Adilkhan Yerzhanov – Chuma v aule Karatas AKA The Plague at the Karatas Village (2016)

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Yerzhanov is a strong voice of the new Kazakh cinema.

The story
When a young mayor arrives in Karatas, a remote village in Kazakhstan, he finds a large part of the population ill. He recognises the symptoms immediately as plague-related. The sufferers, however, insist they have the flu, and that is confirmed by the local authorities, who have for decades pocketed the money for vaccination programmes and let the deadly illness rage on. The newly-appointed mayor resists at first, but is slowly dragged down into a morass of corruption and abuse of power. Like the film The Owners shown at Cannes, Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s latest film is an indictment of the lawless practices in today’s Kazakhstan, which is understandably known as the ‘Wild East’. His approach is very theatrical. He presents his message in a Brechtian way. The sets are surrealist, the acting is alienating, the undertone mythical. The moral, however, is highly contemporary and crucial. Winner NETPAC Award 2016. Continue reading

Yang Zhang – Kang rinpoche AKA Paths of the Soul (2015)

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Docu-drama follows the journey of a group of Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lasa, the holy capital of Tibet. The journey covers 1,200 km on foot, in a continuous repetition of prostrating one’s self on the ground. Over 10 months, we see the simplicity of human relationships and the nature of family, suffering, and resolve. Continue reading

Mitchell Leisen – Song of Surrender (1949)

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Plot
Though her acting range was limited, Wanda Hendrix was cute as all get out, and this cuteness is pretty much all that’s required from her in Song of Surrender. The film is set in a small town of the early 1900s. Hendrix is cast as Abigail Hunt, the young bride of fiftyish museum curator Elisha Hunt (Claude Rains). Their connubial bliss is threatened when attorney Bruce Eldridge (Macdonald Carey) falls in love with Abigail, and she with him. When her neighbors discover her indiscretions, Abigail is driven from town. It is only during a near-tragedy that Abigail realizes that her true place is with her aging husband. Still, the script manages to wangle a happy ending for everyone concerned. Of interest in Song of Surrender is the utilization within the plotline of several vintage Enrico Caruso recordings. Continue reading

Dharmasena Pathiraja – Soldadu Unnahe AKA Old Soldier (1981)

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Though veteran director Dharmasena Pathiraja was noted for his leftist leanings, he said that the Marxists were “out of touch with the realties of the people, their material conditions, power, and even their powerlessness.” In his 1981 drama, Soldadu Unnahe, Pathiraja depicts the realities of four friends: a soldier, a prostitute, a pimp and an alcoholic who take refuge under a Nuga tree from the loud, warlike celebration of Sri Lankan independence. The fireworks and planes overhead give the soldier of the title flashbacks, reminding him of his experiences in World War II at the end of the British Raj. What have these four unfortunates gained from independence, and what is their future? Chosen the best film of the decade 1980-1990 by the Catholic International Cinema Organization. Awards/Festivals: Sri Lankan Presidential Awards for Best Film and Best Director; Eighth Indian International Film Festival; 16th Singapore International Film Festival 2003; Jeonju International Film Festival 2009. Continue reading

René Le Hénaff – Le colonel Chabert (1943)

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Synopsis
Paris, 1817. The wealthy Countess Ferraud is distressed when she begins to receive letters from her husband, Colonel Chabert, who was reported to have died during the Napoleonic wars ten years before. After an attempt to have him committed to a lunatic asylum fails, the now destitute Chabert appeals to a lawyer Derville to help restore his identity and his fortune. The Countess has since remarried and has no intention of surrendering the wealth she inherited from Chabert… Continue reading

Lino Brocka – Maynila sa mga kuko ng liwanag AKA Manila in the Claws of Light (1975)

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Manila: In the Claws of Darkness is the most impressive of his films noirs, made with bows to the American cinema, to Italian neo-realism and to his own country’s tradition of star-driven melodramas, but with the force of a third-world director determined to say something about his own society.It is the richly romantic but realistic odyssey of a boy named Julio, who arrives in Manila from the country to search for his childhood sweetheart. The darkness of the title refers to the capital itself, which, said Brocka, exerts an invisible force on the lives of its people. Continue reading

Sergei Parajanov & Dodo Abashidze – Ashug-Karibi aka The Hoary Legends of the Caucasus (1988)

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Synopsis: Wandering minstrel Ashik Kerib falls in love with a rich merchant’s daughter, but is spurned by her father and forced to roam the world for a thousand and one nights – but not before he’s got the daughter to promise not to marry till his return. It’s told in typical Paradjanov style overlaid with Armenian folksongs. source Continue reading