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Features Live Action Movies

Fez Summer ’55
(” 55″ خمسة وخمسين)

Director – Abdelhai Laraki – 2023 – Morocco – Cert. none – 114m

****

An 11-year-old boy navigates the rooftops of a Moroccan city while insurgents plot the overthrow of French colonialists in private courtyards and sometimes confront the occupying police in the streets – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The old medina of Moroccan city Fez, a lattice of narrow streets where there is room for no more than pedestrian traffic. Or, to 11-year-old boy Kamal (Ayman Driwi), a network of rooftops and walkways allowing him to go anywhere. His freedom on the top of the city stands in sharp contrast to the country’s political reality: occupied by France, with their police patrolling the streets. The locals either keep their heads down or agitate for the return of their exiled ruler, Sultan Mohammed V.

The story is very much told from Kamal’s point of view. He is at once possessed of a child’s enthusiasm for life and from his rooftop vantage point able to see things unseen by most of the narrative’s adults most of the time. Yet, he is hampered by his immaturity and lack of understanding of what’s really going on.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Your Mother’s Son
(Anak Ka Ng Ina Mo)

Director – Jun Robles Lana – 2023 – Philippines – Cert. none – 100m

****

An intense cocktail of two uneasy, polyamorous relationships erupts into jealousy, betrayal and violence – sexually explicit political allegory of nepotism in Filipino politics plays in the spirit of the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

A candidate’s electoral vans belts out loud-hailer exhortations to secure votes in an upcoming election, but no-one in the poor rural locality through which they pass pays any attention. Everyone is struggling to make ends meet. Middle-aged Sarah (Sue Prado) puts all her efforts into both running a laundry business, providing ad hoc employment for much younger Amy (Elora Españo) who lives nearby, and teaching students online. Sarah’s son Emman (Kokoy De Santos) has just lost his job at a restaurant because it closed down. He doesn’t seem to share her work ethic, and would rather lounge around in bed all day than actually have to do anything of an employed nature.

Or, at least, that’s how things appear outwardly.

When his mother finally prises Emman from his bed so that he can go out looking for work – which might include a contact she has who may, possibly, be able to help him – he instead hangs out at the house of Amy who, like his mother, has a strong work ethic, to have sex with her at every opportunity, and do drugs.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Bobi Wine:
The People’s President

Directors – Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 121m

*****

Aided by his wife Barbie, Uganda’s opposition leader, the musician Bobi Wine, takes on the country’s corrupt dictator of 35 years President Museveni, in the run up to the 2021 election – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 1st

At the start of this remarkable documentary about Uganda, a small group of people engage in impromptu Christian prayer in a car before going about their business. While few more outward religious trappings are shown, the subject is a man possessed by a desire for justice for ordinary citizens, especially the underprivileged and voiceless, facing a corrupt regime determined to stay in power by any means possible, with the army and police under their control.

Successful pop singer and musician Bobi Wine… [Read the rest at Reform magazine]

Bobi Wine: The People’s President is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, September 1st.

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Monty Python’s
Life Of Brian

Director – Terry Jones – 1979 – UK – Cert. 12a – 93m

****

An absurdist comedy about of Brian, Jesus Christ’s next-door neighbour, who falls in with left-wing activists, develops a religious following and ends up crucified – back out in UK cinemas in Glorious Standard Definition on Friday, April 7th

Like The Last Temptation Of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988), a Biblical epic made by a New Yorker who tries to bring first century Palestine to life on the screen by filling it with actors who speak as if they’re on the streets he knows, so too Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, made by the Monty Python team, nurtured first by Oxbridge student drama society culture then by British radio and television, attempts a comic equivalent of the Christian Gospel narrative by filling it with characters possessing such quintessentially English names as Brian and Reg and sporting English accents. For the Pythons and their audience, this strategy works because of its familiarity from Britain’s hugely popular Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show, made for the BBC. It’s what everyone attending the film in the UK expected.

The Monty Python team (Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle & Michael Palin) all wrote the film between them and take on multiple acting roles, with Jones also directing, animator Gilliam also taking on production design, and Chapman, who had studied medicine, also taking on the role of set medic.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

No Bears
(Khers Nist,
خرس نیست)

Director – Jafar Panahi – 2022 – Iran – Cert. 12a – 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 – available on the following rental streaming services from Monday, March 27th: Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies, YouTube (all £3.49), Apple TV (£4.49), BFI Player (£4.50), and Curzon (£4.99)

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

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s
Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

No Bears
(Khers Nist,
خرس نیست)

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