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Showing posts from 2016

'Fire at Sea' by Gian Franco Rosi goes deep beneath the surface

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By Moira Sullivan

Gian Franco Rosi told me that the US does not show his films. Now they have. "Fire at Sea" was screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October and the Short Story Doc festival here in San Francisco. It won the Golden Bear at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival, and is Italy's Official Submission for the Foreign Language Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards, already one of 15 contenders. Rosi took home the Golden Lion at Venice in 2013 for his film about the periphery highway around Rome called "Sacro Gra" where migrant communities live. The same provocative film style with Rosi behind the camera is used for "Fire at Sea", a documentary about a small island near Sicily, Lampedusa, that receives refugees that have voyaged primarily from Sub Saharan Africa risking life and limb. The way they are received by the villagers is important. The Eritrean born Italian who went to film school in New York at NYU shows some of the villagers such …

People's Republic of China's 'Old Stone' shares health care neglect with the US

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By Moira Sullivan
"Old Stone" by debut director Johnny Ma from the People’s Republic of China received funding from the Sundance Institute,which explains why it has been pushed to the top of distribution channels. The film has an excellent soundtrack*, which is one of its many virtues.

The story concerns Lao Shi (Chen Gang), a taxi driver who accidentally hits a motorcyclist in a road accident – an incident that occurs when a drunk passenger shoves Lao Shi’s arm on the steering column. The victim is taken to a hospital and is in a coma. The situation evokes what health insurance companies will look like under the president elect if he succeeds in being installed in this country. Lao Shi is confronted with a bill for the hospital for the victim. The insurance agents and police tell him that he should never have taken the injured man to the hospital because it is against procedure – even though he probably would have died. In a bungle of bureaucracy, an unsympathetic wife, …

Julie Dash's 'Daughters of the Dust' re-release

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By Moira Sullivan

Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust made in 1991 has long been considered an extraordinary film make within a story space perfect for the range of what cinema can do beyond merely recording moving figures. It is the first feature film made by an African American woman and it is now being re-released, proving again its status as a cinema classic.

The making of Daughters of the Dust written by Dash, which includes the film script, is the filmmaker’s account of the many setbacks that occurred before the film was finished. But the film has earned its merits and its long standing following, and although it has received some new notoriety because of some of the images in Beyoncé’s Lemonade with characters dressed similar to the characters of Dash's film from the early 20th century, that music video is not and never can be Daughters of the Dust.

The film is re-released in a 4K restoration and now today’s audiences can experience its richness. Julie Dash continues to re…

Killer Tomatoes - Book Review

By Monica Sullivan
If you are a late night movie buff, here’s the deal: There is no cure.  But you really aren’t looking for one, are you?  What you need is hard core information about late night stars.  Has McFarland Book Publishers got the book for you: “Killer Tomatoes” by Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner.

“Killer Tomatoes” is an essential buff’s book.  The cast includes: Lucille Ball, Lynn Bari, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, Gloria Grahame, Jean Hagen, Adele Jergens, Ida Lupino, Marilyn Maxwell, Jane Russell, Ann Sheridan, Barbara Stanwyck, Claire Trevor, Marie Windsor and more.  Ann Sheridan, for example, was SUCH a hard-boiled presence throughout her career that her early death deprived us of her voice and insights.  Extensive interviews cover that gap here.

Filmographies for each are included, and there are over 80 stills of these tough women with their male and female costars. 

Laura Wagner is one of the more perceptive contributors to Classic Images.  It’s a pleasure to read her pun…

Park Chan Wook’s technically executed "The Handmaiden" follows Amazon's orders

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By Moira Sullivan


Park Chan Wook’s “Mademoiselle (Agassi, South Korea)” - "The Handmaiden" in its US Theatrical release, is a skillfully made narrative on sexual bondage during the Japanese colonization of South Korea in the 1930's. Set designer Ryu Seong-hie won the “Vulcain Prize For An Artist Technician” at the Cannes Film Festival in May 22, one of the top prizes for technical achievement, a prize that is seldom given. The set designer also worked on Park Chan Wook’s “Oldboy” and “Thirst” and is definitely a brilliant craftsperson who brings high quality to film. The virtues of Ryu Seong-hie’s work shines through and at first glance the film is so exquisitely composed that for a moment the Palme d’Or comes to mind. 
However, for that to succeed there has to be more cohesion than just set design, for neither Park Chan Wook nor 2013 Palme d'Or recipient Abdellatif Kechiche (who directed "La Vie d' Adele -Blue is the Warmest Color") have shown themselve…

Sônia Braga in Cannes selection "Aquarius"

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By Moira Sullivan


Aquarius directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho was part of the official lineup of the recent Cannes Film Festival. The contemplative and well-crafted film rests on the laurels of Brazilian actress Sônia Braga who plays Clara, a 66-year-old woman who has lived in the same apartment for over 25 years. A management firm has persuaded everyone in the Aquarius building to move out so that they can presumably demolish it and put up a new one - all except Clara and her housekeeper. The film is divided into three parts ‘O Cabelo de Clara” (Clara’s Hair), ‘O Amor de Clara’ (Clara’s Love), and ‘O Câncer de Clara’, Clara’s Cancer.
Aquarius opens with a series of black and white stills of the Boa Viagem beach front in Recife during the 1980’s, tree lined, spacious, a few cars notably several VW Beetles and the foreboding presence of many high rise apartment buildings. The opening song “Hoje” (Today) accompanying the photos is written by Brazilian singer/songwriter Taiguara whose work…

United Nations Film Festival screens powerful documents on world issues today and yesterday

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By Moira Sullivan

Once again it is that time of year for the United Nations Film Festival, a collection of 60 films from around the world that have been created to help make our world a better place to live in. Many of the films this year are directed by women. The films will screen in venues in San Francisco and Palo Alto from Oct 20-30.
The countries for the 19th edition include Afghanistan, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, ,Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, and the US. Some of the topics this year are climate change, the impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales, efforts to restore violins recovered from the Holocaust, Islamic seminars for children, refugees using the power of theater, and the historic inspiration to the Black Lives Matter movement today.
Agents of Change will screen 10/26 directed by Abby Ginzberg and Frank Dawson which traces protests on over 1000 college campuses around the world in the 60’s forcivil rights and black power. Many of these students went …

Southwest of Salem - human rights violation of Latino lesbians

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By Moira Sullivan

The title of this film about four women who were put in prison and sentenced to long terms:Southwest Of Salem: The Story Of The San Antonio Four accurately describes how a Texas judge and those who testified against these four Latina lesbians were involved in a homophobic witchhunt. Their outrageous sentences - 37 years of imprisonment for one women and 15 years for the other three amounts to a hate crime. The womendid not plea bargain and have all served 15 years.