Author Archives: Amos

“INNSAEI”— Science, Nature and Creativity

“Innsaei”

Science, Nature and Creativity

Amos Lassen

“Innsaei” is a story of soul searching, science, nature and creativity that takes us on a global journey to uncover how to connect within in today’s world of distraction and stress. Everyone is familiar with the term intuition but how many people really know what it is. We learn here that intuition is the sum of the experiences that one makes in the course of a life and the instinct that is innate to one. Two Icelandic women, Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir and Kristin Ólafsdóttir, interview people too see what they have to say about intuition.

There are research groups that measure intuition, but here we see Gunnsteinsdottir’s defining directional themes for her film: the discrepancy that is becoming more and more visible in individual human— looking at everyday experience between feeling and object, between human and measurement. The ability to look and the ability to trace sensitive perception is what the filmmakers want to show.

Our ability to perceive intuition implies a degree of empathy, not only for oneself, but for others as well. Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir was at the start of a promising career at the United Nations. She campaigned for women’s rights, helped traumatized women in Kosovo, and got a permanent position at the UN in Geneva. And then, at the age of 29, she felt burned out and resigned. With her friend, filmmaker Kristin Ólafsdottir, she embarks on a cinematic journey to academics, artists, spiritual teachers, and a school in England where children practice mindfulness. She examines what needs to be done so that people will not be cut off from their inner sources of power in the future.

The film explores the roots of the evil and the sources of a possible cure. Here she finds a key word in her own old Icelandic language: InnSæi. The word means the inner sea, the view inwards and the view from the inside to the outside. Being cut off from one’s own internal sources is the cause of personal suffering, but is also the root of far-reaching social ills. The film maintains that an inner compass has almost completely disappeared from the modern man.

“THE VIOLENT YEARS”— A Girl Gang

“THE VIOLENT YEARS”

A Girl Gang

Amos Lassen

“The Violent Years” was originally released in 1954 and is the sordid saga of Paula Parkins (Jean Moorhead), whose parents are too busy to realize that their daughter is the leader of a Gang of Four female delinquents responsible for a series of robberies in town. We see the gang in action as they hold up a gas station, then attack a couple on Lover’s Lane, making the girl strip down to her lingerie, tie her up, then take the young man into the woods and force him to have a gangbang. Paula and her pals fence their ill-gotten goods with Sheila, who hires them to trash their school.

The girls wreck a classroom but the noise has brought the cops and there is a shootout with the police. and Paula kills a cop! They head to Sheila’s place, and when Paula tells her they killed a cop, Sheila threatens to call the police herself. So Paula shoots Sheila.

But the cops are on Paula’s trail, and a chase ensues in which Paula crashes into a plate-glass window, killing her last remaining friend. She is caught and locked in the jail hospital ward. Paula is sentenced to life in prison.

The legendary Ed Wood wrote the screenplay about teenage girls who move from simple armed robbery to unlawful kidnapping and sexual assault. The film just gets wilder and wilder and, in fact, it gets so crazy that it is impossible to review this without giving something away.

 

“ALIVE”— Five HIV Positive Men

 

“ALIVE!” (“Vivant!”)

Five HIV Positive Men

Amos Lassen

“Alive” is about a week of training that five HIV+ go through before they experience their first solo parachute jump. We watch as unlikely friendships develop under strange conditions. and documents the development of unlikely friendships that develop between such a disparate group.

The focus is on the interpersonal relationships of the five men and the very intense training for the parachute jump. The training is both physically and mentally demanding and the men visibly struggle to assimilate all the need to Know in order to make a successful jump.

As jump day gets closer, the group witness a near-catastrophic problem in the air and they and the viewers understand the that they’re in a little more danger than they previously realized and this makes for compelling viewing. Slowly the documentary shifts to focus more on the friendships that are formed as the jump comes closer. As the relationships between the men evolve, some of the conversations are much more intimate and personal among this group of strangers.

The five men have very different viewpoints on the relationships they shares with significant others and sexual partners. We hear of their first loves, first kisses and some less-enjoyable situations they have found themselves in. Some of these stories can be quite emotional and difficult to listen to but they also make for a much deeper understanding of the situation these men deal with on a daily basis. We are doubly entertained here with the beauty of nature and the sky and with moments of introspection and intimacy. The stories tell of loneliness and fear of intimacy giving us insight into the men’s lives.

“MYKKI BLANCO GOES OUT OF THE WORLD”— Rapper and Artist

“Mykki Blanco Goes Out Of This World”

Rapper and Activist

Amos Lassen

American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco explores queer culture in Johannesburg.  Blanco seeks to breakdown barriers and share all her new experiences in this documentary. Blanco is a 31 years old, African American who visits for the first time.” 

She meets boundary pushing artists Umilio and FAKA, designer Rich Mnisi and Bradley and Nkulsey, a model and dancer and learns that they all use their platforms to give a voice to issues surrounding the politics of their sexuality, gender, identity and humanity in South Africa.  This fils is a special treat with this film.

“THE INVISIBLE WALLS OF OCCUPATION”— A Different Side of Palestinian Life

“The Invisible Walls of Occupation”

A Different Side Of Palestinian Life

Amos Lassen

In the Palestinian village of Burqah, 86% of men are employed, but 60% work unstable, part time jobs. Three-fourth of families here have five at or more members, and half of such families live beneath the poverty line of $530 per month. More than half the of residents express concerns about the Israeli military entering the village.

Is “The Invisible Walls of Occupation,” an interactive documentary produced by B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories in collaboration with Montreal-based digital design firm Folklore. The documentary opens with an introductory text that states, “If you get to know Burqah and its residents, you’ll get a picture of what life is like in a village hemmed in by physical and developmental obstacles” and then we get just facts set against an ambient music score and field recordings.

As an interactive documentary it takes a multimedia approach, blending interviews with photo collages, text, maps, and more. We go on a tour of the town, with stops at the homes of a village elder and a farmer ,a girl’s high school, and the clinic.

We experience the day-to-day life that we do not see on media coverage. Many of the interviewees talk about how checkpoints and road closures impact their lives, and the influence of instability and a discriminatory legal system is felt everywhere. We meet a young boy who uses his camera to record the settlers who harass his family. His footage consists of a series of clips showing gangs of masked men throwing rocks at his home with rocks and we learn. That this kind of harassment takes place all year long.

We see that the occupation makes life worse through daily anxieties, lowered expectations, and a shared degradation. The documentary also represents a modest step towards an eventual escape from invisibility itself.

Residents think many times before they build, go on vacation, study, work, trade, or grow crops and not because of laziness, or inability. It’s because they are concern about the obstacles, the harassment and attacks by the Israeli military or by settlers. It’s as if they live in a big prison with invisible walls. Burqah, us an unremarkable village since it has never taken fought against the occupation, and has not been subjected to extreme punitive measures. Because of this Burqah was chosen as a precisely because it is unexceptional, as a case in point about life under the occupation is like for residents of Palestinian villages. It is a small, picturesque village, surrounded by fields. Like many other villages, it has severe travel restrictions which isolate it from its surroundings and is also subject to massive land-grabs and stifling planning. These have turned it into a derelict, crowded and backward village with half its population living at or below the poverty line.

The economic situation is grim and both men and women supplement their income by farming, shepherding, cheese making, working from home with sewing and embroidery. Travel issues also have a detrimental effect on education and health services are very limited. As a case in point, the village’s situation demonstrates the effects of the occupation, showing how the settlements and their interests play a central role in Israel’s policy planning in the West Bank even at the cost of grave harm to the Palestinian residents, and how a legal-administrative web harms life and development.

“PULP”— A Comedy/Thriller

“PULP”

A Comedy/Thriller

Amos Lassen

Mickey King (Michael Caine) is a successful pulp novelist who is invited to ghost-write the autobiography of a mystery celebrity. His client, Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney) is a former actor -known for his gangster roles and real-life gangster connections. Now death is close at hand and King finds his job to be a lot more complicated than he first imagined.

Director Mike Hodges excels with the darker side of human nature and gets one of Caine’s finest performances with “Pulp”. Michael Caine, in one of his very finest performances, plays Mickey King, a writer of paperback pulp thrillers such as “My Gun Is Long” who is cornered by the associates of a faded Hollywood star named Preston Gilbert. Before King can meet Gilbert, he must go on a mystery coach tour. Soon, dead bodies are turning up and Mickey realizes that he’s in way over his head.

We see that he banality of the world is often lit up by people who are so much larger than life it’s hard to believe that they really exist. The film is an analyses the allure of fictional violence; glamour, machismo and the lack of consequence making this a very funny viewing experience. It also has a darker side which is largely kept as an undercurrent always close to the surface. Mickey King thinks he knows what’s involved in being the tough guy but the reality is that he really doesn’t. King may be physically prepared for the challenges that await him in the real world of violence and he’s hopelessly lost, drifting around in the middle of a sea of human corruption. When the film was first released in 1972, it flopped but since then it has gathered a small cult following over the years.

Extras include:

Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by director of photography Ousama Rawi, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Original 1.0 mono sound

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Brand-new interview with writer-director Mike Hodges

Brand-new interview with director of photography Ousama Rawi

Brand-new interview with assistant director John Glen

Brand-new interview with Tony Klinger, son of producer Michael Klinger

Original theatrical trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector s booklet containing new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

“Mink Eyes” by Max McBride— Duty, Fatherhood, Friendship and Love

McBride, Max. “Mink Eyes”, Arjuna, 2017.

Duty, Fatherhood, Friendship and Love

Amos Lassen

In “Mink Eyes”, author Max McBride gives us a look at both “the formal and informal workings of our legal system and the schemes and scams germinating in the underbelly of the business world”.

