Friday, 31 December 2010

Supermen of Malegaon

Directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan
India 2008

Everyone knows Hollywood, most of people even heard of Bollywood. But does anyone heard of Mollywood? I hadn’t either until I saw this film. “Supermen of Malegaon” is a documentary that chronicles the life of a handful of cinema enthusiasts who make their own films — quirky, low budget, socially aware spoofs of other films. It started with remakes of popular Bollywood movies,and they were a huge were a success - the locals literally eat these films up, as life in a small textile town on the outskirts of Mumbai provides little other entertainment. Now when their ambition grows, those self-trained filmmakers are ready to take on Hollywood and Superman.

The parody of Superman is directed by Nasir, a shopkeeper with an unlimited passion for cinema, who learned his trade shooting wedding videos. Nasir’s hero is played by Shaikh Shafique, a skinny factory worker who looks like anything but Superman. Seeing him we know “Superman” will be very different then original US version, he would be “a victim of many diseases” and “suffer asthma from flying through polluted skies”.

The witty and life-affirming documentary “Supermen of Malegaon” is about dreamers with more ambition than talent or resources. Sometimes we laugh at their amateurish efforts. At times we are amazed by their ingenuity. Everything they do has this energetic DIY charm. Shooting their film doesn't come without adversities: the only camera drops into a river, Shafique needs days off for his wedding and a local paper’s coverage repeatedly refers to the production as “Spiderman”. They don’t have money or resources. But as they say: “we don't have facilities but we are still making movies”. The production process still rests on improvisation but they have extreme enthusiasm for film and this is an attitude that many film makers should learn from them instead of waiting for funds and do nothing.

(short fragment of the movie)

The people in Malegaon are poor labourers. Working at a cotton looms is an underpaying job involving serious health risks. The appeal of the spoofs, which are shown in local “mini theatres”, owes much to the incorporation of local idioms and the escape they offer audiences from the monotony of long-hours shifts in local factories. To see how important part of their life is watching movies is also very refreshing. It all about the joy that the simple act of making and watching a film brings into lives.

“Supermen of Malegaon” is clearly the most amusing film about making another film you’re ever likely to watch. And it has a kick-ass theme song!!! It stays in your head for days :)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

In Complete World

in complete world trailer from Shelly Silver on Vimeo.

This movie is a gem. When it ends, one wishes it hadn’t.

It's a deep reflection about society (American in this case but some of the questions are so general that it could be any) presented in the most simple way: by going out on the streets of New York City and randomly picking passers by to answer a fixed set of interview questions, such as: “Are you satisfied?”, “Do you make enough money?”, “Do you feel responsible for the government you get?”, “Do you feel responsible for what your government does?”, “Do you feel personally responsible for the war in Iraq?”, “Is there equal opportunity in America?”, “Is global warming happening? Do you feel responsible for it?”, and more existential ones like “What are you most scared of?” or “Are you optimistic about the future?” among others. The filming was done through all of 2007, and part of 2008 and clearly the filming was completed before the election of Obama in November of 2008. It would be kind of intersting to see how Americans' percepcion of their society have changed since then.

In Complete World is described as:
“a feature-length documentary made up of street interviews done throughout New York City. Mixing political questions (Are we responsible for the government we get?) with more broadly existential ones (Do you feel you have control over your life?), the film centers on the tension between individual and collective responsibility. The film can be seen as a user’s manual for citizenship in the 21st century, as well as a glimpse into the opinions and self-perceptions of a diverse group of Americans. It is a testament to the people of New York City in this new millennium, who freely offer up thoughtful, provocative and at times tender revelations to a complete stranger, just because she asked.”

Shelly Silver’s work is a very challenging and really provokes one to think about some very fundamental issues concerning who we are in this world, at this time. It tracks that intersection between I and us (society), that acknowledgement, sometimes begrudging, sometimes joyful, sometimes even disgusting, that all of us are a part of it. With questions that bridge the personal and the political, she gets to the issue of responsibility. She does not make viewers of the movie reach some definite conclusions, instead if this she is putting the viewers into the position of building/making sense of the film by themselves. I think most of the viewers (according to the hopes of director) enter the position of the interviewee, asking himself or herself what they would answer, while they are watching the film. What's important instead of apathy or indifference, people seem to have a great desire to speak and be heard, to have a voice. They answering each question seriously, cleverly, sometimes with humour, sometimes with sadness. Some come out and thank the interviewer at the end for this opportunity to speak and to be heard. Silver’s interviewees always have answers, they never struggle, show no sense of fearing the camera as an object, shying away from it, but they are of course very much conscious of it. This film leaves a very optimistic feelings but one has to remember that NYC is a great city of many thoughtful people, but unfortunately it is not representative of the whole United States.

photos and info:

Friday, 24 December 2010

Xmas Special:) - The Lunch Date

10 brilliant minutes from 1989. Classic urban tale directed by Adam Davidson

The Lunch Date won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival and then an Academy Award for the best Live Action Short Film in 1991. This is
an excellent study of class and race perceptions.

Thursday, 23 December 2010


Directed by: Jose Corbacho, Juan Diaz
Spain 2005

When I'm asked what is my favourite movie, it usually costs me to answer, since simply there isn't one. There are so many completely completely different movies that I consider very good and I could identify as one of my favourites. "Tapas" is definitely one of them, so natural and simple, yet excellent.

Whole story takes place over couple of hot days in the typical neighborhood of L’Hospitalet de Llorbregat in Barcelona, Spain, but it could be any district, any city and any summer. What we are getting it's a mix of few events in and around a tapas bar, a small market, and local shops. It doesn't really make sense to tell what those stories are about, the true is that everyone could be the protagonists of that movie. The success of the film can be attributed to directors Jose Corbacho and Juan Cruz who keep the characters, emotions and situations so real. Stories that happen in Hospitalet de Llobregat could happen anywhere in the world. All issues that this film is touching are common to all people: loneliness, death, love, sex, friendship, envy, compassion, hope ... Universal themes that are close to all of us.

The title obviously refers to local tapas bar, around which all characters mingle, but it actually has a double meaning. When asked about it the authors responded:

"We have always believed that behind every person who crosses the street (your neighbour or a cab driver) there is a story worth telling. And if you follow that person to your home and share with them moments of his life, this story will grow, because then you will know things that you didn't notice the first time you met this person. We never quite know what happens to our neighbor living across the street or even our co-worker. In this society everyone "cover" (in spanish "tapar") something and our characters do this as well. This film tries to explain small stories that happen to normal people".

"Tapas" touches a very important social problems like euthanasia, drugs, prejudices towards immigrants. But its tone is much less formal. It shows that the border between comedy and tragedy, between laughter and tears is very, very thin. Because it is very hard to tell whether it's a comedy or drama. Rather comedy but with tough moments. In the end how to define a film that at times presents hopelessness, loneliness, isolation, and yet you laugh at it?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Anjos do sol (Angels of the sun)

Directed by: Rudi Lagemann
Brazil 2006

Undoubtedly it is a quite didactic, sentimental and predictable movie. But then the theme is really important and urgent as "Anjos do Sol" exposes the sad and shameful reality of child prostitution.

12 year-old illiterate Maria from Northern Brazil (inexperienced Fernanda Carvalho) is sold by her destitute parents to be employed as a housemaid and have better life, but instead she ends up being forced to work as a prostitute under slave-like conditions in a brothel in a gold field in the Amazon, run by evil Saraiva (Antonio Calloni). Overcoming all odds, Maria manages to escape to Rio de Janeiro, where she hopes her life will be better, but the movie leaves us with this bitter feeling that her future may not bring any change at all.

"Anjos do sol" is based on young prostitute's experiences collected by NGO working among them and presents an authentic stories. What I really like about this movie is the fact that its director Rudi Lagemann is exposing the harsh reality but never showing nudity or explicit sexual scenes. I find this aprroach much more touching and convincing than showing everyhing literally. It really hits deep. But then visually, the film is a bit contradictory, as Lagermann indulges in carefully planned framings and complex camera movements that soften the raw and ugly theme. It just all looks a little bit too beautiful. Still, the most important fact is that the film brings more attention to this depressing issue. Therefore, despite all its flaws more people need to see it!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Somers Town

Directed by: Shane Meadows,
UK 2008

It's kind of surprising that this movie becomes first one I write about here but I've just saw it this weekend and I absolutely love it! I admit I've been a bit sceptical at the beggining... The history of unlikely friendship between a runaway from Nottingham and Polish immigrant suggested another feature about alleged exploitation and abuse of East Europeans in United Kindom, something like Ken Loach's "It's a Free World", movie that despite being a Pole who for last 6 years lived on and off in London, I was not able to identify with and in which there was absolutely nothing I could relate to. Black and white images from first few minutes of "Somers Town" showing industrial surroundings of Kings Cross area and heading towards the station workers only fueled my uncertainty. But then I knew that from the creator of critically acclaimed "This is England" I should expect something much more than simple duplication of stereotypes.

And indeed,
The Edinburgh and Tribeca Film Festival award-winning "Somers Town" is an example of a completely different approach. It's a kind of cinema that I love most, simple stories about ordinary people going about their every-day buisness and just trying to live decently; in a way it's close to my favourites films like Spanish "Tapas", Argentinian "Historias mínimas" or Polish "Tricks".

The story of newcomers to London's immigrant working class district is a beautiful tale about a sense of alienation in
a new environment, about difficult family issues among immigrants, expecialy if they have left somebody close behind them in their native country, but it's also about the bond between father and son, teenage friendship and first innocent love affections. The plot is very simple: the film commences with loudmouth Tomo, ("This is England" revelation Thomas Turgoose, where he played the baby skinhead, Shaun) arriving to London from the north with no prospects and no place to stay. We're never quite sure what the back-story is surrounding him but he is determinated to stay in London. Within a night Tomo’s been beaten and robbed. Next day he approaches Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish immigrant, whose father (Ireneusz Czop) works at the construction site. Two boys couldn't be more different, Marek is a gentle, simple-hearted boy that spends most of his time wandering the streets of the neighborhood and taking photos, preferebly of French waitress, Maria (Elisa Lasowski), that he's in love with and naively considers his girlfriend. Marek agrees to give shelter to Tomo as long as he stays out of his father's sight. Tomo's cocky behaviour would be unbearable if he weren’t so obviously lonely. Same as Marek who after moving to new country doesn't have any friends yet and spends his days alone, because even after the work his dad prefers to go for a beer with his mates than sit at home with him. Two boys become friends simply by hanging out, both of them fall under the spell of Maria trying to win her interest. But obviously it's just a matter of time when Marek's father discovers Tomo's presence in his house.

Homelessness, migration: this could have been a very doleful piece of cinema. Instead, Meadows gives us charming witty and touching coming-of-age film. It's genuinely funny and positive. The end the film seems like some kind of romantic fairy tale. But it's still truly human and realistic.

For good beginning one of my favourite movie posters ever!