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last update 5.Sep.13
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Fire in the Blood
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Dylan Mohan Gray
with Zackie Achmat, Bill Clinton, Donald McNeil, Yusuf Hamied, James P Love, Peter Mugyenyi, William F Haddad, Peter Rost, Noor Jehan Majid, Denis Broun, Noerine Kaleeba, Edwin Cameron
achmat with nelson mandela release UK 22.Feb.13,
US 6.Sep.13, Ind 11.Oct.13
13/India 1h27

Fire in the Blood The title of this clear-headed documentary doesn't just refer to the effects of Aids, it also describes how we should feel watching it. By presenting facts without sensationalising the issue, this is a frightening depiction of the shocking disparity between the world's haves and have-nots, and also of the injustice created by unfettered capitalism.

As Aids spread throughout Africa and Asia, Western pharmaceutical companies, with the help of their governments, condemned millions of people to an excruciating death because they couldn't afford the inflated brand-name prices. But people started to speak up against the injustice. For example, South African activist Achmat refused to take anti-Aids drugs until everyone could afford them. Global experts approached Indian chemist Heimad, who proved that the drugs could be supplied for $350 per year, rather than the $15,000 Big Pharma demanded. And further initiatives by Clinton got the price down under $100.

Through all of this, pharmaceutical companies have screamed about the violation of patents, which were earned through research and development that was actually funded by taxpayers. It's not that India can produce these drugs more cheaply; it's that they put people's lives ahead of profiteering, and cheaper medicines mean longer life expectancy. Meanwhile, companies and governments are guilty of mass genocide in the name of protecting the shareholders' comparatively obscene wealth.

The film is thoughtfully assembled and packed with details that quietly expose a system that puts profits above compassion. Arguments about the substandard quality of generics are easily disproved (Big Pharma itself prefers Indian labs). And as a market, Africa makes no difference to company profits. So what are they protecting: the callous, racist idea of Western superiority? Indeed, WHO and the US government spent years covering up how cheap these drugs should have been all along.

Yes, filmmaker Gray presents one horrific fact after another. But he never shouts about it. Through interviews with experts, doctors, activists and patients, he gives weight to the whole story. But the brutal fact is that Westerners accept that pharmaceutical companies are entitled to price drugs based on market forces, and that if poorer countries can't afford them, too bad: they'll die. How have we created a system that profits from life and death? How can patents be more important than people's lives? And how long would this have taken if Westerners were the ones dying?

PG themes, some medical grisliness
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The Great Hip Hop Hoax
dir Jeanie Finlay
prd Jeanie Finlay, Al Morrow
with Gavin Bain, Billy Boyd, James Bourne, Oskar Kirkwood, Jonathan Shalit, Del Conboy, Chris Rock, Dan Millar, Mary Boyd, Michelle Bain, Colin Petrie, Gordon Donald
silibil n' brains release UK 6.Sep.13
13/UK BBC 1h33

edinburgh film fest
The Great Hip Hop Hoax Documenting a rather outrageous story, this film astutely reveals built-in prejudice within the music industry. It's also a thoroughly entertaining exploration of a friendship strained by an extraordinary situation. And it'll make you want to get your hands on a rap album that was never released.

In Dundee, Scotland, in 2000, Gavin and Billy discover a mutual love of rap music and a talent for producing catchy tunes. But without listening to the songs, everyone dismisses the idea of Scottish rappers. In frustration, they say they're from Southern California. And suddenly they're in hot demand at venues all over Britain, re-recording their demo with American accents as Silibil n' Brains. Now they have a big-time manager (Shalit) who sparks a record label bidding war. Signed to a lucrative deal, they start recording music. But it's not easy maintaining these fictional personalities.

Extraordinarily, no one ever rumbled them: the people who worked directly with them had no idea that these guys had never even been to America. But by play-acting as fun-loving skater-boys, they took the music industry by storm, always intending to expose the rot in the system. Which is exactly what this film does. Bain and Boyd tell their story through interviews, talking about their two years living the high life in London and the frustrations of their much-delayed album.

Assembled with high energy and a raucous sense of this duo's humour, the film the guys' own extensive documentary footage, which gives a hilarious sense of their antics. And cartoon sequences cleverly fill in other elements of the story. Bain and Boyd have huge personalities to go with their musical skills, and watching them struggle as the stakes get higher is riveting to watch. They clearly believed their talent would make them superstars, but they had to abandon their nationality to get there.

Even if their personas were invented, their music and on-stage charisma was genuine. So the early rejections reveal how opinions and expectations crush real talent all the time. Silibil n' Brains were feted across the industry as young American rappers, with appearances on MTV and in major concert venues. Meanwhile, these guys lived as fictional characters day and night, losing themselves in the process. And as their plan wavers, their friendship takes a surprisingly emotional turn, leaving us asking, "What if...?"

