Author Archives: Amos

“MOVING PARTS”— An Unpredictable Journey

“MOVING PARTS”

An Unpredictable Journey

Amos Lassen

 Emilie Upczak’s “Moving Parts” looks at how much is communicated and accomplished in a short amount of time. We follow the unpredictable journey of a young Chinese woman as she immigrates to a different country for the same reasons so many others do. Extortion and human trafficking play roles in the journey and the way in they factor into this harrowing story feels quite real and authentic. 

Zhenzhen (Valerie Tian) comes to Trinidad and Tobago by boat with other young woman and is brought to a secluded port via a smuggler  who tells her brother, Wei (Jay Wong) that he owes a “tax” of ten-thousand U.S. dollars. They promise to come up with the money, but it’s this extortion is just one of many uncertainties hanging over their heads in this new stage of life. Zhenzhen has joined her brother after recently caring for and burying their father back in China. It is not clear why or how this location was chosen as a place to relocate, but we eventually see it to be a place where many people have come for years in an effort to find better lives. How long they intended on staying there is something else.

 Wei secured a position for Zhenzhen in the kitchen of a local restaurant run by a Mrs. Liu (Jacqueline Chan), a mature woman who may be involved in another type of service industry as well. As Zhenzhen gets settled and starts working under the head chef (Godfrey Wei), she is noticed by Evelyn (Kandyse McClure), a woman who lives nearby. We eventually learn why Evelyn is so observant of the new arrivals to the island. She runs an art gallery while dealing with her brother, James (Nickolai Salcedo), who is homeless and on the street. Her derelict father (Conrad Parris) is also of great concern. He has ties to local illegal affairs. It doesn’t take long before Evelyn and Zhenzhen’s lives intersect and this is beneficial to both women.

Desperation sets in as both Wei and Zhenzhen feel the pressure of the debt they owe to her smuggler and they make decisions that seem to be the only way out. Wei turns to gambling and Zhenzhen to an alternate method of employment at a nightclub. Things come to a head when Wei learns how she’s been earning money, which puts Zhenzhen in an even more difficult spot as she ties to get out of the situation.

“Moving Parts” opens on the sea, with the camera following the boat which carries Zhenzhen to her new home as it carries the audience into this world that we probably never knew about. We’ve all heard of the hardships of starting anew in a different country, particularly regarding immigration, and we’ve all heard of sex trafficking. “Moving Parts” is put a face and a heart on these topics and in turn helps us realize that these people exist. Each of us is a guest on Zhenzhen’s journey, witnessing all the moving parts at play in her life and what part she is often forced to play.

Director Upczak immerses us into the environment in order to learn who these characters are. We come closer to the people we follow and to the atmosphere where they are. The camera gives much more than typical establishing shots, we’re taken through the streets as locals and new arrivals go about doing what they can to make ends meet. There is a foreboding sense of the unknown for Zhenzhen throughout  and a visual approach here that is clear and understandable. The story gradually shares focus with Zhenzhen and Evelyn, two woman navigating through life in different ways while also sharing similarities. Both women have brothers, and while their relationships with their siblings are different, both men have an effect on them. Zhenzhen and Wei are emotionally weighed down by their recent loss of their father and, while they appear close at first, it becomes clear that Wei is troubled with the responsibility he feels for getting he and his sister out of the situation they are in. Similarly, Evelyn is concerned with where her estranged brother is in life and how their father shows no interest helping him. She seems to avoid influences and temptations that won’t benefit her and while it pains her to see her brother living as he does yet she knows she can’t help him if he doesn’t want it. Help is exactly what Zhenzhen knows she needs, especially when a tragic incident leaves her alone and she turns to Evelyn. These two strong and resilient woman gradually see each other and we benefit from that just as much as they do.

