Daily Archives: February 24, 2017

Fire at Sea – Director, Gianfranco Rossi


Another amazing documentary and makes you wonder why only one film needs to win. Again it is a very long movie at nearly two hours which I feel stretches the patience of audiences and can take from the power of the story. This film is about Lampadusa, the small Italian island between Italy and Tunisia where many of the refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East end up… if they are lucky. Far too many die in the attempt. The movie has no narration but simply shows images of the various characters: the refugees, a young Italian boy who is a resident of the island and a doctor who provides primary care to the islanders and serves as emerg doc and pathologist/coroner and primary care doctor to the refugees. Although the movie is long it is engrossing and as one reviewer said: You really don’t want it to end. It is unresolved and offers no solutions hopeful or not to the crisis of the refugees and work that the Italian authorities provide to serve and help them. As we in Canada see our own small crisis of for now only a few hundred desperate people crossing the border in freezing conditions, we would be well advised to learn more of the struggles current in the Mediterranean. They may well be visited on us at the enormous migration of populations continues in the face of war and climate change. The most powerful scene in the movie in my opinion is a scene in which the doctor shows an image of a young teenage boy covered in chemical burns caused by wearing clothes soaked in sea water and diesel fuel. They may well be fatal he says. He has seen terrible things. Dead children, pregnant women, babies born on the boats dead with their umbilical cords still attached…. He says his colleagues tell him that he must be immune to the horror after seeing so much but he pauses and says: It’s not true, will never be true. A powerful story.

13th: From Slave to Criminal with one Amendment – Director, Ava DuVernay


This is a very powerful documentary although very long. The latter element may excuse it from winning but that should not discourage you from watching it. It is a Netflix production so easily available. The title refers to the 13th amendment to the US Constitution that outlaws slavery but specifically excludes criminals from this protection. The film argues very convincingly that the current US obsession with punishing crime by imprisonment is simply one step in the process of ensuring people of colour and particularly blacks are kept oppressed and enslaved. The film opens with Obama’s statement that while the US holds 5% of the world’s population it holds 25% of the world’s prison population and the black population makes up a highly disproportional number of those prisoners. Prisoners are kept increasingly in privately run prisons which little oversight of conditions. Prisoners are now a key part of the US labour force hired out to firms from agriculture to Victoria’s Secret, although the latter company stopped the practice when it was revealed and customers objected. Still the US economy is increasingly reliant on this labour source not unlike the American south was reliant on slaves prior to the Civil War. Part of the problem with this film is its attempt to tie together two related stories. The first is the clear effort of the US to keep people of colour oppressed and in many cases enslaved. This goes back the Jim Crow laws following the abolishment of slavery and more recently the use of the criminal justice system to maintain that oppression. The second part is the whole US Criminal justice system and the corporatization of the prison system. Imprisonment is an increasingly capitalist driven process rather than justice driven and it is not just blacks and people of colour that suffer. While this adds complexity and length to the film and I think hurts the narrative it is a hugely important film and a must see for all. It won the BAFTA award and deserves a shot at an Oscar as well.

Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts 2017


I downloaded these films from iTunes which assured me there were subtitles but as it turned out this was not the case and all the films are foreign made and except for Silent Nights, no English. Still it was amazing how much I was able to understand about the story with just the images to go by. So take my comments with this in mind. The films were longer than usual except for the Spanish entry and I am not sure I like that. Short films should be short but given Hollywood’s apparent need to make 2-3 hour films these days I suppose 30-40 minutes is the new short. I really liked the Spanish entry – Timecode—but it has had some negative reviews suggesting it is not serious enough. Well… I don’t agree that serious is a necessary quality and entertaining is what should count. See my review of Boogaloo and Graham from the past. Great movie and available on iTunes for only $3 or so. Give a watch and try to track down Timecode as well.

Sing (dir. Kristof Deak \ Hungary 2016 \ 25 minutes, English Subtitles)

Zsofi is struggling to fit in at her new school – singing in the school’s famous choir is her only consolation, but the choir director may not be the inspirational teacher everyone thinks she is. It will take Zsofi and her new friend Liza to uncover the cruel truth.

A lovely film about kids and their bonding against some unjust authority. The revenge the kids take at the conclusion of the film is great and very funny. I would rank this as my favourite of the whole bunch.

Silent Nights (dir. Aske Bang \ Denmark 2016 \ 30 minutes, English & English Subtitles for parts in Danish)

Inger volunteers at a homeless shelter and falls in love with the illegal immigrant Kwame. Both live a hard life. Kwame finds comfort in Inger’s arms, but says nothing about his family and children in Ghana. When his daughter becomes ill, he is forced to steal money from the homeless shelter to pay the hospital bill. Inger believe his lie about the theft, and when Kwame moves in with Inger they are happy for a while… until the day when Kwame’s mobile phone reveals everything about his life in Ghana.

Not bad but not great and this one had some English in it as well.

Timecode (dir. Juanjo Gimenez Pena \ Spain 2016 \ 15 minutes, English Subtitles)

Luna and Diego are the parking lot security guards. Diego does the night shift, and Luna works by day.

The image above is of Luna and Diego. A real treat and lots of fun. Two security guards – build a relationship through dance if you can believe it. Timecode refers to a defined video record on a video surveillance recording. Diego leaves Luna a note with a time code and when she looks at it he is doing an improvised dance during his regular patrol of the building. Luna responds herself and they communicate this way creating more and more complex dance moves. The end is them coming together and doing an amazing gymnastic dance routine witnessed by their boss and an new security guard. The final scene is very funny.

Ennemis Interieurs (dir. Selim Aazzazi \ France 2016 \ 28 minutes, English Subtitles)

An interview at a local police station turns into an inquisition during which a French-Algerian born man sees himself accused of protecting the identities of possible terrorists. This close-up on France’s troubled history with its former colonies has one man controlling the fate of another with the stroke of a pen during a turbulent period in the 1990s.

Very good movie that makes you think of what is currently going on in the US under Trump and his authoritarian attitude to refugees.

La Femme et la TGV (dir. Timo von Gunten \ Switzerland 2016 \ 30 minutes, English Subtitles)

Elise Lafontaine has a secret routine. Every morning and evening for many years, she has been waving at the express train that passes her house. One fateful day, she finds a letter from the train conductor in her garden and her lonely life is turned upside down. She engages in a promising correspondence through poetic and thoughtful letters two anonymous writers sharing their world with each other until the day the train line gets cancelled. The story is inspired by true events and stars César Award nominee Jane Birkin.

Not great. Fast forward through it.