Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) (2016)

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This stunningly crafted documentary, ostensibly about the European refugee crisis, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Without narration, context nor exposition other than a few paragraphs before it starts, the film juxtaposes the quiet life of the inhabitants of the island of Lampedusa with the horrific plight of those attempting to cross from Africa to Europe. Continue reading

Old Joy (2006)

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In her films,  Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women, Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy) immerses you in the life of a handful of people over a day or two. In Certain Women, it was four women in rural America, in Meek’s Cutoff it was settler women in the 1840s Oregon desert. In Old Joy we follow old friends Kurt (Will Oldham) and Mark (Daniel London) as they reunite for an overnight camping trip in search of some hot springs. Continue reading

Frantz (2016)

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Some films seep into your bones and only slowly fade away. I wasn’t expecting this François Ozon film to have such poignancy. On the surface it seems conventional, not withstanding its artful and at first unnoticed shifts from black-and-white to colour. In a German village in 1919, families are freshly wounded from the recent war and anti-French emotions run high. Bereaved Anna (Paula Beer), whose fiance Frantz died on the front line, regularly visits his grave. One day she finds fresh flowers there and discovers that a French man, Adrien (Pierre Niney), is also marking his grief at the grave. Continue reading

Chappie (2015)

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Image via collider.com

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South African director Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 film District 9 was an unexpected delight. Ostensibly a sci-fi about prawn-like aliens who have been accepted into the Johannesburg population, it is instead an endearing and sobering look at the plight of refugees. Chappie is his third feature film, after Elysium in 2013, and I was expecting the same wry observation of white South Africa. Instead I got a story that seemed to replicate District 9‘s edgy style but without the same substance. Continue reading