MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
September 8 Mad Hot Ballroom (USA 2005) 105 min. [IMAGE] Who said you could now see proof of the end of civilization at recess? Go to detention. Here is a documentary to lift your spirits and open your heart. The first-time filmmakers found a winning subject: an annual dance competition sponsored by the American Ballroom Theatre. Choosing three different NY neighbourhood schools, they followed a bunch of 11-year-olds learning their steps and dancing their way through a lively competition. You'd have to have two left feet or the heart of a CBC manager not to like this film. Naturally, the kids learn more than how to rumba: dancing is one of the many life lessons learned along the way to the trophy. Frankly it's hard to go wrong with kids doing the tango. If you liked 'Spellbound' you'll love MAD HOT BALLROOM.
September 15 Me and You and Everyone We Know (USA/UK 2005) 91 min. Rated R for disturbing sexual content involving children, and for language. [IMAGE] This multi-pronouned gem won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, and at Cannes won the Camera d'Or as best first film, as well as the Critics' Week grand prize. It is the kind of quirky, risky, and challenging film that might unsettle some viewers because of where it takes children and their burgeoning sexuality. But it is not prurient, offensive, or icky. This is a film about love and the full spectrum of desire, from our first awakenings to our more mature negotiations with objects of our attention. It is funny and familiar while being transgressive and insightful. The plot revolves around two adults who may or may not be destined for each other, but their initial encounter precipitates a whole chain of meanings and miscommunications, just the way you, me, and everyone we know stumble along in the world. Original and visionary, this is surely a film for our time.
September 22 Head-On / Gegen die Wand (Germany/Turkey 2004) 121 min. German, Turkish and English with subtitles. Rated R for strong graphic sexuality, pervasive language, some brutal violence and drug content. [IMAGE] What's love got to do with it, one may well ask? Sibel is a Turkish woman who lives with her parents in Germany. Cahit is also Turkish, living in Germany, and has the right qualifications-that is, he's a man and Sibel needs to get a husband, preferably not an arranged one. They set up their own arrangement, not easy to do when both are emotionally hardened people with scarred psyches. HEAD-ON won at the Berlin Film Festival and has been greatly admired because it provides a grim portrait of Germany's large population of Turks and other immigrants -- who, like maritimers in 'Goin Down the Road,' are socially marginalized while being essential to the economy. The film is exhilarating in its intensity, swerving from comic cross-cultural tension (and Berlin to Istanbul) to the desperation of social circumstance. Brutal in its realism the film is brilliant in its implicit analysis. The new Europe has a lot of 'splaining to do.
September 29 Saving Face (USA 2004) 91 min. Rated R for some sexuality and language. [IMAGE] Can't remember the last time we used the phrase 'charming romantic film about two Asian-American lesbians.' Krusiek plays the role of Wil, a doctor from a Chinese family so traditional they make the mothers of the Joy Luck Club seem liberal. But Wil is loyal and patiently endures her Mother's well meaning but repeated attempts to fix her up with some nice young Asian man. Wil, however, eats with the other team, and when she finally falls madly in love with a stunning ballet dancer named Vivian she is thrown into an emotional back-to-the-closet state. But this is no Chinese 'Cage aux Folles,' and director Wu soon takes the plot into totally unexpected places. It turns out that Wil's mother, played with strong conviction by Joan Chen, has her own shock of news to deal with, and so her dilemma overtakes the coming-out narrative of her daughter, often to humourous effect. If SAVING FACE doesn't make you feel good you've been reading the wrong fortune cookies.
October 6 The Beautiful Country (USA/Norway 2004) 125 min. English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese with subtitles. Rated R for some violence and strong language. [IMAGE] You probably saw recent national reviews for this gripping drama about a Vietnamese war baby's trip to America. Needless to say, that plot device opens up to the possibility of a highly allegorical journey about the ill fated war. Binh is the child of a Vietnamese woman and a G.I. Like millions of others of the same lineage, he has suffered as an outsider in his own country. The search for his father, played with surprising power by Nolte, becomes a haunting journey of almost predictable oppression. Life escaping Viet Nam isn't fun but life in the big wide USA isn't so free and liberal, after all, and Binh endures an amazing amount of abuse - no sentimental education here. While the behaviour of humans is often ugly and awful the natural landscapes in which they perform their cruelties - whether in Texas or Viet Nam-- are staggeringly gorgeous. The contrast is bold and deliberate and in spite of the film's austere politics this is an uplifting and affirming experience.
October 13 Murderball (USA 2005) 88 min. [IMAGE] Only a short time ago no one dared to think of the possibility of wheelchair rugby, but that's exactly what this amazing documentary champions, as well as the no-nonsense guys who wheeled their way to fortune. The undisputed hero of the film and of his own life is Mark Zupan, whose life drastically changed after a 1993 car accident. The American Documentary Audience prize-winner at this year's Sundance Festival, MURDERBALL is about the highly competitive sport of full-contact rugby as performed by quadriplegics. Movies like this are almost always also about transformative experiences, about what it takes to change your life when it has already been changed for you. This powerfully affirming documentary covers the two years between the world championship and the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. Luck was on the filmmakers' side as Zupan and his aggressive team kept fighting their way into the winner's circle, the cameras on their 'quad-rugby' trail. Closely following three of the central players, the film helps demystify the experience of being disabled, showing unimaginable reaches of psychological and physical stamina. Be prepared for an entertaining, albeit bumpy, ride.
October 20 Sabah (Canada 2005) [IMAGE] In conjunction with the St. John's International Women's Film Festival. This first feature by gutsy well known short film artist Ruba Nadda stars the indomitable Khanjian as a 40-year-old Muslim woman who still has a lot of living to do. She lives with her domineering mother and her patriarchal brother, grudgingly enduring their rebukes and their rules, not really expecting much more out of life. Duty is her lot and she submits to it. But one day she meets a nice Canadian guy (Doyle) at the local swimming pool, and before long she is somersaulting butterflies in her stomach. Dealing with her feelings openly in such a traditional family is new and frightening. But love changes people and its force is stronger than family duty, as countless romances have proven. Khanjian is fabulous in the central role, utterly convincing as a vulnerable, sheltered woman who slowly unwinds herself out of her shell. The filmmaker doesn't moralize. She has sympathy for the estranged world of the Syrian immigrant in the grey cool of Toronto, but she lets her story run freely in the direction of love and the necessity of change in the new world. The film does interesting things with the familiar urban environment, making magic of the most uninspired venues. You know how it goes: if you can make it there you can make it....
October 27 March of the Penguins (France 2005) 85 min. [IMAGE] Yes, we know this film had a short run in the theatres at the end for summer but no one was around to catch it and so we are bringing it back by popular demand. This amazing documentary tracks the journey taken by tens of thousands of penguins to the South Pole every year. Why they trek there in single file is a humongous natural mystery: then again, why do people line up at Disneyworld or 'The Dukes of Hazzard'? At the Pole the penguins naturally go about the business of pairing up. It might be cold and forbidding but there is something about the Pole that makes those female penguins crazy for love. The film shows us not only their familiar courtship rituals but also their astonishing human expressions - from laughing to crying and smirking. Their one mission seems to be caring for their young, like overbearing parents with strict curfew rules. Indeed, penguins seem so much like us in their funny clothing and recognizable gestures that we might be inclined to invite them for dinner. Single file line-up for tickets starts at 6 pm and so don't miss out.
November 3 Lost Embrace / El Abrazo Partido (Argentina 2004) 99 min. Spanish,Korean,Lithuanian and Yiddish [IMAGE] Set in and around a shopping mall in Buenos Aires, this movie centres on Ariel, a young Jewish guy of Polish heritage who dreams of moving to Europe and eventually finding his father who lives in Israel. Ariel is the eyes and ears of the world of the city's funky underside, a world of small merchants, immigrants of all stripes, people who come together in small pockets to make a go of it in a foreign land. His mother runs a lingerie shop and he is determined not to inherit it, but how to escape? And is life any better somewhere else? Ariel could be anywhere immigrant populations struggle, joke, and kibitz, of course, but there is a lot of appeal in seeing a slice of Argentine life and listening to the rich polyphony of voices and languages. This is a modest film with deep charm and magic in its realism.
November 10 2046 (China/France/Germany/Hong Kong 2004) 129 min. Cantonese, Japanese and Mandarin with English subtitles. Rated R for sexual content. [IMAGE] If you remember the languorous rhythms of 'In the Mood for Love' you will look forward to 2046, Wong Kar-wai's latest sensual attraction. This Hong Kong filmmaker is now internationally acclaimed for his gorgeous productions and their sexy moods. 2046 takes his reputation over the top, as the film focuses on a weary writer, Chow, who fills his time making love to women in a four-digit numbered hotel room. This cheap summary really doesn't do justice to the sheer cinematic power of Wong Kar-wai's vision. Set over about three troubled Hong Kong years from 1966 on, the film traverses Chow's reveries and real-life encounters with a long lost love and a number of beautiful, intertwined characters who are always laughing or weeping in their private memories. 2046 is not a film for anyone who loses patience easily. In its textured surfaces and dreamy nods to the shadows of set design it shares something with the Hollywood 'thirties, but in its deliberate resistance to narrative and formal resolutions it is artfully avant garde and radical. It is, in short, highly original. Come see what all the fuss is about.
November 17 Grizzly Man (USA 2005) 103 min. [IMAGE] Anyone familiar with Herzog's famous obsessions with men who were driven by passion and almost perverse goals will appreciate this work. In Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, Wrath of God, Herzog gave cinema a unique form of narrative, one based on a curious blend of the factual/historical and the imaginary. You might say that with GRIZZLY he almost drops the fictional veneer completely, focusing instead on the real-life obsession of a real guy who paid, as Herzog's heroes always do, for his madness. Tim Treadwell thought he could dance with bears. He felt an almost pathological protectiveness, essentially moving in with them in their natural habitat in Alaska. You don't need to be able to hum the "Teddy Bear's Picnic" to know there is a lot of danger if you go out in the woods today, but Treadwell (and the young apprentice, Anne) refused to sing along. Treadwell was a failed actor who understood how to set up the camera and frame himself in its indifferent cold stare. Ironically, the camera whirred as he and Anne were eventually mauled and eaten by bears, a scene that Herzog spares us--at least visually. GRIZZLY is fascinating for this reason and for the sheer art of Herzog's editing, which distilled hundreds of hours of footage into an utterly fascinating portrait of a stunning landscape and man on a mission.
November 24 Thumbsucker (USA 2005) 96 min. [IMAGE] This lively film about late adolescent inner life was a big hit at this year's Sundance Festival, and the stellar hunky cast is only part of the reason. The thumb sucking lead is Justin Cobb (Pucci), a 17-yr-old with an excessive bout of self loathing stemming from feeling different. Parents are pretty well indifferent or out of it, and so Justin is left largely to his own imagination. His therapist easily labels him ADHD and his meds help to calm him down a bit, enough to allow him to start coping with his tendencies, including the digital activity indicated by the title. On his journey to self awareness Justin comes across various potential mentors, notably Vaughn and Reeves in two of the most comically memorable roles of the year. We've seen coming-of-age movies before, but THUMBSUCKER dares to play with metaphor while never taking itself too seriously. Pucci's performance is strong and fresh and shows as much promise as a Leonardo or a Keanu once did. Long may he prosper.
December 1 Water (Canada/India 2005) Hindi with English subtitles. [IMAGE] The third film in Mehta's controversial and acclaimed 'elemental trilogy,' after 'Fire' (96) and 'Earth' (98), WATER attempts to animate history, as it is set in the set in the 1930s during the rise of the independence struggles against British colonial rule. Mehta's analysis is typically filtered through personal politics, notably a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. One of the widows dares to escape the confining restrictions imposed on her by an unbending society. Being in love with a man who is from a lower caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi would be nothing short of scandalous, even dangerous. WATER opens the Toronto International Film festival this year, a courageous move by the programmers who might be risking controversy from segments of the Indian community but who also know a good thing when they see it.