Category Archives: Film

“CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME” Facing Adulthood and Tragedy

cornbread earl and me

“CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME”

Facing Adulthood and Tragedy

Amos Lassen

Joseph Manduke’s coming-of-age drama “Cornbread, Earl and Me” is set in urban Chicago and stars Laurence Fishburne, Tierre Turner and Jamaal Wilkes in a story of adolescent friends coming-of-age and facing adulthood when tragedy strikes. 

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When a college-bound basketball star (Wilkes) is accidentally shot by two cops (Bernie Casey and Vince Martorano), several witnesses — including a 12-year-old boy (Fishburne), his cousin Earl (Turner), and a storeowner (Charles Lampkin) are intimidated by the police into keeping quiet about what they saw. Regarding what is happening today in this country, the movie that was made some thirty plus years ago becomes very relevant.

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This is a story of mistaken identities and police corruption in an African-American neighborhood. We become very aware of racial tensions and police brutality. It is difficult to understand why this police corruption takes place but we certainly see that it does.

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Laurence Fishburne III was only twelve-years old when he starred in “Cornbread” and his performance is riveting. The recent acquittal of the four New York City Police officers who gunned down unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo makes this film all the more important. Jamal Wilkes portrays Cornbread, a promising young basketball prospect from the neighborhood, who is tragically yet mistakenly gunned down by two police officers in pursuit of a suspect just two weeks prior to his leaving for College. Wilford Robinson (Fishburne) is Cornbread’s neighbor and number-one 1 fan, confidant, and little brother in the true extended family tradition of the Black community. He idolizes Cornbread and we see this every time the two are together. Cornbread looks out for the youngster and appreciates his adoration. The two enjoy a beautiful friendship.

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The bitter irony here is that it is Wilford’s worship factor that leads to tragedy. When Wilford bets his young cousin, Earl, that Cornbread is fast enough to run home through a heavy rain in 25 seconds, the unthinkable happens. Two police officers in hot pursuit think that Cornbread is the man they are after and shoot him, outraging the community and devastating Cornbread. The officers are put on trial and the police department uses intimidation tactics on eyewitnesses to bury the truth in an effort to protect the officers. The trial is where the real drama unfolds as everyone is forced to search their conscious and reveal their true colors. This is a film that you will not soon forget.

“LOUDER THAN LOVE– THE GRANDE BALLROOM STORY”— Detroit in the 60’s

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“Louder than Love – The Grande Ballroom Story”

Detroit in the 60’s

Amos Lassen

In “Louder Than Love”, producer/director Tony D’Annunzio gives viewers an all-access pass to the legendary 1960s Detroit rock music scene.

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The film debuted to standing ovations at the World premiere April 5, 2012 at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Art and has since been awarded prizes at the various film festivals where it has been shown. We get an amazing look back at the talent and creative culture produced in Michigan.

The era of the Grande Ballroom era is probably the greatest untold story in rock and roll history and D’Annunzio, a Detroit native says that “With everything Detroit has been through in the last several decades, I wanted to let folks know that aside from the automobile industry, the city has some amazing musical history which helped shape American pop culture.”

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While the West Coast was grooving to the soothing sounds of the “Summer of Love” in 1967, Detroit was pumping out a hard-driving, gritty, raw sound. In the middle of all of this was Detroit’s original rock and roll palace, the Grande Ballroom and the sound there was loud and about love. The film shows the

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the story of the place that started it all as told by the artists and fans that helped fuel the phenomenon.

In the late 1960s, the Grande helped to break some of America’s most iconic rock bands including MC5, Iggy and the Stooges and Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, who influenced local musicians and inspired bands all over the this country and Great Britain. These included Led Zeppelin, Cream, B.B. King, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and the Who played the Grande main stage on a regular basis.

