Category Archives: Film

“ANGRY INUK”— Nuance as Concept


“ANGRY INUK”

Nuance as Concept

Amos Lassen

Aaju Peter is a lawyer, seal skin seamstress and economic activist. She is also a feminist icon who lives city of Nunavut where she is more than happy to let the men go out into the biting cold and hunt for seals while she has a much more difficult work to do and that is to make those in political power in a globalized world understand the concept of nuance. 

Home is Canada’s Baffin Island that is twice the size of Britain with an endless view of snow and ice. Filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, along with Aaju, her family and her community wants to completely re-think a certain kind of activism in the village she grew up.

Hunting seals for their meat, skins, and other harvested products is the principle industry and trade on Baffin Island. The community eats seal meat as a primary source of food; there are no vegans north of the treeline. And 40 years of zealous animal rights, activism has made towns become a kind of collateral damage; depression, suicide and poverty thrive when a people have their livelihood taken away. 

Arnaquq-Baril convincingly argues that he people need to be able to retail the skins of the animals they eat to pay for the fuel to hunt and live with dignity in the 21st century. Seal bans in the marketplaces of the European Union put a stigma on the product that in essence wipes out its value and utility. 

“Angry Inuk” follows the two women and their small band of anti-activist activists for eight years as they go to Brussels, Toronto, and Copenhagen in an attempt to engage with both the European Union politicians and representatives of various activist conglomerates that have grown dependant on images and ideas that are misleading. Along the way, they both explain the subtle way that Inuit express anger and how it contrasts to western outrage.

The most effective segments of the film allow the audience to go into the intimacies of their own lives. Particularly visual is Arnaquq-Baril, with her toddler son eating meat fresh off a carcass, or a family navigating a rowboat through large, fast moving chunks of ice on the Arctic Sea. The women know their data, social media skills in order to share information responsibly but these modern Inuit are but a few thousand people among billions of others, yet they have a voice.

We see how a culture with an understated anger confronts a group that is exactly their opposite. Arnaquq-Baril has no tolerance for nonsense and she refuses to sit silently from the sidelines. Thank goodness for that. Her anger over the misrepresentations of seal hunting s perpetuated by the media and environmental activist groups nearly reaches a boiling point, but she manages to stay cool as she fights against a campaign that has had devastating effects on her people. We see the perfectly humane act of killing, gutting, and preparing the seal, not just for its fur, but also for the rich and tasty meats that sustain the community. The film has a counterargument for any false image one has seen before.

Arnaquq-Baril plays the dual roles of subject and filmmaker as she takes a close, participatory approach to the women and men of her community and invites them to share their stories about the economic necessities entailed within seal hunting. Aaju Peter central ally in the fight and is a strong-willed seal hunt advocate and lawyer who depends on the sealskins for her livelihood. She demonstrates the art of her seamstress craft, which hardly yields the price it deserves for the effort it takes to produce her clothing and she states the importance of preserving the practice of seal hunting. It’s a matter of sustainability, both on a practical level for basic survival and on a cultural level as the necessary hunt for seals preserves a way of life in the face of cultural erosion.

On one hand, the film presents the easy-going Inuit with their understated anger and their conscious in using every bit of the seals, from their pelts to their innards. On the other hand, the film shows the irate “southerners” with the slogans, campaigns, and ignorance to the cause against which they wage war. One side wants to have a conversation; the other team wants a diatribe. Implicit within the seal hunt debate is the imposition of one culture upon another within the history of colonizing Inuit and Indigenous communities.

What most animal rights organizations fail to acknowledge is how the banning of seal trading cripples the Inuit population that relies on it as one of their sole sources of monetary gain. While most animal rights organizations have no problems with “subsistence hunting” for food, they get nervous and do not speak whenever asked as to why the Inuit should be punished for the hunting and sale of an animal that was never an endangered species to begin with.

There’s a lot to see in “Angry Inuk”. This film is one of rage at a long gestating argument that never gets resolved. As such, her film, is impassioned and sometimes contains the kind of circular thinking that people get when righteously angry about a situation.

