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last update 1.Apr.10
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All Boys
dir-scr Markku Heikkinen
prd Cilla Werning
with Dan Komar, Ruda Prochazka, Alan Pelikan, Michael Taubenheim, Josef Rychtecky, Petr Sokub, Mario Zieroth, Bubble B Boys, Irena, Filip, Tobias, Peter, Josef and Lenka
Prochazka release Fin Sep.09 hiff,
UK Mar.10 llgff
09/Finland 1h12

london L&G film fest
All Boys By allowing a Finnish film crew full access, we learn rather a lot more than expected in this bold doc about the Eastern European porn industry. And in most ways it's even more grim than we could have imagined.

Pornography became big business in the Czech Republic with the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. Filmmakers like Dan Komar, now 51, gathered these natural, uninhibited boys together in a house for his Bel Ami productions. They were mostly straight guys, but willing to do gay porn to improve their lives and become stars in the West. Exploited by producers and fuelled by customer demand, their careers soar for two or three years, and by age 19 they're finished, replaced by younger, fresher guys.

Even more sadly, these young men get hooked by the money and drugs and often end up in prostitution to try to maintain their lifestyle. The filmmakers interview an intriguing array of them, each with a distinct story: Ruda grew up as an orphan, became a global sex star and ended up homeless. Alan went from performing to producing. Filip had a back-up career as a cab driver when his moment in the spotlight ended.

Meanwhile, we meet the men on the other side of the cameras. At the centre is Dan, who feels achingly lonely despite all the beautiful men in his life, haunted by his three-year relationship with Ruda. He also knows that his business will never be the same now that everyone expects free internet porn. And he understands that the boys are as lonely as the men who buy their films.

Intriguingly, filmmaker Heikkinen assembles this like he's making a movie to teach schoolchildren about the pornography industry. It's a serious, intimate film packed with telling details. And while we do see nudity and sex, it's never gratuitous, always as part of an examination of the men both on camera and behind the scenes. What emerges is a remarkably involving exploration of this world. And it's even more telling to note that these are the same kinds of young guys--no self-identity, no family ties, no direction in life--who find acceptance in terrorist organisations.

18 themes, language, sexuality
6.Feb.10 llgff
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City of Borders
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Yun Suh
with Sa'Ar Netanel, Adam Russo, Boody, Ravit Geva, Samira Saraya, Amit, Tarek Nasser, Ibrahim Sarsur, Aris Shirvanian
adam and amit release US Apr.09 sfiff,
UK Mar.10 llgff
09/US 1h06

berlin film fest
los angeles film fest
london L&G film fest
city of borders This thoughtful, emotional documentary grapples with big issues in a very difficult place, vividly exploring how human resilience can overcome barriers. And the film's raw, honest tone keeps us gripped.

In Ramallah, West Bank, gay boys like Boody walking hand-in-hand can expect to be arrested or worse. But he refuses to live in fear, sneaking over the wall to visit Jerusalem's only gay bar, Shushan. It's owned by Sa'Ar, the only openly gay city councilman, who's starting to get tired of endemic homophobia and the way divided communities of Arabs, Jews and Christians unite in their abuse. Over the years covered by the film, the 2005 Pride parade ends in violence, is cancelled in 2006 and tentatively staged in 2007 amid fierce protests.

The point is that with all of the borders in Israel, gay people are struggling to be themselves in any context, surprised to find that the people they have the most in common with might be from one of those old rival communities. Most interesting in this sense is the relationship between the Jewish Ravit and her Palestinian girlfriend Samira. And then there's Boody, a devout Muslim who's also a popular drag artist.

The filmmaker collects a remarkable array of material, letting people speak from each side. And vox pops vividly capture intolerant attitudes ("gays diminish the beauty of the city", "they should be put in prison") that lead to constant death threats. But within this, these people have created a relaxed, loyal community. So it's a shame that Sa'Ar is so exhausted; tired of being the only person fighting this corner in Jerusalem, he decides to uproot, close Shushan and move to Tel Aviv.

The movie's four central stories develop in all sorts of ways, all vividly capturing the fact that this is a virtually impossible place to be gay. Sa'Ar isn't the only one who decides to run away. Ravit struggles with the fact that her mother is more upset that Samira is Arab than that she's a woman. Boody's devout Muslim family accepts him but still thinks he should get married. But all of them note that someday the attitudes have to change, because you can't keep living in a fear of violence, death or hate.