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Using a Sony 24P HDCAM, director D’Annunzio amassed more than 60 hours of interviews with artists and other insiders from The Grande’s prime time and we hear from such greats as B.B. King, Alice Cooper, Roger Daltrey, Scott Morgan, Mark Farner, Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer, Lemmy, Ted Nugent, Henry Rollins, Don Was, Slash, Dick Wagner, and James Williamson. He also has collected over 500 never-before-seen archival photos that were taken by professional photographers and fans–of performers such as The Who, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, Cream, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck Group, MC5, Traffic, and Iron Butterfly. We see The Who performing “Tommy” for the first time, including an audio recording by Pete Townsend explaining “Tommy” to The Grande audience. Both have never been seen or heard in any documentary,” D’Annunzio tells us.

Ted Nugent performs at Sherwood Forest WTAC-AM "Wild Wednesday" 1969

Ted Nugent performs at Sherwood Forest WTAC-AM
“Wild Wednesday”
1969

The movie soundtrack is made up of 20 original recordings from some of Detroit’s greatest rock and roll bands and a brand new song written and performed by Dick Wagner appropriated titled “Motor City Music.”

Here is the playlist:

  • Rock and Roll Music – The Frost
  • House Of The Rising Sun – Frijid Pink
  • Borderline – MC5
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll – Mitch Ryder and Detroit
  • Turn Your Head – Savage Grace
  • All Along the Watchtower – Savage Grace
  • Solar Boat Ride – Wilson Mower Pursuit
  • Guitar Army – The Rationals
  • You Talk Sunshine I Breathe Fire – Amboy Dukes
  • Migration – Amboy Dukes
  • Looking At You – MC5
  • Mystery Man – The Frost
  • Kick Out the Jams – MC5
  • Just Like an Aborigine – The Up
  • Parchman Farm – Cactus
  • God, Love and Rock and Roll – Teegarden and Van Winkle
  • 1969 – The Stooges
  • Delilah – Jagged Edge
  • Can’t Handle Your Lovin’ – Jagged Edge
  • Grande Days – Rob Tyner
  • Motor City Music – Dick Wagner

Russ Gibb was a schoolteacher by profession until he realized that he could make more money putting on dances for area teens, many of whom in the mid sixties lived in communities where music and dancing were outlawed. After seeing what was going on out west at Bill Graham’s Fillmore, Gibb decided to create a similar venue in Detroit. In 1966 he acquired the Grande, a dancehall built in the twenties by architect Charles N. Agree that boasted a huge hardwood dance floor. The style of music that the Grande would become most associated with was a far cry from the peace and love psychedelic rock that graced the stage of The Fillmore, though.

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Even though the Grande booked all kinds of music – blues legends like B.B. King, jazz acts like Sun Ra , and then up and coming rock acts like The Who, Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac (all on the same bill, as one flier attests), it was basically a home for homegrown acts like the MC5, Alice Cooper, and The Stooges. It soon earned its claim to fame through these bands who would help lay the foundation for heavy metal and punk rock. This is what we see here.

Even though I was not familiar with all of the music that came of Detroit, I enjoyed watching the film. However, seeing that the musicians have aged was hard to watch because it also means that I have aged as well.

“IT HAPPENED IN HAVANA”— Falling in Love in Cuba

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“IT HAPPENED IN HAVANA”

Falling in Love in Cuba

Amos Lassen

.Today Cuba is in the news for resuming diplomatic relations with the United States after a forty year Cold War freeze. However, it was a very different place in 1942, when Reuben and Isabel Schiller first fell in love.

“She didn’t understand English and I couldn’t speak Spanish, so we conversed in Yiddish!” says Schiller, who sits next to his wife of sixty-one years on their couch in Forest Hills, New York. His wife then shares how she got to Cuba via Poland and what life was like for her under Batista.

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Schiller reminds her she was already in America by the time Batista’s dictatorship began in 1952. So everything is not exactly true. What we see in this short film is a lot of love and a happy coupled as filmed by their daughter, Judy Schiller.

The Schillers sit comfortably reminiscing, while we enjoy photographs as the viewer sees footage of their lives in Poland, Cuba, and the Lower East Side of New York. Their story spans the Depression, World War II, and the trials and anxieties of immigration to the United States.

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I do not think that most of us would consider Havana, Cuba to be the site of a love story much less one in Yiddish. Yiddish was their common tongue and their language of romance—during the start of WWII, followed by more than six decades of marriage.

After 61 years of marriage, Schiller acts as if he is still on his honeymoon while the viewer embarks on two journeys. One of these is with the director’s mother and it takes us from Poland to Cuba where they were only Jews in Havana. The other journey is the director’s father and it began on New York’s Lower East Side, where the street was the playground.

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Schiller’s parents’ story is part of a beautiful legacy of Jews in Cuba. This documentary is about an elderly Jewish couple who look back at their childhoods and we get to share that with them.

“THE KIDNAPPING OF EDGARDO MORTARA”— The Vatican’s 158-Year-Old Feud With a Jewish Family

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“The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,”

The Vatican’s 158-Year-Old Feud With a Jewish Family

Amos Lassen

Steven Spielberg’s new film with Mark Rylance, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” looks at an obscure battle between the Papacy and an Italian Jewish family. This led to outrage and controversy in Europe and the United States in the mid-19th century.

The film is based on true events. It follows a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara who was taken from his family’s home in Bologna, Italy in 1858 after a servant claimed she had secretly performed an emergency baptism on the boy when he was very ill as an infant. According to Papal law, the child was deemed a Catholic and was forcibly taken away to complete his conversion.

Tony Kushner wrote the script for the film that Spielberg is scheduled to start shooting in early 2017 and once again brings together Spielberg and Rylance, the Oscar winning British actor who captured audiences in Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” last year.

“ABOUT SCOUT”— An Acting Mother

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“About Scout”

An Acting Mother

Amos Lassen

Laurie Weitz’s “About Scout” It stars India Ennega as a rebellious pink haired fifteen year old who loves ripped stockings and has a penchant for thievery. Scout takes on the role of a mother for her poverty-stricken and dysfunctional family. She watches over her little sister Lulu (Onata Aprile) and takes care of her sickly great-grandmother, Gram (Ellen Burstyn). Scout’s world goes into disarray when her dead beat father, Ray (Tim Guinee) and his trashy pregnant girlfriend, Georgie (Nikki Reed) show up to take Lulu away. Scout’s prospects look grim especially because she probably will end up in foster care. After two chance encounters with a suicidal wealthy young man, Sam (James Frecheville), Scout and Sam decide to hit the road and go after Lulu. What follows is a lot of stealing and avoiding and evading the law.

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Scout has matured faster than other kids and is crafty with plans or scams.  She is able to charm strangers effortlessly. Sam and Scout eventually hit the road to search for Scout’s sister and during their trip their search, they commit crimes to fend for themselves.  

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Ennenga does a fantastic job in the role. Despite the film focusing on Scout and her search for her sister, she’s really just another example of the manic pixie dream girl. She’s wise beyond her years but ignores the obvious answers to engage in one immature act after another. The film may begin with her story, but it’s Sam’s world that is forever altered by his relationship with Scout. Her character doesn’t feel quite real and we’re never really worried about her and her sister as long as they can stick together.

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Ellen Burstyn shines as the ailing great-grandma and made me wish for more of her. Nikki Reed was also perfect as a nightmare trailer trash girlfriend. . I just didn’t believe their friendship or find a real connection between the two. “About Scout” is quirky road movie exploring themes of hope and finding true family among friends. It just lacks a certain charm and cohesiveness that would make this film more enjoyable.

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Unfortunately, the fine performances from the cast are lost in a story that never feels appropriate. Usually “road trip movies” are filled with constant drama, suspense and nail-biting scenes but there the road trip is steady, harmless, and charming trip that helps to gather the family together. When we first meet Sam, we find out that he has a trouble to deal with in his life and can’t wait to end it. His mother, Gloria (Jane Seymour) is wealthy and capable of looking after her son. However, the cure comes with not countless doctors or prescribed medicines, but in the form of Scout, who asks him to join her journey across Texas.

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Scout is not as lucky as Sam’s family. She does not have much money, and her grand mother’s  life is slowly declining. She has trouble to find a school for her four-year-old sister, Lulu. Then one day, she comes back home, she finds her sister being taken away by her irresponsible father, who on top of everything, can’t control his temper and anger. Even though Sam and Scout just met before the disappearance of her sister, Scout approaches Sam with the proposal he found difficult not to refuse.

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“About Scout” is an innocent family drama with good performances that shows the importance of the family being together even when the actions taken to do so for t are a bit dangerous. It lets the young people to enter a risky path and get away with it.  It allows a young man to feel the taste of life at one of the most difficult times of his life. And it’s all because of one young girl who comes as a savior, even though she should have being saved herself

“THE ZERO BOYS”— Playing Paintball

the zero boys

“The Zero Boys”

Playing Paintball

Amos Lassen 

A group of friends travel to a wilderness area to play a survival game but unexpectedly find themselves in a real-life survival situation. The Zero Boys are Steve (Daniel Hirsch), Larry (Tom Shell) and Rip (Jared Moses) and their girlfriends, Jamie (Kelli Maroney), Trish (Crystal Carson) and Sue (Nicole Rio) go deep into the woods of California for a paintball expedition. At first we think that this is going to be an action feature about a group of fighters trying to stay alive during war but this changes as the movie progresses and the movie becomes a slasher fest.

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We follow the characters out to an abandoned shack in the woods; they’ve decided to party after a win in their survival league (a game somewhat like laser tag or paintball but with more realism) and they want some privacy. Everyone’s in good spirits until they hear a woman screaming in the woods. Then their truck dies and the lights go out and the gore begins. When they reach their location, it seems that it has been used as a torture chamber and our guys and gals don’t intend on being the next victims.

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They’re heavily armed and not afraid to unleash their firepower. In this way, director Nico Mastorakis pays homage to the Rambo films. At times this resembles a war movie, but the main focus of “The Zero Boys” is to be a horror film.

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The director is excellent at building tension once the Paintballers arrive at the house. Once the horror starts, we’re never sure what direction it’s going to go and we do not know the villains’’ motives and this works to make the film even more interesting. They come across as sportsmen in the game of torture to counter the heroic Paintballers.

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The starts out a bit slow some silly paintball action and sophomoric banter, but gets off and running quickly enough when the characters start their ride through the woods and one of them thinks they see a girl running amongst the trees. When they get to the empty house, they see an unknown female getting murdered on the TV in the barn and they understand that this not just been filmed exactly where they are standing. The last scenes are not only original but totally frightening. Sure this is a “B” movie but it is also fun to watch. The acting is fair, the plot is a bit slim but the direction makes this a horror/slash film that you will not soon forget.

“TIL MADNESS DO US PART”— Inside an Asylum

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“Til Madness Do Us Part”

Inside an Asylum

Amos Lassen

Director Wang Bing looks at the inmates of an isolated mental institution in rural Zhaotong. Within the facility’s gates, the patients are confined to locked floors of a single building. Once locked on that floor and with little contact from the outside world, anything goes.

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The inmates have been committed for different reasons but once inside, they all share the same life and cramped living quarters and they look for comfort and warmth. We see mental illness and criminality, therapy and incarceration, and the relationship between individuals and society in this riveting, terrifying, surprising and tender documentary portrait that viewers will not soon forget. The inmates are the abused and neglected from China’s darkest corners.

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There are endurance tests and the daily tedium and long-term despair of life in a mainland mental hospital. For about 20 of its four-hour length, we are in one cell where almost nothing happens. Overall we have entered a “painfully finite world of grimy, bare-walled rooms lining an outdoor corridor that overlooks an open courtyard below, with metal bars in place to prevent anyone from trying to climb down or jump”. The building is home to about 100 men, some of whom are identified onscreen by name and length of confinement. Many of these have been imprisoned for as long as 10 or 12 years.

 

The camera captures the crowded hall where the men stand around chatting with each other or muttering to themselves and given medication from the hospital staff. The filmmakers slip regularly into the men’s quarters, where they sleep about four to a room, and sometimes two to a bed. They do not seem to be aware of the camera’s presence, but then they don’t seem particularly aware of anything. Because of this, some may find this a hard film to watch. There are those who walk around naked and while Wang tries to give his subjects a sense of dignity, we realize the ethical questions that arise.

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We see one of the men relieving himself wherever he pleases and as we see the passage of time and sheer repetitiveness of existence. It seems that we are not seeing people but the shells of who they once were. They live in a world of their own creation and have been their own ways of social exchange.

 

At times they huddle together in their beds for warmth and companionship; two men, one younger than the other, express unabashed physical affection for each other in one of the film’s most tender moments. In another scene, a man standing outside carries on a flirtation with a woman on the floor below, a world that remains otherwise off-limits to the camera.

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How and why these men ended up here is a mystery. I understand that some of them have killed, while others are simple outsiders whose local government. The fact that such details are not included in the film such details strengthen Wang’s silent observational approach that a large number of people lose a sense of humanity. It is shocking to see that some of the men have been put there because they have grown too old, too slow and too difficult for their families to take care of them any longer.

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At the three-hour mark, the camera unexpectedly follows a newly released inmate outside the building’s walls and follows him as he returns to his home village. His sense of freedom is brief but staggering, throwing the oppressiveness of the incomprehensible for us to understand.

Wang had long been interested in filming a psychiatric hospital and after visiting one the place, he granted permission to shoot inside the hospital for two weeks in May of 2012. Even with the uniqueness of the physical space, there are no establishing shots of the hospital. All we really know about the inmates are their names and how long they are confined.

“:A THIRD WAY”— Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors

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“A Third Way”

Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors

Amos Lassen

We are living in a time of polarization and conflict around Israel/Palestine and Judaism and Islam. In “A Third Way”, we get a story that inspires and educates as it humanizes the characters and gives us new ideas to think about. During a recent social justice movement protest, a new slogan emerged—“Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies.” This film looks at the reality behind such a slogan especially at it applies on the West Bank. It is there in the disputed territories that Jewish settlers (Israelis) and Palestinian Arabs continue to be locked in a struggle for their countries’ futures.

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Because of frustration with the direct negotiations with Israel yielding no results, the Palestinian Authority has petitioned the United Nations for recognition as a member state. The Israeli government vigorously opposed what they termed a “unilateral” act. The Palestinians also refuse to back down even in the face of U.S. opposition to their UN bid, including cutting off $200 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians by the U.S. Congress.

Meanwhile the diplomatic confrontation still continues with no results, and in the two countries there is a very tense atmosphere. Recent mosque desecrations has spread from the West Bank to Israel proper and the threat of Palestinian demonstrations looms large. This is the backdrop of increasing tensions that has brought about a movement of Israeli settlers and Palestinians to explore ways to communicate and co-exist. This movement known as the “third way,” is now struggles to stay alive.

These settlers and Palestinians have been meeting with each other in an effort to find a new road between domination and confrontation. The members of this small but slowly growing movement are pushing the norms of Israeli-Palestinian relations that sometimes puts them at odds with their respective communities.

Rabbi Meacham Froman, the rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa, is regarded as the spiritual father of the movement. Froman is famed for befriending Yasser Arafat as well as meeting several times in Gaza with the now deceased spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin. He has become a major voice of reconciliation.

Recently, settlers vandalized a mosque in the Palestinian village of Qusra following the Israeli Defense Force’s demolition of illegal houses in the Migron settlement outpost. In response, Rabbi Froman visited Qusra to a way to apologize for the deeds done by his co-religionists. Leading the crowd in chants of “Allah Hu Akbar,” the Rabbi “tried to show that the two sides belong to the same land and share the same destiny, whether or not they’re willing to acknowledge it”.

