Artour Aristakisian – Mesto na zemle AKA A Place on Earth (2001)

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“This is a very powerful film. Admittedly parts of it are hard to watch, but it is an outstanding piece. In a nutshell, it is about a hippie commune that has been set up by someone who believes that the best way to help the homeless and often deranged cripples in Moscow is by offering them sexual love. I did not realise (because of the black and white, and the fact I watched this film before looking up to see when it was made) that this film was shot recently in Moscow, using real homeless people in their real situations. I assumed, because of the black and white, and the whole hippie commune idea, that this was the 70s. Shockingly, this includes his real-life footage of the current situation of the marginalised in Moscow, and that upset me to the core. Obviously some of the characters are actors (or, rather, are acting), but many are simply being shot in their everyday surroundings. Let’s hope that some good comes out of films such as these, in the same way that Cathy Come Home helped change the situation for many in the UK all those years ago…. Is Aristakisyan Russia’s new and very own Ken Loach? We shall have to wait and see.” Continue reading

Bing Wang – He Fengming aka Fengming: A Chinese Memoir (2007)

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Robert Koehler wrote:
With virtually a single-camera set-up and absolute attention paid to a woman who survived the horrors of Mao’s China, Wang Bing continues his run as one of the world’s supreme doc filmmakers with “Fengming: A Chinese Memoir.” While his extraordinary epic, “West of the Tracks,” traced the destruction of a city’s industrial zone and the forced relocation of thousands of residents, new pic is scaled in opposite fashion–intimate, minimalist, nearly private, as former journalist and teacher He Fengming describes in vividly painful detail how her life in the revolution turned into a 30-year nightmare. Prospects point to specialized treatment at major fests, but vid is where pic will really stand the test of time. Continue reading

Gaston Biraben – Cautiva aka Captive (2003)

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“Cautiva” features a solid performance by 23-year-old Barbara Lombardo that goes a long way in making up for the telenovela script.

Lombardo, who had small role in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” is amazingly believable as Cristina, a teenager who discovers that the man and woman who raised her are not her real parents.

Cristina’s biological parents were among the 30,000 Argentines who “disappeared” under the military dictatorship that ruled the country in the 1970s. She was born in prison on the day Argentina won the World Cup in 1978. Continue reading

Werner Schroeter – Nuit de chien AKA This Night (2008)

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Werner Schroeter is one of the German new wave’s prophets without honour. He was too confrontationally weird to take his place alongside Fassbinder, Wenders and Herzog in the international distribution sweepstakes and the disturbingly freaked-out Nuit de Chien goes a long way to suggesting why.

The film posits Pascal Greggory as a man fleeing a nameless fascist dictatorship currently in the throes of a power struggle. Fleeing the nation, he can’t seem to find his wife and in searching for her winds up in brothels, alleys and avenues of power. As in the best magic realism, the country is a place of surreal dislocation, with people doing appalling things apparently against their personal dispositions and making peace with insane circumstances. Continue reading

Sergey Loznitsa – Peyzazh (2003)

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It begins with slow, 360 grade pans of a camera showing snowy countryside somewhere in Russia. The soundtrack has some natural voices.

The camera then is set at a bus stop in a Russian village. It continues to pan into the same direction, showing people waiting, talking to each other, drinking beer, staring, giving an occasional glance at the camera. The soundtrack is clearly from a different source than the pictures, but similar to the world of images. It has elderly people talking about their hard everyday life: sicknesses, alcoholism, dire poverty, violent drunken husbands, poor hospitals etc. etc. The voices curse, argue…

The people start gradually crowd into a full bus, they get in, and the buses leave. Continue reading

Frederick Wiseman – La danse – Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris (2009)

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Description: In “La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet,” his 36th documentary in more than 40 years, Frederick Wiseman takes his camera into the stately and elegant Palais Garnier in Paris, observing rehearsals, staff meetings and, finally, performances of seven dances, including classics like “The Nutcracker” and spiky new work by younger choreographers. To say that the film, sumptuous in its length and graceful in its rhythm, is a feast for ballet lovers is to state the obvious and also to sell Mr. Wiseman’s achievement a bit short. Yes, this is one of the finest dance films ever made, but there’s more to it than that. Continue reading

João Botelho – Quem És Tu? AKA Who Are You? (2001)

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Aged 13, Maria Noronha is an estremely pale and fragil girl, sick with tubercolosis. In order to alleviate her suffering, she gathers poppies from her garden, and at night puts them on the pillows on her bed. But the poppies have a devastating effect. Her deep sleep is disturbed by terrible ghosts and hallucinations: about the decadence of the Portuguese XVII century, the Jesuits’s power and the terrible Inquisition. Continue reading