Peter Davis – Hearts and Minds (1974)

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Academy Award for Best Documentary (1975).

“We weren’t on the wrong side. We were the wrong side.”

A courageous and startling film, Peter Davis’s landmark documentary Hearts and Minds unflinchingly confronts the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Using a wealth of sources—from interviews to newsreels to documentary footage of the conflict at home and abroad—Davis constructs a powerfully affecting portrait of the disastrous effects of war. Explosive, persuasive, and shocking, Hearts and Minds is an overwhelming emotional experience and the controversial winner of the 1974 Academy Award for Best Documentary. Continue reading

Valeria Sarmiento – Linhas de Wellington AKA Wellington Lines [Theatrical Cut] (2012)

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Synopsis
On September 27, 1810, the French troops commanded by Marshal Massena, were defeated in the Serra do Buçaco by the Anglo-Portuguese army of general Wellington.

Despite the victory, Portuguese and British are forced to retreat from the enemy, numerically superior, in order to attract them to Torres Vedras, where Wellington had built fortified lines hardly surmountable.

Simultaneously, the Anglo-Portuguese command organizes the evacuation of the entire territory between the battlefield and the lines of Torres Vedras, a gigantic burned land operation, which prevents the French from collecting supplies.

This is the setting for the adventures of a multitude of characters from all social backgrounds – soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, young and old – to the daily routine torn by war and dragged through hills and valleys, between ruined villages, charred forests and devastated crops. Continue reading

Veli-Matti Saikkonen – Manillaköysi AKA The Manila Rope (1976)

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First of all, You have to give points for pulling off using humouristic elements as brilliantly as this, to describe something as dreadful as war. There aren’t many movies that have achieved that without feeling constrained, or more or less morally repulsive. Kubrick and Coppola were masters of that section, and Veli-Matti Saikkonen doesn’t come far behind with his interpretation of Veijo Meri’s classic novel.
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Danis Tanovic – Triage (2009)

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A war photographer on assignment in Kurdistan is traumatized by the death of his best friend. He is then nursed back to health by his girlfriend’s grandfather, who may or may not be a notorious war criminal from the Spanish Civil War.

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When I looked up a bit of information on Triage after watching it, I was genuinely surprised to discover that it’s not a true story. I suppose it’s the touch of an actual war correspondent that gives it that real life cache, as the author of the novel it’s based upon is a veteran in that arena. While it had a degree of Hollywood polish and shine, it felt tremendously possible, which made it easy to relate to as a viewer, despite my having spent the entirety of my own life lazy and safe and nowhere near anything approximating war. Continue reading

Antoni Bednarczyk – Dla ciebie, Polsko aka For You, Poland (1920)

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The film’s plot is set during the war between Poland and the Soviet Russia (1919 – 1921). Wartime brutally encroaches on the life of a couple in love – Franek and Hanka. The Bolshevik troops cause damage to Polish villages and manor houses, and in one of the manor houses the invaders have a carousel. Luckily, the Polish cavalry comes to the relief just in time. Unable to wait passively, Hanka becomes a sister of mercy in one of the field hospitals near Vilnius, while Franek gains wide recognition after capturing a Russian spy. The significant documents found on the spy contributed to the capture of Vilnius. The bloody battles end with the Polish troops entering the town, and Hanka and Franek finally find each other again, although in quite surprising circumstances. The film ends with the documentary recording of the ceremony of incorporating Vilnius into the Polish borders, with the participation of Marshal Piłsudski, the highest commanders of the Polish army and some foreign guests. Continue reading

Andrey Konchalovskiy – Ray AKA Paradise (2016)

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Feature film about three people whose paths cross during a terrible time of war: Olga, a Russian aristocratic emigrant and member of the French Resistance; Jules, a French collaborator; and Helmut, a high-ranking German SS officer. Olga is arrested for hiding Jewish children during a raid. Her case is investigated by Jules who, attracted to her, offers to be soft on her if she’ll sleep with him. But his intentions are cut short when he is killed by Resistance fighters. Olga is put into a concentration camp where she encounters Helmut who was once madly in love with her and still harbours feelings for her. Together they embark on a twisted and destructive relationship. As the Nazis face imminent defeat, Helmut decides to save Olga and escape with her to South America. Although she initially agrees to go with him, at the last moment she changes her mind. Prepared to die for her beliefs – the idea that all lives have a purpose and that even in the direst circumstances, people are capable… Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Les Carabiniers aka The Riflemen (1963)

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Godard’s strangest movie, based on a political play and nurtured along as a project by Rossellini. Two moronic thugs (with ironically ‘classical’ names) join up as soldiers and pillage the world in a global war; they return home to their equally moronic wives and display their spoils. Godard juxtaposes their mindless exploits with extensive archive footage of warfare. His presentation of the sheer idiocy of war admits moments of grotesque humour (one of the soldiers sees his first-ever movie and tries to enter the screen), but it’s mostly a cold and pitiless vision. Perhaps the most usefully extreme film of its kind ever made Continue reading