Brazil / 2005 / Spanish, Portuguese & Russian

Directed by Vicente Ferraz

Still from 'I Am Cuba, the Siberian Mammoth'In 1960, a crew of Soviet filmmakers, led by director Mikhail Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky, came to Cuba to produce a film about the revolution there, from the lavish inequality that spurred it on, to the brutal tyranny that quashed it time and again before it finally rose up from the hills. The product of this sojourn, I Am Cuba (1963), is, not surprisingly, a slick and Soviet-ized dramatization of life on the island nation, rendering real events and slices of life with the effortless plasticity and blinding luster that is familiar to anyone who has seen The Cranes Are Flying (1957) or The Letter that Was Never Sent (1959). A film of technical brilliance whose tantalizing visual puzzles still beckon, I Am Cuba also presents a mystery all the more remote because of its nearly 30-year hibernation, out of sight for all, and seemingly out of mind for nearly as many. Read the rest of this entry »

Still from 'The Silent Holy Stones'

Two Films by Pema Tseden

Given the Western interest in Tibetan culture – albeit narrowly relegated to the people’s spiritual life or their future as an exiled/occupied populace – the international market for films is surprisingly indifferent to actual filmmakers from Tibet. The view from the plateau has been slow to emerge out of the darkness of repressive control. Take director Pema Tseden, who hails from the Amdo region: he has made three features, which have played at a few festivals here and there, but which aren’t available to a wide audience. They’ve swept by too quietly, although they hold within their gently devastating furrows valuable and inimitable insights into Tibet’s contemporary situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Whores’ Glory

04/15/2012

Austria & Germany / 2011 / Thai, Bengali, Spanish, Japanese & English

Directed by Michael Glawogger

Still from 'Whores' Glory'Moving through three distinct tones, Michael Glawogger’s Whores’ Glory takes the viewer to three very different places and cultures in which prostitutes practice their trade. In its close contact, both verbal and visual, with its widely varying subjects, the film achieves an uncommon intimacy that both plays off of the viewer’s inherited notions and complicates them beyond recognition. Diverse and contradictory topics will become condensed by one activity, while consistent threads make themselves known at the same time. The result is both a profoundly resonant, almost religious, experience with a marginalized part of human societies, and also a desolating, troubling one, in which the viewer feels disgusted with his or her own responses – but also electrified by the strength being demonstrated all around them. Read the rest of this entry »

Octubre

04/08/2012

Peru / 2010 / Spanish

Directed by Daniel & Diego Vega

With Bruno Odar, Gabriela Velásquez, Carlos Gassols

Still from 'Octubre'In the deep trough of mid-life, Clemente faces all challenges, from the large to the trivial, with a cool hostility that seems perfectly apt for one who wiles away most of his hours undisturbed by other people. The only guests he welcomes into his gray, corroding ground floor apartment are the hard-luck cases who want to borrow money from him. The rest of the time is spent in a solitary vortex, as he watches television, consumes the necessary calories, and visits his favorite brothel. One day he finds himself the owner of a baby girl, left in his apartment in a basket, apparently by a prostitute he knows. Uncertain what to do, he cares for the child, holding it until it stops crying, before placing it gently back in its basket to sleep. Read the rest of this entry »

Ice on Fire

04/01/2012

Sri Lanka / 1991 / Sinhala

Directed by Prasanna Vithanage

With Sabitha Perara, Sanath Gunatillake, Veena Jayakody

Still from 'Ice on Fire'A helicopter lands atop a mist-shrouded hill and a silhouetted battalion of soldiers is cut loose into the desolation. At a society ball, a suave and reserved lawyer fixates on the pretty woman he has seen dancing. Then an elderly man speaks to police on the phone, inquiring about their efforts to locate his missing grandson. These brief scenes occur out of sequence but, unmistakably, in a strange sort of sync with one another, as the pieces of mobile sculpture, whose disparate shadows are cast by the same arcing sunlight. Read the rest of this entry »