Liar’s Dice

12/12/2017

India / 2013 / Hindi & Kinnauri

Directed by Geetu Mohandas

With Geetanjali Thapa, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manya Gupta

Still from 'Liar's Dice'In the border region, white peaks rise all around whose scale can scarcely be described. They seem untouched by people, until you see prayer flags fluttering in the constant, powdery gusts. Occasionally, along the muddy road, there will be a small village of wooden houses, some with slate roofs and some with tin. Kamala lives in one of these villages, more a small collection of families than a community with infrastructure of its own, and surrounded by a glacial amphitheater. The air is pure, the mountains clean. But to her these things have always been there, merely backdrop to shoveling snow, washing clothes in the icy water, caring for her small daughter, Manya. And waiting. She is one of the untold number of anonymous women who wait, quietly and uncertainly, for husbands who left and may never return. Read the rest of this entry »

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Netherlands / 1999 / Chechen, Russian & English

Directed by Jos de Putter

Still from 'The Making of a New Empire'A man stands on an enormous pile of bricks, backgrounded by mountains blanketed by clouds so thick that it’s unclear if they originate from the sky or the ground. Is this some ancient citadel, left to deteriorate in the North Caucasus wilderness, or a more recent shell of a building destroyed by the war with Russia? The man patrols the crumbled walls as though waiting for a distant enemy to return, and the shining white dome of a new-looking mosque peeks out in the left of the frame. This image seems to sum up Chechnya, yesterday and today, the eagerness to cover over what has been destroyed, while at the same time being unable to recover what has been lost. Read the rest of this entry »

Still from 'Vadi Samvadi'

Approximately Seven Films by Claudio Caldini

Whirling dervishes, Buddhist circumambulation, rosary beads – the act of describing a circle is connected, in many cultures, to religious ecstasy. There’s something in inner reflection and closeness to the infinity that always seems to arrive at the same point, revealing more with each revolution. The revelatory super-8 work of Argentinian filmmaker Claudio Caldini shares in that faith in circular movement, performing its own gyromancy in ways that are variously obvious and inventive, and always astonishing. He handles the camera as satellite and pivot, kite and ballast, a grounding object that nonetheless feels out the remote possibilities of perception.

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The Mongols

11/20/2017

Iran / 1973 / Farsi

Directed by Parviz Kimiavi

With Parviz Kimiavi, Fahimeh Rastegar, Aqa Seyyed

Mongols2“The Mongols again. Always the Mongols.”

Their faces all gaze ahead in unison, and then an off-screen voice instructs them: look up, look down, look left, look right. They move accordingly, showing different angles to the camera. “You’re Mongols, not Turks,” they’re told, in a pretzeling ancient histories. This crowd of Turcoman migrants, probably laborers in the city, are being cast for a television documentary about Genghis Khan’s invasion of Persia. One man is singled out for the roundness of his face, which looks particularly Mongolian to the casting director. In Parviz Kimiavi’s extraordinary collision of otherness, modernization and mass communication, The Mongols, these men become the stand-ins for the feared plunderers of eight centuries ago, providing a boundless template onto which he can project his ideas of culture clash and social upheaval. Read the rest of this entry »

Karamay

11/14/2017

China / 2009 / Mandarin

Directed by Xu Xin

Still from 'Karamay'It happens in the same way each time: the camera approaches a grave stone and lingers in front of it, long enough to read the inscription. This is repeated again and again, a ritualized pattern, setting the tone and form of the film that follows. The austere finality of stone, reflected in the flinty grayscale, gives way to the personal stories carved into it. Each marker is for a child who died when a fire broke out at an assembly on December 8th, 1994 – although the ones we see are only a fraction of those that sit in the midst of this flat void, commemorating a lost generation. Read the rest of this entry »

Mirage

11/06/2017

Peru / 1972 / Spanish

Directed by Armando Robles Godoy

With Helena Rojo, Miguel Angel Flores, Hernán Romero

Still from 'Mirage'A violet light fans out over undulating dunes, the sand raked and rippled, as in a Zen garden, by the infinite winds. The smooth parabola of a ridge curls in on itself. Emerging from the noise of the desert, a scream as stark and elemental as the vistas of sand. Following after the scream, from out of those limitless lines, comes running a flickering Giacometti figure, and a long-haired boy watches, distantly, as the figure thickens into a person. Read the rest of this entry »

India / 2015 / Hindi

Directed by Amit Dutta

Evenredcanbesad1While it’s a cliche that 20th Century art tries to express the chaos of life in the 20th Century, if anything, it could be the unnoticed, utilitarian architecture that fulfills that duty more than any other form. In Even Red Can Be Sad, Amit Dutta’s documentary about a modernist  painter named Ram Kumar, buildings bear the essence, the shape of life, serving as silent guides through a collage of decades and lives. Again and again – and quite deliberately – it isn’t art but architecture that captures the focus of the film. Read the rest of this entry »

A Door to the Sky

06/26/2017

Morocco / 1989 / Arabic & French

Directed by Farida Benlyazid

With Zakia Tahri, Chaabia Laadraoui, Eva Saint-Paul

Still from 'A Door to the Sky'If religion could be reduced to an essential dichotomy it might look thus: it is daily interactions and customs, and then it is also the mysticism behind them, those things really not meant to be tested against reality. Its two faces shore each other up, protect one another from irrelevance and too much scrutiny. If the necessary degree of mystery wasn’t there, belief might lose its background sense of consequence, of gravity. Practicality keeps spiritualism ensconced in daily life. A film that looks at Islam through the story of a French-Moroccan woman discovering her roots, A Door to the Sky muses on religion’s utility, first cloven by cultural disconnect and then sutured by good intentions for humanity.

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The Day Shall Dawn

06/12/2017

Pakistan / 1959 / Urdu

Directed by AJ Kardar

With Zurain Rakshi, Khan Ataur Rahman, Tripti Mitra

Still from 'The Day Shall Dawn'In a lacquered night scene, fishermen call to each other across the water in sing-song voices. Huge catfish writhe and gulp in the boat. The dark of the water merges with the dark of the night, people’s lucent faces encrusted by lamplight. Here in the Ganges delta, water is everywhere and everything: it acts as road and neighborhood, a collection of capillaries and veins matting at the Bay of Bengal. The water sits all around, hangs vividly in the morning light, and runs with the people’s blood. They live and die by it. Read the rest of this entry »

USA / 1967 / English

Directed by Joseph L. Anderson

With Larue Hall, Ted Heimerdinger, Marjorie Johnson

Still from 'Spring Night, Summer Night'A young man named Carl stands in his backyard shooing the headlights out of a tractor with a shotgun. Well-built, neat, with a crest of blonde hair, he seems out of place – the land around him is muddy, chaotic with refuse both human and natural. But the destructive emptiness of his activity sums up the fact of being stuck where he is, with his quarrelsome family in Southern Ohio. Could this place, between rust belt and Appalachia, have ever been vibrant? If it once was, it now breathes indigence. The mining industry that boomed there has withered up and gone, leaving equally withered people – but who can’t leave – in its place. Read the rest of this entry »