Film

Son of Saul

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Son of Saul

It is a truism for revolutionaries that people make their own history but not in circumstances of their own choosing. But what of the men, women and children who have history thrust upon them, with cataclysmic consequences for their own personal circumstances?

Son of Saul tells the story of a man’s struggle to hold on to family and personal relationships and obligations in the hideous organised chaos of the Nazi gas chambers.

The Divide

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You’ll have heard the facts. The UK’s 1,000 richest individuals own more than the poorest 40 percent. In the US 0.1 percent own as much as the bottom 90 percent. This film, a documentary inspired by the 2009 book The Spirit Level, puts flesh on the bones of the data.

The book’s authors argued that what determines the health of any society is less the overall wealth than how the wealth is distributed. The more inequality, the sicker the society. The Divide introduces us to seven US and UK people living in societies with massive gaps between rich and poor.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

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In December 1930 the great Soviet film-maker, Sergei Eistenstein, arrived in Mexico.

He had already made three extraordinary films, Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1927). All three were revolutionary in terms of subject matter — the masses in collective struggle. They were also revolutionary in form. With his experimental use of editing (montage), Eisenstein built on and radically transformed the way in which film worked.

Sherpa

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Sherpa is the fascinating story of an inspiring labour dispute, set against the breathtaking scenery of the world’s highest mountain.

Film-maker Jennifer Peedom and her team were on Everest in 2014 to document the climbing season from the point of view of the Sherpas — a term used interchangeably for a Nepalese ethnic group and for all those employed to assist Western climbers.

The Club

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This powerful and disturbing film from Chile is set in a retirement home “for priests who can no longer serve”. Although it is naturalistically shot, the setting — a down-at-heel fishing village with a house on the hill containing terrible secrets — has the all-pervading malevolence of a horror movie.

Anomalisa

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This is a beautiful and distinctive looking stop-motion animation written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote the films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It captures the struggles of an alienated man battling through the big questions of life: What is it to be human? What is it to be alive?

Hail Caesar!

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The Coen Brothers’ latest movie tells the story of a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, the real life MGM studio executive and “fixer”. He covered up scandals and dealt with the press, as the movie shows. He also beat his partners and helped business contacts escape rape charges.

This side of him is missing from Hail, Caesar!, which both fictionalises and sanitises the man. Instead, Mannix (Josh Brolin) is an unresting force of organisation and quick thinking, absurdly good at his job.

Taxi Tehran

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Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director, has made many films, challenging class, gender and ethnicity inequalities in Iran. He has been threatened with imprisonment and has been banned from travelling abroad and making films.

But he has continued his work unofficially. His latest film, Taxi Tehran, won the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Festival. He also acts in this film, playing an unofficial communal taxi driver in Tehran. These taxi drivers are one example of a large informal workforce.

Mavis!

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Mavis! is an enjoyable, feel-good documentary that depicts the successful and ongoing career of soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples. The documentary follows Staples as she tours and reminisces about her remarkable career. It includes archival footage of her family group The Staple Singers performing in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Although the film’s main focus is on the musical career of Mavis rather than the political activism of the Civil Rights era in which she and her family were centrally involved, it does touch on the friendship between Mavis’s father and Martin Luther King.

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