In the past few years, a new generation of settlers has arisen to continue on Froman’s path. Two of these are Nahum Pachenik and Eliaz Cohen whose activism is informal and individual. There is also a similar group, called Eretz Shalom, that meets semi-regularly. Eliaz Cohen lives in Kfar Etzion, the first West Bank settlement, founded in September 1967, and has been meeting with the mukhtar of a neighboring village. He has been pushing the local Israeli government to pave the single road in the village, as well as to give locals permission to repair the village minaret, which Israel has refused to do for almost 30 years.

Eliaz believes that there’s a struggle “for the soul” of the settler movement currently underway and there is new thought that challenges the old way of, orthodoxy that has characterized relations between settlers and Palestinians. Rabbi Froman proclaims that he is “a citizen of the state of God, it’s not so important who is the government.” There are others hold that, whatever the future political arrangement, it will not be relevant if Israelis and Palestinians can’t learn how to live together.

We see that the number of states does not matter but what does matter is that without good relations between people, nothing would work. There are those settlers and Palestinians who are interested in being good neighbors even though they risk being censured. The Palestinians fear censure not just from their families but also from the Palestinian Authority as well.

Mohammed A. lives in a Palestinian village just south of Gush Etzion, the first of the settlements where there is a permanent Israeli guard tower and gate at the main entrance to the village that is often closed during times of tension with the neighboring settlements that are located on three sides of the village. Nonetheless, for several years now, Mohammed has been meeting with settlers as often as he can. He tells them the story of his grandfather, who was killed on May 15, 1948, the day after Israel declared its independence. For many Israelis, the Lone Tree of Gush Etzion is a symbol of Israel “regaining” control over the settlement after the 1967 war and this is where Mohammed’s grandfather was killed. For Mohammed and other Palestinians, the tree has a different meaning altogether. But it is by describing his grandfather’s connection to that place to Israelis that Mohammed hopes that there will; be a new understanding and new thoughts about what is going on there.

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While the filming of this documentary was taking place, we learn that this group of Israeli settlers and Palestinians on the West Bank has challenged some of the pre-conceived notions that some people hold about the conflict, so much so that the word “settler” has become quite an explosive word. The significance of the West Bank, the “cradle” of biblical Judaism, has added a religious element to the conflict and made a rational solution difficult to imagine. Add to this what we are taught about hospitality for he stranger and it becomes even more complicated. We “were strangers in the land of Egypt” and this has taken on a very real meaning for us and for the people we’ve met. These settlers are predominantly religious and they have taken this decree to heart.

There are tremendous difference between the two groups and we really see this when looking at the fact that while some settlers have reached out to visit Palestinians in their homes, the Palestinians by and large haven’t reciprocated. The imbalance is symbolic of the larger situation — Israelis have more freedom of movement than their Palestinian neighbors.

The film documents some of this face-to-face work to establish a more equal relationship. These few brave Israelis and Palestinians may be at the forefront of a movement whose end result even they cannot know.

Nahum and Ziad met through the work of Rabbi Menachem Froman, the notorious “settler for peace” (who himself was a friend of Yasser Arafat), and we could say they’re both Froman’s protégés. They believe that, whatever the eventual future of Israel/Palestine, the smartest idea is to become friends now. Ziad and Nahum meet as equals. Nahum has visited Ziad’s home many times. They’ve walked together near Ziad’s town and they’ve broken bread and mutual fasts together. But on a political/social level, they are not equals by any means: Nahum chooses to live in the West Bank, and he could choose anytime to move to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Ziad has no choice. His family and ancestors have lived in their town for more than four generations. And for now, Ziad can’t visit Nahum’s home in his settlement.

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Nahum himself takes it little by little. He wants to know if there’s an Arab minority in Israel, why can’t there also be a Jewish minority in Palestine? A few months ago, he organized a demonstration, confronting Israeli soldiers, when several Palestinian homes were demolished in Ziad’s town. The relationship is unequal now, but we can hope that one day Ziad and Nahum may be able to meet as complete equals.

We meet Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian from Beit Ummar (near Hebron), and Shaul Judelman, an Israeli who grew up in the United States and moved to Israel 14 years ago, spending much of that time in settlements: first to Bat Ayin and, a few months ago, to Tekoa.

