Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
< <
D O C S > >
last update 20.Oct.12
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Five Broken Cameras
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
scr Guy Davidi
prd Guy Davidi
with Emad Burnat, Soraya Burna, Bassem Abu-Rahmat, Adeeb Abu-Rahma, Daba Abu-Rahma, Gibreel Burnat, Mohammed Burnat, Yasin Burnat, Taky-Adin Burnat, Yisrael Puterman, Eyad Burnat, Riyad Burnat
bassem and burnat release US 30.May.12,
UK 19.Oct.12
11/Palestine 1h30

five broken cameras There's a hint of manipulation about this documentary, but the subject matter is so compelling that we are still deeply moved. Shot largely by a man just trying to document what's happened to his life, it's a potent depiction of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Emad is a journalist who, when his fourth son Gibreel is born in 2005, decides to start documenting his life. This is the moment when the Israeli army partitions a section of his village Bil'in, including a chunk of the family's olive grove, building a fence and no man's land. So the village launches a string of peaceful protests, which are met with teargas, bullets and arrests. With his wife Soraya and friends (likeable Bassem aka "Phil", hothead Adeeb and nice-guy Daba), Emad films all of this, even as camera after camera is smashed or shot.

The doc covers five years as the situation escalates through minor tit-for-tat protests, violent skirmishes and a court case won by the village but not implemented for five years. During this time, Emad observes Gibreel's early understanding of the world around him, struggling to make sense of why soldiers are shooting his friends. Through it all, Emad and his friends insist on peaceful protests, using their own olive branches to make a statement. But that doesn't keep their anger from boiling over at the injustice.

With a striking attention to detail and skilful editing choices, Emad certainly knows where to put his camera, catching momentous events including shootings and his own near-fatal car crash. So we're seeing everything from his perspective, with a warm observation of his family life and culture, while Israelis are masked, trigger-happy soldiers or violently threatening settlers. And it isn't overstatement to note that this brutal repression is essentially Apartheid.

Emad provides a running voiceover to narrate events and let us understand his thoughts and feelings, which gives the film a riveting narrative structure. He's also not afraid to show how his dedication to the cause is threatening his family's safety. Israel's supporters will dismiss this as a one-sided portrait of a complex situation, but it's much more than that: it captures how it feels to be oppressed in your own home, with no freedoms or rights to speak of. This is what makes it essential viewing.

15 themes, violence, some language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
A Liar’s Autobiography
The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

dir Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett
scr Graham Chapman, David Sherlock
prd Bill Jones, Ben Timlett
voices Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Justin McDonald, Stephen Fry, Tom Hollander, Cameron Diaz
A Liar's Autobiography
release UK 30.Nov.12
12/UK 1h22

 london film festival
A Liar's Autobiography Using recordings of Chapman reading the book about his life, several teams of animators have ambitiously created a kind of stream-of-consciousness 3D tribute. And his Python partners are on board as well to recreate their surreal journey to stardom. The result is wildly inventive but difficult to engage with, even if you're a fan.

After a typically odd British childhood, Chapman met Cleese at Cambridge University and together with Palin, Gilliam and Jones formed Monty Python. Their TV sketch show first aired on the BBC in 1969, unexpectedly propelling them to stardom. Along the way, Chapman did a survey on himself and decided he was 70 percent gay, then his fame brought him more sex and alcohol than he could quite cope with. In 1989 he died of throat cancer at age 48.

This is certainly not a straightforward retelling of Chapman's life story. Every element of this film is infused with the same surreal absurdity that infused Python's comedy: much of it feels like distracted sideroads, there are frequent moments that cross lines of taste and propriety, some scenes go on far too long before reaching their punchlines, and other sequences are simply sublime.

Each segment has a distinct animation style rendered in lively 3D that keeps our eyes exploring the frame for details and surprises. From stop-motion to traditional cartoons to eerily translucent imagery, each sequence is simply beautiful, infused with a freewheeling style that implies that the filmmakers gave the animators a free hand to indulge in flights of artistic fancy. They also cleverly weave in video footage, including clips of early performances, an extended series of scenes from The Life of Brian (which starred Chapman in the title role) and Cleese's stunning eulogy at Chapman's funeral.

Fans of Python will find plenty to enjoy here, even though large chunks of the film leave us wondering just what the filmmakers are trying to do. This is aggressively experimental storytelling without a proper narrative; we're rarely sure what actually happened in Chapman's life. Instead, what we get is a thematic, stylised sense of a man who with his friends helped change forever what we find funny.

15 themes, language, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Mary Kerr
prd Paul Fischer
with Craig Castaldo, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Sandra Bullock, Tina Fey, Ron Howard
castaldo and streep release UK 12.Oct.12,
US 7.Dec.12
12/UK 1h08
radioman Most of us have never heard of Radioman, but he's a fixture on the New York film scene, on a first-name basis with the biggest stars in the world. With a minimum of fuss, this documentary lets us tag along with him on a few adventures while finding out exactly who he is.

A seemingly homeless man arrives on the set of Tower Heist and is annoyed to discover that it's the second unit with no stars on hand. So he stocks up on snacks and heads off. This is Craig Castaldo, better known as Radioman for the boom box he always wears around his neck. And nobody shoots a film in New York without him. He's not homeless anymore, but he was when he started chasing film crews, mainly for the free food. And directors and actors like having him around, often putting him in their films.

Radioman is a hilarious raconteur who spends a lot of time on the phone finding out where the shooting locations are. Helives in a grubby Brooklyn flat cluttered with videotapes, DVDs and autographed memorabilia, plus a bewildering array of old radios. His youth involved losing his job as a postman due to alcoholism, which left him on the streets. The first set he wandered onto was Bonfire of the Vanities in 1990, where he thought Bruce Willis was a fellow vagrant. And he feels that the movies saved him from homelessness.

This no-frills doc leaps from set to set, often through Radioman's own camera as he interviews "costars" like Ridley Scott, James Gandolfini and Ricky Gervais. The doc crew follows him around New York and off to Hollywood for the Oscars. Meanwhile, we see a staggering array of clips showing him in the background of a wide range of movies. And he's realistic about the business. "Sometimes it's a tidal wave of fun," he says, "and other times it's a monsoon of misery."

There's not that much to the documentary, but it's a terrific behind-the-scenes look at a fixture on the film scene that most of us have never heard of. But we've seen him on-screen hundreds of times, in movies from Miss Congeniality to Godzilla. And spotting him from now on will be great fun.

15 themes, language, some violence


back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Room 237: Being an Inquiry Into The Shining in 9 Parts
dir Rodney Ascher
prd Tim Kirk
with Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, Buffy Visick
redrum! release US Jan.12 sff,
UK 26.Oct.12
12/US 1h42


See also:
The Shining
Samsara Movie geeks will love this documentary, which lets five of them expound rather outlandish theories about a seriously confounding film: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Not many of their theories hold water, but it's a terrific exploration of filmmaking as art.

Visually, this is a series of clips from throughout Kubrick's filmography, mixed in with bits of other movies and a few animated sequences. Meanwhile, we hear the voices of Blakemore, Cocks, Kearns, Ryan and Weidner talking about the things they've discovered within The Shining through watching and rewatching it, sometimes frame-by-frame. The primary hypothesis is that the film is a treatise on how we deal with the darker chapters of human history, specifically the genocide of Native Americans and the Holocaust.

Kubrick was a genius filmmaker who never did anything by accident, so the quirky background details in The Shining must mean something, right? And there's certainly credence in the idea that Kubrick was exploring how we ignore the more horrific things humans have done in the past to our peril. Although this is a meta-theme in most horror fiction, including Stephen King's source novel, which Kubrick famously diverged from. Pointing out a shot that seems to suggest that Kubrick was gloating about his power over King's work is hilarious.

This doc is packed with these kinds of observations, finding meaning in the tiniest details. There's a clever look at the Overlook Hotel's nonsensical floorplan, as well as a remarkable experiment in screening the film backwards and forwards simultaneously, which reveals more about Kubrick's framing style than anything thematic. And then there's the theory that Room 237 proves that Kubrick actually filmed the Apollo 11 moon landing on a sound-stage with front-projection. (The moon is 237,000 miles from earth, after all!)

All kinds of hints and clues seem to support this theory, but then if you look carefully enough you could also prove that Elvis and Marilyn Monroe now live on a South Pacific island. In the end, there aren't many ideas here that are terribly insightful (would you be shocked to know that Kubrick wove mythology and fairy tales into his work?), but it's a thoroughly entertaining exploration of the extremes of fan culture. And a marvellous look at the repeated images and themes in Kubrick's work.

15 themes, violence, nudity
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < D O C S > >

© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall