Blu-Ray Review: Daughters of the Dust

Director: Julie Dash
Screenplay: Julie Dash
Starring: Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao, Adisa Anderson, Trula Hoosier
Country: UK, USA
Running Time: 112 min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: PG


I‘d heard the title Daughters of the Dust crop up a couple of times not long before the BFI announced its re-release on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK. Everybody’s favourite source of film lists, Taste of Cinema, included it on their ’10 Totally Awesome 1990s Movies You May Have Missed’ lineup in May, which caught my attention. Plus I’d heard mention of it when Beyonce’s acclaimed Lemonade film/album came out last year. So, although descriptions of the film didn’t make it sound like my typical cup-of-tea, I was eager to give the film a look and what better way than in a shiny new Blu-Ray edition, spruced up by the BFI.

There’s not much of a story to describe as I typically like to do in my second paragraph. Some opening text explains how in South Carolina’s Sea Islands, certain communities of former west-African slaves lived alone, away from the rest of American society and adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions. The film is set in 1902 and sees members of the Gullah community on the islands struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while preparing for a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

This struggle takes place with little on screen incidence. A couple of tragedies and scandals have struck the community, but these have happened in the past and are referred to, but never shown. We do however see mystical visions of the future as a child possibly born from her mother’s rape narrates and fleetingly visits the film’s scenes. A couple of former islanders and their friend who come to visit from the mainland also offer some unrest to proceedings and remind the community and the audience how the two worlds differ.

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Trailer: White God

White God

Winner of the Prize Un Certain Regard Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, White God is described as “a brutal, beautiful metaphor for the political and cultural tensions sweeping contemporary Europe”:

When young Lili is forced to give up her beloved dog Hagen, because it’s mixed-breed heritage is deemed ‘unfit’ by The State, she and the dog begin a dangerous journey back towards each other. At the same time, all the unwanted, unloved and so-called ‘unfit’ dogs rise up under a new leader, Hagen, the one-time housepet who has learned all too well from his ‘Masters’ in his journey through the streets and animal control centers how to bite the hands that beats him.

Festival Plug: Lincoln Festival of Japanese Culture

The Lincoln Festival of Japanese Culture is a celebration of Japanese film, music, art, food and much more. Lincoln (UK) based Blueprint: Film Foundation are putting on the event with additional funding from the Japan Society and Lincoln BIG to celebrate Japanese culture and share it with the Lincolnshire community.

The main event is being held on the 27th January at ‘The Venue’ in Bishop Grosseteste University College and will centre around the screening of 2 films, anime classic Akira and Shōhei Imamura’s groundbreaking crime-comedy-drama Pigs and Battleships (tickets now available) alongside traditional Japanese live music, martial arts demonstrations, art, food and drink. The screening of Pigs and Battleships, which will be closing the event, will also be accompanied by a talk from acclaimed Japanese cinema expert, Jasper Sharp.

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DVD Review: Good Hair

Good Hair Poster

Director: Jeff Stilson
Writer: Lance Crouther
Producers: Jenny Hunter, Kevin O’Donnell, Jeff Stilson
Starring: Chris Rock, Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Maya Angelou, Salt n Pepa, Eve, Reverend Al Sharpton
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 min.

Here’s something many of us take for granted: hair. I bet most of us don’t give it a second thought. We wake up in the morning, wash it, brush it, put it up. We run our fingers through it, sometimes we get caught in the rain. We swim, we make love and the entire time, the hair is in place; it’s such a natural part of who we are that it seems second nature. Enter Good Hair, a mix of comedy and documentary featuring comedian Chris Rock trying to answer the question: what is good hair? If you think that question has a simple answer, you’re obviously not: 1) a black woman or 2) dated a black woman.

Here’s the deal. The African American hair care business is a $60 billion dollar industry. We’re not talking shampoo, conditioner and hair spray either. We’re talking tons of Relaxer and perhaps an equal amount of hair; real human hair that has been cut from one woman to provide long, straight hair for another. And if you think it’s only the well to do who shell out upwards of $3,000 for hair weaves, you’d better prepare yourself because there are working women all over the US and Canada (as I’m sure there are in other places though the film focuses mainly on the US) walking around with hair that cost more than some cars. No joke.

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A Mammoth Conversation

Mammoth

A number of us managed to see Lukas Moodysoon‘s global-intimate drama, Mammoth, on the festival and VOD circuit (the film was woefully neglected in Canada and the United States) and instead of posting reviews and hashing things out in the comments section amoungst ourselves, we tried the below experiment: Marina, Mike and Kurt simply had a lengthy email conversation on the film, thus allowing things to flow like a conversation and (bonus for you, the reader!) generating a transcript in ‘real-time.’ This is presented below. We assume those reading it have either seen Mammoth, or do not mind treading in *SPOILER* territory. Two of us, at least, feel quite passionate about the films timeliness and relevancy and believe Moodysson has a lot of things to say (with no small amount of eloquence and grace). We mine the movies themes and influences at length:

 
 

MIKE: To get the ball rolling, I thought we could talk first about our initial expectations for Mammoth, and put our biases on the table. I had never heard of the director, Lukas Moodysson, so it had nothing to live up to, in fact I knew nothing about the film other than that it stars Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams. Admittedly I adore Michelle Williams and that was the sole reason I wanted to see this film. When it started, immediately there was something ominous to it. This happy mother, father and child playing in their beautiful home, but the score right away takes on a kind of menace out of sync with what is onscreen. Right then I was hooked.

