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last update 15.Jun.14
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The Man Whose Mind Exploded
dir Toby Amies
prd Toby Amies, Rob Alexander, Kat Mansoor
with Drako Oho Zarharzar, Toby Amies, Marc Gregory, Ra Gregory, Mim King, Sue Thornton, Shelly Gregory
release UK 13.Jun.14
13/UK 1h17

east end film fest
flare film fest
The Man Whose Mind Exploded Documenting both a remarkably colourful character and a resonant social issue, this sensitive, witty film is both emotionally involving and strikingly provocative. Its central subject is the beyond-eccentric Drako Zarharzar (aka Tony Banwell), who was left with no short-term memory after a series of accidents.

Born in 1936, Drako lives alone in a council flat in Brighton, where he's known to locals for his outrageous Dali moustache, tattoos and piercings. His home is a cluttered nest of photos and memorabilia that remind him of everything he has forgotten. His nephew Marc and sister Ra are worried about the squalor, but understand his need for independence. Over the last four years of his life, he allows filmmaker Toby to interview him, even though he can't remember who Toby is each time they meet.

The film opens with cleaners archiving Drako's flat after his death, then cuts to him sitting naked on Brighton Beach, a usual haunt. Drako is larger-than-life, a diva in a sweeping cape who casually remembers modelling for Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Derek Jarman. After years of drug abuse, the 10-year recovery from an early 1980s motorbike accident changed his personality, while a 1991 car crash left him with amnesia. He has no concept of anticipation, no sense of how distant his past memories are and never misses anything or anyone.

Filmmaker Amies enters this world without preconceptions, befriending Drako while trying to help wherever possible. It's a remarkably tender, unaffected style of documentary, as Drako unapologetically reveals himself alongside interviews with family and friends. It's clear that he has a lovely quality of life surrounded by his memories: snapshots, posters, hand-written notes and lots of pictures of naked men. Drako knows that he's eccentric and self-absorbed, but he loves living in the now.

Of course, this means that the thought of cleaning his flat causes a flare of panic, as does visiting a hospital. Both Marc and Ra tellingly discuss what it's like to have Drako in their family, including remarks about how he wasn't particularly likeable before his accidents. This an unusually intimate film, playfully shot with artful touches that capture Drako's life and personality. It's also a strikingly complex portrait of a fascinating man who was given the dignity to live his own life right to the end. And it makes us want to adopt his mantra, as tattooed on his arm: "trust absolute unconditional".

15 themes, language, nudity
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Mistaken for Strangers
dir Tom Berninger
prd Matt Berninger, Carin Besser, Craig Charland
with Matt Berninger, Tom Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf, Scott Devendorf, Brandon Reid, Nancy Berninger, Paul Berninger, Carin Besser, Ben Lanz, Kyle Resnick
matt and tom
release US 28.Mar.14,
UK 27.Jun.14
13/US 1h15

london film fest
east end film fest
Mistaken for Strangers The scruffy, unconstructed doc starts off as a backstage rock-tour movie and evolves into an intimate exploration of the awkward connection between two brothers. It's enjoyably ramshackle, although a bit more focus would have made it much more resonant.

Cincinnati band The National is enjoying its first wave of success, and since the band consists of two sets of brothers (the Dessners and Devendorfs) and Matt, he invites his younger brother Tom to join them as a roadie for their international tour. But Tom doesn't really like The National, or have anything in common with his brother: he's a metalhead who has only ever made cheesy horror movies. But he sticks around, travelling to Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Los Angeles, Madison and New York, where he's finally asked to leave.

Intriguingly, Tom then returns home to Cincinnati, where he interviews his parents Nancy and Pat about the differences between him and his brother. And eventually he returns to Brooklyn to both finish the film and participate in recording sessions for The National's new album. Through all of this Tom portrays himself as a chucklehead who has planned nothing about the film, leaving his seat-of-the-pants style on-screen for all to see. So even if it's annoyingly random, it's oddly charming.

While the film touches on some bigger themes, it offers very little information about the band, its fans or the interaction between the musicians. And it only briefly glimpses Matt's wife Carin. Essentially this movie is all about Tom (there's clearly another camera operator on-hand to shoot his antics). And if he's that self-involved, it's difficult to accept this as much more than an attempt to steal focus from his more-successful brother. So we become tired of him long before the band does.

Sometimes this is amusing, as Tom immediately crosses the band's manager Brandon by never taking his job seriously. In this sense, the film is like the opposite of Spinal Tap: the filmmaker is the goofball, while the bandmates don't know whether to laugh or attempt to answer his silly questions. Yes, Tom is the bratty little brother driving Matt and his friends crazy. "Everyone has bad luck," Matt says after one of Tom's moans, "but don't let that stop you." To which Tom replies, "Easy for you to say when everything is going so well for you!"

15 themes, language
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112 Weddings
dir-scr Doug Block
prd Doug Block, Lori Cheatle
with Doug Block, Jonathan Blake, Heather & Sam, Janice & Alexander, Sue & Steve, Rachel & Paul, Jenn & Augie, Yoonhee & Tom, Janet & David, Danielle & Adam, Anna & Erica, Olivia & Dennis, Jodi & Michael
112 Weddingsl release UK 13.Jun.14
13/US 1h35

112 Weddings A kind of happy accident, this documentary ends up exploring the idea of marriage from an unexpected perspective that's both charming and sobering. The central theme is the disparity between expectations and reality both in the happy day itself and in the years that follow.

Doug Block was a frustrated filmmaker when he started videotaping marriage ceremonies to make some badly needed cash. Now 20 years and 112 weddings later he begins piecing together common threads in these tapes. Even more intriguingly, he catches up with some of the couples, juxtaposing their present-day comments and situations with the blithely happy bride and groom on joyful display in the wedding videos. What emerges is a telling exploration of naive youth as it shifts to more knowing reality.

As Block notes, his job was to watch ordinary people experience one of their most extraordinary days, and then never see them again. And the vintage snippets are terrific, hilarious scenes of brides and grooms right before their ceremony, like nervous actors in the wings before opening night, thinking "this'll be easy because we'll always be this much in love". Yes, little girls dream of a white dress and a prince charming soulmate. But the film also explores the roots of traditional marriage as a legal transaction of property from father to husband.

These lively, chatty couples reveal even more in subtext beneath their stories. One couple almost lost their 5-year-old daughter to illness. Another had a daughter and then divorced, pulled apart by addiction issues. David and Galina talk about the differences between living together and being married, while Anna and Erica discuss why marriage is important for a gay couple. And 13 years after their partnership ceremony, Janice and Alexander get legally hitched at their daughters' request.

And Block doesn't stop there, tackling preconceptions, money stress, family dynamics and how having a child changes everything, as does the different ways we were raised with our own role models. In the end, it's clear that marriage is about ebb and flow, and some people have to work a lot harder at it than others. Yes, that happy ever after is more complicated than we thought it was. But there's also a sense that the wedding day is for celebrating, regardless of what tomorrow brings.

PG themes, language
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We Are Many
5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-prd Amir Amirani
with Hans Blix, Tony Benn, Clare Short, David Blunkett, Phyllis Bennis, Philippe Sands, Patrick Tyler, Peter Osborne, Richard Branson, Ron Kovic, Mark Rylance, Damon Albarn, Ken Loach, Noam Chomsky, Tom Hayden, Danny Glover
We Are Many release UK Jun.14 sdf
14/UK 1h41

We Are Many Riveting and comprehensive, this strikingly well-assembled documentary delves into the background and implications of the largest protest in human history. And this isn't just a film about a past event: it's about where the world is heading now. And it vividly captures the power of anger and optimism coming together.

On 15 February 2003, more than 2 million people marched through London to tell the government that the citizens were against the rush to war in Iraq. These protests were echoed in 789 cities globally, as more than 20 million people said the same thing. It was the biggest moment of solidarity in history, united around the common desire for peace and a hope for justice. But the American and British governments had already made up their minds, launching a war against the will of their voters and the UN.

The film doesn't merely cover this single event, it also flicks back to 9/11 to examine the path to war using meaningful first-hand accounts from politicians, experts, activists and celebrities who tried to make a difference. It was clear that the long-term military campaign against terror was a reordering of the world as a violent, paranoid place, as governments peddled obviously false information, complete with marketing terms like "War on Terror" and "Axis of Evil". Still unconvinced, these people tried to stop the violence before it happened.

While sticking to facts, filmmaker Amirani infuses this documentary with passion, revealing the open-faced deception that didn't fool millions of people at the time. Bush claimed he hoped to avoid war even as he prepared the invasion, reasoning that Saddam Hussein was so horrible that he wouldn't negotiate with him. This kind of doublespeak was darkly chilling, and it's even more disturbing to see how it's now become rote. Think about it: the stated goal was to make Iraq safer by removing Hussein, but how has a decade of anarchy, soaring disease rates and 1.2 million dead civilians helped Iraq?

This pacey, momentous film is packed with details, anecdotes and archive footage that add meaning on every side. It also explores the legacy of this mass protest in the Arab Spring. Yes, Egyptian Muslims were shocked to see Western infidels standing up for them, which inspired them to take to Tahrir Square over the next decade. In other words, there has been a seismic shift in human history since 9/11, not just because of terrorism but because the people aren't going to sit quietly as their government commits violence in their name. Look at the very different reactions of the UK and US governments to protests about invading Syria.

PG themes
4.Jun.14 sdf
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