When we consider the economy of living near the Arctic Circle and combine that with the millions in resources groups like Greenpeace, PETA, and others get from placing images of crying seals on their shirts, it’s easy to understand why such rage is justified on the part of the Inuit.

“MAURIZIO CATTALAN: BE RIGHT BACK”— A Portrait of the Mischevious Artist

“Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back”

A Portrait of the Mischievous Artist

Amos Lassen

Last night I had the opportunity to see an amazing and fascinating documentary about the artist Maurizio Cattelan. Cattelan has based his career on playful and subversive works that have riled the artistic establishment but that dramatically changed when he had a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2011 that solidified his place in the canon of contemporary art. Director Maura Axelrod gives us a playful profile that shoes and tells us just who is Maurizio Cattelan aside from being the man behind the Guggenheim Museum’s solid-gold toilet. He has been described as “a prankster, a fraud, an imitator, an innovator, a genius, a xylophone, and “quite possibly the most infuriating smart-ass on the contemporary art scene.” Axelrod plays along with Cattalan’s insouciant attitude vis à vis his own identity and gives us a charming look at the artist.

We are reminded in the film’s its first two minutes that Cattelan’s work sells at auction for $10 million and we see this as part of his uncanny ability to command outrageous prices for work that openly critiques the institution that has embraced it.

We see ands hear an art collector say, “I think he’s one of the greatest artists that we have today — but he could also be the worst.” For more than 20 years Cattelan has garnered praise and scorn for his works that include a sculpture of Pope John Paul II struck by a meteorite, a statue of a praying Adolf Hitler and functioning 18-carat gold toilet. Axelrod takes us back a bit in history and shows us the time when Catellan broke into a gallery, stole objects and exhibited them as his own and this is quite funny as is his huge sculpture of a raised middle finger placed outside a stock exchange. Yet we are awed by his 2011 retrospective, which hung from a truss atop the rotunda of the Guggenheim.

The experts are not nearly as much fun especially when talk about artists as brands and attempts to Cattelan’s past. However, art is the star of the film and director Axelrod features plenty of it. She also takes through Cattelan’s career causing us to wonder if the artist is more of a con man than a genius. We are left to decide that for ourselves.

“THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY?”— A Chilling and Haunting American Classic

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”

A Chilling and Haunting American Classic

Amos Lassen

It is hard to believe that this film was made in 1969 since I remember it so clearly as a film that really influenced the way I see movies. In the long and distinguished career of director Sydney Pollack, he has made a few classics; among them “Three Days of the Condor,” “Tootsie,” and “Jeremiah Johnson” and “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”. In the film we are immersed into the world of a marathon dance contest during the Great Depression and the film gives us a vivid depiction of personal need and exhaustion as a simple contest for a cash prize turns into a battle among desperate people. The film is an adaptation of Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and it is a harrowing movie that showcases Pollack’s gifts with actors and his ability to visually communicate the physical toil of the contest and the audience feels every single hour of every single day. This is a frightfully precise viewing experience.

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
Jane Fonda, director Sydney Pollack
1969
© 1978 Bob Willoughby

Looking to attract attention and make some money during the pain of the Great Depression, Master of Ceremonies, Rocky (Gig Young), establishes a dance marathon for able couples at the La Monica Ballroom in Los Angeles. A $1500 cash prize goes to the pair able to remain on their shuffling feet for the longest amount of time, and 100 contestants are willing to vie for the prize. We meet World War I vet Harry (Red Buttons), aspiring actress Alice (Susannah York), farm worker James (Bruce Dern) and his pregnant wife Ruby (Bonnie Bedelia), and Gloria (Jane Fonda), a troubled young woman who finds a partner in Robert (Michael Sarrazin), a young man who wanders into the ballroom out of curiosity. Once the contest begins, the dancers must stay awake for days, which become weeks that turn into months.

