Cairo Station

03/28/2010

Egypt / 1958 / Arabic

Directed by Youssef Chahine

With Youssef Chahine, Hind Rostom, Farid Shawqi

Still from 'Cairo Station'Cairo Station opens with a montage of rushing locomotive metal, a visual construct of speed and noise that would do Dziga Vertov proud. Through the bustling terminal that provides the film’s backdrop move tides of humanity, everyone from fashionable urbanites off to their holiday destinations, to rural peasants who come from distant places seeking opportunity in the city. From the latter group, who to this day make up the bulk of the Egyptian populace, comes Qinawi, a physically handicapped and socially low-functioning man without friends or any job prospects. Madbouli, the kindly newspaper vendor at the station takes pity on the destitute bumpkin, providing him with employment and a place to stay. And so he joins a barely visible but roiling underclass that scrapes out a living in the station. Read the rest of this entry »

Stone Mountain

03/21/2010

U.S.A. / 2005 / English

Directed by Kevin McGowan

Still from 'Stone Mountain'In his short-subject work Stone Mountain, documentarian Kevin McGowan offers a revisionist exploration of a famed monument in Georgia whose history is deeply entwined with the American South’s efforts to come to terms with its own past as well as its present situation. Having grown up near the titular granite formation, which is nearly comparable in size to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia, the filmmaker recollects the awe and patriotic feeling conferred by the place when he was a child, which fed into his burgeoning, and one might say innate, enthusiasm for the story of the Civil War. At the Stone Mountain park, which is not far from downtown Atlanta, families of tourists are treated to a nighttime laser show depicting the ghostly images of Confederate heroes riding off into battle. Read the rest of this entry »

From the East

03/14/2010

Belgium / 1993 / French

Directed by Chantal Akerman

Still from 'From the East'From the East, Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s absorbing and nearly wordless travelogue of Eastern Europe, explores the former Soviet Bloc through its rural landscapes, serene and lonely; its blue, industrial vistas and snow-robed city scenes. In the details of these places, which run the gamut from vast and depressing railway terminals to a stately concert hall, the director seeks to define the atmospheres and moods of these recently changed nations with all of their uncertainty and circumspect footing in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. She does so not by looking for scenes that typify places, but ones through which, by way of the inherent singularity of the moment, she can elicit the details that illustrate the inner life of what is described primarily on the surface. Read the rest of this entry »

Ballast

03/07/2010

U.S.A. / 2008 / English

Directed by Lance Hammer

With Michael J. Smith Sr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs

Still from 'Ballast'An adolescent boy runs towards a cold marsh inhabited by birds. Bemused by his own power, he stops to watch the ensuing flight as the birds flock upwards, blotting out the sky. Like this brief confusion of the tranquil air, so too is Ballast driven by explosions within an impassive calm, quiet ripples that register like far-off tremors. Its characters move about in a territory somewhere between intense concentration and a somnolent daze. Set in a wintry rural Mississippi, the film is a hushed and yet deeply resonant portrayal of renewal following tragedy. Read the rest of this entry »