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VIFF 09 Review: Nomad’s Land – sur les traces de Nicolas Bouvier

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NomadsLandMovieStillIn today’s technology rich world, it’s nearly impossible to believe that anyone could go “off the grid” for any extended period of time but in Nomad’s Land – Sur les traces de Nicolas Bouvier, Swiss filmmaker Gaël Métroz proves that it’s not only possible but fairly easy to do.

The adventure began as a self-finding mission. With the works of Swiss traveler Nicolas Bourvier as a guide, Métroz set off with a camera on a self guided tour of the Middle East and Asia, a trip that nearly killed him but which also provided the young man with an intimate understanding of humanity. A travelogue of intense power, Métroz shares much with his icon Bouvier and his deeply personal connection to Bouvier’s adventures affect both his choices and observations, providing an interesting and intimate account of life in that region of the world.

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VIFF 09 Review: Wah Do Dem (What They Do)

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WahDoThemMovieStill

I’m still not sure what inspired me to see Wah Do Dem (What They Do). Was it the odd sounding title? Norah Jones’ name in the credits or the interesting sounding synopsis; take your pick as any one of those may be correct. As the film opened, I started to think that perhaps I’d made a grievous mistake. The characters were a little too hipster for me, the music wasn’t what I’d expected and the acting even less but already comfortable in my seat, I thought to give the film a try.

Max wins a Jamaican cruise. For a year he and his girlfriend have been planning the trip which will give them free access to Jamaica aboard a liner which will provide all the food they can eat and the R&R they may need except a few days before the trip, Max gets dumped. After unsuccessful attempts to convince any of his friends to go with him, the lure of Jamaica is just too good to pass up and he decides to take the trip alone. When the ship finally arrives, Max takes off for the tourist free areas of the city, meets a few locals, goes to a beach and loses his stuff. If that’s not bad enough, he also misses his ride back to the US and ends up with no money and no clothes or shoes (other than the swim trunks he’s wearing) on a trek to the American embassy in Kingston, four hours away.

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VIFF 09 Review: The Milk of Sorrow

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TheMilkOfSorrowMovieStill

Over the years I’ve noticed a trend with South American films, particularly those from countries with a rich cultural/oral tradition: the cultural history often drifts into the filmmaking. Such is the case with Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow, a film whose very basis is drenched in lore.

Fausta is said to suffer from “the milk of sorrow,” an illness that befalls children born and raised on the breast milk of mothers who were violated during the war. Fausta and her mother live with their extended family in Lima but when her mother, a woman who lived most of her life amidst the terrors of war, dies, Fausta is left alone. Traumatized by her mother’s death, she is determined to return her mother’s body to the village of her youth but other problems face her: namely the odd method of self preservation that she has employed and which is now killing her. When Fausta is forced to take a job in order to pay for her trip, she discovers that there is joy in life and she makes what, to her, is the ultimate sacrifice.

The opening moments of Llosa’s film are crucial to understanding the remainder of the story which moves along at a tranquil pace. The film’s best moments come care of Fausta’s family and their various adventures. Small moments like the women preparing for a wedding or the look at the family business, a sort of package deal wedding providers, which give an insightful look at the culture and way of life of these people, individuals who take joy from life’s small miracles.

The Milk of Sorrow is a beautiful looking film which, on the edges, manages to capture the difference of living in the city and barrios that surround it while also providing an insightful look at the culture. It’s a gorgeously shot film which feels almost otherworldly in setting and though it featyres an excellent performance from Magaly Solier in the role of Fausta, the film has an odd emotional detachment which ultimately disappointed.

See VIFF screening schedule for show times.

Bookmarks for August 26th

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What we’ve been reading – August 26th:

  • A CRITICAL MOMENT: THREE PERSPECTIVES
    Earlier this year the San Francisco International Film Festival screened Gerald Peary's For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, and followed it up with a free-to-the-public panel entitled "A Critical Moment", moderated by SF360 editor Susan Gerhard. Panel participants included Gerald Peary, B. Ruby Rich, David D'Arcy, Dennis Harvey, John Anderson, Jonathan Curiel, and Mary Pols.
  • The ‘Alt-Canon’ according to the Gospel of Time Out.
    Which 25 movies deserve promotion? David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf and Keith Uhlich make their own list of absolute must-see films.
  • Fanboy $$$
    In the never-ending debate over whether the studios dictate what mass audiences consume or whether they respond to what mass audiences demand, it appears that at this moment in time, they are absolutely meeting the needs of tens of millions of young people across the globe whose tastes are moulded by the internet.

McLaren’s Neighbours A World Cultural Treasure

Neighbours Movie StillI was in high school in the mid 90s when I first saw Norm McLaren’s short film Neighbours. When the lights came up, the teacher asked us when we though the movie had been made and the median answer was 1975. It’s safe to say that we were all in shock at discovering that the film was over 40 years old.

McLaren was an animation genius, a Canadian treasure and icon recognized the world over and though we’ll never see a new project from the master and the National Film Board is doing an excellent job of preserving his memory and body of work, it looks like the world will never forget his contribution to the film, animation and culture.

UNESCO Memory of the World Register aims to preserve and disseminate valuable archive holdings and library collections throughout the world. The registry, which includes includes works such as the Gutenberg Bible and the films Metropolis and The Wizard of Oz, recently added an additional batch of films and among them is McLaren’s classic Neighbours. Not only is this huge news for McLaren and the NFB but for Canada as a whole as this is only the third Canadian entry into the registry.

If, by some freak disaster, you have never seen the film in question, I’ve tucked it under the seat for your viewing pleasure.

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Bookmarks for July 15th through July 16th

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What we’ve been reading – July 15th through July 16th: