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last update 10.Jul.13
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The Act of Killing
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Joshua Oppenheimer
prd Signe Byrge Sorensen
with Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Adi Zulkadry, Sakhyan Asmara, Ibrahim Sinik, Syamsul Arifin, Yapto Soerjosoemarno, Safit Pardede, Jusuf Kalla, Soaduon Siregar, Haji Anif, Haji Marzuki
The Act of Killingr release US Aug.12 tff,
Den 8.Nov.12, UK 28.Jun.13
12/Denmark 1h59
The Look of SIlence (2015)


The Act of Killing An ingenious approach to a horrific event, this lively documentary coaxes a group of killers to re-enact their atrocities in a way that's deeply disturbing and blackly funny. It's an odd experiment that leaves us shaken by men who are reluctant to experience either guilt or regret for their actions.

After Indonesia's 1965 coup, an estimated 1 million people were killed in an effort to wipe out communism. With this government still in power, the fierce anti-communist mood prevails. So filmmaker Oppenheimer contacted members of the death-squads, asking them to make a movie depicting the year-long purge. Of course none think they did anything wrong, although they've all worked to blur their memories in decades of inebriation. And as they re-stage their notorious attacks on women and children, they worry that their movie might make them look bad.

Yes, the irony is almost overpowering, as these men reignite their relaxed camaraderie as national heroes, with comical touches such as how Koto always plays the grand dame, complete with elaborate frocks and head-dresses. Oppenheimer packs the film with witty sight gags that cleverly bring the horror into fine relief. These men joke around with guns and knives, justifying torture and rape because the communists jeopardised their illicit money-making scams. Today they're proud gangsters, self-declared "free men" who have the blessing of their government and press.

As they prepare to make their movie, they inadvertently supply a staggering level of detail about the purges, in which anyone even remotely unsympathetic was labeled a "communist", tortured mercilessly and killed regardless of what they said. They actually gloat that this will be more sadistic than a Nazi movie. Some re-created scenes look like 1940s mob movies, glorifying the violence. Then they inadvertently identify with their victims.

The film opens with a chilling quote from Voltaire: "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." No wonder none of them has any remorse, although we glimpse a few stunning moments of revelation ("Have I sinned?"). After re-enacting one of their most sadistically harrowing attacks ("We must exterminate them but not look blood-thirsty!"), everyone applauds, but some of the actors have tears in their eyes, and the former leaders worry that maybe it looks worse than it actually was. If only that were true.

15 strong themes, language, violence
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Les Invisibles
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE  
aka: The Invisible Ones
dir Sebastien Lifshitz
prd Bruno Nahon
with Bernard, Catherine, Christian, Therese, Elisabeth, Jacques, Monique, Pierre, Pierrot, Yann
Les Invisibles release Fr 28.Nov.12,
UK 12.Jun.13
12/France 1h55

london film festival
london l&g film festival
Les Invisibles This thoroughly involving documentary catches everyday details of a group of retirement-age men and women along with extraordinary stories of how they have lived with their homosexuality. These are engaging, articulate, bracingly honest people who have a lot to say about where European society is now.

At their farm in the countryside, Pierre and Yann talk about how they met back in a time when they couldn't tell anyone, because until 1981 being gay was considered a psychological disorder. Bernard and Jacques met later in life through placing ads in a magazine. Bernard's kids and grandchildren all now treat them as dads and granddads; Jacques grew up Catholic,innocently unaware that his desire was different. Pierrot is a one-eyed goatherd who remembers crying over frustration about his sexuality. Therese talks how she felt ashamed about her femininity, so got married and had four children. But that didn't quench a deeper yearning.

And then there's the strikingly handsome Christian, revisiting his now-shuttered childhood home, where he was raised by a repressed, authoritarian father. In the 1970s he was caught out when his participation in gay liberation hit the press. Elizabeth was also confronted by her boss in the 70s and fought back. It was love at first sight when she met Catherine, and they now live on a farm they built themselves. They acknowledge that living in the margins helped make them freer. And Monique speaks about her unapologetic sexuality.

"It's engraved on my DNA. It's not a choice," Monique says. "How can a girl love a boy? That never made sense to me! Either everything is normal or nothing is." Lifshitz shoots this in a relaxed, intimate style with moments of humour and strong emotion. We follow these charming people as they reminisce about their years of struggling for equal rights in a society that led them to heterosexuality and told them that being gay is unnatural and dirty, even though it's the most natural thing to them.

Their histories are illustrated with a terrific range of old photos, home movies, newsreel footage and a hilarious vintage British film about a gay Paris nightclub. Along the way, serious themes emerge about the collision between traditional bigotry, religious beliefs and true compassion in French society. By taking such a gentle approach, Lifshitz creates an unusually observant document not just of the endemic prejudice of the 50s, 60s and 70s, but also of a real hope for the future.

15 themes, language, nudity


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The Stone Roses: Made of Stone
dir Shane Meadows
prd Mark Herbert
with Ian Brown, John Squire, Alan Wren, Gary Mounfield Shane Meadows, Liam Gallagher, Eric Cantona
the stonr roses release UK 5.Jun.13
13/UK Warp 1h37
The Stone Roses: Made of Stone Meadows approaches this finely shot and edited documentary like the super-fan that he is: with plenty of, yes, adoration for the band he considers to be the best ever. While the film name-checks the group's previous participants and darker periods, it's instead a celebration of the Stone Roses' passion for music and their fans' unrelenting love for them.

Ian and John were school friends in Manchester who formed their first band in 1980, which evolved into the Stone Roses in 1984. Gathering momentum and buzz, they finally released their first album in 1989 and were catapulted into the big time. But battles with their record label and their management, plus considerable infighting, delayed their second album until 1994, and within two years the band had splintered and dissolved. Then in 2011, Ian and John, along with key bandmates Reni and Mani (aka Wren and Mounfield), announced that the Stone Roses were coming back.

Meadows covers the band's history through extensive archival material: home movies, TV interview clips, performance footage and lots of amazing stills, all assembled together to trace the narrative without getting bogged down in too much detail. For example, there's no proper account of the conflicts, and no profiles of the seven other guys who played for the band over the years. This history is intercut with black and white footage of Meadows documenting the rehearsals and warm-up gigs, leading to richly colourful high-definition coverage of the June 2012 Manchester reunion concert.

This new footage is beautifully shot and edited, with a particular emphasis on high-quality sound recording, which offers new performances of the band's biggest hits. A couple of pieces taped in their Warrington practice house are energised by clever split-screen work, while the concert sequences really capture the thunderous energy of the crowds. We also vividly see the lively, strong characters of all four men.

Yes, this is a movie made by a fan for fans. Although it is also likely to create new aficionados with its up-close portrayal of four guys who are just as likably cheeky and cocky in middle age as they were 20 years ago. It may leave us with some nagging questions about what really happened behind the scenes, as well as how they fit into the context of 1990s "Madchester", but the force of personality and the kick of their music is undeniable.

15 themes, language
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Stories We Tell
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Sarah Polley
prd Anita Lee
with Sarah Polley, Michael Polley, Mark Polley, Joanna Polley, John Buchan, Susy Buchan, Geoff Bowes, Harry Gulkin, Tom Butler, Wayne Curnew, Cathy Gulkin, Robert Macmillan
release Can 12.Oct.12,
US 10.May.13, UK 28.Jun.13
12/Canada 1h48

33rd Shadows Awards


Stories We Tell Actor-turned-filmmaker Polley further cements her artistic ambition with this moving exploration of her family history. Essentially a documentary, but packed with inventive layers, the film is a remarkable look at storytelling itself, and specifically how tricky it is to get to the truth of any past event or person.

In an effort to understand a singular fact about her actress mother Diane Polley, Sarah talks to everyone who has an angle on the story, including her father Michael, brothers Mark and John and sisters Joanna and Susy. She also speaks with her mother's friends and colleagues about a fateful revelation. Intriguingly, everyone sees themselves as the protagonist, even though it's truly Diane's story. And even Sarah struggles to avoid making it all about her. Even though it is.

Polley takes a wonderfully playful approach, throwing out the rules of what a documentary is supposed to be, mainly because she's exploring how our memories alter our own histories. Is there really an objective, true version of any event? Her approach involves to-camera interviews that are sometimes startlingly honest, especially as they continually break the fourth wall. And this is mixed in with old photos, home movies, TV footage and quite a lot of reconstructed media, which makes it tricky to know what's archival and what isn't.

But that's the point. The film opens with a quote from Margaret Atwood: "When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all." So it's fascinating to see Polley assemble her complex personal tale so beautifully, with her father trying to narrate it in the third person. And the film is so packed with wit and emotion that watching it is a funny, sexy and cathartically sad experience.

This is an astute exploration of how each of us puts ourselves at the centre of history. When one person, filmmaker Gulkin, argues that his perspective is more important than anyone else's, we can his point even though he's dead wrong. And as the chain of events unfolds, we can't help but get caught up in it ourselves, not only because it's an exhilarating story but also because we see resonance everywhere in our own experience. Yes, after watching this film you'll want to share it with everyone in your family.

12 themes, language
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall