Category: Foreign


Nowhere In Africa

June 19th, 2021 — 4:00am

Nowhere in Africa
****

This is a 2001 German film which was written and directed by Caroline Link. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

We thought that we had seen every aspect of Holocaust books and films, yet this subtle, touching, thoughtful story tells a poignant tale that reflects the deep-seated impact as much as the classic well known literary and cinematic productions have done on this subject. It tells the story of a German Jewish family; father, mother, and young daughter, who fled Germany “to the middle of nowhere in Africa” which is actually in Kenya.

Perhaps this story is best reflected through the eyes of a young girl as she grows into early adolescence during what must have been a seven or eight year period. She is accepted into the native culture. Her parents have their struggles and conflicts. Their pain in missing their relatives and learning of their fate is a well-known part of history. The viewers must put themselves into the shoes of this threesome as they ultimately must decide whether to stay or leave and where to go once the war is over.

The skill of the filmmaker is reflected in the fact that we forget that we are seeing a foreign film with subtitles. The setting is quite real as are the characters and their in-depth portrayal.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

Madam Rosa

December 26th, 2020 — 8:18am

Madame Rosa (Hulu)
***

We recently reviewed the 1975 Italian film “The Life Ahead”, based on a French novel. There actually was a 1977 French movie based on the same book titled Madame Rosa. It stars Simone Signoret and has a similar plot. This version provides a more detailed story line about the young man who is taken under the wing of the aging woman who was once a prostitute and now cares for children of prostitutes. It costars Samy Ben-Youb as Momo who appears to be maybe 13 or 14 (a couple of years older than the boy in the Italian version.) The film is hampered by the subtitles at times being more difficult to read and the technical quality of the film projection was poor. While we favor the Italian version, it is quite interesting to compare two films and observe the outstanding acting of another great actress. The French version did win the Foreign Film Award in the 1978 Oscars.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Life Ahead

December 23rd, 2020 — 6:52am

The Life Ahead (Netflix)
*****

This is an Italian movie, based on a novel by Romain Gary, starring the great actress Sophia Loren who is now in her mid 80s. She does a great job as an aging woman who is a Holocaust survivor and takes care of young children of prostitutes. There are two other outstanding stars in this film. One is the young black boy who plays Momo and appears to be between 12 and 14 and is taken in by Ms. Loren’s character. He is played magnificently by Ibrahima Gueye. The other outstanding star is the director of the film, Eduardo Ponti. Mr. Ponti, who is Sophia Loren’s son, did an absolutely fantastic job directing Mr. Gueye as Momo. Speech (although in Italian) appeared to have perfect intonation and the young boy’s expressions and emotional reactions were unbelievable. We see Momo come into a completely new living environment for him, but he adapts very well. On one hand, he becomes a drug messenger to make money. He relates well to the other children and is tender and caring for Ms. Loren’s character. It is this amazing emotional performance created by Mr. Ponti and his young actor that makes this film unforgettable.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign

And Then We Danced

February 7th, 2020 — 2:02am

***

AND THEN WE DANCED-sp

This was the Swedish Oscar entry for best film. It is the brainchild of writer-director, Levan Akin, who is telling a story about dancers in Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, which is his native country. The film introduces the viewer to a very particular style of dancing, which we learned is practically a national sport in Georgia. We meet our main character, Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), as he is auditioning for a professional Georgia Dance Company. He meets Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), who is also trying out for a position in the dance company. They ultimately are attracted to each other and have a forbidden sexual affair. The storyline gives us a glimpse into Georgian culture and particularly, the struggle of the main characters. The dancing although unique to our eye is nevertheless quite powerful. Although, we could appreciate the tensions between the various protagonists and their families, the film was unnecessarily long in trying to depict the societal pressures again gay individuals. We watched several characters as they grapple with and ultimately come to terms with who they really are, which while enlightening and poignant was just overly drawn-out.(2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Corpus Christi

January 30th, 2020 — 4:33am

****

Corpus Christi-sp

This is Poland’s entry in the Oscar race for best foreign film and it could be a winner. A young man escapes from his violent detention in prison where he has to work in a sawmill and gets into gritty fights. While he already knew that his desire to go to seminary and become a priest could not be possible because of his prison record, he finds a way to act out his fantasy. After he escapes from his detention, he finds refuge in a church in a small town. He convinces the vicar there that he is actually a recent graduate priest who is passing through and then accepts the role to temporarily be the Church’s spiritual leader when the older man has to leave for a period of time. Not surprisingly, interesting things happen and issues of spirituality, morality and fairness are all put on the table for the viewer to contemplate along with the characters in the film. The core of the story is based on a true incident of priest impersonation, but much of the story comes from the imagination and creativity of the screenwriter, Mateusz Pacewicz, director, Jan Komasa, cinematographer, Piotr Sobociński, Jr. as well as the great acting performance by Bartosz Bielenia, along with an excellent supporting cast.(2020)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Incitement

January 29th, 2020 — 7:47am

 

****

Incitement- sp

This award-winning Israeli film is based on the real-life events which led to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It is a well-done docudrama, which seemlessly interfaces actual video and movie clips with the excellently-constructed, very well-acted movie. It was put together by Yaron Zilberman who directed the film and co-wrote the screen play as well as leading the team of producers who researched all details of this movie for over a year prior to production. The preparation that they did included interviewing the actual assassin Yigal Amir (played by Yehuda Nahari Halevi) who is serving a life sentence in prison. Special recognition also should be given to the cast who played Amir’s family (Amitay Ousilio, Anat Ravnizky, Yoav Levi) and other important people in his life (Sivan Mast, Daniella Kertesz).

The seminal event which this film focused is upon was a pivotal moment in Israeli history. Rabin was assassinated in 1995, at which time, Yassir Arafat, was negotiating with him and planning the previously evasive possibility of agreed-upon boundaries and peace in the Middle East.

This film highlights the controversies within Israel among various groups. The viewer gets to understand the point of view of the young law student would-be assassin as he evolves his thinking into his deadly plan. How he rationalizes and justified his plan and finds support from the Bible and various religious leaders is quite fascinating and makes this movie well worth seeing. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign

Truth and Justice

January 17th, 2020 — 9:21pm

***

Truth and Justice-sp

This film is Estonia’s entry for best foreign picture. It is based on a classic Estonian novel, apparently well known to everyone who grows up in Estonia. It takes place in the 1870s in the rural area as Andres (Priit Loog) and his wife Kroot (Maiken Schmidt) settle down on a rural farm, which they have gone into debt to purchase. Their goal is to be successful and bring up a family with a male heir who can carry on what they hope will be a successful endeavor. Things became complicated and difficult as the neighbor, Pearu (Priit Võigemast) is somewhat devious and there are personal and legal conflicts that soon develop. The young couple finds it not so easy to make everything the way you want to it. The story line allows the viewers to see the growth of children and how relationships and aspirations of the entire family young and old play out. While the setting beautifully captured by magnificent cinematography, and the time period may be unfamiliar to most of us, director and writer Tanel Toom has taken a classic Estonian novel by Anton Tammsaare and portrayed its humanity and universality, which will nevertheless touch some of the audience (2020).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

One Child Nation

November 17th, 2019 — 10:57pm

 

***

One Child Nation-  amazon

In 1979, the Chinese government came to the conclusion that if they did not make some radical changes, the next generation’s population would grow enormously. 

They believed that the population would be in the billions and would lead to widespread starvation and be very difficult to manage. Therefore the Chinese government instituted a mandatory one child policy, which was widely publicized and became the “patriotic approach” expected from every Chinese family. Those who disobeyed this dictum and had a second child would be severely punished sometimes by having their home destroyed. Midwives not only performed numerous sterilization procedures and abortions but also at times had to kill newborns who were second children. This policy continued for 25 years before it was finally changed allowing a second child.

Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang directed this documentary film. Much of it was in Chinese with subtitles. It captures and personalizes the impact of this all encompassing social policy. Through interviews with various Chinese people, the viewer can appreciate the very personal meaning of being deprived of the ability to have a second child if one wanted one. Family dynamics are examined especially in some settings where there might be a desire to have a boy and the first child was a girl. The newborn and the very young were abandoned in the streets. There was human trafficking where children were sold to adoption agencies. Many of these children were internationally adopted and ended up in American homes where the adopted parents were not told the true story of their newly adopted child. There also is the story of the search by adopted Chinese children growing up in America who might be interested in finding their birth families.

This film deals with these complicated issues, which have political, social, as well as emotional implications. You come away from this documentary film educated and also moved by the human implications of what you have seen and experienced. (2019)

 

As always your comments are welcome below:

 

 

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Foreign, Politics

Parasite

November 7th, 2019 — 8:40pm

*****

Parasite-rm

This was an elaborate production of an interesting and complicated story. The movie is set in South Korea and is in the Korean language with English subtitles. We meet a wealthy Korean family with two children who can hire a maid/cook, tutor for the kids, as well as a driver. Through some complicated manipulations, a poor family from the other side of town is able to work it out, so they are serving all of these positions although the rich family does not realize that they are actually members of one family. The disparity and yet the similarities between the rich and the poor become highlighted. There is a strange undercurrent of the film that not only takes place in the basement of the wealthy mansion but in the heart and souls of some of the characters. Credit must be given to Bong Joon-Ho, who wrote the screenplay and did a magnificent job directing the movie, which turned out to be 2 hours and 12 minutes but never feeling too long or drawn out.

The film which starts out comedically, albeit with strife and poignancy, moves into creative and surprising genres which keep the viewer engaged even after the final credits roll. While difficult to classify, it is definitely worth seeing. 

 

Please leave your comments below:

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Horror

Farewell

July 31st, 2019 — 5:21am

****

Farewell-rm

This film written and directed by Lulu Wang is mostly in Chinese with English subtitles. A young woman (played by Awkwafina known for her performances in Crazy Rich Asians and other films) joins her American family as they descend upon nai-nai (grandmother) who lives in China and whom they believe has a fatal diagnosis of cancer). However, the family is set on keeping the information about the deadly prognosis from grandmother because they believe it is the fear that would facilitate her demise. The American relatives join the Chinese relatives in China in what the grandmother thinks is a wedding celebration for her grandson who is supposedly getting married. But really the American family has flown over to China in order to see grandma who they understand has a fatal prognosis. The love and tenderness for grandmother is quite touching as is the extent the family will go to, to keep the fatal prognosis from her.

There is singing, as well as speeches by many family members mostly in Chinese but some in English (but all are translated into English on the screen). There is a rich depiction of Chinese culture. The respect and love for elders permeates the film and is quite touching. Time goes by quite quickly as it does in real life when we believe our time with a loved one is limited. Also, to the backdrop of this family crisis, other family issues emerged. We appreciate the underlying feelings when some family members leave their homeland to immigrate to another country while other members stay behind. Also, family issues seem more intense when we believe we are about to lose a loved family member.

The movie has a certain universality, which will appeal to many viewers and make us contemplate the importance of family and what a potential loss of a loved one would mean to each of us. It is also an opportunity to reflect how when a young person immigrates to the United States for opportunity, there is a cost of being a stranger in a strange land and not having the support of your loved ones who are left in your homeland. All and all, this film will touch your heart as well as telling you an interesting story. (2019)

 

Your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

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