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
Gig Young, Susannah York
1969
© 1978 Bob Willoughby

Director Pollack works well with period details making the feature have a documentary atmosphere, as w meet a few of the contestants and understand the rules and demands of the contest. Rocky weeds out sickly types and tries to keep the dance floor healthy enough to preserve a lengthy show for paying audiences. It’s quite a collection of personalities, with primary focus placed on Gloria, a bitter, depressed woman who’s been unable to find a career in the movie business and who turns to marathon dancing for a monetary miracle. She’s confrontational but drawn to Robert’s soft demeanor, requiring his presence to participate and then bonding with him.

We get to know the neuroses and personal histories of the supporting cast as well. Gloria can’t keep away from Ruby, challenging her decision to not only participate in the marathon while pregnant, but to have the baby at all during such bleak times. Alice is hoping for a boost in publicity to her acting career but her need to remain glamorous is blocked by the physical pain of dancing and its painful psychological demands. Harry is far too old to be participating in such an endurance tests, but he’s determined to join the race, struggling to keep up with others as time passes.

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
Jane Fonda
1969
© 1978 Bob Willoughby

Pollack carefully weaves spectacle with intimacy. He preserves Rocky’s presence in the story, with his knowing far more about the marathon details than he lets on to the contestants, while at the same time exercising his showman skills and trying to keep audiences in the dance hall entertained with emotional manipulations. It’s fascinating to watch the feature today and pick out its parallels to contemporary entertainment. “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” also works as a look back at a difficult time in history, when poverty ruled the land causing insane ideas to pop up as ways to make money.

If we take away the forced smiles from the desperate faces, and see what the dance marathons of the 1930s came down to, we have a circus for others who paid to see them. At the end, those who didn’t collapse won cash prizes that were good money during the Depression which was the reason for it all. The marathons offered money to the winners and distraction to everyone else.

Some of the marathons got pretty grim. Contestants tried to dance their way through illnesses and pregnancies, through lice and hallucinations, and the sight of them doing so was part of the show. We see there was elementary sadism in the appeal of the marathons. There was always the possibility that somebody would die, freak out or stand helplessly while a partner collapsed and he lost the investment of hundreds of hours of his life.

Pollack has recreated the marathon era for audiences that are mostly unfamiliar with it. The film holds our attention because it tells us something we didn’t know about human nature and American society.

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
Susannah York
1969 Palomar Pictures
© 1978 Bob Willoughby

The characters seem to have no histories or alternate lives; they exist only within the walls of the ballroom and during the ticking of the official clock. Pollack has life that is boiled down to this silly contest and what he tells us has more to do with lives than contests.

There are not a lot of laughs in “Horses,” because Pollack has directed from the point of view of the contestants. They are bitter with hope of release. The movie’s delicately timed pacing and Pollack’s visual style pull us in and we begin to feel the physical weariness and spiritual desperation of the characters.

The movie begins on a note of alienation and we know what is coming. The title gives it away and when it comes, it is effective not because it is a surprise but because it is inevitable. The performances are excellent throughout. Jane Fonda is hard, unbreakable and filled with hate and fear. Sarrazin can do nothing but stand there and pity her.. Red Buttons, as the sailor who’s a veteran of other marathons and cheerfully teaches everybody the ropes, reminds us of what a wonderful character actor he was and that comedians are the best in certain tragic roles.

In effect, the characters are comedians trapped in tragic roles. They signed up for the three square meals a day and a chance at the prize. They can stop whenever they want to but somehow they can’t stop and as time moves forward, the marathon begins to look more and more like life. We come to realize the horrific lengths to which people will go for some quick money and time in the limelight.

“ALIAS MARIA”— Child Soldiers

“ALIAS MARIA”

Child Soldiers

Amos Lassen

Colombian director José Luis Rugeles’ “Alias Maria” looks at child soldiers and child exploitation in a broader sense. Rugeles uses the inconvenient and human-rights-startling angle of motherhood of an underage guerrilla fighter bearing a child and a loaded gun while she is a child herself amidst the gunfire of war. 

Maria (Karen Torres), a 13-year old female child soldier in guerrilla squadrons buried deep in lush jungle. She sees a fellow fighter giving birth, a privilege reserved for just a few under these conditions. We learn that all women are expected to come forward and declare the pregnancy for an early termination and this is rigorously obeyed. Maria conceals the fact she is four months pregnant and no one knows including the child’s father who is her commanding officer. Maria finds her entrusted with guarding and transporting a newborn while she contemplates her next move. 

The ongoing Colombian conflict between leftist guerrillas and right-wing militia is the backdrop for the story. While the film has a fictional narrative, there is a lot of truth to be seen here. Ill-fitted combatants are treated as physical equals to their adult counterparts in highly demanding conditions. They are expected to follow the same orders, with no special regards taken considering their age and fragile bodies. The weakest member of the party, the little boy (Erik Ruiz), doesn’t enjoy much respect from his co-combatants that bully him during a dangerous mission. 

We see several close-ups of hardworking ants carrying leaves of much bigger weight than themselves and these are a constant remainder of the kids’ triumph and continual grasping beyond their limits, both physically and mentally. We do not learn how two kids ended up in such company or why they continue to put up with the coarse treatment although the penalty for desertion is likely to be the reason for this. The anonymity of the protagonist thrusts viewers into the position of keen observers trying to understand the circumstances and possible reasons why these children have been pulled from a safe family environment. No further allusions are given toward their parents. For a brief moment, Maria sees a group of peers upon and her gaze lingers bit too long in a mute indication of lost innocence.Both central figures, Maria and the little boy, separate the film’s theme into two subthemes. The prevailing one underlines the unethical and alarming status of child-soldiers an indictment of the amoral exploitation. Underage pregnant Maria shows female-child mishandling. She is driven to protect her unborn child at all costs. 

About two years ago, it was revealed that the average age of recruits was estimated at only 13 years in Colombia. Maria’s situation in life is violently replaced by her daily struggle to survive and to do so with bleak prospects for what is usually considered a normal life. We see the internal operations of guerilla warfare through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old female soldier as she’s charged with a mission concerning the transport of a leader’s newborn infant son. As intense as something like this may sound, director Rugeles makes this more of a character study. We briefly see the rituals of female soldiers being forced to undergo abortions should they become pregnant in the jungle. In all of its aspects this is quite a sobering film that is often hard to watch but important for just that reason.

“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.

“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

“MA’ ROSA”—A Family Drama

“Ma’ Rosa”

A Family Drama

Amos Lassen

Ma’ Rosa has four children and owns a small convenience store in a poor neighborhood of Manila where everybody likes her. To make ends meet, Rosa and her husband, Nestor, sell small amounts of narcotics on the side. One day, they get arrested and Rosa and her children are ready to do anything to buy her freedom from the corrupt police force.

Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza brings us the story of a couple that moonlights as small-time drug dealers. Ma’ Rosa is Rosa Reyes (Jaclyn Jose), a no-nonsense kind of woman who we first meet as she is shopping for enormous quantities of instant noodles. Her teenage son, Erwin (Jomari Angeles) is with her. When she cannot get the proper change for her purchase from the cashier, we understand that money is an issue and this is why she and her husband (Julio Diaz) sell drugs from their corner store in Mandaluyong, a city that’s part of greater Manila.

 

The police raid the store and take the couple and their drugs stash to the station, where they are given the possibility to either go to jail without bail or pay 200,000 pesos (about $4,300), an enormous amount of money they don’t have, or to help police get their supplier so he can pay that amount. The policemen see this as the normal way of doing business. Much of the story takes place at the police station as the Reyes’s supplier (Kristofer King) is hauled in, beaten up and then manages to come up with only a part of the desired sum. The Reyes’s children — Erwin, his older brother, Jackson (Felix Roco), and their sister, Raquel (Andi Eigenmann) — are then sent out into Manila to come up with the remainder. Raquel begs family members for donations, Jackson tries to sell their TV and the Erwin gets most of the money by sleeping with an older man.

 

The film is straightforward with practically no subplots, metaphors and with no sense of wider societal context but there is a kind of inherence that the Reyes family is not the only one to be in a situation like this. We can assume that no one wants to go to jail but it’s never stated as such and of course, we wonder what would happen to either the parents or the children in their parents’ absence. We never know what Rosa feels about forcing her children to bail their parents out or why Erwin sells his body and compromises his own morals to pay for his parents’ crime.

