Wednesday, September 26, 2007

viff07: you, the living

You, the Living ("Du levande")
Sweden, 2007, 92 min, 35mm
In Swedish with English subtitles

Directed By: Roy Andersson

Few working filmmakers can claim a style as distinctive as Sweden's Roy Andersson. In three features and numerous TV commercials, Andersson has developed an abstract aesthetic to present a deadpan view of existence as a petty chore that you've got to grit your teeth and bear, kind of like washing windows or doing the laundry by hand. Less of an apocalyptic burlesque than Songs from the Second Floor, the wryly surreal, You, the Living (titled after a quote from Goethe) presents a series of loosely connected set-pieces as only Andersson, a tableaux artist working in the medium of celluloid, can stage.

Filmed in wide shots from a single angle and in one take, these moments of existence include: a Monty Pythonesque dinner party; a house that moves like a train; the retelling of, pace Buñuel, a dream that transpired the night before (and includes a side-splitting magic trick gone wrong); and much, much more. The film's comic tone is buttressed by a whimsical use of music, whether it's a punk-rock guitarist, a Louisiana brass band, or a woman who periodically bursts out, "Nobody understands me!"

Completely filmed--and astoundingly so--in Andersson's Studio 14 in central Stockholm, and with a cast consisting of schlubs found on the street or at Ikea, You, the Living may be willfully trivial, but it's still the cult director's most optimistic work to date. Which still leaves Andersson as the most depressing Scandinavian alive, now that Bergman's dead.

SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR was chosen for the Arts & Faith selection of 100 Spiritually Significant Films. There's a brief blurb here, discussion of that film here, and Roger Ebert's 4-star reviewhere.

Friday, September 21, 2007

viff07: secret sunshine

High recommendation indeed from Darren Hughes. "Move Secret Sunshine to the top of your list. It was my second favorite film at TIFF, and it contains the most dead-on accurate portrayal of evangelical Christianity that I've seen on film. My friend, who as far as I know has never stepped inside a Christian church, commented afterwards that he was really moved by the film and appreciated the way the filmmaker criticized the church while remaining sympathetic to it. It's also just a really great film with two great performances."
Secret Sunshine (Miryang)
South Korea, 2007, 142 min, 35mm

Directed By: Lee Chang-Dong

Since making Oasis in 2002 Lee Chang-Dong has served for a couple of years as Korea’s Minister of Culture, and it’s interesting to speculate what bearing his experience of high office has had on Secret Sunshine, a devastating account of a woman’s mental turmoil. Lee Shin-Ae (played with scalding intensity by Jeon Do-Yeon: Best Actress, Cannes) moves to her husband’s home town Miryang--the name means “Secret Sunshine”-- after his death in a road accident. Estranged from most of her own family and her in-laws, she’s determined to make a fresh start. She sends her young son Jun to school and opens a piano academy, fending off romantic overtures from a car-workshop owner (Song Kang-Ho, The Host) and "spiritual" overtures from a local Christian group. Then tragedy strikes again and she falls to pieces; her life becomes a vortex of hatred and forgiveness, faith and nihilism, composure and hysteria.

The word “gripping” is always over-used in blurbs, but it’s the right one here. Lee (who won our Dragons & Tigers award with his debut feature Green Fish) enters his character’s world with unsparing vehemence, taking the viewer to the very heart of an emotional breakdown and a fragile recovery. Bresson and Buñuel would likely both have admired the extraordinary achievement.

And this, excerpted from the International Herald Tribune...
By Joan Dupont
May 23, 2007

CANNES: It is difficult to picture Lee Chang Dong, the director of "Secret Sunshine," going up the red carpet. Lee, who was minister of culture in Korea, is a shy person and surely the most discreet director at this festival.

His film, which is in competition, looks quiet too. "Secret Sunshine" opens on a fable: a gentle young widow, a piano teacher, goes to a small town with her child. It is her husband's hometown, and the early signs are promising: people seem welcoming, the pharmacist smiles at her, and her small son adapts to his new school. ... But things are not as they seem and her life takes a tragic turn.

"Secret Sunshine" is mysterious and terrifying. At times, it feels like a thriller, with surprising twists, but it has a hidden core. It is a story of faith, how it can enter a life, and how it can vanish.


Today, with only four films Lee stands out on the current scene, an intellectual who searches the hidden significance in ordinary lives. This is his originality, and what gives a sense of mystery to his films. ...

