There is a point in Steven Morris’ documentary Vann “Pianoman” Walls: The Spirit Of R&B when the tone noticeably changes. Prior to this moment the film has primarily focussed on the the quiet blues man of the title but with a distinct change in mood Morris strays into altogether different territory and it this unexpected turn …
Author John Townsend
With many documentary film-makers, and Michael Moore is perhaps the greatest exponent, the point of their film is to convey their own theories. Whether these are conspiracy based or simply an expressed opinion is always debatable but ultimately the director is taking a certain point of view and asking the audience to go with him. With The Tanase Affair…
It is an extremely easy thing for a filmmaker to try just that little bit too hard. Whether it is a need to express or reiterate their message or the irresistible temptation to include more exposition or action than is required, it is a common failing that requires discipline to overcome. Sadly, with her new film Selfie, co-writer and director Cristina Iacob has fallen into these…
There are two ways of looking at Danic Champoux’s innovative documentary Self(less) Portrait. On the one hand it is a unique, insightful window into the human soul and all its most secret thoughts and darkest of dreams. On the other hand it is an exploitative and voyeuristic account of the confessions of troubled and vulnerable people who are probably in need of counselling with greater validity than of a simple camera. It is unarguable that this film treads a fine line in teasing both sides of this delicate balance.
Self(less) Portrait operates within a simple, functional premise. From a virtually fixed camera position fifty people drawn from every facet of society and each exhibiting unique and interesting qualities are encouraged to bare their souls. Their stories vary from simple tales of affection to disturbing accounts of abuse and self loathing resulting in suicide attempts and depression. The one connecting and slightly tragically hopeful connection between them all is love, or at least each person’s perception of this elusive emotion. Every person documented has either a personal and intimate story of love or are clearly giving the impression they are in search of or in desperate need of it. For some this is as simple as black and white; when you fall in love, well, you fall in love. Others have slightly more convoluted versions to tell but each relates back to this constant in some way.
Absences from acclaimed French-Canadian filmmaker Carole Laganiere is a melancholy tale chronicling four unconnected individuals as they each reach a crucial point in their lives, and who have each been affected by an absent parent or sibling. Nathalie is searching for a sister who has been missing for several years; Ines is a Croatian immigrant travelling home to meet the mother who abandoned her as a small child. For Laganiere though, hers is rather poignant in that she is coming to terms with the imminent absence of a mother who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and who struggles daily to maintain a hold on reality.
The difficulty with this film is in its personal connection with the audience. How much the subject matter and the tragic tales within affect you as a viewer will more than likely be directly related to your own life experiences and whether you have encountered any of the issues raised. The stories are distinctly personal and obviously hugely relevant to the people involved but they may perhaps not resonate with a general audience. There are moments of genuine emotion but these are few and far between and you find yourself asking more questions than there are answers provided. When the daughter finally meets the mother who left her, her father and her brother for another man without a word of goodbye there is little in the way of recriminations. This comes across as unrealistic, incredibly forgiving or just edited.
The Hand That Feeds is a film documenting the struggle of twelve employees as they take on the powerful investors who own a well known New York restaurant franchise over poor working conditions and unfair wages. Or at least that’s what this documentary is supposed to be about. In reality this film is about whatever the audience’s pre-ordained prejudices and opinions are and how strongly they feel about them.
It is relatively rare for a film not of the horror genre to create an atmosphere so unsettling and uncomfortable as to remain with you long after viewing. Sexy Beast, the first feature from advertising and music video maestro Jonathan Glazer, is for the most part an excellent character drama based around a bank job, but at times it is as intense a viewing experience as you will have from any film.
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.
In 2003 after the invasion of Iraq United States-led forces, in conjunction with the new government began to use Abu Ghraib prison to house detainees. In early 2004 reports and photographs began to emerge showing the systematic and horrific abuse of prisoners by military police personnel. In the following years eleven soldiers were convicted by courts-martial and received prison sentences following dishonourable discharge. Taking inspiration from these events Boys Of Abu Ghraib follows one squad’s tour of duty at this infamous location and raises questions for which there are possibly no answers.
On many levels The Raid: Redemption shouldn’t work. Firstly it’s a film set entirely in Indonesia that is written and directed by a Welshman. Secondly, said director Gareth Evans and the star of the film, Iko Uwais, are virtual unknowns. Thirdly there is virtually no plot to speak of and finally much of what you see is borrowed in part from many other films from Die Hard to The Wild Bunch via any martial arts film you care to mention. The thing is it does work…it works almost perfectly.