15 themes, language, nudity
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One Direction: This Is Us
dir Morgan Spurlock
prd Simon Cowell, Adam Milano, Morgan Spurlock, Ben Winston
with Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Simon Cowell, Richard Curtis, Julian Bunetta, Paul Higgins, Bob Stringer, Preston Mahon, Stefan Koelsch
one direction
release UK 29.Aug.13,
US 30.Aug.13
13/UK TriStar 1h32
One Direction: This Is Us After five mop-headed twigs took the world by storm, it's hardly surprising that a major documentary has arrived to take their fans backstage. But don't be fooled by Spurlock's name in the credits: Utterly lacking in his witty investigative style, it's a superficial publicity piece. But it's enjoyable even if you're not a pre-pubescent girl.

As teens, Niall, Zayne, Liam, Harry and Louis entered Britain's X Factor in 2010 and were cut at the bootcamp stage. Then Cowell spontaneously gave them a second chance as a group. They bonded instantly and, after placing third in the contest, their passionate fans' Twitter storm sent them global. Within three years they were the bestselling boy band in history. The film follows them on tour across Europe, North America, Japan and Australia.

For a behind-the-scenes doc, the film doesn't tell us much about One Direction. They come across as cheeky, likeable kids who constantly play pranks while also taking their jobs as entertainers seriously. They clearly have vocal talent, but aside from Niall's guitar playing their skills as musicians aren't really on display here. We meet their screaming fans, but not their backing band.

On the other hand, we do get comments from Cowell and the team that runs their tour, including security guards who act as de-facto guardians. The strongest, most emotional moments are interviews with their parents, who have to deal with fame in a very different way. Spurlock keeps the film moving at a zippy pace, providing what fans want to see: backstage glimpses of them in playful moods, running around in their underpants and giving media-trained interviews. And the performance clips are sharply produced with added 3D trickery.

We also see five best buddies who are unusually grounded. They know that this is their moment in the spotlight, and they're determined to enjoy it before settling down and starting families. They reject the usual boy-band cliches of choreographed dance steps and matching outfits, which is part of their appeal as more normal guys. But the film is too carefully shaped: Spurlock never reveals them outside their iconic status, we don't learn about their down time, love lives or musical influences. There isn't a single critical moment in the movie. But then, that's exactly how fans see them.

PG themes, language
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dir Pat Collins
prd Tina Moran
scr Pat Collins, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, Sharon Whooley
with Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, Hilary O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Bennett, Michael Harding, Patrick O'Connor, Pater Lacey, Paul Rogers, Marie Coyne, Tim Robinson, Jens K Muller, Jordan Shields, Tommy Fahy
Mac Giolla Bhride
release Ire Feb.12,
UK 9.Aug.13
12/Ireland 1h24
Silence Loose and almost indefinable, this roving, atmospheric documentary explores history and memory through sound. It's stunningly beautiful to look at and often provocative and even moving, although its languorous pacing leaves us feeling rather sleepy. And if we're snoozing, we'll miss the emotional kicker at the end.

Eoghan is an Irish sound recordist living in Berlin. Then he gets a job asking him to return to Ireland looking for "quiet", the sound of environments that have no man-made noise. Leaving his girlfriend Hilary behind, he travels around rural areas and small islands off the coast of Donegal, finding moments of serenity and some casual conversations with locals. But the sounds of human progress are everywhere, Eventually, his journey takes him back to his childhood home on the tiny Tory Island.

As he moves from place to place, Eoghan's work begins to take on a new meaning. The silence he is seeking becomes intertwined with history and his own personal memories of a life he left so far behind. This is all so lightly handled by filmmaker Collins that it feels like we're watching a dream. And a rather languorous one at that. Nothing much happens on-screen; conversations are captured in snippets that alternate between banal chatter and insightful observation.

At the centre, Mac Giolla Bhride is an elusive presence, merely watching and listening to everything around him, always searching for something intangible. When a distant rock-breaking machine spoils one of his recordings, we can sense his frustration, but he carries on recording anyway. Meanwhile, the film flickers back and forth to archive material, old movies and pointed images that hint at what's going on in his head as he begins to think of his earlier life in this part of the world.

All of this is exquisitely shot and edited, with an astonishing sound mix that blends nature with music and voices to create a swirling collage of memory and new experience. So even though it's all rather dreamy and slow, it generates a strong sense of how we indescribably feel like we belong somewhere. But it's our choice whether we stay at home or keep moving.

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