Much of what we see is because of how the actresses portray their characters. Both have an absorbing screen presence, but the emotional vulnerability they convey plays a large factor in how drawn we are to them. At the same time, each character needs a certain amount of exterior cautiousness as well, since they do not know who they can trust. The screenplay (co-written by Upczak, Nicholas Emery and Jay White)  shows rather than tells and carefully balances what to show the audience as the story unfolds.

Ths is a well-intentioned film that covers a lot of familiar terrain. It is eye-opening to see how thin the boundaries are between legit (but exploitative) menial labor and outright sexual servitude.

Valerie Tian gives a brutally honest and painfully vulnerable performance. Her character makes plenty of mistakes, but she matures quickly, which gives her an interesting developmental arc. Jay Wong is compelling as Wei and he shifts in the opposite direction. Jacqueline Chan is chillingly villainous as Mrs. Liu, but Godfrey Wei is the film’s secret ingredient, adding both grace and grit as the restaurant’s chef.

We know exactly where “Moving Parts” is going and it breaks little new ground getting there but seeing this story unfold against a Caribbean backdrop gives viewers a full sense of the extent of human trafficking crimes. It should convince us that the time for some sort of global treaty prohibiting passport confiscation should exist.

2019 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Winners

2019 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Winners

 

Jew­ish Book of the Year
Everett Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Award

Win­ner:

Amer­i­ca’s Jew­ish Women: A His­to­ry from Colo­nial Times to Today
Pamela S. Nadell 
W. W. Nor­ton & Company

Life­time Achieve­ment Award

The Hebrew Bible: A Trans­la­tion with Com­men­tary  
Robert Alter
W. W. Nor­ton & Company

Men­tor­ship Award in Hon­or of Car­olyn Star­man Hessel

Dena W. Neusner

Dena Neusner is Exec­u­tive Edi­tor at Behrman House and its children’s book imprint, Apples & Hon­ey Press. She has been with Behrman House for eleven years, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly worked as a children’s book edi­tor at Puf­fin Books, Scholas­tic, and Para­chute Press. Dena has ded­i­cat­ed her career to sup­port­ing com­pelling children’s sto­ries that reflect Jew­ish expe­ri­ence and values.

Amer­i­can Jew­ish Studies

Cel­e­brate 350 Award

Win­ner: 

The Foun­da­tions of Amer­i­can Jew­ish Liberalism
Ken­neth D. Wald
Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Antholo­gies and Collections

Win­ner:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hebrew (and What It Means to Amer­i­cans) 
Nao­mi B. Sokoloff, Nan­cy E. Berg, eds.
Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton Press

Auto­bi­og­ra­phy and Memoir

The Krauss Fam­i­ly Award in Mem­o­ry of Simon & Shu­lamith (Sofi) Goldberg

Win­ner:

Inher­i­tance: A Mem­oir of Geneal­o­gy, Pater­ni­ty, and Love
Dani Shapiro
Alfred A. Knopf

Biog­ra­phy

In Mem­o­ry of Sara Beren­son Stone

Win­ner:

Touched with Fire: Mor­ris B. Abram and the Bat­tle against Racial and Reli­gious Dis­crim­i­na­tion 
David E. Lowe
Potomac Books

and Giroux

Book Club 
The Miller Fam­i­ly Award in Mem­o­ry of Helen Dunn Wein­stein and June Keit Miller 

Win­ner:

The World That We Knew  
Alice Hoffman
Simon & Schuster

Children’s Lit­er­a­ture

Win­ner:

Gittel’s Jour­ney: An Ellis Island Story
Lesléa New­man; Amy June Bates, illus.
Abrams Books for Young Read­ers, an imprint of ABRAMS

Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Life and Practice
Myra H. Kraft Memo­r­i­al Award

Win­ner: 

How to Fight Anti-Semi­tism  
Bari Weiss
Crown

Debut Fic­tion
Gold­berg Prize

Win­ner:

Naamah  
Sarah Blake
River­head Books

Edu­ca­tion and Jew­ish Identity
In Mem­o­ry of Dorothy Kripke

Win­ner: 

Anti­semitism: Here and Now
Deb­o­rah Lipstadt
Schocken

Library of Jew­ish Civilization

Fic­tion
JJ Green­berg Memo­r­i­al Award 

Win­ner:

Fly Already: Sto­ries  
Etgar Keret
River­head Books

Food Writ­ing & Cookbooks
Jane and Stu­art Weitz­man Fam­i­ly Award

Win­ner: 

Jew­ish Cui­sine in Hun­gary: A Cul­tur­al His­to­ry with 83 Authen­tic Recipes 
András Koerner
Cen­tral Euro­pean Uni­ver­si­ty Press

His­to­ry
Ger­rard and Ella Berman Memo­r­i­al Award

Win­ner:

The Guard­ed Gate: Big­otry, Eugen­ics and the Law That Kept Two Gen­er­a­tions of Jews, Ital­ians, and Oth­er Euro­pean Immi­grants Out of America
Daniel Okrent
Scribner

Holo­caust
In Mem­o­ry of Ernest W. Michel

Win­ner:

The Unwant­ed: Amer­i­ca, Auschwitz, and a Vil­lage Caught In Between
Michael Dobbs
Alfred A.Knopf in asso­ci­a­tion with the Unit­ed States Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Museum

Mod­ern Jew­ish Thought and Experience
Dorot Foun­da­tion Award in Mem­o­ry of Joy Unger­lei­der May­er­son 

Win­ner:

Lega­cy of Blood: Jews, Pogroms, and Rit­u­al Mur­der in the Lands of the Soviets
Elis­sa Bemporad
Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Poet­ry
Berru Award in Mem­o­ry of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash

Win­ner:

Deaf Repub­lic 
Ilya Kaminsky
Gray­wolf Press

Schol­ar­ship
Nahum M. Sar­na Memo­r­i­al Award 

Win­ner: 

Rashi’s Com­men­tary on the Torah: Can­on­iza­tion and Resis­tance in the Recep­tion of a Jew­ish Classic
Eric Lawee
Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Sephardic Cul­ture
Mimi S. Frank Award
in Mem­o­ry of Becky Levy

Win­ner:

Lethal Provo­ca­tion: The Con­stan­tine Mur­ders and the Pol­i­tics of French Alge­ria  
Joshua Cole
Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Visu­al Arts

Win­ner:

Edith Halpert, the Down­town Gallery, and the Rise of Amer­i­can Art
Rebec­ca Shaykin
The Jew­ish Muse­um and Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Women Stud­ies
Bar­bara Dobkin Award

Win­ner:

Sarah Schenir­er and the Bais Yaakov Move­ment  
Nao­mi Seidman
The Littman Library of Jew­ish Civilization

Writ­ing Based on Archival Material
The JDC-Her­bert Katz­ki Award

Win­ner: 

A Mor­tu­ary of Books: The Res­cue of Jew­ish Cul­ture after the Holo­caust 
Elis­a­beth Gallas
New York Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Young Adult Literature

Win­ner:

Some­day We Will Fly  
Rachel DeWoskin
Viking, an imprint of Pen­guin Young Readers

“A SKIN SO SOFT”— Canadian Bodybuilders

“A SKIN SO SOFT”

Canadian Bodybuilders

Amos Lassen

Denis Côté’s “A Skin So Soft” looks at the muscular bodies and quotidian lives of six male Canadian bodybuilders through wordless passages. Côté’s camera favors the silence of daily moments when these physically hardened men put down their weights and become “fundamentally human.”

Côté brings together details about his subjects from snatches of their lives in which he finds poetry. One of the documentary’s bodybuilders, Cédric Doyon, smokes a cigarette, then has his mother critique the finer points of his poses. Without relying on talking heads or exposition, the film arrives at a mysterious assessment of its subjects’ lives, never settling into asking what it means to painstakingly devote oneself to bodybuilding.

Côté’s is philosophical in his deconstruction of on-screen action of the first half of the film the daily routines of each of its subjects. Jean-François Bouchard combs his long goatee and applies lotion to his skin and this is in contrast to the man’s muscle definition. Côté challenges the stereotypical displays of masculinity and belligerence that weightlifters have been associated with.

“A Skin So Soft” is a counterpoint to a corporate image of athletics. The only time that we hear rhetoric of advertising in the documentary is when one subject offers advice to another but even then, the filmmaking points to small bits of business that counter an acceptance of the words at face value. Alexis Légaré, the youngest of the film’s subjects, tries to convince his girlfriend to take up weightlifting, but she doubts that she has the time to do so. Her decision not to do so pushes Alexis into an unseen role as a motivational speaker, Côté initially keeps the camera trained on her hands that fidget with a pair of Alexis’s hand grips. The shot of Alexis’s face shows a man frustrated by his partner’s unwillingness “to adopt a demeanor that precisely matches his own.” We see how Alexis’s obsession does not let him see the self-aggrandizing nature of his speech.

We go beyond the gym floor and the shiny oiled skins of the participants  but that does not mean that they are totally sensitive. We see Ronald Yang as a man who lifts weights and spends time with his extended family. Maxim Lemire playfully argues with his wife and daughter about why he’s in a “grumpy” mood. Benoit Lapierre is a conscientious physical therapist during the day and a bodybuilder by night. There is no simplistic conception of how bodily exertion might neatly mix with familial devotion.  The film is a lesson on how filmmakers see past the most explicit attributes of their subjects.

 

Denis Côté watches his subject from unexpected angles with the message that a film or a story must be ambivalent, ambiguous and his way of looking at things must be oblique. The theme here is bodybuilding and the gaze he takes is steady but often unexpected. We get to know the men through the contours of their skin and their lives. One has a dog, another a toddler, another has a fellow bodybuilder for a wife and a sideline in wrestling, while the fourth a girlfriend who might enjoy the sport herself. What all four have in common is a dedication to their craft.

Côté mixes scenes of them pumping iron, taking the poses that they need to accentuate their muscles in competition or doing day-to-day activities and the result becomes a meditative study of man and muscle. There’s a dedication and determination here in eating the right kind of food. We simply observe the men as they move around; the film avoids over-interpretation, working hard to leave room for each person watching to find their own narrative as to why each man might have chosen body building as his sport.

There is a hint of fun all through the film as we look  beyond this carefully created cliché in what has gone before and what follows. Côté’s shows his subjects’ stories. and lets us draw our own conclusions.

“Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins” by Katarina Bivald— Finding Happiness

Bivald, Katarina. “Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins”, Sourcebooks, 2020.

Finding Happiness

Amos Lassen

Katarina Bivald’s “Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins” introduces us to a ramshackle roadside motel and gives us a heartwarming story of love, friendship, community, and the art of living, even when it’s already too late.

The Pine Creek Motel has had better days. Henny thought  it was charming, but she’s the kind of person who always sees the best in things. Now, she has decided that she is not going to let a tiny thing like death stop her from living a full life especially when her friends and family need her the most.

After her funeral is over and she is buried, Henny is still around. She doesn’t understand why but she realizes she has one last opportunity to help her friends discover the happiness they had had once before they lost the motel and cabins they’ve loved for years.

Now you might think that a book about death, grief, love, regrets, hope would be depressing, but this is not the case here. I actually found this to be an uplifting and fun read. There are so many funny, touching, sad, and happy moments in the novel and the sadness I felt was because I finished reading it. Here is a story of love and loss and learning who we are that is filled with empathy and compassion.

Henny is killed by a truck as she is crossing the road in the woods of Oregon but she doesn’t and sort of clings around or doesn’t fully die. Rather she watches her friends and father live their lives as they try to get over her death.  In fact, her death becomes a way for her friends and father and the entire town of Pine Creek to look at what they believe in, rediscover love and what family means, and rebuild their community and home. they love.

As the book begins, it seems that there is not much of a story here— a girl dies yet she stays around and watches the life she could have had as it continues  without her.  The storyline shifts from Henny to her father and the people of the town.  This happens when once Henny accepts her death and stops trying to find a way to come back realizing that she still has some work to do for the town and people she loved. 

The plot includes LGBTQ characters and themes giving representation to gay, straight, trans and queer characters) and looks at the struggles that these characters have had to deal with have had to deal with including nasty remarks and attitudes because of who they are. This allows us to think about our lives  and what could be if we suddenly died. We see that we can all love one another regardless of differences and life is all about love.

The prose is wonderful and the settings and character development is excellent all around. I love the way that writer Bivald depicts the impact of homophobia in a small town setting and its long-term impact on the gay community.

While Henny was powerless to soothe or interact with  the characters, she manages to have things go the way she wants. Her death causes a long feud between some of the townspeople and the staff at the Pine Away and  we feel the courage, love and understanding it took for things to work out. We have burning tempers but love trumps all. We see that a single person can affect the lives of many and that second chances do exist.

“When You See Me: A Novel” by Lisa Gardner— A Crime for Today

 

Gardner, Lisa. “When You See Me: A Novel”, Dutton, 2020.

A Crime for Today

Amos Lassen

Lisa Gardner brings back three of her most beloved characters—Detective D. D. Warren, Flora Dane, and Kimberly Quincy in a new thriller, as they investigate a mysterious murder from the past that points to a dangerous and chilling present-day crime.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren have built a task force to follow clues left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. At first, it seems like there is something very sinister and they learn that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must use their skills and experience to solve the most disturbing case of their careers as Flora faces her own past.

Human bones are found in the deep woods of Georgia and to FBI Agent Kimberly Quincy, the findings mean something specific and for this investigation, she needs D.D. Warren and Flora Dane on board. The bones belong to the body of Lilah Abenito who was reported missing fifteen years ago and is assumed to be a victim of Jacob Ness. Ness kidnapped and tortured Flora Dane for 472 days and now Flora, must once again face her past but  this time, she is not alone–  she has D.D., and her friend/computer whiz Keith beside her. 

When more bodies are found and mass graves are uncovered and suspicions arise, we wonder if Jacob Ness solely responsible. It seems that the town is not as nice as thought as we see through the mayor and his wife, who are the owners of the most popular B&B in town, the Town Clerk and several others. Bonita, the “niece” of the mayor and his wife, is scared every day of her life and she has good reason. There is a lot of tension in this novel and I found myself shivering at times.

Three strong women headed the investigation. Quincy and. Warren think they are tracking something to do with the dead rapist Jacob Ness. They bring Flora into the case and Flora brings her buddy, a computer genius. What these women find is much more disturbing and widespread than they ever imagined. The novel has multiple narratives and a sensitive exploration of trauma and its lasting effects.

The sinister factor starts early and builds quickly as Southern town charm gives way to deadly menace and dangerous secrets in this twist-a-minute novel. Because of that I am limited as to what I can say about the plot. It is quite a read that will keep you shaking as you flip pages.

“SPRINTER”— An Emotional Family Drama

“SPRINTER”

An Emotional Family Drama

Amos Lassen

In “Sprinter” we meet a Jamaican teen with an unstable father and an unruly older brother who rises quickly in track-and-field  and who hopes that this can reunite him with his mother, who has lived illegally in the U.S. for over a decade.

Written and directed by Storm Saulter, the film is quite predictable yet is designed to affect the viewer’s emotions and it, indeed, does so. It does not utilize emotionally manipulative devices or contrivance to make its sentiments heard as it generically adheres to the sports movie playbook. The hero’s meteoric rise, fall from grace, and inevitable comeback is a formula that’s been done before. However, setting it against the backdrop of real social issues like immigration and the lack of local economic opportunity makes it immediate; it’s heartfelt in its delivery.

Akeem Sharp (Dale Elliot) lost his mother Donna (Lorraine Toussaint) when she left Jamaica to find work in the United States to help support their family. Her plan was to stay in America for just two years, but 10 years later, she is stuck in a vicious cycle of working on a long-expired work visa to send money back home. The hardship of losing their mom has driven older brother Germaine (Kadeem Wilson) to unruly behavior, running a lottery scam and treating women as sex objects. Their father Garfield (Dennis Titus) has also not dealt with the separation very well and uses and abuses alcohol to numb his sorrow. Fortunately, Akeem has remained relatively unscathed as a track-and-field star and a prized pupil at his high school.

Akeem idolizes his brother, whose own track career was ended by injury. His dream is to become his school’s next 200-meter dash champion, get a scholarship to a school in the U.S., and reunite with his mother. His winning streak catches not the eye of classmate Mira (Shak-Quera South) and the news media, who come looking to distract him from his goals. None of this excites his Coach (David Allen Grier).

Despite Akeem’s efforts to maintain focus, the turmoil at home threatens his career. His mother is not so available to chat over Skype and his father is physically lashes out at him. Germaine is filled with jealousy over his younger brother’s career, takes advantage of his trust by giving Akeem bad advice to go professional instead of staying in school and shows him the seductive side of getting rich quick (nightly parties at big homes filled with hot girls and flashy cars). He sabotages Akeem’s future by not mailing important school transfer paperwork. Akeem is forced to mature.

Garfield breaks down trying to keep things together and crumbles while doing so. Donna’s selflessness has distanced her from Akeem. Germaine is allowed a bit of redemption after he reveals his protective-albeit-misguided motives to Akeem. The characters are three-dimensional, and their performances reflect their depth.

Through the difficult years of separation, Akeem holds on to a happy childhood memory of gathering seashells with his mother but that memory fades in young adulthood. Hope returns during his climactic race. Pep talks from Coach, who advises Akeem to wear mental blinders, and teammate Kerry (Shantol Jackson) encourages him to run for no one but himself. Though the stands are full and Akeem is flanked by competitors, he sees the stadium as empty, and himself running alone and free. The action is character-driven and we see it primarily through the protagonist’s point of view. Akeem’s perspective is portrayed through the film’s aesthetics and imagery with a Jamaican dancehall soundtrack causes the picture to pulsate.

Storm Saulter directs with that energy and style as we watch Akeem struggle with concentration ahead of a make-or-break race. Elliott is an open presence. The visuals are the strength of the film. We see Jamaica in a way that is rarely seen on screen.

Bonus features include: English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired, Theatrical Trailer, Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD MA, 2.0 DTS-HD MA, 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Stereo, Photo Gallery, Sprinter Premiere at The Grove.

“COMPLICITY”— The Human Condition and the Search for Connections

“COMPLICITY”

The Human Condition and the Search for Connections

Amos Lassen

Japanese Director Kei Chikaura takes us on a journey with Chen Liang (Lu Yulai), a young Chinese immigrant illegally living in Japan who buys a fake ID and cell phone on the black market. When he receives a call about a job, he accepts the offer blindly. He assumes the identity of Liu Wei and ends up working as an apprentice in a family-run soba restaurant. As he gets used to his new life, he forms a strong bond with his sagely mentor (Tatsuya Fuji) and finds happiness in a romance with a local artist, but the constant threat of deportation hangs heavily over him.  We get a rare inside view of life as a marginalized immigrant in Japan.

Japan has found itself in a moment of possible crisis as it begins to realize  that it will need to embrace immigration or undergo a serious labor shortage. Much of Japan remains uncomfortable with the idea of overseas labor especially regarding “low skilled” manual jobs. 

Chen Liang (Lu Yulai), finds himself in just this position as he leaves his sickly mother and grandma alone in rural China in the hope of making enough money in Japan to come home and restart the family business. What he discovers, however, is that he’s essentially been trafficked as cheap labor and is already in debt for an ID card that he was conned into paying three times the going rate for. Now living under the name Liu Wei, he is disturbed by receiving calls on his new phone intended for his namesake but  he is tempted when Liu Wei gets a job offer from an employment agency. Passing himself off as Liu Wei, he takes the job only realizing later that it’s for a job as a trainee chef in a family-owned soba restaurant. 

Ageing soba chef Hiroshi (Tatsuya Fuji) and his daughter Kaori (Kio Matsumoto) are warm and welcoming people who are actually a little bit excited that someone from China wants to learn about soba. Chen is taken in as a member of the family, he begins to feel conflicted since he is after all lying to them, at least about his name and circumstances, and his presence in their home might cause them trouble if they find out. Meanwhile, he also strikes up a friendship with an artist, Hazuki (Sayo Akasaka) who is learning Manda but has to lie to her too, pretending they may one day meet up in Beijing when in reality he has never even been there. 

His burgeoning is what brings his downfall as she, unaware he is undocumented, reports his stolen wallet to the police. The lies do not stop there . Chen pretends that everything’s fine in order to facilitate his “happy” life in Japan where he is supposed to make lots of money and come back a wealthy man. In order to make his dream succeed, Chen Liang must become Liu Wei at the exclusion of all else, forsaking his life as Chen Liang and living carefully as if he has nothing to fear. 

Emphasizing how much they have in common rather than the various ways in which Chen Liang differs from the world around him, Chikaura gives us a sympathetic portrait of a migrant worker., Complicity is a beautifully drawn character study in which kindness and compassion eventually open new doors for a conflicted young man trying to find his place in q hostile world.

A strong central performance from Yulai Lu and great supporting work from Tatsuya Fuji, the film explores the intersection between the identities people need to perform in life and those they might discover within themselves.

“Complicity” is filled with poetic representations of Japanese food culture and rural life. This is a film about “the beauty of the human condition and about risking everything to have those relationships that mean the most to us and why cultural differences can bring people together rather than push them apart”

BONUS FEATURE 

  • Bonus Short Film – About Bintou(Written and directed by Dezhou Li | China/United Kingdom | 13 minutes) — This illuminating documentary short follows a young African woman’s life as a student in Guangzhou, China. In French and Mandarin with English subtitles. 

 About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement. 

“GREGORY’S GIRL”— Playing on the Team

“GREGORY’S GIRL”

Playing on the Team

Amos Lassen

Following an 8-game losing streak, a desperate (and sexist) Glasgow school soccer team coach reluctantly accepts hotshot female player Dorothy (Dee Hepburn,). Teenager Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair), falls hard for his new teammate. This is the plot of “Gregory’s Girl” which was perhaps the biggest sleeper hit of the 1980s.

Adolescence is sometimes painful and frequently ludicrous. It has been the subject of many, many movie over time and is wonderfully delineated in Bill Forsyth’s “Gregory’s Girl”. It is still as much fun as it was when it was released some thirty years ago.

The film takes on a simple premise, uses a young and untried cast, and never strives for “social significance”, cheap laughs or manufactured drama. The end result is a treasure.

Gregory (Sinclair) is a teenage schoolboy growing up in a Scottish town and the star player in the school football team. When their spectacular losing streak prompts the coach (Jake D’Arcy) to make some changes, Gregory’s somewhat upset to be demoted to goalie. He feels better when the most obvious talent for his replacement is the gorgeous Dorothy, a new girl in town. He pursues her to the jealousy and disgust of his mates, who think the whole idea of girls playing footie is not normal. She’s patently not interested, however, unlike her friend Susan (Grogan). Eventually Dorothy agrees to go out with Gregory, but he finds the date doesn’t turn out quite as planned…

The real pleasure of the film is in the non-stop parade of funny, well-observed scenes and killer lines of dialogue. Forsyth the writer captures the often ridiculous intensity of teenage infatuation and growing pains in general and as a director, he develops the core cast and a string of fresh and natural performances.

The kids hang about and trade endless speculation on the impossibility of being sixteen and happy at the same time. Gregory turns for romantic advice to his younger sister, who is much more interested in ice cream. His sister, in fact, is oblivious to boys, although one pays her an earnest compliment. We are reminded that we tend to forget a lot of things about adolescence. The movie contains wisdom about being alive and teenaged and vulnerable.

BONUS FEATURES 

  • Audio Commentary with director Bill Forsyth and film critic Mark Kermode
  • Bill Forsyth on Gregory’s Girl interview
  • Bill Forsyth: The Early Years interview
  • Gregory’s Girl Memories with Clare Grogan interview
  • New essay by film scholar Jonathan Murray
  • Alternative U.S. and French dub versions 

About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“David Susskind Archive: Interview With Nikita Khrushchev”— Remembering Khrushchev

 

“David Susskind Archive: Interview With Nikita Khrushchev”

Remembering Khrushchev

Amos Lassen

“In October 1960, Eisenhower was President and the election that put John F. Kennedy into the White House was less than a month away. The Cold War was at its zenith. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier was visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York City. No Soviet leader had ever been interviewed by an American, yet Khrushchev agreed to appear live on David Susskind’s ‘Open End’. There was an immediate negative reaction to the announcement, even causing then F.B.I. director Hoover to ask What do our files show on Susskind? The program aired live on Sunday, October 9 on New York television station WNTA. The two-hour conversation (through an interpreter) was very spirited and focused on two main topics: First, the virtues of Soviet styled communism versus American style capitalism, and second, would Khrushched give his assurance that he would never initiate a nuclear war. At one point after a commercial break, Khrushchev is informed that one of the commercials during the break was for Radio Free Europe. The commercial depicted a communist soldier smashing a radio set with an axe. Initially, this set Khrushchev off, but after a moment he said Well, alright, let them screen it. We are not afraid. This will only make us stronger… Let them do it. The show is followed by an extensive panel discussion that incuded DEAN EDWARD BARRETT OF COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM HENRY SHAPIRO, JAMES WECHSLER, MAX LERNER OF NEW YORK POST, MARGUERITE HIGGINS & JOE NEWMAN OF NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE EUGENE LYONS OF READER’S DIGEST BLAIR FRASER OF MCLEAN’S MAGAZINE & CBC HARRY SCHWARTZ OF NEW YORK TIMES FRANK KANIF OF HEARST NEWSPAPERS And more….”

 

 

“MALE SHORTS: INTERNATIONAL V3”— Five Short Films

“Male Shorts: International V3”

Five Short Gay Films

Amos Lassen

I am reminded of how many gay short films that we never get to see every time a new collection is issued. Not everyone can make it to LGBTQ film festivals where these films are screened. The International Male Shorts collections from Breaking Glass Films help to fill in the gap with films we ordinarily not get to see. “Male Shorts: International V3”  brings us five shorts focusing on men.. Each of the films is presented in its original language (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German) with English subtitles.

“Vanilla” directed by Leo Tabosa plays with the taste of vanilla on everything.

Marcio Miranda Perez’s “LightRapping” is the story of Gustavo, a photographer who captures the bodies of naked men in public spaces around Sao Paulo. One night,  curious, undecided and young Pedro follows him as the two men embark on a journey.

“Polaroid” from Roberto Cuzzillo is the story of a young man from Sicily who goes to Berlin in search of his one-time lover but finds that he is now a family man who does not want to have anything more to do with the affair the two had of the previous summer.

“Five Minutes a Day” directed by Frederico Evaristo and Bob Yang introduces us to Jefferson (Jefferson Mascarehas) and Jorge (Guilherme Chelucci)  who are now living together.

 Simone Bozzelli’s “My Brother” is about two brothers, Umberto and Stefano,  who have just moved into a new apartment, where they share the same bedroom. Since their mother is away, Stefano has to look after his younger brother who is wants affection and contact.