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Features Live Action Movies

No Bears (Khers Nist)

Director – Jafar Panahi – 2022 – Iran – Cert. – 106m

*****

An Iranian film director banned from leaving his country rents a house close to the border with Turkey, in which country he is remotely directing a film – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 11th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022

In a busy, metropolitian street somewhere in Iran, woman restaurateur Zara (Mina Kavani) is greeted by her partner Bakhtiar (Bakhtiar Panjei), who has secured a fake passport for her. She has only three days to use it before the passport, stolen from a tourist, is stopped. But she doesn’t want to travel outside the country without him: he is the only thing that makes her life bearable.

Then we realise we are watching a movie shoot not in Iran but in neighbouring Turkey. The director is Jafar Panahi (playing himself) and he is not allowed out of Iran, so he is renting a room in an Iranian village not far from the Turkish border and watching the shoot remotely via his computer. He’s been assured that the local internet reception is good, but it isn’t and keeps cutting out, making his job all but impossible, although his first assistant director, cast and crew are doing a good job of getting the shots in the can even when they don’t hear from him.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

No Bears (Khers Nist)

A repressive Islamist regime

No Bears
Directed by Jafar Panahi
Certificate 12a, 106 minutes
Released 11 November

The Iranian director Jafar Panahi (whose son Panar made the excellent road movie Hit the Road) has been in trouble with the country’s repressive Islamist regime for some time and earlier this year was given six years in prison. The campaign to #freejafarpanahi is worth our support, and this release is timely considering what is happening in Iran now.

In No Bears, Jafar plays a fictionalised version of himself, a film director not allowed to leave Iran… [read the full review at Reform magazine]

Read my alternative, longer review here.

No Bears is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, November 11th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022.

#freejafarpanahi

Trailer:

LFF 2022 Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

House Of Hummingbird (Beol-Sae, 벌새)

Director – Kim Bora – 2018 – South Korea – 138m

***1/2

A teenage girl in Seoul, Korea, 1994, comes to terms with life on a number of levels – personal, family, social, political – plays in Korean Film Nights (KFN) Summer Nights at the Korean Cultural Centre (KCCUK) on Saturday, June 11th

Seoul, South Korea, 1994. Less than ten years since South Korea has become a democracy. The year of the Winter Olympics, the death of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung and the Seongsu Bridge collapse. The latter incident will leave its mark on some characters here.

Teenager Eun-hee’s mum and dad (Jung In-gi and Lee Seung-yeon) run a small food store, sourcing “only the finest ingredients”. On occasion, they deliver to other suppliers and the whole family is roped in to make sure the orders are prepped and sent out on time. They are fiercely proud parents who want only the best for their kids. The best, as they understand it, is doing well in the school and university system, presumably with the idea of getting a well-paid job afterwards.

This message is reinforced by her school. A male teacher has the girls chant, “I will go to / Seoul National University / instead of karaoke”.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Detention (Fanxiao, 返校)

Director – John Hsu – 2019 – Taiwan – 12A – 103m

****

Two Taiwanese students find themselves trapped in their school overnight under that country’s White Terror regime in 1962 – on Shudder (US, Canada) from Monday, February 21st

This is a real oddity: an adaptation of a video game set in a specific historic period of political turmoil. That period is Taiwan’s White Terror (1949-87) under which, among other things, numerous books were banned by the ruling Kuomintang party on the grounds of promoting left-wing or Communist ideas. Merely reading some of these books could provide grounds for execution.

Like the video game, the film is set in the Greenwood High School. It’s 1962 and boy and girl students Fang Ray-shin (Gingle Wang) and Wei Chong-ting (Tseng Jing-Hua) find themselves trapped overnight in the school building after flood waters destroy the access road to the school. What follows isn’t particularly linear in terms of its narrative as school corridors, walkways, rooms and halls are visited by various supernatural beings and become scenes of terror, torture and execution.

The elliptical and sometimes repetitive nature of the storytelling and its component images mean that the film isn’t always that easy to follow, at least not to Western audiences familiar with mainstream Hollywood narrative.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Man Standing Next (Namsanui Bujangdeul, 남산의 부장들)

Director – Woo Min-ho – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 113m

****

The head of the Korean CIA becomes increasingly sidelined by President Park and decides to assassinate him – in Virtual Cinemas including Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, 25th June and on Digital Download from Monday, July 5th

Adapted from a novel, part historical truth, part guesswork and invented fiction, this is the story of Kim Gyu-Peong (Lee Byung-hun from The Fortress, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2017; The Age Of Shadows, 2016; I Saw The Devil, 2010; The Good, The Bad And The Weird, 2008; A Bittersweet Life, 2005, all by Kim Jee-woon, and Joint Security Area, Park Chan-wook, 2000), the last director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) under President Park Chung-hee ( Lee Sung-min from The Good, The Bad And The Weird, 2008) who was in power in South Korea between leading a coup and winning the subsequent elections in 1963 and his assassination by Kim in 1979. Confusingly, a second character bears the same surname as the President, Kim’s predecessor at the KCIA Park Yong-gak (Kwak Do-won from The Wailing, Na Hng-jin, 2016).

It starts off in 1979 with Kim entering the presidential safe house and vowing to the gate security detail that the president “dies tonight”.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Judas And The Black Messiah

Director – Shaka King – 2021 – US – Cert. 12 – 126m

****1/2

The FBI recruit a small-time thief to infiltrate the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers and report on rising political leader and activist Fred Hampton – two-time Oscar winner is on digital from Monday, April 26th

This cleverly and skilfully plays out both as a terrific thriller about a smart, small time crook recruited by the FBI as an undercover agent and as a chance to take a fresh look at a piece of US social history that has been presented in an unfavourable light by its largely state-sympathetic chroniclers. That piece of history is the Black Panther Party (BPP), long presented as violent insurgents intention upsetting the US status quo. However in the #BlackLivesMatter era when the police in the US have all too often shown themselves in sync with ideas of white entitlement, maybe it’s time to look at the BPP again.

I’m not sure you can totally exonerate the BPP – they did, after all, take up arms against the police although you might argue much of that’s in self-defence – but at the same time there seems to have been a lot in the organisation that’s good: social programmes and trying to help blacks and the social underclass stand on their own two feet in a system rigged against them.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Dissident

Spiritual wickedness

The Dissident
Directed by Bryan Fogel
Certificate 12 (Amazon advisory), 119 minutes
Released on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Ireland from April 1st 2021

On 2 October 2018, the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a marriage licence. He never came out. It later transpired that Khashoggi had been murdered on the premises by Saudi officials and his body dismembered, taken away and disposed of.

This fast-paced and frankly mind-boggling documentary examines a good deal more than the murder…[read more]

Full review in Reform magazine.

See my alternate, longer review on this site.

Trailer:

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Dissident

Director – Bryan Fogel – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

An investigation into the state-sanctioned killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in 2018 – on Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st

If you had to use a single phrase to describe this documentary, it would be “jaw-dropping”. The central subject here is the disappearance of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi who on October 2nd 2018 entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a document and was never seen again.

There are a number of narrative strands: the career of a Saudi exile Omar Abdulaziz Alzahrani in Montreal, Canada who Khashoggi befriended, a brief history of the Saudi regime focusing in particular on the last decade, Khashoggi’s ongoing romance with young Turkish political researcher Hadice Cengiz who he planned to marry and the story of what actually went on inside the consulate recounted by the Turkish prosecutor Irfan Fidan.

Jamal Khashoggi and Hatice Cengiz

It’s jaw-dropping because it delivers one devastating revelation after another. The idea of entering your country’s consulate to collect a document and not leaving alive is horrific enough, but there are numerous other, equally chilling disclosures here.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

White Riot

Director – Rubika Shah – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 80m

***1/2

Documentary charts the rise of the UK’s Rock Against Racism movement of the late 1970s and features among others The Clash, Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson – in cinemas and on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th

Curiously prescient for our own time, the late nineteen seventies saw the rise of the far right movement in Britain characterised by the National Front and its desire to send all non-white British residents “back where they came from”. One of the other things that happened at that time in the UK was in the seemingly unrelated area of music: punk rock. Something clicked for photographer Red Saunders when the NME dispatched him to shoot Punk Night at London’s ICA venue. He saw an immediacy and an energy to what was going on, with bands the The Clash singing about social issues such as unemployment.

Fuelled by some ill-advised, vaguely Teutonic sentiments from David Bowie and, more specifically, a gig where guitarist Eric Clapton encouraged people to go and vote for racist MP Enoch Powell and everything he represented, Saunders set up the Rock Against Racism (RAR) movement to bring together youth from the UK’s various different ethnic backgrounds.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Coup 53

Director – Taghi Amirani – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 120m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 21st

Virtual premiere Wednesday August 19th, Q&A Thursday August 20th. Film available to view at https://coup53.com/

A documentary begun in 2009 interviewing many people who died before the film’s completion some ten years later, this covers the 1953 coup in Iran backed by President Eisenhower in the US and Prime Minister Churchill in the UK which replaced Iran’s democratically elected, left-wing Prime Minister Mossadegh with the Shah. The UK has never officially acknowledged its role in this coup.

Amirani’s researches lead him to a basement of documents held by Mossadech’s grandson in Paris comprising archive material from the Granada TV 1985 End Of Empire documentary series, for which he is gets access to the rushes from the BFI. Iran was included because it had been controlled by British interests for so long (because of its oil reserves). Amirani’s editor, helping pull all this together, is the legendary Walter Murch (Gimme Shelter / 1970, The Conversation / 1974, Apocalypse Now / 1979, The English Patient / 1996).

The name which keeps coming up in Amirani’s research is that of Norman Darbyshire who reportedly asked for his interview footage to be removed from the film following a pre-transmission screening at the BBC.… Read the rest