15 themes, language, violent images
16.Feb.10 llgff
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Double Take
dir-scr Johan Grimonprez
prd Emmy Oost
with Ron Burrage, Mark Perry, Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Richard Nixon, John F Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev
burrage and hitchcock
release Bel 13.Jan.10,
US Jan.10 sff, UK 2.Apr.10
09/Belgium 1h20

berlin film fest
london film fest
double take Hitchcock fans and die-hard moviegoers will enjoy this offbeat collage-style movie, which is expertly assembled but struggles to engage us with a coherent story or theme. It's mischievous and clever, but also impenetrable.

Two Hitchcock doubles (lookalike Burrage and soundalike Perry) take us on a surreal trip to 1962, when Hitchcock was promoting The Birds during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cold War paranoia echoes the terrors of The Birds, while the issue of identity is playfully explored by both the doubles and Hitchcock himself in his hilarious Alfred Hitchcock Presents introductions. Not to mention frequent intrusions from Folgers Coffee, the programme sponsor. But there's also a foreshadowing of the filmmaker's death in 1980, plus parallels with the War on Terror.

Filmmaker Grimonprez collects a remarkable range of grainy vintage TV footage, including scenes of Hitchcock on film sets and footage from key news events featuring TV journalists like Cronkite and Rather. As it progresses, all of these disparate elements begin to swirl together into a sort of single narrative. It doesn't actually tell a proper story, but everything begins to overlap and merge due to the witty, teasing editing, letting us see intriguing links between everything even if it never quite gels.

Into this, Grimonprez weaves new scenes that play on Hitchcock's iconic images, plus the sequences with the impersonators talking about themselves in a way that smudges the line between them and the original. Constant comments in Hitchcock's voice (or maybe Perry's) about meeting his double add a bit of intrigue, even though this never actually develops into anything meaningful. Much more engaging are the scenes of the man himself, both larking about in front of the camera and talking about his distinct style of filmmaking.

The problem is that Grimonprez never manages to give this a wider resonance. Clearly, there's a strong link with what we're seeing and what's happening in the world right now, although this remains annoyingly elusive due to the film's fragmented structure and the lack of any coherent through-line. But it's impossible not to recognise the filmmaker's skill at putting these clips together in such an inventive way, and it does give us a whole new angle on Hitchcock's uniquely twisted genius.

PG themes, some violence
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Sons of Cuba
dir Andrew Lang
prd Laura Giles, Francine Heywood, Andrew Lang
with Cristian Martinez Noriega, Santos Urguelles Diaz, Junior Menendez Lemar, Yosvani Bonachea Morgan, Felicia Noriega Santos, Luis Felipe Martinez, Armando Martinez Ravi, Morly Martinez, Santos Urguellas, Madelyn, Yvon Lemar, Yan Bartelmi Varlela
Cristian and Armando release UK 19.Mar.10
09/UK 1h28
sons of cuba A strong central narrative makes this documentary thoroughly engaging, as we follow three young boxers who hope to achieve Olympic glory for their nation. And along the way we get a remarkable insight into the situation in Cuba.

Cuba has dominated Olympic boxing for 40 years, and at Havana City Boxing Academy, under-12s have a punishing regime of training from 4.30am to 9.30pm, with a full day at school in the middle. The coach Yosvani is an ex-boxer who instils a real sense of national pride in these boys. Although much of this is based on government propaganda that the US is ready to attack at any moment.

As they prepare for national championships, we meet three of these boys: Cristian is the natural leader, a seasoned veteran in a handsome boy's body (his mum worries the punches are disfiguring his face), trying to live up to his dad's championship career. Santos is more sensitive, struggling after the death of his mother. And Junior is the thinker, a former dancer who loves the roar of the crowd and is trying to be more disciplined about sport.

The film is lushly shot and skilfully edited, with a terrific sound mix that includes a variety of voiceovers exploring thoughts and feelings over a few momentous years for both the boxers and Cuba. We vividly experience the camaraderie between the boys and the deep affection they feel for each other, and the filmmakers expand into the boys' families as well, which adds remarkable detail. For example, we see how Cristian boxes both out of loyalty to Fidel Castro and to make his mother's life better.

By sticking to the boys' perspectives, this documentary achieves a remarkable level of objectivity, never undermining their patriotism while showing it warts and all. It's also a riveting inside look at the stress and discipline of an Olympic hopeful. And it's great to watch a story about Cuba without having to endure an overt political statement, even as the important issues are highlighted with bracing clarity. In this sense the film much more valuable and powerful than any polemic.

PG themes, brief nudity
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