Director Mendoza gives us an in-depth observation of a depraved police system. He disregards traditional methods of telling a story and the result is brutally honest look at corruption. We spend a lot of time sweeping inside a room of a police station where an unlawful negotiation takes place. The irony is that we see the police interrogate criminals when they are in fact criminals. We also see the financial struggle of Filipinos who use illegal in order to rise above poverty.

The film closes on an emotionally shattering note and is a work of understated confidence.

“D.O.A.— Now on Blu Ray

“D.O.A.: A RIGHT OF PASSAGE”

The Sex Pistols

Amos Lassen

NOW ON BLU RAY

Lech Kowalski’s “D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage” is an American’s take on this seminal English punk band’s only U.S. tour that shows the significance of the Sex Pistols. It is filled with fiery energy and you-are-there immediacy.

The film includes galvanizing concert footage, often with subtitled lyrics. If you’ve managed to forget how ferociously powerful the Pistols’ music was and still is, “D.O.A.” is an excellent reminder. Johnny Rotten lurches theatrically all over the stage seeming to stare right into the camera. That same camera also alights on audience members with spiked hair and heavy makeup, and he interviews enthusiastic onlookers as well as outraged attendees and Bible-wielding protestors. The Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren reportedly booked the band into venues that he knew would be problematic and Kowalski captures the fraught energy of this tour-cum-suicide mission.

In addition to the footage of the Sex Pistols in the U.S., Kowalski gives us interviews and performances from other punks back in Britain. Other performers include The Dead Boys, Sham 69, and ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock tearing through “Pretty Vacant” with his new band, The Rich Kids. Some of this may be tangential to the Sex Pistols and their tour, but it helps to paint a picture of the era, and it’s exciting to watch.

D.O.A. isn’t simply a celebration of punk rock. It is impossible to ignore the evidence of Sid Vicious’ heroin addiction and increasingly self-destructive behavior. We see him bleeding onstage and there’s a moment outside of one of the venues where he has to be guided in the direction of the door.

Kowalski’s infamous interview with Sid and Nancy is here, too. The pair of them lay in bed, with Sid barely able to keep his eyes open, and struggling even more mightily to offer coherent answers to Kowalski’s questions. “D.O.A.” was released less than two years after Nancy’s murder and Sid’s arrest for the crime and subsequent fatal overdose, and the freshness of the tragedies makes a profound contribution.

 The film is probably closer than punk fans might want it to be. ”D.O.A.,” intends to be outrageous and is mostly ugly and sad while giving the impression that punk is as misunderstood by those who like it as by those who don’t. The music, which is not particularly well represented here is less arresting than the atmosphere that surrounds it. The Sex Pistols come across as the real thing

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature.
  • Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • “Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was” – A feature length documentary about the making of A. A Rite of Passage produced by award-winning filmmaker (and former MTV Senior Producer) Richard Schenkman and featuring exclusive new interviews with PUNK magazine founder and Ramones cover-artist John Holmstrom, renowned music journalist Chris Salewicz, legendary photographer Roberta Bayley, Sex Pistols’ historian Mick O’Shea, former Rich Kid guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure, and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen, Rufus Standefer, plus never-before-seen interview footage of Pistols founder, Malcolm McLaren. (HD)
  • 12 page booklet with liner notes written by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK Magazine
  • Reversible artwork
  • Rare Sex Pistols Photo Gallery
  • 2-Sided Poster included

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:48, SD)

“QUEST”— A Family’s Story

 

“QUEST’

A Family’s Story

Amos Lassen

“Quest” follows an African-American family over a five-year period in inner city Philadelphia beginning with the wedding day of Christopher and Christine’a Rainey. Christopher is a struggling rap producer working odd jobs on the side and Chrstine’a is a health-care worker with both physical and emotional scars. Because they both had sometimes neglected their children from previous relationships, the Raineys are determined to do the right thing for their young daughter Patricia.

