2001-2010

Ulrich Seidl – Jesus, Du weisst AKA Jesus, you know (2003)

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Documentary filmmaker Ulrich Seidl offers a provocative look at both Christianity and its followers by examining a handful of true believers through their prayers in this film. Jesus, Du Weisst observes six people — mostly Catholics — as they kneel in church and pray for guidance. Rather than offer a detailed look at their personal lives, Seidl allows us to learn about these people as they share their needs and concerns with the Lord through prayer, and we watch some of the subjects as their faith manifests itself in their daily lives. In Jesus, Du Weisst (Jesus, I Know), Seidl also touches upon how the manner in which people worship is often reflected in the design and decor of the churches to which they belong. — Mark Deming Read More »

Jasmila Zbanic – Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (2006)

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A woman sees her own traumatic past reflected in the actions of her teenage daughter in this drama from first-time writer and director Jasmila Zbanic. Esma (Mirjana Karanovic) is a single mother trying to raise her teenage daughter, Sara (Luna Mijovic), in Sarajevo in the wake of war. While Esma works as a barmaid at a nightclub run by Saran (Bogdan Diklic), a man on the wrong side of the law, she has trouble making ends meet, and receives occasional benefits payments from a support group for women who have been affected by the war. Esma has little interest in talking about the loss of her husband, whom she claims was a hero fighting for Bosnia, and can become hyper-emotional with little provocation. As Pelda (Leon Lucev), one of Esma’s co-workers at the club, attempts to interest her in romance, Esma notices that Sara has caught the eye of Samir (Kenan Catic), a rebellious young man who is one of her classmates. As Esma tries to discourage Sara from becoming involved with Samir, she finds fate has forced her to tell her daughter the truth about her father. Grbavica received its world premiere at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide Read More »

Manijeh Hekmat – Zendan-e zanan aka Women’s Prison (2002)

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Spanning 18 years in an Iranian women’s prison, this follows two women: the new prison warden, a tough as nails devout Muslim who has served in the army on the Iraqi front, and a young midwife, Mitra, who is serving her sentence for killing her mother’s abusive husband. In the early years, Mitra is repeatedly punished as the warden tries to break her. This includes punishment for delivering a baby in the prison cell while all of the prison staff has taken shelter during an Iraqi bombing. The warden’s attitude starts to change after 8 years, when Mitra tries to protect a new inmate from rape at the hands of her older cellmates. When the baby comes back in 1991 as a 17 year old delinquent, Sepideh, the warden respects Mitra enough to protect the girl. Read More »

Joe Swanberg – Alexander the Last (2009)

Director Joe Swanberg (Nights and Weekends) goes beyond the mumblecore movement with this revealing drama about marriage. For Alexander the Last, Swanberg reigns over an experienced cast of actors — including Jane Adams, Jess Weixler, and Josh Hamilton — but still incorporates his usual improvisational techniques. Margot at the Wedding director Noah Baumbach serves as one of the film’s producers. —IFC Films Read More »

Kira Muratova – The Tuner (Nastroyshchik) (2004)

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from review @ Kinokultura:

At the heart of Kira Muratova’s newest film, The Tuner (Nastroishchik, 2004), is her characteristic and enduring love of predation—predation for its own sake. Of course, any talk of “the heart of Muratova’s work” is a judgment of anatomy rather than sentiment, as any admirer would attest. With The Tuner, she has produced an extraordinary new film that offers a complex assessment of the human subject, civilization, and the creative act. Read More »

Andrey Zvyagintsev – Vozvrashcheniye (Возвращение) AKA The Return [+Extras] (2003)


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Feisty, diminutive 13-year-old Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) lives with his mother (Natalia Vdovina) and easygoing, tall, 15-year-old brother Andrei (Vladimir Garin) in a small, grimy Russian town. Their father (Konstantin Lavronenko) has long since departed the scene – until one day, completely out of the blue, he returns.

A dour, steely presence, Dad doesn’t say much, but next day takes the boys on a “fishing trip.” While Andrei does his best to re-establish friendly terms with his uncommunicative parent, Ivan rebels – and even questions whether this mysterious streanger really is their father at all. When they reach their destination at a remote lake, events take an even more enigmatic turn… Read More »

Abel Ferrara – Chelsea on the Rocks (2008)


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The Chelsea Hotel has long been consider the creative epicenter of New York City, a sort of unofficial gathering point for the most renowned artists and entertainers that the city has to offer. But while the Chelsea Hotel was once considered an impenetrable, untouchable monument to the creative spirit, an early 21st Century renovation led many to believe that the new management company had little appreciation for it’s unique history. Dennis Hopper, Milos Forman, R. Crumb, Ethan Hawke, Grace Jones, and a whole host of Chelsea Hotel regulars all chime in with their fondest memories about the New York landmark, and their thoughts about what may be in store for the iconic building in the future. —allmovie guide Read More »