Drama

Raymond Rajaonarivelo – Tabataba (1988)

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Tabataba tells the story of a small Malagasy village during the independence uprising which took place in 1947 in the south of the country. For several months, part of the Malagasy population revolted against the French colonial army in a bloody struggle. The repression in villages that followed was terrible, leading to fires, arrests and torture. Women, children and the elderly were the indirect victims of the conflict and suffered particularly from famine and illness. One leader of the MDRM Malagasy Party, which campaigns for the independence of the country, arrives in a village. Solo (François Botozandry), the main character, is still too young to fight but he sees his brother and most of the men in his clan join up. His grandmother, Bakanga (Soavelo), knows what will happen, but Solo still hopes his elder brother will return a hero. After months of rumours, he sees instead the French army arrive to crush the rebellion. Read More »

Dominique Deruddere – Crazy Love (1987)

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Crazy Love is the story of one man’s life told in three nights over the course of twenty years. The movie follows one Harry Voss, focusing on his difficult search for love. In 1955 we meet 13-year old Harry, a starry-eyed boy whose idea of romantic love is fashioned by melodramatic movies from Hollywood. Introduced to the mysteries of sex by an older friend, he begins to realize the messiness and pain of love. His vision of his parent’s marriage falls to the sight of them grunting under the sheets. Next we join Harry at age 19, as he’s about to graduate from school. The poor boy is afflicted with one of he worst cases of acne it is possible to imagine, covering him from head to toe in horrible bumps. It is made clear that he has no social life and few friends. Although introverted and shy, he’s convinced by a buddy to attend the graduation dance and goaded into asking the object of his affections to dance. He’s unable to work up the courage until he wraps his face and head in toilet paper — but even when the young girl sweetly accepts his invitation Harry still feels rejected. The night ends with him drunk and arrested. Then we jump to the man at age 33, when Harry has become an alcoholic loner. He runs into an old friend at a bar and the pair goes on a wild night of drinking, culminating in the theft of a dead body from an ambulance. When the corpse turns out to be a beautiful young woman Harry suddenly seems to sober up, becoming serious. When Harry claims to be in love with the dead girl his friend is unsure of what to do, but reluctantly goes along with a makeshift marriage ceremony on the beach.
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Walter Salles – On the Road (2012)

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From IndieWire:

CANNES REVIEW: Why Walter Salles’ ‘On the Road’ Adaptation Is Better Than You Think

Red flags go up when a filmmaker embarks on adapting a beloved classic. Walter Salles’ long-gestating big screen treatment of “On the Road” spent years in development and the nearly-two-and-a-half hour treatment of Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel of the Beat Generation invited immediate skepticism. Kerouac’s autobiographical look at his friends and their journeys around the country in the late 1940s has become so closely identified with his prose that any attempt to replicate it would automatically create a certain distance from the material — or it seemed. As it turns out, Salles’ “On the Road” does the trick well enough. Overlong and unfocused in parts, Salles’ adaptation nonetheless holds together about as well a movie can when the odds are so heavily stacked against it. Read More »

Roberto Rossellini – Roma, città aperta AKA Rome, Open City [+Extras] (1945)

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Review from the Criterion website :
This was Roberto Rossellini’s revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring some well-known actors—Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member—Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work garnered awards around the globe and left the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake. Read More »

Nikita Mikhalkov – Pyat vecherov aka Five Evenings (1979)

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Based on the play by Alexander Volodin. The set is the 1950s. The tangible world of an old communal apartment is recreated onscreen with an incredible accuracy, every thing capturing the flair of the time. The stylized visuals, the curious objects, the amusing inhabitants, so charming and exotic… There are all the marks of the ‘retro’ style, which is always ‘in’. The actors Ludmila Gurchenko and Stanislav Lyubshin succeeded in conveying everything that they couldn’t say openly. The finale allows for different interpretations. Hence the emotions evoked by this impeccably made melodrama appear to be even more poignant.Once Alexander and Tamara were in love. But the war had separated them… Twenty long years after, they meet again, but they lack the courage to admit that their feelings are still alive. Unable to overcome their pride, they try to convince each other that both are doing just fine…
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David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga – Nairobi Half Life (2012)

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* The official submission of Kenya to the Best Foreign Language Film of the 85th Academy Awards 2013.

Despite his parents’ wishes, Mwas leaves his small village and embarks on a journey to Kenya’s capital in order to pursue a career in acting. Naïve and filled with hope, he quickly learns why the city is nicknamed “Nairobbery.” A few innocent mistakes land him in jail, which eventually leads Mwas to connect with a gang. Although he learns how to survive in the dangerous and sprawling urban center, Mwas is torn between his new lifestyle of theft and violence and his dream of becoming an actor. Read More »

Andrea Staka – Das Fräulein (2006)

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Three very different women from former Yugoslavia try to get by in Zurich in Das Fräulein (Fraulein) from Swiss director of Yugoslav-origins Andrea Stacka. Featuring outstanding performances from the protagonists and a keen eye for detail, the film
continues to expand the cinematic exploration of the heritage of the Balkan Wars from a female point of view after Berlinale-winner Grbavica (which also starred Mirjana Karanovic). Being less overly melodramatic and more cinematic in its language than Grbavica but lacking the prestige of a Golden Bear (though it did win the Golden Leopard in Locarno), Das Fräulein should stand about an equal chance of finding niche distribution in arthouses across the continent. In the pre-title sequence, Balkan folk music plays, as a hand is seen pruning branches from a bare tree. The message is clear: the branches can be removed to stimulate growth and fruition in the future, but the roots stay where they are. Ruza (Karanovic) runs a canteen in Zurich and leads the classical example of an orderly ut lonely life — without heartbreak but also without passion. She is originally from Belgrade but arrived in Switzerland before the Balkan Wars. In her kitchen works the elderly Mila (Ljubica Jovic), who is from the Croatian coast and is married and has her children and husband in Zurich. She saves all her money for a house they are constructing back home. Into their lives comes the force of nature Ana (Marija Skaricic), a young girl who lived through the siege of Sarajevo and who seems to want to live each moment as if it were here last.
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