Film

I Am Not Your Negro

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At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement's influence is showing in popular culture, such as hit horror film Get Out, Rhys Williams looks at the urgent relevance of black civil rights campaigner James Baldwin's words today, as presented in Raoul Peck's documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

Raoul Peck’s new documentary film, I Am Not Your Negro, sets the words of author and civil rights activist James Baldwin’s unfinished book, Remember This House, against archive footage of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Sprawling and epic in scope — setting in its sights the whole of the black experience in America, from slavery to the Black Lives Matter movement — it is poetic and almost romantic, yet very angry. It arrives at a time when audiences are being enthused by the anti-racism of Get Out, a more mainstream and comic movie, but just as sharp.

Neruda

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Director Pablo Larraín’s acclaimed recent film Jackie starred Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of her husband, US president JFK. With Neruda it seems that Larraín — who also directed 2012’s powerful anti-Pinochet drama No — is on more familiar territory, focusing this time on quite a different political figure: the Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet and Communist senator Pablo Neruda.

Elle

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Elle is impeccably filmed and edited with stellar acting performances that grasp the attention of the audience. It intends to shock, infuriate and rile up the viewer.

However, it must come with a warning: this film could act as a serious trigger for anyone who has experienced domestic abuse or rape and as an insult to those of us who actively fight against women’s oppression.

Certain Women

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Certain Women is made up of three stories involving four women in and around Livingston, Montana. Like Reichardt’s 2010 western, Meek’s Cutoff, at first glance little happens and nothing seems resolved. Yet, also like the previous film, the understated performances and spare dialogue convey huge amounts — of heartbreak, anger, loneliness and yearning.

The Death of Stalin

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Before the inevitable “buts” appear, let me just nail the fact that this is an excellent movie — intelligent, witty and showcasing some seriously bravura film acting. There are no buts in the statement that if it opens in a cinema near you, you should see it. If it doesn’t, travel.

As the title suggests this is about that punch the air moment in 1953 when Joe Stalin dies and a Monsters Ball breaks out as the blood-soaked dotards on the Soviet Politbureau duck and dive to seize his crown as general secretary.

The Party

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Potter conceived her latest movie as a kind of State of the Nation comedy exploring contemporary politics, particularly Brexit Britain.

She has assembled a fine ensemble cast including Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy and Bruno Ganz. But the director has had to work with a micro budget and it shows.

It is set in one location — the ground floor of a London townhouse; it’s in black and white shot from one hand held camera; and it runs in real time — a spritely 70 minutes.

Toni Erdmann

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Maren Ade’s film takes on modern life, gender, family and the neoliberal bullshit of the corporate world. Ines, our protagonist and hero, works as a business consultant in Bucharest.

She is smart, driven and committed to the world in which she works and the money she makes. She lives fast, she gives a lot and she expects a lot back.

Moonlight

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Set against the blazing Florida glow during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the US, Moonlight documents the turbulent life of Chiron, a young black man. We see him at three pivotal stages in his life — aged ten, 16 and in his early 30s.

From boy to manhood, the film tracks his key relationships: that with his drug-addicted mother Paula (powerfully played by Naomie Harris), which is disintegrating; with his closest friend Kevin; and with the surrogate parents he finds in the form of local drug dealer Juan and his girlfriend Teresa.

Denial

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In 1992 a group of Jewish socialists came together to write an Anti Nazi league pamphlet, “Holocaust Denial: The New Nazi Lie”, in response to the rise of Holocaust deniers, and in particular the British Nazi, David Irving.

The emergence of Holocaust Denial in the 1990s was not a coincidence. The British National Party (BNP) was making advances, as were Nazis elsewhere in Europe.

In 1993 the BNP won a council by-election in the Isle of Dogs, east London, and in the same year black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered near the BNP HQ in Welling, south London.

Silence

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Here is a movie adapted from a book by Shuaku Edo, a Japanese Catholic. It tells the story of two Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan. It is directed by a man who was “educated” in a Jesuit seminary until he was 14, and the film is dedicated to “Japanese Christians and their padres”. It was given its world premiere at the Vatican. So it is hardly a bolt from the blue that this movie is in-your-face propaganda for that bastion of obscurantism, misogyny and child molestation, the Catholic church.

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