The film is a detailed family study and meditation on the power of love and understanding, and the importance of continuing the struggle against long odds. There is violence in the Raineys’ neighborhood but the community members rally around each other. At one point, Christine’a watches as a campaigning Donald Trump describes the black communities of America as a “complete disaster”.

Director Jonathan Olshefski begins his film in 2008 when Barack Obama first ran for president of the United States, until the presidential election last autumn and gives us a microcosm of America as the hopeful dream is lost with the election of Trump. Olshefski takes us so deep into this family’s world and we see that poor black people are human beings who deserve empathy, respect, and inquiry. Olshefski devotes himself to rendering the quotidian textures of this family. Christine’a is the practical one, while her husband, Christopher, known as Quest, is the dreamer working in his shoestring music studio, attempting to break into the rap market. Christine’a and Christopher’s teenage daughter, Pearl, wants to be a musician as well, and there’s a particularly evocative and beautiful moment in the film where we see her tapping her fingers rhythmically.

We see how Christopher’s music serves as an escape from the reliable distractions, tedium, and tragedies of life. However, this tedium and tragedy keep interfering with the family struggling for a breakthrough. Christine’a’s 21-year-old son (from a different relationship), William, is diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor soon after his son is born, and Pearl hit in the head by a stray bullet on the street, losing one of her eyes. Christopher’s most gifted rapper, Price, is on the verge of succumbing to alcoholism. Life is far from easy.

The Raineys experience one terrible event after another and do so with grace and strength and we sense their socially ingrained pragmatism. Olshefski understands that Christine’a and Christopher rarely succumb to their emotions because they don’t have that luxury and we especially see this in an argument about P.J.’s (Pearl’s nickname) homosexuality.

Olshefski spent nine years befriending and filming the Raineys, and his finished documentary is a meditative study of the everyday realities of poverty, gun crime, and racism, whilst offering a moving portrayal of people united by love and affection.. Both Christine’a and Christopher are community stalwarts: she works at a local domestic violence shelter, while he runs a music recording studio for the local disenfranchised youth, alongside his regular job of delivering newspapers. Together they share bond that seals everything else together, both at home and in the wider community. They suffer hardship and strife, but their love endures throughout.

The camera always captures the family with unsentimental tenderness and genuine empathy. In the tender moments that we see, we feel a deep emotional response to the film. Love is a shield against the hard world beyond the family’s front door. We see the harmony in family and community, and a kind if wealth that is based on love. This family finds hope in each other’s support. Now with a right wing, White Supremacist-supporting President in the White House who succeeded America’s first black President, this film has even more impact. For the Raineys, and families like them, life will probably get much harder indeed

 

“TIME TO DIE”— A Landmark Mexican Western

“TIME TO DIE”

A Landmark Mexican Western

Amos Lassen

 After serving eighteen years in jail for shooting a man in self-defense, Juan Sayago (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) comes back to his hometown to start a new life reunite with Mariana (Marga López).  However, the two sons of the man he killed are out for revenge, have been and have been waiting for Sayago’s return. d Mexican auteur Arturo Ripstein directed this film that is based on an original story by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”). Sayago served eighteen long years and what makes his sentence even more difficult to understand is that the man he shot had been goading him for a long time and his patience wore thin.

When Sáyago returned home, he found that his old life was long gone. His mother is dead, his house is in ruins, and his intended, Mariana Sampedro was married and widowed in the time he was away. Technically, she is available again, but it is not practical for Sáyago to think that way about the bereaved mother of a small boy, at least not while the Trueba Brothers are out for revenge.

Some of the old timers of the town have managed start to talk some sense into Pedro, the younger Trueba. He has a fiancée and would like to start a life with, her but his older brother Julián is determined to get revenge. This is both a “revenge drama” and a “contemplation of machismo.”

 We know exactly what destiny has in store for these characters just as much as they do, yet we are unable to turn away, just as they are powerless to alter their fates.

Bonus Features include:

  • Video Introduction by director Alex Cox (Repo Man)
  • Commentary by director Arturo Ripstein and actor Enrique Rocha
  • New essay by Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founder of Cinema Tropical