The story of what brought them together goes through Tekoa, which was home to Rabbi Menachem Froman (who died two years ago). As I said earlier, Rabbi Froman believed in dialogue and connection with his neighbors. He held meetings with Hamas figures, with whom he found it possible to talk from one religious person to another. This documentary is the story of his work in the last five years of his life, and an examination of the legacy he left behind.

, “A Third Way – Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors” was directed by Harvey Stein. Stein, who moved to Israel from New York close to a decade ago and first met Froman in late 2008 to make a small film about him, and was taken with the way he was building bridges in a place full of disconnect. Stein describes the rabbi as

“totally irreverent. I remember him asking me once, ‘What’s a settler?’ Then he made his hand like a claw and went grrr. He was able to hold contradictions and say that he loves his neighbors. My Jewish tradition told me to love my neighbors, and so I do.’”

Froman sometimes went to great lengths to show the love he felt. We see him visiting a West Bank mosque that was torched and vandalized by settlers, who also spray-painted insulting messages about the Prophet Mohammed on the walls. Wearing his kippah and tefillin (phylacteries), Froman stands on the stairs and calls out repeatedly to the Palestinians waiting below, “Allahu Akbar!”

One of them was Ali Abu Awwad. Raised in a politically active family in Beit Ummar, he was a teenager during the first intifada and jailed twice by Israel because he threw stones. However, after losing his brother to the conflict, he began to embrace nonviolence and became one of the pivotal members of the Bereaved Families Forum, speaking locally and internationally with Israelis who have lost loved ones. He demanded that both Arab and Israeli turn a new page.

Many Palestinians quietly started coming to meetings organized by Froman and his Hasidic followers and they were impressed that Froman met with Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza in 1998 – as well as Yasser Arafat. Awaad says that what prevents us from having rights are not the left-wing camp in Tel Aviv. It’s the right wing in the settlements,” Abu Awwad says at Roots, the center he is establishing with Judelman, Froman’s widow, Hadassah, and several other Israeli and Palestinian activists.

Abu Awwad and Froman and his wife met some seven years ago at Sulha, a gathering of Arabs and Jews whose name is based on the traditional Arab form of reconciliation between sparring parties. He liked what Froman had to say but not where he lived.

Abu Awwad met Judelman, an environmentalist and the two became friends. At about the same time, John Moyle, an American clergyman became involved in trying to help Awwad and Judelman build a grassroots peace movement. In January 2014, they founded a movement with a shack on land owned by Abu Awwad’s family. Since then they’ve been holding meetings at people’s homes around the West Bank . They have brought together Israeli settlers and Palestinians and say that they are not involved

in a political plan, but rather deal with human beings and breaking down stereotypes.

“BIKES VS CARS”— The Bicycle as a Tool for Change

bikes vs cars

“BIKES VS CARS”

The Bicycle as a Tool for Change

Amos Lassen

“Bikes vs. Cars” is an award-winning documentary by Fredrik Gertten that explores the efforts of bicycle activists in cities across the world to keep the roads safe for bicyclists, and the struggle against car traffic on crowded city streets. We see the bicycle as an amazing tool for change and as the instrument that highlights a growing conflict in city planning. The bicycle supports a diverse city with a human scale, while the car brings about urban sprawl and reliance on fossil fuels.

Director Gertten takes us to Copenhagen to Los Angeles via Sao Paolo as he explores the ongoing efforts of bicycle activists, who are fighting for their right to ride on city streets against the forces of multi-billion dollar auto, oil, and construction lobbies, that are determined to keep our cities dependent on automobiles.

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The film advocates for bike-friendly cities in the 21st century and it has been inspiring a new approach to urban planning that could lead to better designs, smarter political decisions and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Together with the film, a companion app will help cyclists track how much they reduce their CO2 imprint and oil consumption for every mile they ride instead of drive. The app is a campaign tool to support activists and cities to work towards bike-friendlier cities. The documentary shows how more bike-friendly cities benefit everybody, not only cyclists.”

