Nacer Khemir – Bab’Aziz (2005)

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Bab’Aziz, AKA The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul, is the story of a blind dervish named Bab’Aziz and his spirited granddaughter, Ishtar. Together they wander the desert in search of a great reunion of dervishes that takes place just once every thirty years. With faith as their only guide, the two journey for days through the expansive, barren landscape. To keep Ishtar entertained, Bab’Aziz relays the ancient tale of a prince who relinquished his realm in order to remain next to a small pool in the desert, staring into its depths while contemplating his soul. As the tale of the prince unfolds, the two encounter other travelers with stories of their own, including Osman, who longs for the beautiful woman he met at the bottom of a well, and Zaid, who searches for the ravishing young woman who fled from him after being seduced by his songs. A fairytale-like story of longing and belonging, filmed in the enchanting and ever-shifting sandscapes of Tunisia and Iran. Read More »

Nacer Khemir – Les baliseurs du desert AKA The Wanderers (1986)

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A traveling writer and teller of fables, Nacer Khemir here applies his age-old skills to a narrative feature film, the first in his highly-regarded Desert Trilogy that includes The Dove’s Lost Necklace and Bab’Aziz – The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul. Khemir creates an exotic world with Wanderers of the Desert when a young teacher arrives to take over a village school isolated in the shimmering desert. Reminiscent of the best Iranian films of the 1970s in its use of color and setting, it also has something of the wit, cruelty and ambiguity of the Arabian Nights. Legendary figures materialize out of wells and the desert itself, groups of children hurry through a labyrinth of underground corridors, the teacher is whisked away to a mysterious rendezvous and never returns. Nothing is really explained; Khemir merely shows how legend, tradition and fate hang heavily over this community and he does so with a richly expressive visual style aided by superb use of color. Especially notable is the way the protagonists are always placed against sun-scorched landscapes in which nothing is quite what it seems, like the marvelous moment when everyone gathers around a ship that has mysteriously washed up in the desert sand. Read More »

Emir Kusturica – Bila jednom jedna zemlja AKA Underground [TV series] (1995)

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Description: An unpredictable black comedy with an epic scope, Emir Kusturica’s highly acclaimed Underground takes a look at the modern history of Yugoslavia through the often absurd misadventures of two friends stretching over several decades – from the outbreak of World War II in the 1940s to the destruction of this once-great nation in the 1990s. Read More »

Daniele Luchetti – La nostra vita AKA Our Life (2010)

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Claudio is a blue-collar builder, almost blissfully happy with his ordinary family life, with his wife and two children. Then, tragedy strikes and Claudio sets off on an obsessive quest to become rich and successful by taking on an almost impossible-to-complete contract to construct an apartment block in record time. Claudio uses all his own, his friend’s and his family’s resources to try and succeed, while in fact coming closer and closer to disaster and ruin. Anchored by an intense and very impressive performance by Elio Germano (Romanze Criminale, Quo Vadis Baby) as Claudio, Our Life is a gritty, yet warm and human story. Almost like an Italian Ken Loach, director Daniele Luchetti depicts authentically working class life in Italy and the struggles of one man to rise above the corruption and compromises that beset him. Following on from Luchetti’s acclaimed previous film My Brother is an Only Child (premiered at LFF 2007) this is another arresting film; powerfully emotive, cinematic and satisfying. —BFI

Cannes Film Festival 2010: Best Actor (Elio Germano, ex-aequo)
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Costa-Gavras – Music Box [+Extras] (1989)

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Synopsis

Music Box is a 1989 film that tells the story of a Hungarian-American immigrant who is accused of having been a war criminal. His daughter, an attorney, tries to defend him.

The movie was written by Joe Eszterhas (F.I.S.T., Basic Instinct, Betrayed) and directed by Costa-Gavras. It stars Jessica Lange, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Frederic Forrest, Donald Moffat Michael Rooker and Lukas Haas. Read More »

Koji Wakamatsu – 17-sai no fukei – shonen wa nani o mita no ka AKA Cycling Chronicles: Landscapes the Boy saw (2004)

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Kôji Wakamatsu’s Cycling Chronicles: Landscapes the Boy Saw (17-sai no fûkei – shônen wa nani o mita no ka) – a.k.a. “Cycle Chronicles – Landscapes the Boy Saw” and “17 and Life” – is scheduled to have its U.S. première at the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) on April 27th at 8:45 p.m., and to subsequently be screened there on May 2nd at 6:00 p.m.. As was previously reported here and there on Twitch, the movie was screened at Regional Film Festival (Rîjonaru Firumu Fesutibaru) – “RiFF” for short – on October 31, 2004, and at the 26th PIA Film Festival in Sendai (Dai-26-kai Pia Firumu Fesutibaru in Sendai) – “PFF Sendai” for short – on November 23, 2004. It was released theatrically in Japan by Toshiki Shima’s Shima Films on July 30th of last year. Read More »

Leo Hurwitz – Dialogue with a Woman Departed (1980)

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The late filmmaker Leo Hurwitz created this documentary tribute to his deceased wife Peggy Lawson by mixing both actual footage of historical events, clips from his own films, and personal remembrances of her life. Lawson was a partner in Hurwitz’s cinematic endeavors and shared his commitment to political and social change. Hurwitz brings up images from the Great Depression, from the persecution of union organizers and laborers in the 1930s, through his blacklisting in the ’50s, and the demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the following decade. These years of turbulence are contrasted with scenes from nature, images of Lawson, and attempts to convey what she meant to him. These two aspects — private and public — are woven together to form the main theme of this very personal documentary, winner of an International Film Critics prize. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide Read More »