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December 5, 2007      

Some thoughts on Film Festivals 2007:




              The obvious films will appropriately receive much publicity:  RENDITION, brilliantly-made, politically nuanced and relevant, ATONEMENT, far better than some of the reviews, includes one of the best depictions of World War Two ever seen on film, beautiful and a reflection of the spirit and political philosophy of Ian McEwen in the novel.    The following list is list of eight films one may have to keep one’s eyes out to see, but are more than worth the effort before they become DVDs.

            THE VISITOR, HAPPINESS, and DOL: THE VALLEY OF THE TAMBOURINES in particular are films which should be on a permanent must-see list.  This are eight films that push the frontiers of global cinema and are simply worth seeing:


THE VISITOR by Thomas McCarthy    Probably the most not-to-be-missed film of the year. The acting is brilliant, the soundtrack is brilliant, and the film is an ode to humanity.

  not quite as good as APRIL SNOW  but still a brilliant film.

DOL: THE VALLEY OF THE TAMBOURINES by Hiner Saleem could be watched without subtitles, because the cinematography is so beautiful.   Profound, politically relevant.

BUDDHA COLLAPSED OUT OF SHAME by Hana Makmalbaf.  The pace of Iranian-style filmmaking can be trying, but in this one, no one cared.   It is so beautiful at so many levels that the pacing doesn’t matter at all. 

PERSIAN CARPET a showcase for Iranian cinema with 17 different directors doing short films on the riff of the importance of Persian carpets in Persian culture.  Obviously uneven, but inspired and a terrific showcase.


M   by Lee Myung-se        Lee is one of most original visual directors in the world, turning motion into a form of choreography in The Duelists.  This is contemporary, often-confusing and still worth every moment for the innovativeness of it.  Like Beneix, or Rodriguez in Sin City, Lee is doing things with film that no one else ever came up with.


BRICK LANE by Sarah Garvin    An adaptation of the novel that works by focusing on one year from the longer novel.    

CARAMEL by Nadine Labaki       A poem to Beirut, to strong women and to simply excellent filmmaking.  This is an incredible film about emotional worlds in transition and the importance of allowing people to manage this without turning existential moments and experiences into political slogans.

June 11, 2006

Five personal favorite films viewed in 2005:   

Five films that captured the imagination in the last year that are not household names.  Some are widely distributed, some not.   This is not a 5 Best list, but   I think by any criterion Water and April Snow would be on such a list.   It is meant to be a testament to the creativity in global film and a personal list of “undiscovered” films, at least undiscovered by broad Canadian audiences.

1. April Snow.    Hur Jin-ho creates a film so perfect in its depiction of real human emotions and so contemporary in its setting that it shows the drama in ordinary, real lives.

2.  The Duelist. Lee Myung -Se   creates a film that is almost about motion, movement, not just as dance or choreography but as a subject in itself.  It is almost physics, but it is also an exquisite period piece, eligible in a way for the “Best Representation of History in Film” award, although unlike, say, Joyeux Noel, it is more about the mood of the time than about the details.

3.  Sex and Philosophy   Makhmalbaf has shown that dance can be filmed and that dance is itself poetry and private self-expression.   The film is flawed in its narrative and frustrating in the unexplored pathways that make it Persian and Russian (in the spirit of classical ballet),  but somehow it doesn’t matter.


4.  Water How good can an important film be?   This film is the best film about the most important issue confronting global politics today:  the liberation of women in societies where that is still an issue,  but it is so powerful emotionally and so beautiful at every level of filmmaking (soundtrack and cinematography), that even if it weren’t as important., it would still be among the very best films of the decade.


5. Sunrise Sunset.   Not just because of Fiona Sun’s performance, and not just because of the extraordinary music.   It is politically interesting and enormously self-aware about the challenges of maintaining traditional culture in all modernizing societies.


July 22, 2005    Korean film exports to China :    The rise of an Asian film industry in South Korean has produced one of the interesting cultural export case studies in the current world of globalization.    It is analogous in many ways to the development in the 1960s of an Italian film industry around some key directors who were more innovative than anyone else at the time.   The Korean industry, which has been noticed for a number of years  )  has produced  world-famous films now several categories of film:  contemporary action cinema,  traditional classical pieces (Chihwaseon and Chunhyang), innovative Buddhism  (spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring and 3-Iron,  complex analysis of Korean nationalism and the development of a modern society in an Asian context  (Turning Gate, Century’s End) and simply the kind of film that looks at class and (The Truth About Cats).   For all these reasons, Korean film becomes a leader in the cultural industries, an innovative Asian voice and a case study of a film industry with significant export successes.   


(See  and and to see a discussion of the current export markets of Korean film, see the Hollywood Reporter )

June 28, 2005 :  Learning about Africa from a dynamic African film industry:  These are a few links to some of the most interesting films which could be used in a course on African politics.  They represent filmmakers from Cameroun, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mauritania, and, in the case of Rauol Peck, a Haitian documenting a story about the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (and all of Africa), i.e. Lumumba.    For exccelent coverage of Africa film, see Mary-Anne Awori's web-site,6737,338784,00.html   Chocolat    Lenteur  Yameogo  Moussa   Sissako Lumumba


Last Updated ( 11 June 2006 )