of animate toys but rather girl employees of the CH Postal Service who wrote letters for people close to death for their loved ones to receive and read afterwards. That business is on the verge of disappearing as the new technology of the telephone takes hold, wiping out the market for the Dolls’ services.

One such Auto Memory Doll was Violet Evergarden who had previously worked in the war where she was weaponised by Major Gilbert.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

A Love That Never Dies

Losing children

A Love That Never Dies
Directed by Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds
Certificate 12A, 75 Minutes
Released 18 May

Parenting is not the easiest job in the world at the best of times. But what if the unthinkable happens? What do you do if one of your children dies? How do you cope?

Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds found themselves in that position when their 22-year-old son Joshua died travelling around Vietnam in 2013. Someone stepped out in front of his motorbike and that was it. Struggling to come to terms with his death, they travelled not only to the site of the accident but also across the US in search of other bereaved parents, a journey in memory of their son. En route, they made a documentary film out of the experience.

In the footage and voice-over, the couple describe the different ways they struggled or coped. [Read more…]

To find screenings or organise a one-off local screening, please contact the filmmakers through their website alovethatneverdiesfilm.com.

Review originally published in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

Visit The Good Grief Project website. To set up a screening of the film near you, please contact the film-makers.

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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:

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Features Live Action Movies

Mouthpiece

Director – Patricia Rozema – 2018 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 91m

****1/2

Tall Cassie and short Cassie struggle to find the words for the eulogy for their mother’s funeral after she dies suddenly and unexpectedly – in virtual cinemas and on VoD from Friday, March 12th

Christmas. Tall Cassie (Amy Nostbakken) and short Cassie (Norah Sadova) get drunk in a bar with friends, make their way home on their (one) bicycle and collapse into bed, ignoring the flood of mobile messages which they don’t pick up ‘til the next, sunny morning. They answer. It’s bad news. Their mum has died. Could she pick the flowers? Danny is going to do the speech.

But Cassie is the writer in the family and she won’t have it. She’ll do the speech herself. Danny isn’t capable of doing it. Although she doesn’t yet know what to say. And the funeral is in 48 hours.

Welcome to the world of sudden parental bereavement where things you know to be solid and true fold and crumple before your eyes. Where you are flooded with random memories as you try to make sense of it all. There are social rituals and structures supposedly to help you deal with this – ordering the flowers, choosing suitable clothes to wear, picking out the coffin, writing a eulogy for the deceased, attending a funeral service.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Journey To The Shore (Kishibe no tabi, 岸辺の旅)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2015 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 127m

****

Currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

Review published in All The Anime.

Loner Mizuki (Fukatsu Eri) is alone one evening when her husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano) appears out of a dark corner into the light as if through a door. There doesn’t seem to be anything odd about this even though as she says, “it’s been three years”. “I’m dead,” he affirms. “In the sea off Toyama. My body’s been eaten by crabs. You wouldn’t find it even if you searched.”

Before departing, the dead come to terms with their death and help those close to them do the same.

This quiet, subtle, underplayed affair works as a gentle romance… Read the rest

Currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

Review published in All The Anime.

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Director – Kirsten Johnson – 2020 – US – 89m

*****

The director imagines the death of her dad in a film which celebrates both the man himself and the art of cinema – on Netflix worldwide from Friday, October 2nd

I was alerted to this movie both because not only was Johnson’s prior Cameraperson (2016) excellent but also the subject matter of this new film looked promising. Johnson spent three decades as the cameraperson on numerous documentaries (among them Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore, 2004 and Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, 2014) before making her previous feature out of interesting bits and pieces of footage she had lying around. Her new film is highly personal and almost fits into the home movies or personal diary school of film making – lent an inevitable, additional gravitas given Johnson’s prior artistic and technical career.

C. Richard Johnson (b. 1932 – ) is Kirsten Johnson’s dad. One day, like all of us, he is going to die. So his daughter decided that while he was still alive she would make a film about his dying, filming his possible deaths and staging his funeral service ahead of time.

There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of this idea.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Monsoon

Director – Hong Khaou – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m

****1/2

A man who has lived in England for 30 years returns to Saigon and Hanoi to discover the Vietnam his late parents left behindin cinemas and on Vimeo, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon and elsewhere from Friday, September 25th

Saigon, present-day Vietnam, when bicycles and motorbikes swarm along the roads like purposeful, scurrying ants. Kit (Henry Golding) returns there in an attempt to discover the Saigon and Hanoi of his childhood before his now deceased parents left for England 30 years ago. He checks into the posh area of town, putting the wooden box containing his mother’s ashes on a bare shelf in his sparsely furnished, luxury apartment.

High tech housing blocks give way to the less affluent and more traditional blocks where most urban Vietnamese live. Kit meets with Lee (David Tran), with whom he remembers playing as a child and to whose family Kit’s mother loaned a considerable sum of money to help them start a small business, now a small mobile phone shop. Lee wants to repay the loan to Kit.

Kit goes on an English language tour in an attempt to track down some of the places from his childhood, but so many locations have changed or disappeared.… Read the rest