Petr Lom and Corinne van Egeraat’s first film collaboration takes place in post-2011 revolution Egypt. Four female subjects constitute a ‘cinematic poem’ of impressions, images, and identities, with music by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Contrary to the title’s implication, the women are not named Ana; in Arabic, ‘Ana ana’ actually means ‘I am me.’ Accordingly, each of the women shares her thoughts about what it is like to be a woman in Egypt, her aspirations and fears, through footage shot on her own. The film grew out of an autobiographical video workshop run by van Egeraat in Cairo and transformed into a feature documentary by van Egeraat and Lom, based on several of the workshop’s participants. Van Egeraat and Lom closely mentored the four women whose footage constitutes the documentary.
The 80’s was a time of many great films and an era in which the action movie was king. Stallone and Schwarzenegger reigned and smaller stars like Michael Dudikoff and Cynthia Rothrock carved out their own genre niches. John Stockwell is clearly a huge fan of that period as his new film In The Blood is without doubt an homage, albeit a relatively poor one.
Ava (Gina Carano) is a woman with a violent past. This we know as her life with a brutal yet strangely nurturing father is shown through intermittent flashbacks. Now though she has put all of that darkness behind her and is marrying Derek (Cam Gigandet) despite his wealthy family being openly suspicious of her intentions. Ignoring that interference they set off on honeymoon to an apparently idyllic Caribbean island where Derek’s family have a beach house. Soon after arriving though they are involved in a scuffle in a nightclub and the next day Derek disappears after an apparent accident on a zip line. Ava must then search for her new husband alone as only she believes he’s still alive.
Deep inside of Harvard University, within a building called the W.E.B Du Bois institute, there is an experiment underway to create a whole new academic discipline. Inside the building is the HipHop Archive and Research Institute, a project that is trying to “encourage the pursuit of knowledge, art, culture and responsible leadership through HipHop.”
“Fuck you” make for fitting first words in a film as fundamentally angry—in subject, if not sensibility—as Apollonian Story. They’re directed at the rock hewn by sexagenarian Nissim Kahlon, who continues to carve the house he first cut in the cliffs along Israel’s northern coastline decades priot. It’s the kind of film to benefit from a blurb read in advance; the unwitting observer’s eyes will be slowly drawn to the ornate detail of every inch, the beautiful mosaics on which the movie never deigns to linger. That’s primarily, perhaps, because it’s more concerned with Nissim’s residence as a home than a house; if it’s a unique architecture that drew directors Ilan Moscovitch and Dan Bronfeld to make this film, it’s the human structure they found within it that kept them there.
It’s as reductive as it is, perhaps perplexingly, requisite to consider a varied slate of cinema through a handful of shared ideals; festival coverage is, by nature, tailored toward such snapshot l’état du cinema summation. There’s a great deal more to the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, celebrating its seventeenth edition in North Carolina this week, than can really be done justice by any fleeting overlook; if there’s but one thing this meek missive can attest, it’s that nothing speaks so well for these films as themselves. Across an offbeat array of concerns, four of the fest’s short film selections prove with diversity and distinction that the screen is less a barrier between us and those we watch than a window into their lives, and through them our own.
Remember the 1990’s? Specifically the time when most frizzy-haired women and heavily-mustached men obsessed over a fame-crazed blonde named Pamela Smart? You know, she became famous for hiring three hormonally-challenged high school boys to kill her husband? They made a TV movie-of-the-week starring Helen Hunt and Gus Van Sant adapted the novel closely based Smart’s actions into To Die For starring Nicole Kidman. Remember any of that? Don’t feel bad if you don’t; neither did I. Fortunately, the fine folks over at HBO Films gave us a heck of a reminder with Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart. Once the documentary starts, in a nifty way I might add, the whole experience lives up to its name. The beginning goes into the facts we do know: Smart’s husband was murdered, she played the victim while engrossing every possible camera, then the boys got caught but pinned the whole thing on her saying it was her idea and she deluded them with sex, she was found guilty, oh and yes it was the first trial that was actually televised. Reality TV at its worst. Once we get past the common knowledge though, director Jeremiah Zagar opens up the floodgates and brings in Pamela Smart herself, to shine some light. There were aspects about the trial, and the real-life events, that were either looked over or purposefully ignored. Zagar does a sturdy job of pacing these events out, and creates this awe of dread that’s quite spectacular. He shapes this up into a viewing that’s guaranteed to keep you enthralled from point A to point Smart.
Someone might want to alert Billy Dee Williams because I’m not sure if he was aware that he was in Pascal Atuma’s The Trace, nor that he received top billing for his satisfactory delivery of five lines. If he is aware that he was in the film he might want to give it a viewing and reconsider his association with the project that was executed with such ineptitude that it inflicted physical pain just to watch. I’m still not sure what the film was aspiring to accomplish, but with its non sequitur blacksploitation music cues and cutaway scenes of evil rich white guys manipulating the confusion from the comfort of their mansion lairs combined with its ham-fisted attempts at witty dialogue, one gets the impression that this is a holdover from the mid 90s when Pulp Fiction knock-offs ruled the independent film landscape.
Man and nature. Earth and sea. Life and death. Father and mother. The Desert Fish trades in these grand mythical dichotomies. The film exists in the realm of the parable, its story divorced from reality and trading instead in deeper, more mythical universal truths. The goal here is much more ambitious than telling one story of a young boy’s quest. The aim here is to tell a story of humanity at a particular moment in time.
The film follows Ahmad (Iman Afshar), a young boy living in the desert with his well-worker father Captain Toufan (Mohsen Hosseini). The Captain has sunk into despair since the loss of his wife, Mahi Khatoon, who was taken by the sea. Toufan blames himself and his increasing greed for his wife’s death; he sees himself as having fallen out of favor with the sea, and his wife’s disappearance beneath the depths as his punishment. Ahmad begins seeing visions of his mother, who appears to him in his dreams as a mermaid. Ahmad begs Toufan to return to the sea with him, where he is sure Mahi Khatoon can still be found. But when Toufan falls ill, Ahmad decides to go himself, aiming to find his mother and help his father regain his health in one fell swoop.
In times of rough circumstances, people find of way to get through while trying to get by. Then there are amazing cases like Abigail Evans. Abigail is a teenager who lives with epiderolysis bullosa (EB), a life-threatening disease that causes the skin to be so fragile, resulting in painful blisters. When we first meet Abigail, she seems like a regular 18 year old: she’s bubbly, willful, and wants to experience life to fullest. She sells merchandise for her dad’s band in bars and goes home to her attentive mother. Although her parents are separated they’re a team for her and her main support. This is the main theme of the film. Abigail has been surrounded by her parents and at home most of her life, but she’s also fiercely independent.
Opposites attract in Jason Priestley’s new film, Cas & Dylan. Cas (Richard Dreyfuss) and Dylan (Tatiana Maslany) form an unlikely friendship that delivers a terrific experience. Cas is a lonely, quiet, aging doctor diagnosed with a brain tumor and Dylan is an aspiring writer with a vibrant personality. The two meet while Dylan is studying terminally ill patients at Cas’s hospital. Against the better judgment of his peers, Cas decides to drive to the west coast, a welcome change from his home in Winnipeg. Dylan convinces Cas to allow her to tag along and the two of them bump heads, exchange laughs and go through some of the the rawest human emotions.