Werner Herzog & Dmitry Vasyukov – Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

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From directors Dmitry Vasyukov and Werner Herzog – and thanks to DVD distribution from Second Sight – comes 2010 feature documentary Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010), an affectionate look at the lives of those who live and work in the remote Siberian wilderness. Herzog has produced some extraordinary factual films over the past two decades, and whilst Happy People may not quite reach the same heights of awe-inspiring beauty of Encounters at the End of the World (2007), it certainly sits well within the unique director’s oeuvre. Continue reading

Kutlug Ataman – Iki Genç Kiz AKA Two Girls (2005)

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The film is about two teenage girls, Behiye and Handan, with contrasting characteristics and backgrounds, forming a close relationship with sexual implications. As they become closer and closer the relationship becomes more fragile, and the impossibility of the survival of their relationship becomes more evident over time. Economic, social, psychological, and sexual problems come in the way. Behiye is angry and rebellious, but her frequent outbursts cut little ice with her conservative family. Handan is trapped in a different way, in a love-hate relationship with her single mother Leman. Although Leman is willing to turn tricks to raise Handan’s college fees, she’s otherwise hopeless with both men and money. When a mutual friend introduces Behiye and Handan they immediately hit it off, and despite the differences in their backgrounds they embark on an intense relationship, and with it a secret plan to escape their dysfunctional families. Continue reading

Ranjan Palit – In Camera (2010)

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In this meditative and strident overview of the career of Ranjan Palit, award-winning documentary cameraman, the filmmaker himself shows us the images and questions that have haunted him throughout his 25-year career. Celebrated for films that document the struggles of powerless people to save their homes and ancestral traditions, Palit still questions the good he has done for them and wonders if he’s merely turned their lives into images and then memories that are destined to be forgotten. Continue reading

Veiko Õunpuu – Püha Tõnu kiusamine AKA The Temptation of St. Tony (2009)

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There’s no better cinematic praise than to be evocative of Béla Tarr’s tour de force Werckmeister Harmonies. And The Temptation of St. Tony is just that. Veiko Õunpuu has weaved an existential rumination on Eastern European temporality, where work is waiting and waiting is work, and a visually stunning critique of the exacerbation of difference that post-communist times have to offer. A nouveau riche class fascinated by its newly imported sense of sophistication and superiority is so in love with itself that getting a glimpse of the lower classes is as unbearable as staring at Medusa right in the eye. Continue reading

João Nuno Pinto – América (2010)

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America a tragic story told in a burlesque and ironic way, within a love triangle. Liza, a beautiful young Russian woman, is married to Victor, a small-time crook who lives on scheming and swindling, born and bred in Portugal. Fernanda, the ex wife, who ten year’s passed decides to drop by, is the gang leader, an Andalusian Spaniard. Victor has to decide which women to follow, Liza cannot really leave him, Fernanda doesn’t really want to stay. The six year old kid hangs everybody by a string. Eastern European newcomers give new business perspectives that are going to rock their small world by the beach: Cova do Vapor. A chaotic neighborhood of precarious housing located at Lisbon’s gates, where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic, where fishermen and retired factory workers coexist. An obscure little place, where everything suddenly changes, even the weather. After a violent storm, the gangster’s house gets a rusted fishing boat hanging on top of their home. In the midst of the tragedy, there’s always room for love, and most of all, hope for a piece paper called passport, sometimes fake! Continue reading

Gus Van Sant – Last Days (2005)

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Last Days is filmmaker Gus Van Sant’s fictional meditation on the inner turmoil that engulfs a brilliant, but troubled musician in the final hours of his life. Michael Pitt (The Dreamers, Hedwig and The Angry Inch) stars as Blake, an introspective artist whose success has left him in a lonely place, where livelihoods rest on his shoulders, and old friends regularly tap him for money and favors. Last Days follows Blake through a handfull of hours he spends in and near his wooded home, a fugitive from his own life. Expanding on the elliptical style forged in his previous two films, Gerry and the Palme d’Or winning Elephant, Van Sant layers images and sounds to articulate an emotional landscape creating a dynamic work about a soul in transition. Continue reading

Lucy Carter – Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence (2004)

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When an Allied photo-reconnaissance plane flew over southern Poland in the summer of 1944, following a bombing raid on 20 August, it took extraordinary images of the Nazis’ most evil extermination camp: Auschwitz Birkenau. From these photos, it is possible to see in detail how the SS organised their factory of death in which about 12,000 people were being murdered daily. But the pictures were not analysed at the time. Instead they were simply filed away. Continue reading