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A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM | WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?
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last update 23.Apr.14
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
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Bridegroom
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
prd Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Shane Bitney Crone, Allen Crowe
with Shane Bitney Crone, Tom Bridegroom, Cindy Bitney, David Crone, Sasha Andreev, Alex Grossi, Paul Goretski, Mark Runkle, Lizzy Mohl, Mark Stine, Judy Crone, Pat Managhan
bitney crone
release US Apr.13 tff,
UK Mar.14 flare
13/US 1h21

flare film fest
Bridegroom Hugely emotional from the beginning as it chronicles the love story between two young men, this documentary starts as a moving but unremarkable story of a tragedy then shifts into a staggeringly personal statement about a political reality. The pungent question is: why were these men never allowed to properly love each other?

In a video diary entry, Shane talks about how the love of his life Tom died just after his 29th birthday, accidentally falling off a four-story apartment block while taking pictures on the roof. Shane's parents Cindy and David arrive to help, and are fully open with their son for the first time. And Tom's mother Martha is compassionate at first, but soon closes down. After she goes home with Tom's body the story changes, and Shane is banished from the funeral as the family tries to rewrite who Tom was.

Along the way, filmmaker Bloodworth-Thomason uses photos, videos and new interviews to follow two young men growing up in repressed homes: Shane in Montana and Tom in a religious military family in Indiana. Both knew they were different and panicked about telling their families, and suicide was a real option in the face of violent disapproval. Moving to California to get away, they were perfectly matched, each others' first love, working together on a lively travelogue video series.

Seeing a rising young star die in such a senseless way is horrible, especially as we watch through Shane's devastation. They were romantics, looking to become parents and grow together as adventurers and filmmakers. And their future was bright after years struggling against bigotry, ignorance and violence. Shane's family eventually fully accepted Tom, but there are certainly no Christian principles involved in Tom's relatives' reactions.

As powerful as it is, this story isn't particularly notable until the staggering circumstances surrounding the funeral. Events are recounted by a variety of friends and family members with open-handed emotion, assembled by Bloodworth-Thomason with a tight pace. Some unnecessary dramatic re-creations try to push emotions, but the story itself carries the gut-wrenching punch: that denying people legal protection only encourages prejudice. As Shane asks in the end, "Why do the people who were supposed to love Tom the most fight so much against who he was?"

15 themes, language
25.Feb.14
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Next Goal Wins
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Mike Brett, Steve Jamison
prd Mike Brett, Kristian Brodie, Steve Jamison
with Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nicky Salapu, Larry Mana'o, JR Amisone, Ramin Ott, Rawlston Masaniai, Rambo Tapui, D'Angelo Herrera, Shalom Luani, Ace Lalogafuafua, Justin Su'a
rongen (right)
release UK 2.May.14
14/UK 1h32
Next Goal Wins There's a wonderfully uplifting tone to this documentary about underdogs breaking out of their rut. It's the story of the worst team in World Cup football, and how hard work and inner passion lifted them from the bottom of the rankings. It's also one of those shamelessly crowd-pleasing movies that makes you want to stand up and cheer.

After setting the world record for the most brutal loss in World Cup qualifying history (losing 31-0 against Australia), you'd think the American Somoa team would just give up. But no, they valiantly dive into the South Pacific Games, where their losing streak remains intact. Not only have they never won a match, but they've never scored a goal in one. So the bosses decide to bring in an outside coach, Rongen from the Netherlands, and call some Samoan expats back home to play as they enter the qualifying rounds for the 2014 World Cup.

Filmmakers Brett and Jamison make sure we get to know these terrific characters. Rongen and his wife find this community helpful as they struggle with grief over the death of their 18-year-old daughter. Initially harsh and demanding, Rongen softens into the local culture, earning the teammates' brotherhood. Losing goalkeeper Salapu has fled to Seattle but comes back to claim some dignity. And the lively Saelua steals the film: officially classified as a fa-afafine, neither male nor female, he's a valued member of society who lives mainly as a woman.

Saelua is also the first intersex person to ever play in a World Cup qualifier. And the team's family attitude echoes through Polynesia's close-knit culture and deeply religious beliefs, bringing out their warm, embracing personalities. Even off-islanders like Ott and Masaniai are caught up in the culture. And their determination to prove themselves feels even stronger as we get to know them. So the pivotal matches are serious nail-biters.

The camerawork is intimate, capturing both the players and the gorgeous Samoan scenery. And all of this is woven in with terrific archive video, news reports and telling details. An account of the 2009 tsunami is seriously moving, as is the fact that most Samoan youth join the US military to get away from this small nation of just 55,000 people. But the players hope that by restoring a hint of pride through football they may be able to convince more young people to stick around.

15 themes, language
27.Feb.14
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A Story of Children and Film
4/5  
dir-scr Mark Cousins
prd Mary Bell, Adam Dawtrey
narr Mark Cousins
with Laura & Ben, Henry Thomas, Shirley Temple, Margaret O'Brien, David Bradley, Jean-Pierre Leaud, John Mills, Bertil Guve, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin
ben release US Oct.13 hff,
UK 4.Apr.14
13/UK 1h41

CANNES FILM FEST
edinburgh film fest
TORONTO FILM FEST
A Story of Children and Film Cinema lovers will adore this engaging, literate exploration of the depiction of children in movies as it roams through film history picking up some of the most obvious examples while also showing us a wealth of films we've never heard of. It's warm and witty, grounded in Cousins' earthy observations and encyclopaedic cinematic knowledge.

The film opens with a look at Vincent Van Gogh's varied artistic view of the landscape around him, which links vaguely to the varied depictions of children on film over the decades. Cousins then punctuates what follows with a single long take of his niece and nephew Laura and Ben spending an afternoon both aware and unaware that Cousin's camera is watching them. In between, he explores various aspects of on-screen kids: wary, stroppy, performing, parenting, exploring, dreaming, being alone and smashing things up.

All of this is depicted through clips from more than 50 films. The obvious examples are here (E.T., The Night of the Hunter, The 400 Blows, Kes, Fanny and Alexander) as well as more offbeat choices (An Angel at My Table, Frankenstein, Great Expectations, The Kid). Even more interesting is the vast range of unknown movies like Ozu's An Inn in Tokyo, Denmark's Pelle Alone in the World, Russia's Freedom Is Paradise and Poland's Crows. We now want to see them all!

Intriguingly, we only see Judy Garland as an adult (in a terrific scene from Meet Me in St Louis), but we do get The Red Balloon (France), The Yellow Balloon (UK) and The White Balloon (Iran). In other words, Cousins hasn't tried to be comprehensive; he's nodding to well-known themes while bringing out astute connections and encouraging us to look further. And of course to fit our favourite films about kids into his framework. Although he only barely touches on dark drama and oddly avoids horror altogether.

Cousins' free-association style allows him to drift from clip to clip and theme to theme while making surprisingly observations about how cinema reflects childhood and, even more cleverly, how childhood shapes cinema. With meandering narration that never talks down to the audience, Cousins also knowingly discusses photographic techniques and directing styles, concluding that cinema and the filmmakers themselves are essentially like children: curious and tenacious.

PG themes
11.Feb.14
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Who Is Dayani Cristal?
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Marc Silver
scr Mark Monroe
prd Gael Garcia Bernal, Thomas Benski, Lucas Ochoa
with Gael Garcia Bernal, Lorena Ivon Ton-Quevedo, Bruce Anderson, Kenia Yadina Cruz Rivas, Cristobal Sandres, Rafaela Martinez, Delver Antonio Sandres-Turco, Luis Alexis Martinez Escato, Alejandro Sola Linde, Robin Reineke, Charles Harding, Bianca Michelitti
garcia bernal release Mex 18.Apr.14,
US 25.Apr.14, UK 25.Jul.14
13/Mexico Pulse 1h25

SUNDANCE FILM FEST
east end film fest
Who is Dayani Cristal? This clever dramatic documentary tells three sides of a story to raise awareness of an important issue. This is essential cinema, using an intensely personal approach to reveal much larger global ramifications. So even if the central events are rather grim, the film offers a strong glimmer of hope.

Each year in Arizona's Sonora Desert, police find more than 200 unidentified bodies of illegal immigrants who travelled to the USA seeking a better life for their families back home. One man's body is found with the words "Dayani Cristal" tattooed across his chest. But the forensic expert (Anderson) and investigator (Ton-Quevedo) have no idea who he was or where he came from. Meanwhile in Honduras, villagers discuss their missing son/husband/father Yohan, who travelled north in need of funds to help his dying son. And actor-filmmaker Garcia Bernal retraces Yohan's arduous journey north through Mexico.

This film puts a remarkably personal face on migration, an issue right-wing Americans discuss as if it only involves villains and thieves. But actually, these people are badly needed in US society, happy to do work other Americans avoid. And most of them are conscientious, intelligent people who have only reluctantly left loved ones in order to survive a system that drains their country's economic and natural resources into North American corporation coffers.

Yes, the sense of injustice is almost overwhelming, but the film never preaches. The bigger picture reveals itself through offhanded comments of the investigators in Arizona, family members in Honduras and the people Garcia Bernal talks to on his strikingly physical and emotional journey, which puts us right into Yohan's shoes. As a result, we understand the situation from a new perspective.

This beautifully shot and edited movie is packed with big emotional moments and a churning narrative that builds to intensely cathartic moments. The explanation for the tattoo is fairly predictable, but it comes at a point where another revelation hits us like a punch to the gut. And in the end, it's impossible to think of immigration as the simplistic "us versus them" issue the conservatives continually present. Opening the borders isn't the right move, but something definitely has to give.

15 themes, grisliness
17.Apr.14
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