Shape of the Moon

06/27/2010

Indonesia & The Netherlands / 2005 / Indonesian & Javanese

Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich

Still from 'Shape of the Moon'The second in a trilogy of films chronicling the lives of the Sjamsuddin family, Christians living in Jakarta, Shape of the Moon comprises a dizzying but astoundingly coherent assemblage of fleeting impressions and indelible images that range from the intensely emotional to the relaxed and comic. In documentaries showing the daily experiences of people, the filmmaker is oftentimes compelled to tease out what may be called a story, or at least the continuity of a theme, by condensing things that occur, since events take place whether or not the camera is rolling. Through the artifice of editing this summary forms a consistent sequence. And while the films of Dutch-Indonesian director Helmrich have a rather episodic, fragmented character, their component scenes are at the same time carefully and convincingly interconnected. He acheives this exacting narrative flow abbetted by flourishes usually reserved for fiction filmmaking; his nimble, presumably featherweight cameras traverse narrow spaces, follow insects, and tilt 360 degrees over people’s heads. Read the rest of this entry »

Still from 'Power and the Land'

The New Deal Onscreen

During his first term in office Franklin Roosevelt brought sweeping economic reforms established in response to the Great Depression, programs collectively known as the New Deal, which brought many potentially radical ideas into the policies governing the United States in an effort to create employment and improve the lives of millions of Americans. While there were many films made between 1933 and America’s entry into World War II that promoted New Deal initiatives, they took different forms and were produced under various auspices. The films created by government offices were largely documentary in character, but there was also propagandist fiction made at the time, notably Our Daily Bread. Hollywood pictures like The Grapes of Wrath and the later Wild River are set during the Great Depression and the New Deal figures prominently into their respective storylines. Read the rest of this entry »

Children of God

06/13/2010

Nepal & South Korea / 2009 / Nepali

Directed by Seung-Jun Yi

Still from 'Children of God'At Pashupatinath, the oldest and most sacred temple in Kathmandu, crowds of devout Hindus come every day to cremate their dead at the edge of the Baghmati river. The bodies of the deceased are reduced to ashes according to custom, offerings floated out onto the water on banana leaves. For the homeless children who live among the alleyways, plazas, and ancient buildings of this holy complex, these funeral rites are integral to daily survival, as they collect food and money offerings brought by the mourners, scraping out a living in a place full of the dead and dying. Read the rest of this entry »

Pickpocket

06/06/2010

Sri Lanka / 2001 / Sinhala

Directed by Linton Semage

With Linton Semage, Dihani Ekanayake, Gayani Gisanthika

Still from 'Pickpocket'It is early in the morning and a quiet, nondescript man named Kamal appears from the darkness of his rude shack in an urban slum, leaving his young, pregnant wife Vasanthi and, as commuter trains rattle past his front door, goes to the city for work. In town he nimbly hops on and off busses, dodges traffic while looking for anyone preoccupied enough not to notice him taking their wallet. Having gotten a successful catch, he takes a walk over to the beach and inspects the contents of the wallet. To his surprise he finds a photograph of his own wife. Read the rest of this entry »