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On this page: THE OUTSIDER
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last update 15.Apr.18
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The Outsider
dir-scr-prd Tom Meadmore
with Nobu Su, Eli, Ailee, Seth Freedman, Sam Chambers, Michel Guy, Michelle Blockmann, David Osler, Alan Hooper, Mark Rifkin, Yuso Tobiyaka, Sabruto Banerji, Michelle Solomon
nobu su
release UK 20.Apr.18
18/UK 1h37

east end film fest
The Outsider Putting the spotlight on a major issue that's little-reported, this documentary explores the extraordinary rise and fall of shipping mogul Nobu Su, who refused to play by old-world rules as he built an enormous empire then watched it crumble. Filmmaker Tom Meadmore goes too deep into the banking details, and he also struggles to find the core thrust of the story. But Nobu is an amazing character.

As the son of a Taiwanese shipping magnate, Nobu grew up in the business and quickly realised ways to expand his father's empire into a global monolith. The old-world shipping establishment, mainly the Greeks and Brits, aren't too happy about this, never letting him into the inner circle. So he does his own thing and makes billions, creating his distinct fleet of super-tankers. Then the 2008 financial collapse slashes his ability to cover his expenses. And he also watches in horror as the world's largest banks (Britain's RBS and Taiwan's Megabank) work out ways to deprive him of his fortune.

Meadmore follows Nobu through this story as he rails against everyone who has conspired against him while maintaining his smiley optimism. But the strain cost him his family as well as his bank balance, and it's in scenes with his daughters Eli and Ailee that the film hints at a deeper, more involving storyline. Instead, Meadmore opts to follow the money trail, talking mainly to financial journalists who disagree about what has happened, largely depending on their loyalty to the establishment.

The film has a lively pace, interspersing to-camera interviews along with Nobu's own running commentary and a number of fly-on-the-wall sequences. Scenes shot on the decks of Nobu's ships offer visual expansiveness in contrast to the dull corporate boardrooms. And a number of animated graphics sequences work hard to help us understand the financial issues involved, although it's impossible to really care about all of those details. Through all of this, Nobu's buoyant personality keeps the film afloat, as it were, with hints of a richer story under the surface.

This is an intriguing portrait of a man who used sheer chutzpah to buck the system and create something almost mind-bogglingly impressive. It's no wonder the rest of the industry hates him, and it's fascinating to watch him carry on in the face of such deep-rooted opposition. So it's a little frustrating that the filmmaker never quite gets under his skin, never confronting him about his downfall and, more tellingly, letting him smile through the remarkably strained sequence with his daughters.

PG themes, language

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Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist
dir Lorna Tucker
prd John Battsek, Shirine Best, Eleanor Emptage, Nicole Stott
with Vivienne Westwood, Andreas Kronthaler, Joe Corre, Ben Westwood, Carlo D'Amario, Peppe Lorefice, Murray Blewitt, Bella Freud, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christina Hendricks, Pamela Anderson
westwood release UK 23.Mar.18
18/UK Dogwoof 1h18

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist With amazing access, director Lorna Tucker gets up close and personal with iconic designer Vivienne Westwood to trace her life story and explore how she works. It's an entertaining look behind the curtain of one of pop culture's most colourful figures, but the singular perspective makes it feel a little superficial, especially as it only glances on her outspoken activism.

From an early age, Westwood knew she had an innate skill at making things, creating clothing and jewellery before trying to settle down as a housewife. But domesticity didn't work for her. She found her niche when she met Malcolm McLaren, and together they launched the punk movement in the early 1970s with the intention of challenging the establishment using music and fashion. When Westwood realised this was all just another form of marketing, she went off on her own, creating unapologetically expressive clothing.

Right from the start, Westwood expresses an obsession with the bigger picture. This is especially obvious in her punk era, working with the Sex Pistols to take down officials who are oppressing the poor and destroying the planet. The logical extension of this is her tireless campaigning, even now in her 70s, about climate change, sustainability and fair trade. And working with her partner Andreas Kronthaler, she keeps her firm small so she can maintain quality control over every piece that's produced.

Beautifully shot and edited, the film traces all of this in an askance way, showing her involvement without digging into what she's fighting for. Instead, the focus is on her quirky personality. In the opening clip she sighs to the camera, "Don't ask questions. Just let me talk and get it over with." Even in her mid-70s, she feels like she has more important things to do than talk about herself. As a result, filmmaker Tucker does little more than her, taking in the elements of her life today as well as photos and clips from her past.

The only other comments come from people within her orbit, including her sons Ben Westwood and Joe Corre. Obviously these people have a vested interest, so aside from brief glimpses of models and actresses, there isn't much commentary on her groundbreaking work. Still, this is an enjoyable glimpse into Westwood's universe. And while it's refreshing to see that her avant garde designs are rooted in old-world couture, it might have been nice to also look a bit deeper into her context.

15 themes, language, imagery

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