Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: AFRICA UNITED

< <   F O R E I G N   > >
last update 15.Oct.10
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Africa United
dir Debs Gardner-Paterson
scr Rhidian Brook
prd Mark Blaney, Eric Kabera, Jackie Sheppard
with Eriya Ndayambaje, Roger Nsengiyumva, Yves Dusenge, Sherrie Silver, Sanyu Joanita Kintu, Emmanuel Jal, Presley Chweneyagae, Richard Lukunku, Rapulana Seiphemo, Patrick Mofokeng, Leleti Khumalo, Moky Mukura
Ndayambaje, Silver, Nsengiyumva and Dusenge release UK 22.Oct.10
10/UK Pathe 1h28

london film fest
africa united Even when this film begins to feel a little awkward, sheer energy keeps it afloat, both entertaining us with a lively adventure romp and vividly showing us the realities of life in Africa. While sometimes sentimental, it's refreshingly never preachy.

In rural Rwanda, Dudu (Ndayambaje) is a 13-year-old fast-talker who seems able to make just about anything happen. He convinces his pal Fabrice (Nsengiyumva) into trying out for a team of children taking part in the World Cup opening ceremony. But their journey is derailed when they board the wrong bus, and they end up as refugees travelling cross-country to Johannesburg. Along the way, they're joined by young Bea (Kintu), who wants to become a doctor; George (Dusenge), who's running from gun-toting thugs; and teen runaway Celeste (Silver), who works in the sex trade.

The film tackles several of the continent's biggest issues without ever wallowing in them - the generational ravages of Aids, child soldiers, educational challenges, international aid, class inequality. This is merely the fabric of everyday life for these children, as is their consuming obsession with football. Each of them has a telling skill to contribute (Dudu is an expert at making footballs from condoms and plastic bags), and all of them maintain optimism even in the face of unsettling violence.

The young cast fill the screen with personality and attitude, not to mention seemingly boundless physical energy. Each of the four travellers has a distinct back-story, and the script perhaps tries too hard to keep the tone jaunty and cute. This strains their abilities as actors (Dusenge and Silver give the strongest performances), although their raw authenticity makes up for that. And the positive mindset of these characters is both revealing and inspiring.

Director Gardner-Paterson keeps the tone light even while exploring some very dark subjects, while Dudu's epic storytelling lets her insert some spirited and colourful animation. Of course there's a lot of spectacular scenery along the way as well. But it's the humanity of the film that lingers in the memory: the way these children just want to live a full life, even if it means risking everything on a daring adventure.

12 themes, language, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Olivier Assayas
scr Dan Franck, Olivier Assayas
prd Daniel Leconte, Jens Meurer
with Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Scheer, Nora von Waldstatten, Ahmad Kaabour, Christoph Bach, Rodney El Haddad, Julia Hummer, Rami Farah, Zeid Hamdan, Talal El-Jordi, Fadi Abi Samra, Aljoscha Stadelmann
ramirez release Fr 19.May.10 tv,
UK 22.Oct.10, US Oct.10
10/France 2h45

london film fest
carlos Edited down from five-and-a-half hours, this nearly three-hour film still feels like an episodic TV series as it covers two decades in the life of the notorious terrorist. But it's expertly made and very well-acted, and some sequences are sharply involving.

When he enters the pro-Palestine terrorist cause in the early 1970s, Venezuelan-born Ilich Sanchez (Ramirez) takes the name "Carlos". For the next 20 years he's one of the most feared figures in Europe, organising attacks and then hiding out in Yemen, Syria and Sudan, or anywhere else he can find asylum. From assassinations to bombings to hijackings, he earns his reputation for ruthlessness but also alienates his boss (Kaabour) by refusing to take orders. And as the French counter-terrorism squad closes in on him, he finds his options shrinking.

Assayas is a skilled, assured filmmaker who propels us through this story by focussing on characters rather than action. He also deftly uses settings that traverse Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to ground the events in the people involved. As a result, the terrorism set pieces feel much more vivid and meaningful, although this is fairly limited to the impact they have on Carlos, not the victims or society at large.

While this tight focus makes the film watchable, it also undermines the story's resonance. More difficult is the lurching structure, which leaps between time periods (at one point skipping 10 years) to tell a series of contained stories. This betrays the project's origin as three feature-length TV movies (which are apparently more fluid) and keeps the narrative from building real momentum.

Even so, Ramirez fearlessly digs into the character, from the (literally) naked ambition of the young idealist to his later conflicts as a family man with physical problems who feels trapped in his hideout. Despite the fact that Carlos is a fiery, brutal thug, we're surprised that we begin to sympathise with his humanity. And this is what makes the film important. On the other hand, it would have been much stronger if it had been produced as a feature with more narrative focus and a stronger emotional punch.

15 themes, violence, language,sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Happy Few
dir Antony Cordier
scr Antony Cordier, Julie Peyr
prd Pascal Caucheteux, Sebastien Lemercier
with Marina Fois, Elodie Bouchez, Roschdy Zem, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Naomi Ferreira, Ilona Caly, Ferdinand Ledoux, Jean-Francois Stevenin, Alexia Stresi, Blanche Gardin, Genevieve Mnich, Philippe Paimblanc
duvachelle and fois release Fr 15.Sep.10,
UK Oct.10 lff
10/France 1h43

london film fest
happy few While keeping the tone completely naturalistic, this French drama takes a challenging look at a controversial subject. Even if breaking taboos seems to be the whole point of the film, it's compellingly shot and acted.

After flirting shamelessly in the office, Rachel (Fois) invites her web designer Vincent (Duvauchelle) and his wife Teri (Bouchez) over for dinner with her husband Franck (Zem). The electricity of attraction is almost overpowering. Franck and Teri steal a kiss, and when the others find out they decide to share each others' partners. The biggest shock is that this feels far more natural than they expect. Even so, tiny flickers of jealousy arise, mainly as they discover different reactions to the lover who isn't a spouse.

Refreshingly, director-cowriter Cordier never hints at some kind of impending tragedy, even as he evokes the tone of Jules & Jim. So while the women are relaxed as they talk about the situation, the male ego issues never boil over into violence. But that doesn't mean that feelings aren't intense. Complex issues of attraction and interaction flare up in each of the inter-relationships. And besides the friendship, this isn't actually foursome: it's four distinct pairs.

Cordier and his cast keep the tone warm and real all the way through, with insinuating camerawork and performances that often feel improvised. As the events play out, we almost believe that the three young kids (Ferreira, Caly and Ledoux) don't really see what's going on, although there are hints that the older ones might have figured something out. All four lead actors are honest and raw, letting us see small flickers of emotion - both light and dark - flash across their faces.

Even so, there's a sense of indulgence in the way the film is directed, emphasising the female nudity while refusing to blur the men's machismo for even a second. This makes the narrative feel a little repetitive and long as a result. But the film really captures the feeling that, as Rachel says, even when we're happy we want something new to come along - just a little distraction. And it also warns us about opening Pandora's box.

18 themes, language, strong sexuality
14.Oct.10 lff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Of Gods and Men
5/5   MUST must see SEE   Des Hommes et des Dieux
dir Xavier Beauvois
scr Xavier Beauvois, Etienne Comar
prd Pascal Caucheteux, Etienne Comar
with Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin, Loic Pichon, Xavier Maly, Jean-Marie Frin, Abdelhafid Metalsi, Sabrina Ouazani, Olivier Perrier, Farid Larbi
wilson and frin
release Fr 8.Sep.10,
UK 3.Dec.10, US 25.Feb.11
10/France 2h02

30th Shadows Awards

london film fest
of gods and men With very little action, this film builds almost unbearable tension by carefully examining some moral questions in a precarious situation that's based on true events. And in the process, it becomes one of the most important films in recent memory.

Christian (Wilson) is the leader of a group of eight French monks living in a Catholic monastery in rural Algeria. Their only mission is to pray and serve the local people, and over the generations they have become an integral part of the community. When fundamentalist tensions spill into violence in the country around them, they have a difficult decision to make: abandon the people and flee home to France or stand up to the injustice. Opinions are split, but they opt to seek an answer together. And their decision could cost them their lives.

Based on real events from the 1990s, the film examines a series of huge issues as it quietly weaves together the story. Most obvious is the way various characters grapple with extremism, from the government officials who are embarrassed for their nation to the terrified locals trying to get on with their lives. The priests and imams take a more philosophical view, of course, pointing out that passages in the Koran tell Muslims that Christians are their brothers and that killing neighbours is a sin punishable by death.

Even more interesting is the way the film approaches the priests themselves. Their camaraderie is beautiful to watch, as they watch and listen to each other and to the community, offering subtle encouragement and any assistance they can. So when the threat against them becomes hideously real, their reaction is understandable: they band together in a quest to do the right thing. And the confrontations they enter are seriously scary.

Director Beauvois assembles this with an almost wordless script and scenes in which it everything that's happening is beneath the surface. But the suspense is building constantly, with sudden explosions of violence are incredibly intense. The emphasis might be on the priests' piety, but this is shown as something both personal and practical. It's certainly nothing like the radicalised, narrow-minded Christianity that grabs headlines in America.

15 themes, violence, brief language
5.Oct.10 lff
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< <   F O R E I G N   > >

© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall