Thursday, October 15, 2015

LFF2015: Parabellum (2015)

Would you rather an apocalypse to be quick and terrifying or gradual and tense?  I always think the latter is more depressing and love it when filmmakers agree…

Hernan (Pablo Seijo), a nonspecific office worker in Cordoba, overhears reports on the radio of civil unrest in Buenos Aries so calmly resigns his job, cancels his phone bill, donates his cat to a cattery and catches a bus out of town.  Also on the bus are a group of other unremarkable workers who watch a promo video about their new life at some kind of retreat.  But this is no holiday; every day the guests are woken up with a tannoy announcing the day’s activities: Botany, State & Politics, camouflage, explosives… 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LFF2015: Arianna (2015)

Arianna (Ondina Quadri) is a pensive and shy nineteen-year-old studying Chinese and living with her parents in Rome.  She decides to accompany them on a trip to Tuscany to stay in their old holiday home, which has recently become available after being rented for most of her life, but when they decide that they want to leave early she stays on on her own to study and spend time with her cousin Celeste (Blu Yoshimi).

Arianna has not developed through puberty yet and has still not had her first menstrual cycle, so she quickly becomes fascinated in her developing and sexually awakened cousin.  She also, under guidance of her father (Massimo Popolizio) a doctor, uses hormone replacement patches and visits one of his gynecologist friends.  However, after spending an awkward night with one of Celeste’s male friends, she decides that she wants to change doctors and learn more about her past… 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

LFF2015: Frame By Frame (2015)

“So are you going to use this picture and try to bomb the Americans…?”

Frame by Frame is about the modern history of Afghanistan told through the eyes of four passionate photographers, Najibullah Musafer, a photography lecturer at Kabul university; Wakil Kohsar, a photojournalist and democrat; and then husband and wife photojournalists Farzana Wahidy, who covers women’s stories, and Massoud Hossaini who won the 2012 Breaking News Photography Pulitzer Prize (Here is his Talk at a Kabul TED event).

The film begins by explaining the rise of the Taliban after the soviet invasion of 1979, and how they banned photography for the next twenty years until the US invasion in 2001, leading to the beginning of a new era of press freedoms (and harsh internal terrorism).  We then follow Wakil as he explores the upcoming elections and voter registration, Farzana documenting the heinous violence inflicted on women under the Taliban era and Massoud covering various events for the newsdesk where he works. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

LFF2015: Taxi Tehran (2015)

Taxi Tehran

Between 1995 and 2006, Iranian director Jafar Panahi was winning some of the most respected prizes on the European film calendar: the Golden Lion in Venice, the Silver Bear at Berlin and even the Caméra d’Or at Cannes.  But due to his (supposedly) controversial narratives and ongoing defiance against his home country, he was arrested in 2010 and banned from filmmaking or leaving Iran.  His films eventually had to be smuggled out of the country on USB keys hidden in cakes… 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Raindance: Datuna-Potrait of America (2015)

Datuna Portrait of America

David Datuna is so excited to create his art that gets up at 4am in order to get to his studio.  And his enthusiasm is extremely infectious.

Like hundreds of thousands of others, Datuna escaped the USSR during the cold war for ‘cultural and artistic freedom’.  He grew up in totalitarian Georgia, where any appearance of difference was discouraged violently (his father got arrested 7 times for listening to Elvis…), and ended up in hyper-liberal downtown New York. He now makes vibrant pop art sculptures of flags (Jasper Johns 2.0), and collage-portraits. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Raindance: An Open Secret (2015)

In the summer of 1999, as the World Wide Web was promising all kinds of technological miracles, a new type of televisual media company launched called the Digital Entertainment Network.  It was an online video archive aimed at teenage boys with a host of original web shows aimed specifically at targeting niche audiences, including extreme sports fans, young Christians and young gay and bisexual viewers.  The company was proclaiming itself to be a radical and innovative new medium for speaking to young kids, and yet in only a few months the whole experiment was to implode under a series of extremely dark allegations about the behavior of its founders…

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Raindance: Driving With Selvi (2015)

More than 700 million women alive today
were married before their 18th birthday
250 million before age 15…

Selvi was just 14 when she was forced to marry a much older and physically abusive husband in her home of South India.  Living with him for her teenage years was such unspeakable torture that she eventually considered throwing herself under a bus to end the ordeal.  But instead she chose to get on the bus and run away to a girl’s shelter called Odanadi.  Four years later she had learned to drive, started her own company and become South India’s first taxi driver. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Raindance: The Return (2015)

Jack (Sam Donnelly) has returned to London after a few years away to hook up with old criminal connections and make some quick money.  After learning that they have all ‘gone straight’ he meets the enigmatic Laura (Amie Burns Walker) who knows of a diamond dealer called Duke with a safe full of £300,000 cash (Robert Goodman).

The criminal lovebirds hatch a plan to rob the old man, but not before he manages to find Jack’s houseboat and send a pair of goons round for an amazing Sergio Leone inspired silent stare-down. It then becomes a classic cat-and-mouse between rival criminals, but told across a twisting, time-shifting narrative…