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last update 24.Sep.11
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The Green Wave
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Ali Samadi Ahadi
prd Jan Krueger, Oliver Stoltz
with Shirin Ebadi, Mitra Khalatbari, Shadi Sadr, Payam Akhavan, Emir Farshad Pebrahimi, Pegah Ferydoni, Navid Akhavan
the green wave release US Jan.11 sff,
UK 30.Sep.11
10/Ger 1h20

edinburgh film festival
the green wave This film documents dissident activity in 2009 Iran through the use of gorgeous animation, telling a series of chilling stories about government oppression. Not only does it look amazing, but the events are astonishingly moving.

Before elections in May 2009, students took to the streets wearing green in support of opposition candidate Mousavi, who promised to turn around years of President Ahmadinejad's economic corruption and brutal social oppression. But on election day, the newspapers, internet and SMS systems mysteriously shut down amid general chaos at polling stations. And with Mousavi so far ahead in popularity, everyone was stunned when he lost in a clear case of government fraud. So hundreds of thousands peacefully protested the loss of their democratic rights. And the miliary opened fire.

The story is exquisitely knitted together with a variety of beautiful animation clips that recreate scenes we could never otherwise see. There is also a lot of cleverly adapted underground mobile phones footage. Over this we get authentic ambient sound and the intimate, observant, moving narration of the people involved, many of whom bravely appear in to-camera interviews to express their passion for free democracy. All of this is material the Iranian government clearly never wanted to get out, and much of it is deeply chilling to watch.

This is a movement that turns its back on violence, so the violent suppression is truly horrific. Continual revelations of grotesque injustice have shaken the people, as they worry about the future of their nation. Even the nation's spiritual leader took sides with the arch-conservative government. And seeing first-hand accounts of the protests, murder and torture simply boggle the mind. As one scholar observes, this clearly means that Iran has abandoned Islam and turned to militia-based thuggery instead.

Watching this is deeply disturbing. It's unthinkably horrifying to see people running for their lives from marauding armed soldiers on motorbikes, while people are being shot in the streets around them. And hearing one soldier's story is equally haunting. But most importantly, through watching these accounts from this intimate, first-hand perspective, we begin to imagine the nightmare of seeing this happen on our own streets. And the fact that the streets of Tehran look like any city in Europe or America makes it even more urgent. [15 themes, violence] Sundance/Edinburgh

15 themes, violence
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Page One: Inside The New York Times
dir Andrew Rossi
scr Kate Novack, Andrew Rossi
prd Josh Braun, David Hand, Alan Oxman, Adam Schlesinger
with David Carr, Brian Stelter, Bill Keller, Bruce Headlam, Gay Talese, Carl Bernstein, Tim Arango, Susan Chira, Julian Assange, Sarah Ellison, Jimmy Wales, Nick Denton
release US 17.Jun.11,
UK 23.Sep.11
11/US Magnolia 1h28

page one To explore the dramatic shift in news media over the past decade, filmmakers Rossi and Novack focus their curious gaze on America's newspaper of record. It's one of the last old-style news outlet still standing, and no one knows how long it can survive.

The film's central point is that the blogosphere can report stories instantly, but doesn't have the experience or staff to back them up. We still need more traditional newsrooms to truly report the big scoops. But the times have changed: WikiLeaks can put a video on YouTube instantly now, but in the 70s Bernstein spent years breaking the Watergate scandal. So now newspapers are being squeezed out by falling ad revenue and the wider range of information sources.

This compelling narrative makes the documentary feel like a slick newsroom thriller. It's certainly essential viewing for journalists. Interviews and clips feature media experts speaking on the topic from multiple angles and opinions as we watch the Times staff covering big stories from the Iraq war to a huge media-business scandal. Each element of the film has a sense of urgency to it, whether through the publishing deadlines, uncooperative sources or industry ramifications.

And the filmmakers also discover an engaging central character in Carr, the Times' cranky media columnist. In his mid-50s, he's a survivor of addiction, poverty and single parenthood who reluctantly admits that Twitter is now an essential tool. ("It's a wired collective voice," he says. "The messages are the medium.") His colleague Stetler is from a younger generation inextricably wired into the web, and it's fascinating to watch them covering stories that have huge implications for the news media.

Along the way, the filmmakers grapple with whether the issue is that The New York Times shouldn't fail or can't fail. As news reporting gets less thorough even at venerable institutions like The Washington Post, is it still important to maintain the "New York Times effect", which says that all major stories can be found to originate somewhere in the paper's pages? Do we still need organisations who take risks and back up their stories with facts? The answer is obvious.

15 themes, language, violent imagery
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Pearl Jam Twenty
dir-scr Cameron Crowe
prd Cameron Crowe, Kelly Curtis, Andy Fischer, Morgan Neville
with Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Matt Cameron, Chris Cornell, Cameron Crowe, Neil Young, Boom Gaspar, Jack Irons, Dave Krusen, Dave Abbruzzese
pearl jam release US/UK 20.Sep.11
11/US Vinyl 2h00

pearl jam twenty Fans will love this energetic documentary tracing more than two decades of the infamous grunge band. But while the film is packed with terrific footage, it's too worshipful for non-fans to take seriously.

In the garage-band community of late-80s Seattle, Mother Love Bone was a rising star until lead singer Andy Wood's death in 1990. Months later, the band's core members Gossard and Ament met guitarist McCready and singer Vedder, and with songs dedicated to Wood launched a new band called Mookie Blaylock, after the professional basketball player. So they soon renamed themselves Pearl Jam. And on the crest of grunge-mania, they rocketed into the big time.

The film centres on the band's efforts over the years to maintain their artistic integrity in a commercial industry, as they notoriously took on Ticketmaster over price-fixing and have supported a wide range of charitable and political causes. Meanwhile, the documentary traces the band's musical and creative evolution while noting that each of the band members has never lost his passion for the music.

This is an amazing collection of archival footage, from home movies and behind-the-scenes hijinks to extensive concert scenes, including early and unseen performances. It's narrated by present-day interviews with the band members, as they observe key moments along the way, including working with Young, who taught them how to persevere in a pushy business, and the horrific 2000 concert riot in Denmark at which nine fans were killed. The film also, of course, touches on the band's relationship with other Seattle musicians, most notably Kurt Cobain.

But it's not a very analytical exploration of the band. We learn virtually nothing about the musicians' personal lives. Sure, we see Vedder age from a rig-climbing, crowd-diving bright young spark to a still-feisty middle-aged man, but we have no idea what he does when he's away from his bandmates. Issues like drugs and alcohol are only barely mentioned, while sex doesn't seem to exist. But of course this is a film about the band and their music, and it gives us a thorough account of that in a clever, intimate and entertaining way.

15 themes, language, drugs
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Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston
dir Whitney Sudler-Smith
scr Whitney Sudler-Smith, Anne Goursaud
prd Adam Bardach, Anne Goursaud, Nicholas Simon
with Whitney Sudler-Smith, Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Pat Cleveland, Billy Joel, Nile Rogers, Naeem Khan, Diane von Furstenberg, Ming Vauze, Andre Leon Talley, Bob Colacello, Glenn O'Brien
halston and friends release US 12.May.10,
UK 23.Sep.11
10/US 1h33
ultrasuede While the elusive subject of this documentary is fascinating, filmmaker Sudler-Smith us almost as interested in his own celebrity as in that of iconic fashion designer Halston. So despite having amazing access to materials and interviewees, he seems to miss the real story.

Not much is known about Roy Halston Frowick, who was born in Iowa and changed the American fashion industry before dying of Aids at age 57 in 1990. As the saying goes, "the 70s belonged to Halston", and indeed he seemed to be everywhere from party nights at Studio 54 to an episode of The Love Boat. Always surrounded by glamorous women dressed in his industry-changing clothes, he was the epitome of glamour until his sudden fall from grace amid criticism that he had sold his name.

Sudler-Smith starts with a gift: interviewing Halston's best pal Minnelli, wearing all-Halston in her Halston-designed New York flat. But he stumbles through his awkward questions, actually asking her who he should talk to and then ignoring her advice to disregard the gossip and look at the real man. Instead, he follows the glitter trail, speaking to models, journalists and artists who worked with Halston or referenced him, as Joel did in Big Shot and Rogers did in Chic's Le Freak.

We only get vague glimpses of Halston's personal life with his "crazy" partner Victor Hugo, who may or may not have led him into a hedonistic life of sex and drugs. Instead, Sudler-Smith puts himself at the centre, with his ever-changing hair-dos and vrooming "Bandit" car, asking only about what it must have been like to live surrounded by beautiful women. Meanwhile, there are references a competitive friendship with Andy Warhol, glimpses of famous pals and random visits to Halston's former offices and stunning Manhattan home.

Thankfully, Sudler-Smith also collects fabulous photos and clips that vividly capture the tone of the period. And some of the interviewees tell stories that are funny, touching and revealing. But it only rarely breaks the surface; we learn a lot about the public Halston and very little about the private man. And that's the aspect that might have made the film resonate.

15 themes, language, nudity
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