Our story begins in October 1986 when we meet Private detective Peter O’Keefe a man who is physically scarred and emotionally torn Vietnam vet. His best friend, ace attorney Mike Harrigan hires O’Keefe to investigate a mink farm Ponzi scheme in the Missouri Ozarks. Soon, O’Keefe finds himself in a web of money laundering, cocaine smuggling, and murder all under the hands of a–woven by a mysterious mobster who we come to know as known as “Mr. Canada.” Tag Parker, a beautiful woman, is also involved in all of this but she also becomes the object of O’Keefe’s dreams and nightmares.

Yes, this is a detective story about “murder, addiction, obsession, sex, and redemption” and we see these through the themes of duty, fatherhood, friendship and love. Peter O’Keefe is a reluctant hero who struggles every day to choose in favor of life over death.

I cannot say much about the plot because to do would ruin a wonderful read. The story is propelled by its larger than life characters and it moves rapidly. Be prepared to clear you day before you start to read because one you do, it is hard to walk away from this book.

 

“Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic” by Richard A. McKay— Following An Idea

McKay, Richard A. “Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic”, University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Following An Idea

Amos Lassen

 “Patient Zero” is popularly understood to be the first person infected in the AIDS epidemic and has been the key to media coverage of major infectious disease outbreaks for more than three decades. Yet the term itself did not exist before the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. We have wondered how quickly this idea came to exert such a strong grip on the scientific, media, and popular consciousness. Richard A. McKay in “Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic” interprets a wealth of archival sources and interviews to demonstrate how this seemingly new concept drew upon centuries-old ideas—and fears regarding contagion and social disorder.

This is a carefully documented and sensitively written account of the life of Gaétan Dugas, a gay man whose skin cancer diagnosis in 1980 took on very different meanings as the HIV/AIDS epidemic developed. He also received widespread posthumous infamy when he was incorrectly identified as patient zero of the North American outbreak. McKay shows how investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control inadvertently created the term inadvertently when they were researching the term amid their early research into the health crisis at the beginning and how an ambitious journalist amplified the idea in his determination to reframe national debates about AIDS. Many people struggled with the notion of patient zero by adopting, challenging and redirecting its powerful meanings in order to try to make sense of and respond to the first fifteen years of an epidemic that was unfolding before their very eyes. This book untangles the complex process by which individuals and groups create meaning and allocate blame when faced with new disease threats. In effect, McKay gives us revisionist history.

Below is the Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: “He Is Still Out There”

  1. What Came Before Zero?
  2. The Cluster Study
  3. “Humanizing This Disease”
  4. Giving a Face to the Epidemic
  5. Ghosts and Blood
  6. Locating Gaétan Dugas’s Views

Epilogue: Zero Hour—Making Histories of the North American AIDS Epidemic

Appendix: Oral History Interviews

Bibliography

Index

“The Videofag Book” edited by William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill— Four Years

Ellis, William and Jordan Tannahill, editors. “The Videofag Book”, Bookthug, 2017.

Four Years

Amos Lassen

In October 2012, gay lovers William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill moved into a former barbershop in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood. They turned the shop into an art space called Videofag which. Over the next four years became a hub for counterculture in the city. They hosted performances, screenings, parties, exhibitions, and all kinds of queer activates. Eventually William and Jordan broke up and closed the space for good in June 2016. The time they spent there had taken its toll and the men were exhausted and their love seemed to be worn out.

This is a chronicle of those four years and is related through multiple voices and mediums. It is a “personal history by William and Jordan; a love letter by Jon Davies; a communal oral history compiled by Chandler Levack; a play by Greg MacArthur; a poem by Aisha Sasha John; a chronological history of Videofag’s programming; and a photo archive curated by William and Jordan in full color.”

“Keeping On Keeping On” by Alan Bennett— Diaries and Essay, 2000-2015

Bennett, Alan. “Keeping On Keeping On”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Diaries and Essays, 2005 to 2015

Amos Lassen

Alan Bennett’s third collection of prose, “Keeping On Keeping On” is hilarious, revealing, and intelligent. It is made up of Bennett’s diaries from 2005 to 2015 including his much celebrated essays, his irreverent comic pieces and reviews. Taken as a whole, it reflects a decade in which Bennett had four major theater premieres and the films of “The History Boys” and “The Lady in the Van”. This is a classic history of a life in letters.

Bennett writes about the injustices of private education, Maggie Thatcher and the creeping erosion of the British National Health Service as he shares what it was like to become famous. He shares his feelings about those he calls “the hypocritical English” even though he comes from a working family that was also hypocritical. He is amazed by his own ‘success,’ both as an entertainer and as a moral crusader. He writes about justice, or “fairness” and about being simply being ordinary (the way he sees himself). He loves churches, country life, picnics and he really loves, as we see here, reminiscing.

Bennett abhors commerce and the public commercialization of standard rights and feels that the right of entry to public buildings, mainly National Trust properties and libraries should be run by private companies. Bennett has something to say about politicians and sees Thatcher as evil even though her electorate loved her. He sees Tony Blair as a traitor.

Bennett writes with wit, insight, honesty and a rage against injustice and fakery and has interesting thoughts on some major events. He makes us think and causes us to laugh (with him). He believes that there is hope that the world is civilized and humane.