Tag: Africa


A United Kingdom

February 1st, 2017 — 5:15am

*****

A United Kingdom-sp

When David Oyelowo, leading actor in this film, producer and the force behind the movie, spoke to our audience after screening this movie, he acknowledged that until he read the book by Susan Williams, he knew very little about the history of the small African nation now known as Botswana. But fortunately, the star of the recent hit Selma and many other excellent movies was personally moved enough to put six years of sweat and tears in order to bring one of the great love stories of the 20th century and the most inspiring story of the birth of this small African democracy, to the 21st century movie screen.

It was 1947 when Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) born of royal blood and destined to be king of a small African country, was studying in England when he fell in love with a young British white woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Their exuberant love for each other is exciting and quite palpable. Perhaps most of us today would say and feel “Why not?” But, there is great resistance from Seretse’s uncle, the reigning ruler, the neighboring apartheid South Africa and the British Colonial government. In fact, any respect that you might have for the late Winston Churchill may go down the drain after seeing this movie.

Your heartstrings will be plucked, your sense of justice will be stirred up and an important piece of history will be indelibly etched into your mind. Need we be reminded that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. The man who recently who brought to the screen an insight into Martin Luther King has done it again with another excellent portrayal of an heroic figure Credit also goes to director Amma Asante who did an outstanding job by keeping the focus equally on the chemistry between these lovers as well as the historic importance of the fight for ultimate fairness and democracy. The countryside was beautiful. The local native men and women were wonderful. Don’t miss this movie. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Romance

Timbuktu

February 5th, 2015 — 8:10pm

**Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.14.13 PM

Timbuktu sp- “Timbuktu” is widely used to describe a place extremely far away and regarded by many as a myth. In reality it’s a city in Mali, West Africa. It is situated on the southernmost edge of the Sahara Desert. This film although named Timbuktu was actually filmed in Mauritania, a country a little to the north and deemed a little safer for the French and African crew and cast that made this highly charged political film. This movie was produced and directed by Ahderrahmane Sissaki who also co-wrote the screenplay. It is the first film from Mauritania and one of the very few from Africa to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It attempts to show how the Jihadists, who are contemporary armed Islamic fundamentalists, attempt to impose their values on other Islamic people who don’t hold their extreme beliefs. The setting is the beautiful African dessert where some animals run wild and others are herded by local people many of whom are religious but don’t hold the extreme beliefs of the Jihadists. This leads to horrific scenes, which include a young couple being stoned to death for having a sexual relationship and not being married. Others are given painful 40 lashes for singing and enjoying music. Women are also forbidden from even showing their hands and must wear gloves. The actors are quite good and very believable in their roles although most have not acted before. Some of the actors, we learned, have performed as musicians. The storyline is more a tableaux of scenes woven together to achieve the message that the filmmaker clearly wishes to make. It has relevancy to the world situation as the news is filled with stories about terrorism by various extremist Islamic groups, such as ISIS, al Qaeda and others as they spread their influence throughout the world. A movie such as this one that attempts to show extremism and oppression of people becomes even more effective than political speeches and news reports to educate the public. We understand that already the movie is showing strong box office appeal in various parts of Africa as well as in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. However, as an enjoyable, absorbing well done film we can’t put it near the top of our list. Granted the photography is quite beautiful and did capture the texture and ambience of the land. However there is no real storyline. There is no character development and we really know very little about the background of any of the people that we meet. Since they mostly walk around with some type of cloth around their faces (men and women), at times we didn’t even know who was who. Some of the scenes were drawn out too long in our opinion. We had the opportunity to question the filmmaker about some of the fine points of the movie that we did not comprehend. Although that helped to understand what had occurred, regular movie goers will not have that added help. The overall message was fairly clear but we found the movie which was 97 minutes, to feel much longer. In sum, the political value trumps the cinematic value. We hope it makes a difference but we can’t recommend it as a must see film.(2015)

 

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, History

War Witch

February 22nd, 2013 — 1:41am

itunes_warwitch***

War Witch sp – We saw this  Oscar nominated movie for best foreign film a few days before the Academy Award ceremony. It is the Canadian entry since that is the home country of Director Kim Nguyen who also wrote the screenplay which he told our screening audience in a post film interview that he has been writing on and off for 10 years. It is set somewhere in the African Congo where a rebel army abducts children and makes them soldiers. The movie, which was primarily filmed in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, appears to be quite authentic. It  follows Komono, a  12 year old girl, for two years, starting with the point where she is captured, made to shoot her parents and become a soldier. Circumstances lead her captors to believe that she has special powers, can see things that are going to happen and therefore protect them. She is played by a first time local actress Rachel Mwanza, who actually grew up in the streets without a family and was chosen by Kim Nguyen after auditioning over 2000 young girls.  She is on the screen just about all the time and expresses clearly her inner pain and emotions  well as her  own thoughts and images with a little help from the visual effects of the film and the voiceover  in French by another actress (with English subtitles of course). It also has a great soundtrack of  what appeared to be African folk music which captured the atmosphere and mood  of the film. Mwanza for her first film has already won the the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month and also won the award for the Best Actress in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In the film she is accompanied most of the time by another child soldier who is an Albino known as the Magician, also very well  played by a local actor Serge Kanyinda. This movie presents us with a glimpse at a lesser known atrocity  which has occurred in modern times. It is also a simple and beautiful, if not,  sad love story . It well deserves the recognition which it is receiving. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Foreign, History, Romance, War

The First Grader

May 6th, 2011 — 6:48am

****

The First Grader-sp We take for granted that everyone in this country is entitled to an education. We especially can appreciate it when we see it through the eyes of eager children trying to learn the their ABCs in a dusty one room class room in Kenya where the government has decreed, for the first time, the right of everyone to be educated. We are taken to a new level of appreciation when we see it from the point of view of an 85 year old man Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge (Oliver Musila Litondo) who is determined to join this class and get the education he never had and learn to read. This is based a true story of a   man who became a national hero in Kenya and a symbol of the universal desire for education as his quest ultimately brought the real Maruge from his country village to address the United Nations. However important this theme may be, there also was another story going on here. This proud man had been part of Kikuyu tribe, which produced the Mau-Mau rebellion, which ultimately led to the Kenyan independence from British colonial rule. He demands and gets the respect as others realize that he had been one of freedom fighters who took a sacred oath to return the land controlled by the British back to the native people. As a young man he endured torture and witnessed the death of his wife and children at the hands of the British who demanded that he give up his oath of resistance. The movie flashes back from the present day of this old man trying to learn to read to when he was resisting the powerful British. This is a poignant and dramatic story about a piece of history that most of us do not know much about. It is based on screenplay by Ann Peacock but carried forth and molded by director Justin Chadwick. It is all the more remarkable because it paints an extremely negative picture of colonial Britain by this British Director with the initial support of the BBC, which took the project into development. The school children and most of the characters were not professional actors but all real life Kenyan people. This included the children and their school, which was quite genuine. The exception was Naomie Harris an outstanding English screen actress who had a major role-playing Jane Obinchu the schoolteacher who believed Maruge deserved the opportunity to learn to read. The performance by Litondo as Maruge is totally believable, as he seems to embody this “Mandelaisk” persona. Litondo is a native Kenyan who used to be a news anchor with no previous acting experience.  Harris, Chadwick and their entire crew spent several weeks in Kenya working with locals and preparing to shoot this movie there. The result is an extremely, sensitive effective and emotional film. A middle school teacher in our audience mentioned how she was inspired to go back into her classroom and we all could feel the awe and the thirst for learning that young people and a deprived older man might feel. We also have had our interest peaked to learn more about this very interesting and complicated piece of African history about which this story only scratched the surface. It is a movie that should not be missed. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, History

In A Better World

February 24th, 2011 — 8:36am

*****

In A Better World- sp – We saw this film four days before the evening of the Academy awards and we do believe that this Danish film could give Biutiful from Mexico a run for the money for the best  Foreign Language Film. (We must confess that these two outstanding films were the only ones in this category that we have seen.) Director Susanne Bier who was guest speaker  at our  screening collaborated with Screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen to bring forth a magnificent story and movie which examines the issues of revenge, bullying, family relationships as well as a friendship between two pre-adolescent boys that is forged in their own painful circumstances. Biers effectively shifts  between scenes in Africa where Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), the father of one of the boys is a physician who makes regular trips to a medical outpost and Denmark where  his son Elias is being jerked around by some  classmates who are bullying him. The other boy Christian (perhaps an ironic choice of a name ) has just moved back from London  with his father to live with his grandmother in Denmark after his mother died of cancer. The main characters find themselves in situations where they can choose to act in a manner that may be wrong and immoral or which could also be considered by some to be justified. The presentation of moral ambiguities in characters that we can understand and identify with makes a stimulating and very riveting film. The scenery in Africa is beautiful and the people living in the refugee camp where they were casted are very genuine since most are non-actors. On the other hand the two child stars who were chosen from 120 auditions essentially carry the film as their characters make decisions which will keep you on the edge of your seat  for nearly the same number of minutes. It is all helped along by an appropriate musical background. We will give the edge to Biutiful but would not be surprised to see the Danes take first prize in this category.(2010) Addendum: It won the Oscar for best foreign film ! )

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

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