 

“Bikes vs. Cars depicts a global crisis and how every person can contribute to the solution by riding their bike”. The film focuses on the issue that bikes can be the key to solve enormous problems related to traffic, pollution or global warning but we also see that strong economic powers exert pressure on both politics and media are tackling the transition to a possible new system.The automotive industry has invested a lot of money to protect their interests but not to make the world a better place to live in.

Those in the documentary share their personal experiences on the roads of different cities from different places all around the world to the audience that they hope will become their allies. We are asked to imagine a world in which more people bike than drove.

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In Los Angeles, Dan Koeppel traces the paths of old bikeways and dreams about what it was like when the bicycle ruled the streets In São Paulo, Aline Cavalcante rides between cars that are stuck in traffic jams and agitates for infrastructure that will keep her fellow cyclists (250,000 in a city of 7 million cars) from being killed. Then-mayor of Toronto Rob Ford decries the “war on cars,” spending $300,000 to remove two-year-old bike lanes because he feels that no one bikes anymore.

The activists’ fights aren’t waged against any single person or entity but against the global driving culture. It’s not that anyone (except maybe Ford) is opposed to bikes; they’re opposed to anything that might threaten the profits of car manufacturers and oil companies. Brazilian urban planning professor Raquel Rolnik explains that changing the paradigm is a long and thankless struggle.We watch a teacher lead a group of schoolchildren around busy Bogotá on their little bikes teaching them how to safely navigate their city on their own power, you might feel hopeful for the future of eco-friendly transportation.

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As we deal with the climate crisis and rising congestion, we become aware here of the war playing out on the streets that could be the decisive battle of our time.

“Bikes vs. Cars” looks at the commonly held idea that traffic is just a necessary part of urban life and that cars are the most rational choice for getting around and upends it.

Of course, we see that the rich are more powerful than the poor and this gives us a sense of hopelessness. Why even try when powers are working so hard to prevent success? This is the question that we need to answer.

Bonus features include an interview with director Fredrik Gertten, “The Invisible Bicycle Helmet” (2012) – a short film by Gertten, and the trailer.

“WHAT’S THE WORSE THAT COULD HAPPEN”— A Burglary

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“What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”

A Burglary

Amos Lassen

Martin Lawrence is a clever thief named Kevin Caffery who frequents auctions to find out what’s worth stealing. At an art auction, he meets Amber Belhaven (Carmen Ejogo) who is in tears because she has to sell the painting her father left her because she needs money for a hotel bill. The painting is described as a fine example of the Hudson River School, goes for $3,000 but to many it is worth much more than that. Max Fairbanks (Danny DeVito) is a man who has several lovers including his wife (Nora Dunn), his secretary (Gleanne Headly) and Miss September.

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Kevin has a criminal sidekick named Berger (John Leguizamo) and a getaway driver (Bernie Mac) and he is friends with a flamboyant a Boston cop (William Fichtner). The plot is about Kevin’s attempt to rob Max’s luxurious shore estate, which is supposed to be empty but in fact contains Max and Miss September. After the cops are called, Max steals a ring given him by Amber Belhaven. The rest of the movie as about Kevin’s determination to get it back, intercut with Max’s troubles with judges, lawyers and accountants.

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What could have been quiet jokes becomes sloppy and slapstick and the film does not have a strong narrative that will go from beginning to end. A comedy needs a strong narrative engine to pull the plot through to the end. There are simply too many actors and too poor a script to carry this through.

 

worst4In a movie about a caper like this one, it’s the actors who matter. Lawrence did not make it as a star and he just is not funny here. DeVito is a great talker but he is once again playing the same old, same old.

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The cast is very good and there are some funny moments but by and large, I just could not get into the movie. The underlying premise is that the only difference between the businessman, the politician, the lawyer, and the man who steals is that at least the professional thief is honest about what he does. There is something unsettling about the underlying assumptions here, especially those about the smug self-righteousness of the thieves.