Lee shot in CinemaScope for the first time. "Most suspense movies aren't made in CinemaScope," he said, "but I thought it would be a good way to show the little things, the details in our daily life. I felt that CinemaScope could be a way of telling this story which is not just about what you see, but also touches on what is hidden. I tried to compose the scenes in such a way that you are not aware of the composition, only fluidity."

We are not so much in a state of suspense, as stunned by each turn of the story. "I think that audiences today know everything, so my goal is to do something unpredictable, to show them something they don't expect," he added.


There are evangelistic forces in Miryang and they get to work on the bereft woman. In no time, she is converted - but that is not the end of the story. In a densely written script, stories keep blossoming: some are unbearably sad, others funny.

"You see many crosses against the skyline of Korean cities," the director said. "There are many religions and sects. My family has a Confucian tradition so I had no religion, but my wife's family was Protestant, and I taught in a Protestant school."

Lee says that things that happened in his own life made him feel close to this story. "The woman's great despair touched me. She is in such pain, but in the end, she finds something inside herself.

"I think we keep living with faith because we need it. Even atheists believe in something - in something else. Yet, I didn't want to make a movie about faith, really, but a reflection on what goes on inside us. Cinema is a great tool, a way to talk about the invisible through the visible."

viff07: the man from london

France , Germany , Hungary, 2007, 135 min, 35mm

Directed By: Béla Tarr
PRODS: Christoph Hahnheiser, Paul Saadoun, Gábor Téni, Joachim von Vietinghoff, Miki Zachar
SCR: László Krasznahorkai, Béla Tarr
CAM: Fred Kelemen
ED: Ágnes Hranitzky
MUS: Mihály Vig
Cast: Miroslav Krobot, Tilda Swinton, János Derzsi, István Lénárt, Erika Bók

With The Man from London's gorgeously composed long takes, moody black-and-white cinematography, slow and determined (deterministic?) pace, and hypnotic score, it is obvious we are back in the hands of master Béla Tarr, the Hungarian who stunned serious cinemagoers around the world with Sátántangó in 1994, and then followed that up with the equally mesmerizing Werckmeister Harmonies in 2000. Here, he and regular collaborator László Krasznahorkai adapt a noirish novel from Georges Simenon about a seaside railway switchman who finds his life turned upside-down when he witnesses a murder, recovers a suitcase full of cash and then, rather unadvisedly, decides to keep it.

While Tarr is nominally engaged in a narrative--the eponymous man from London is a gangster who comes to find out what happened to his money--he is, as always, more concerned with the aesthetics of film form and the lack of spiritual values in a godless universe than he is with story. Shooting on the island of Corsica--which immensely contributes to the otherworldly feel of the film--and using cinematographer Fred Keleman, whose talent for capturing the darker shades of grey and black is unsurpassed, Tarr creates a timeless nightmare replete with his characteristic weathered faces, monologues and virtuoso set pieces. Perhaps an acquired taste for some, Tarr remains one of the few iconoclastic cinema visionaries, and for this, cinephiles should be grateful.

Darren Hughes, who saw the film at TIFF, writes; "The general consensus at the festival is that The Man from London is minor Tarr. I've been ambivalent about the other two films of his that I've seen, Damnation and Satantango. As the latter film proved, I will gladly sit for hours and hours and hours in front of his films. (Question of the day: Has any director in the history of cinema had a more distinct style?) The camera moves slowly, the actors speak slowly, the music churns slowly, and as a result "real" time is compressed. I couldn't believe, when The Man from London ended, that 135 minutes had passed. My qualms with Tarr have always concerned his view of the world, which is too misanthropic for my tastes. Which is probably why his latest film is my favorite of the three. I keep calling it a film noir that was left to simmer over low heat, reducing the genre to its fundamentals: man is trapped, man finds money, man attempts to escape fate. Friends look at me funny when I tell them how much I liked the protagonist, who in typical Tarr fashion has little to say. But in his own way, he's actually quite tender at times. (That I managed to use the word "tender" here is probably another reason for disappointment from the Tarr loyalists.) As usual, The Man from London is a joy to look at. His camera is still tracking for minutes at a time, and he's thrown in a couple new tricks. The 12-minute opener is a doozy. Also, Tarr stuck around for a Q&A and didn't bite off a single head. He was charming, actually, and really funny."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

VIFf07 news: dates, soul food films, others to watch for

Thu Sep 27 - Sun Oct 12

It happens pretty much every year. At first glance, not a lot that catches my eye. But the more I dig in and read, get familiar with the titles and notice reviews elsewhere, the more VIFF publishes about the films... The more films get added to my "That Looks Interesting" list. To the point where there's more than I can see.

Here's a rundown of the ones that are catching my eye, whether they've got Soul Food potential, or they look like just plain good films. Most exciting titles at the top of the list. Click on the underlined titles for more detail.

Sat6 19:00 PCP / Mon 8 21:30 G7 / Tue9 11:30 G3 (43)
Director Ermanno Olmi: "Every story must have a leading character who becomes an ideal example for us: man or woman, in love's passion or caught up in hatred. So whom should I talk about? Whom have I got to know, amongst the throng of historical Greats who have made their mark on my life? Is it too predictable to say Christ?"

Th27 16:30 PCP / Sat29 19:00 PCP / Thu4 10:30 G5 (pg 160)
Doc, Peter Chattaway recommendation. "A recalcitrant octogenarian clashes with the head nun of a Russian Orthodox sect after he donates his broken-down pile of a castle to them for use as a monastery."

Thu27 11:30 G3 / Sat29 18:20 G4 / Tue2 15:00 G1 (pg 139)
Swedish director Roy Andersson's follow-up to the off-kilter SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR.

Fri28 15:00 G1 / Sat29 19:00 G1 (pg 130)
Italy. "A young man gives up a life of privilege and choice to enter the carefully prescribed world of a Jesuit novitiate."

Mon1 11:00 G4 / Fri5 21:00 PCP (124)
Dir Bela Tarr: SATANTANGO, WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES. "Adapted noirish Georges Simenon novel about a seaside railway sweitchman who finds his life turned upside-down when he witnesses a murder and recovers a suitcase full of cash. More concerned with the aesthetics of film form and tha lack of spiritual values in a godless universe than he is with story."

Sat29 12:15 G6 / Tue2 15:30 G2 / Thu4 21:00 G4
Co-produced by Dardenne brothers, stars REQUIEM's Sandra Huller. "Barely-out-of-her-teens German mother does jail time and, when released, takes her children back, but soon returns to her old ways..." Euro-SHERRYBABY?

Thu27 21:45 G2 / Sun30 15:30 G2 (pg 171)
Documentary. "Five families, each with a gay member, struggle to reconcile their faith with their family."

Sun30, 16:30 PCP / Fri5, 21:00 G4 / Sun7 14:30 G3 (123)
Ageing swimming champion begins to lose her mind as an unexpected affair with a younger man disintegrates. "The sudden introduction of a metaphysical visitation in a winter forest vaults the film into unexpected territory, but director Rudolf Thome's precise construction makes this seem a natural part of Johann's reawakening."

Sat29 16:00 G7 / Sun30 21:30 G7 / Mon1 16:00 G7
"Woman moves to her husband's home town after his death in a road accident, determined to make a fresh start, fending off romantic overtures from a car-workshop owner and spiritual overtures from a local Christian group. Then tragedy strikes again and she falls to peiece, a vortex of hatred and forgiveness, faith and nihilism, composure and hysteria. Takes the viewer to the very heart of an emotional breakdown and fragile recovery: Bresson and Bunuel would have admired the achievement."

Wed3 10:30 G5 / Sun7 15:45 VCT / Tue9 19:00 G2 (136)
"Radical reinterpretation of the Saint-Saens opera, the Old Testament story of the struggle of the Israelites against the Philistines," set more or less in modern Palestine.

Fri5 13:00 G7 / Sat6 19:15 G2 / Tue9 10:00 G7 (167)
"The Agape Orphanage in South Africa is home to children whose parents have died of AIDS. Tragedy and triumph (the Agape Choir prepares for concernts in London), unsentimental tone, portraits of strong children in the face of a plague."

Thu27 10:30 G5 / Tue9 20:45 G5 / Wed10 13:30 G5 (pg 172)
Doc. "Four families attempt to rebuild their lives after the unholy devastation wrought by one Pastor Raimund Melz, a born-again German who survived the concentration camps."

Sun30 12:30 G2 / Fri5 18:00 G5 (181)
Doc. Kate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving rehearse "Hedda Gabler."

Fri28 13:00 G7 / Sun30 19:00 G7 (pg 166)
Apollo moonshot doc. CT Movies: "Rationality cannot illuminate what is a metaphysical voyage of discovery. In SHADOW's final moments, the moonwalkers' speech alters into something elegiac, whimsical and fundamentally spiritual..."

Romania. Cannes Palme d'Or, illegal abortion in the waning days of the Soviet Bloc.

Thu27 15:30 G2 / Sun30 13:15 VCT / Wed3 20:45 G2 (pg 172)
"A picture of a city in fragments, without intro, commentary or visual aid. Style much in accord with the norm for current Euro and Asian documaking, where polemics takes a back seat if it has a place at all."

Japan, director of SHALL WE DANCE? "Young man on a crowded Tokyo train is accused of groping a schoolgirl. Angry impassioned drama about the structural weaknesses and blatant hypocrisy of Japan's legal system."

Mon1 16:15 G6 / Tue9 19:00 G1 (p 123)
Germany. "Rohmer meets Bergman. Three generations of a family come together - and come apart - at their vacation home."

Sun7 19:00 RID / Thu11 12:30 G2 (p 107)
Canadian update of Shakespeare's "Shrew."

Several other films look swell, but are very likely for wide release before too long. They include;
ATONEMENT (Kiera Knightly in lavish literary adaptation)
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD (Sidney Lumet, Philip Symour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke)
THE DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY (Anon: "Ohmygod... Beautiful cinema from a very very mean little man...")
GO GO TALES (Abel Ferrara)
MY KID COULD PAINT THAT (Doc about art prodigy)
PERSEPOLIS (Graphic novel about punk kid in Iran)
REDACTED (Brian De Palma's brutal take on American savagery in Iraq)

viff07: in the shadow of the moon

Fri28 13:00 G7 / Sun30 19:00 G7 (166)
UK, 2006, 100 min, 35mm

An exhaustive troll through the archives on the part of director David Sington and his team has resulted in this amazing documentary about that special period between 1968 and 1972, when the eyes of the world were on NASA's space program and its Apollo moonshots. Featuring archival film literally "scratched with moon dust" (in the words of the director) and interviews with surviving astronauts from the period--all of whom come across as eloquent, wise, funny and all too human-- makes this a must-see for all interested in history, space travel or the larger questions about the quest for humankind to go beyond the limits of endurance and physical boundaries.

"The excitement, majesty and extraordinary human accomplishment of the American lunar program of the 60s and early 70s is rousingly captured in In the Shadow of the Moon. Deftly mixing a treasure trove of archival footage with engaging commentaries of surviving astronauts from all nine Apollo moonshots, this British production will bring it all back for those with first-hand memories of the time, while providing a stimulating primer for younger generations... [T]echnically, the film possesses a visual and audio vibrancy that allows it to play well today. Producers went back to the original NASA film cans, found some material never used before and remastered everything, meaning that the mostly colour footage looks as good as new..."--Todd McCarthy, Variety

Christianity Today Movies was, well, over the moon, giving the space-jockey saga the full four stars;
"For all their courage and scientific acumen, the astronauts of Apollo fumble with and in due course abandon using technical jargon to describe their other-worldly experiences. Ultimately, rationality cannot illuminate what is a metaphysical voyage of discovery. So it should come as no surprise that, in Shadow's final moments, the moonwalkers' speech alters into something far more elegiac, whimsical and fundamentally spiritual. They are the first to say that they are nothing special—blessed men who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But to a man, they have been changed. They exude a modest, philosophical side that comes, one assumes, from having left our world and viewed it, in all of its fragility, from afar.

Some speak of our connectedness to the universe, others the need to protect and cherish the environment. Several of the astronauts describe a categorical belief in God and his sacred, creative hand in fashioning the cosmos. Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William Anders, aboard Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968, transmit a message in what was the most watched television broadcast to date: "For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … '" Charlie Duke recounts returning to Earth after his mission, attending Bible studies and soon after giving his life over to Christ. "My walk on the moon lasted three days," he says, "My walk with God will last forever."

British director David Sington has crafted an awe-inspiring film suffused with reverence and wonder. In the Shadow of the Moon is one of those rare films with the power to coax tears and goosebumps from even the most jaded viewer. Its scope is so grand, it subject so inspirational, that audiences can't help but leave the theater staggered by the monumental human achievement it recounts.

NOW PLAYING: Big & Small Screens

Soul Food and other notable movies currently onscreen in Vancouver, plus recent arrivals at the video shops
Updated Sep 20 2007

Big Screen
Genius Julie Taymor’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is outasight, an eye-candy musical that uses Beatle songs, musical theatre style, to tell a love story set against the backdrop of the late Sixties: I wish it had gone darker (I'm thinking TITUS, here), and must admit some of it’s a bit too “on the nose,” but it's wildly creative, and I'll take anything Julie dishes out.

THIS IS ENGLAND is really something, autobiographically inspired, 1983 setting, about a 12 year old working class English boy who falls in with a gang of skinheads after his dad's killed in the Falklands: you'll be on edge, and yes there's some violence that's tough to watch - not so much because it's grisly or gratuitous, but because you believe it, and it happens among characters you care about - but it's loaded with brilliant unexpected turns, heart-breakingly true characters.

3:10 TO YUMA riffs on all the classic western motifs, has strong performances, is shot full of Bible quoting, prayers, and crosses on sixgun handles, but goes wildly stupid in its final half hour: how come bad guys who never miss can't land a single shot once they're within range of the closing credits? Darn, that bugs me. And let's just say the psychology of that home stretch is, well, a stretch. Rent UNFORGIVEN or OPEN RANGE or THE BIG COUNTRY instead, or maybe even SHANE.

Still in Vancouver theatres, some say RATATOUILLE was the best movie of the summer. Whattya know, WAITRESS is at the Hollywood this week. And heck, even THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM roused enthusiasm at Christianity Today with its soul searching battle between cycles of vengeance and the hope of new beginnings – in among plenty of murders, people crashing through windows and only-in-the-movies car chases (Manhattan cabbies can’t get across town that fast!).

I’m making plans to see the new Cronenberg, EASTERN PROMISES, which is getting raved.


THE CAMDEN 28 is brand new at Videomatica, a documentary study of Catholic priests and lay people who protested the Vietnam war. Also at the Videomat and featuring significant Soul Food interest are summer arrivals IVAN’S CHILDHOOD (Tarkovsky), FAY GRIM (Hartley), MANON OF THE SPRING / JEAN DE FLORETTE, and Set 2 of the PBS FATHER BROWN series.

BLACK SNAKE MOAN, AFTER THE WEDDING, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, AWAY FROM HER, PERFUME (Tykwer) and WE ARE MARSHALL all reached the shelves of our local neighbourhood video stores since summer began, and all have Soul Food content of one sort or another, to one degree or another. Also notable (if not particularly, um, religious) are TAXI DRIVER, the under-celebrated CARLITO’S WAY, and ZODIAC – shaping up to be one of the top films of the year, from SEVEN / THE GAME / FIGHT CLUB director David Fincher, it puts less emphasis on the serial murders than on what happens to the cops and journos who investigate them.

COMING SOON: Big & Small Screens

Soul Food(ish) and other notable films on their way (sooner or later) to your local cine 'matheque or 'plex, or your very own living room!
Updated Sep 20 2007

Of course the Vancouver International Film Festival is coming soon (Sep 27 – Oct 12), and I’m finding more and more to get excited about there. The Fest has its own Soul Food post, but I’ll just say I’m hungriest for ONE HUNDRED NAILS (the final film from Ermanno Olmi?), THE MONASTERY: MR VIG & THE NUN, Bela Tarr’s THE MAN FROM LONDON, the Dardenne-produced MADONNAS, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO and YOU, THE LIVING, by the director of the ultra-odd SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR.

Apart from the VIFF, here are films I’m glad we’ll get to see before too long...
THE DARJEELING LIMITED (Sep 29 wide release)
ADAM’S APPLES (dvd release Oct 2007)
BLADE RUNNER: Final Cut (Oct 5 limited release, Dec 18 dvd)
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Nov 9 limited release, Nov 21 wide)

And no word about when Vancouverites will get to see the following but, like the truth, they’re out there somewhere, and Soul Food is on the case!
THE TEN (limited release Aug 3)
SEPTEMBER DAWN (limited release Aug 24)



Blackest possible, utterly droll Scandanavian comedy either taunts or exults in the folly of the Christian faith, might even be my favorite film this year. Available from Film Movement in October!

Oct 5: LA/NY Limited Release
Dec 18: Fancy schmancy DVD box sets
Lots of hoohaw over the years about the various edits of this film. Ignoring the detail, let it be said there’s much excitement among BLADE RUNNER fans over a special limited release big screen run and follow-up DVD package of the new “Final Cut” of this eighties sci fi landmark, which is loaded with God Stuff. I personally don’t find the religious bits compelling in this one, but many do, and what I do love is the kinetic cyber-punk-meets-Raymond-Chandler milieu – great looking, great energy.

Film Movement launches big screen distribution with this Norwegian film that’s caught my interest. “Forty-year-old Andreas arrives in a strange city with no memory of how he got there. He is presented with a job, an apartment - even a wife. But before long, Andreas notices that something is wrong. Andreas makes an attempt to escape the city, but he discovers there's no way out. Andreas meets Hugo, who has found a crack in a wall in his cellar. Beautiful music streams out from the crack. Maybe it leads to "the other side"? A new plan for escape is hatched.” No Canadian showings yet, nor dates for DVD, but I’ll let you know when anything materializes.

Doug Cummings: "Ron, you simply have to see DARATT (DRY SEASON) if it comes your way. Think of it as a Chadian LE FILS ... The one film I saw at the Los Angeles Film Festival this week I would unequivocally recommend to everyone here is a film from Chad called "Daratt" ("Dry Season"). It won the Jury Prize at Venice last year, and it's part of the excellent New Crowned Hope series commissioned for Mozart's 250th anniversary. Building off the theme of vengeance and forgiveness in the composer's "La clemenza di Tito," the film is set immediately after the civil war when official amnesty was declared...taking the law into his own hands, an elderly man who lost his son in the war asks his grandson to avenge his death, and the determined teenager travels to a nearby village to assassinate the murderer. As the boy is devising his plan, the murderer--now a 60 year old baker--offers him a job.
“I don't want to say more, because this is a highly nuanced story that focuses on this strangely volatile, yet potentially positive relationship, and its myriad details and tensions in a way that is highly reminiscent (and I say that complimentary-wise) of the Dardenne's "The Son." The filmmaker, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, has said he was inspired by Mozart's violin concertos to make a make a film that evoked their minimalist power, resulting in a film with strong visual rhythms, a highly observant camera, and terrifically underplayed, simmering performances. I loved it."

Sep 29: Wide release
Wes Anderson’s new one opened the New York Film Festival: “As exquisitely poignant and emotionally nuanced as movies get. One year after the accidental death of their father, three estranged brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Anderson-newcomer Adrien Brody) board the Darjeeling Limited train and travel across India on a self-proclaimed spiritual journey. They make all the appropriate stops along the way but their jealous (often hilarious) bickering and one-upmanship displace any possibility of enlightenment. And then, something happens. Anderson is, as always, surprising, prodigiously inventive, and utterly masterful in his daring modulation of tones and emotions. He has achieved something quite magical and astonishing here: a grand pageant, a vibrant portrait of a place and a people, a quietly intricate look at sibling love and rivalry. Above all, a Wes Anderson film—and a great one at that.”

The Coens return to non-goofy territory with another study of crime and consequence, which was a Centrepiece film at the New York Film Festival: “The Coen Brothers’ magisterial adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s laconic, haunting story of a Texas drug deal gone bad, with brilliant performances from Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones.”

Hollywood Reporter: "A love story set against the 19th century massacre of a wagon train of settlers in Utah at the hands of a renegade Mormon group. Voight plays the leader of the renegade Mormon faction, while Davidovich is a member of the wagon train who stands up to Voight's threats." Check the Soul Food post for excerpts from (and links to) responses from Mark Moring and Peter Chattaway.

Sep 26, Fifth Avenue
Fictionalized account of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, head of the U.N. mission to Rwanda who watched, nearly helpless, as that country’s terrible genocide took place. A committed Catholic Christian, Dallaire was later asked if he believed in the devil: “Of course. I shook his hand.”

Wow. Not for the faithful who are filmically faint of heart, director Carlos Reygada is fascinated with both Christianity and sex. (I mean, lots of us are, but we don’t necessarily put them both in the same movie. Which presents problems for some.) His third picture is set among old order Mennonites in northern Mexico. NYFF: “The world’s first talking picture in the medieval German dialect called Plautdietsch. SILENT LIGHT is set in Northern Mexico’s ascetic, self-contained Mennonite community and cast almost entirely with Mennonite non-actors. Building in emotional intensity, this elemental tale of love and betrayal is at once an ethnographic documentary and a quasi-remake of Carl-Theodore Dreyer’s Ordet. Reygadas too makes spirituality seem material, not least in the extraordinary, wide-screen landscape shots that bracket the action. With this, his third feature, he has secured a place in the forefront of contemporary film artists.” I had hoped it would be at the VIFF, but alas.

Aug 3: Limited release
An episodic comedy, ten short pieces each riffing on one of the commandments. Not exactly Kieslowski or deMille, but it could be funny. Tagline, “If He'd meant the commandments literally, He'd have written them in stone.” Cute. The trailer features way too many body part gags – is this for grade eights or grown-ups? - but I still reckon I’ll give it a try if it ever opens in Vancouver. (Even if I never see it, I’m glad it was made, if only for this headline at Christianity Today: “Christian ventriloquists say no to THE TEN.” Linking to this at the New York Times:
The Kid Quits the Picture
July 29, 2007, Sunday
by Allen Salkin

CLAPPY'S people decided to pass. After seeing a synopsis of a film script for ''The Ten,'' a comedy based on the Ten Commandments, they decided the part he was up for was not right for him. They did not think Clappy ought to appear in a sex scene...”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the killer

THE KILLER (1989, Hong Kong, John Woo)

Cinematheque: What would a series on Hong Kong filmmaking be without John Woo? The Killer is perhaps his most demented, over-the-top, action packed epic, with, of course, Chow Yun-Fat as a contract killer who accidentally blinds a nightclub singer, then takes one last job to pay for her cornea transplant. Much mayhem ensues.

SO what, you may be asking, what is this movie doing in a soul food blog? Good question. I’m glad you asked. (There are no stupid questions. Only stupid people.)

At least one John Woo fan (and make no mistake, his fans are fans) figures there’s more to JW than meets the eye: Michael Bliss is sure enough about that to have made a book out of his idea: “Between The Bullets: The Spiritual Cinema of John Woo” (Filmmakers series, No. 92, Scarecrow Press). Jacket blurb: “John Woo is widely regarded as a master action director, but sacant attention has been paid to the manner in which Woo’s films reflect the directo’s religious and ethical concerns. BTB examines representative films from the director’s Hong Kong and American periods and proposes that Woo be regarded as a predominantly religious director whose action films explore the nature and quality of spirituality.” Sound like a stretch? Some jottings...
Based on Jean-Pierre Melville’s LE SAMOURAI... Disdain for materialism and ethical corruption... Sacrifice leads to regeneration... Woo does not distinguish between secular and religious regeneration. Like (Flannery) O’Connor, Woo uses the material world to convey his spiritual and religious themes... For Woo, the hero’s quest is the search for a region in which integrity, trust and friendship can flourish... Male relationships must be tempered with female elements if male violence is to be productive... Churches, literal and figurative, sit at the films’ moral center... churches often struggling to survive... One major difference between Woo’s film and Melville’s is that Woo allows for the possibility that people can change, and that with change can come redemption... For the central character, the church is not a place of religious salvation but of secular respite from the anxieties of his profession. He’s there at the film’s beginning when Sydney arrives with details of JOhn’s latest assignment; and John returns to the church for what becomes the film’s final shootout. Indeed, the shape of THE KILLER’s plot makes it plain that the return to the church (both in terms of a physical return and a coming back to its potential for spiritual change) is virtually inevitable... In THE KILLER’s opening shot, Sydnye enters the church in slow motion. After sitting down and looking around, Sydney asks John if he believes in what the church stands for. John replies, “No, but I like the peacefulness here.” The remark veers away from religion, something that John nonetheless believes in if we are to judge from the horrified look on his face in a later scerne when one of Weng’s gunmen blows up a statue of the Virgin Mary... Innocence is a figurative blindness that people who live in a dangerous world cannot afford... A choice between two realms must be made... (WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON) Woo suggests that having lived so long among the damned, John has himself become damned and that – in the only example of such a trope in any Woo film – he has become a person who is incapable of redeeming not only himself but someone else... “Easy to pick up, hard to put down”... Woo’s films don’t flinch from showing us the depths to which individuals, even well-intentioned ones such as Sydney, can fall; if they didn’t, the films would not also be able to plausibly represent the heights to which great actions of sacrifice, courage and forgiveness can take us... At the final shootout, the film’s manifold meanings converge. Johnny Weng, his hitman and a gang of thugs storm the church in which John, Jenny and Li are holed up. People and objects associated with religious devotion are destroyed... The values that the church represents are under siege as a result of the actions of the men who are assaulting the physical church. Woo implies that what is needed is a rebuilding of the church symbolic, a necessary response to the constant onslaughts that the kingdom of heaven suffers at the hands of the violent, who attempt to bear it away... For Woo, sacrifice alone is sometimes not enough. One must often do more than merely hazard one’s life for a friend or lover; one must also remain true to one’s world... Yet we can regard THE KILLER’s ending as less despairing than it might at first appear if we focus not on John’s death but on his attempt to rise to the demands of the church within himself, which symbolizes the best values to which humans aspire: love, faith, trust, friendship. At its end, THE KILLER suggests that evil can be vanquished, duplicitous associates can redeem themselves, and assassins and policemen can help each other find some form of redemption – that is, if people keep their eyes on the ethical path and divert their gaze from the dragon and vengeance and betrayal who sits idly by, waiting, and hoping, for them to fail....

It is incumbent upon directors such as Scorsese and Woo to make their films' violence unpalatable, and to make their attitude toward it quite clear. Virtually all of Woo's films contain cues intended to achieve this end; predominantly, these cues take the form of religious motifs suggesting redemption and grace, which are meant to counterbalance the films' violence. Woo also includes in his films scenes involving honor, trust, ad family, whih throw in to relief the absence of these qualities in characters (e.g. triads) allied by choice, rather than by occupation (e.g. police), with a world of violence. (27/28)

Violence in Woo's films takes two forms: nihilistic violence and spiritual/religious violence. Nihilistic violence occurs in the context of acts carried out solely for the sake of destruction; these acts are committed by characters who fall outside the pale of religion and ethics. Johnny Wong (HARD-BOILED) is the classic example of such a character, a man without sruples of any kind. (31)

The other type of violence in Woo's films, spiritual/religious violence, effects a vivifying change either in its perpetrators or participants. The violence that leads to Tony's death toward HARD-BOILED's end makes possible Johnny Wong's destruction, which otherwise, given the scene's Mexican standoff, might very well have been impossible. ... The last image of Tony on his boat, though, is bathed in a vague white light, which quite possibly symbolizes death. Although it is unclear if an actual resurrection has taken place, the violence involved in Tony's sacrificial act elevates it to a spiritual dimension. In this case, sacrifice leads to regeneration. Similar kinds of sacrifice are performed by HARD-BOILED's Chang and THE KILLER's Sydney. Interestingly, Woo does not distinguish between secular and religious regeneration. Like O'Connor, Woo uses the material world to convey his spiritual and religious themes. Indeed, both authors, who emply what Mircea Eliade refers to as "hierophanies" (material elements that suggest the immaterial realm), could be said to delight in the material sphere, since it is filled with ever-present manifestations of the spiritual. In O'Connor and Woo's stories, one does not disdain the body; one cherishes it as the vessel that allows us passage into the heavenly realm of religion. To appreciate O'Connor and Woo's texts, which are, to appropriate poet Gerard Manley Hopkins' words, "charged with the grandeur of God," we must maintain at all times a dual vision. It's not surprising that there are a significant number of baptisms in Woo's films. ...(33/34)

in certain respects, BULLET IN THE HEAD is the most religious of Woo's films, not only because it contains more religious references (the opening dance number in a Christian school gymnasium, th emany Christian citations in the Vietnam sequences, the rescue of one of the main characters by some monks). The film complements this focus by investigating the manner in which love and devotion function in one's life, and situates these values in a political context. (63)

There is forgiveness for spiritual errors as long as one is on the path to righteousness.... Woo's Christianity: original sin doesn't characterize each person's life so much as the theings that they do, which taken in sum contribute to a kind of spiritual balance sheet. (79)

(In FACE/OFF), Woo has the penultimate face-off between Sean and Catro take place in a seaside chapel during a funeral service, where all the film's major characters converge. In this scene, Woo intentionally exaggerates some of the religious effects from his Hong Kong films. There are repeated slow-motion shots of flying pigeons, a blatant cross-cut to a shot of Castor in a crucifixion pose. When Castor enters the chapel, his derisive comment about the figurative nature of this final confrontation ("Isn't this symbolic? The ultimate meeting between good and evil.") signals Woo's good-humoured distance from wht some critics had considered his overbearing religious representations. (95)

I'll also note that THE KILLER is included in Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - a bit of extra cred.

1001 movies you must see before you die

I finally broke down and bought this one. Big, fat, glossy, well-written, lots of pictures. Lots of movies I'm interested in. Edited by Steven Jay Schneider, published by Barrons, and with a picture of me on the cover.

And of course, one good list deserves another. Here are the movies featured in the book that have a decent shot at winding up in my book, "500 Soul Food Movies: A Guide to Films with a Spiritual Flavour." The ones in bold are shoe-ins.

Intolerance (1916)
Metropolis (1927)
Sunrise (1927)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
M (1931)
The Awful Truth (1937)
Jezebel (1938)
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Sergeant York (1941)
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Cat People (1942)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
Open City (1945)
Paisan (1946)
Black Narcissus (1946)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Diary of a Country Priest (1951)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Ikiru (1952)
Europa '51 (1952)
High Noon (1952)
Tokyo Story (1953)
Voyage in Italy (1953)
Ugetsu (1953)
Shane (1953)
On the Waterfront (1954)
La Strada (1954)
Sansho the Baliff (1954)
Pather Panchali (1955)
Ordet (1955)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
A Man Escaped (1956)
The Wrong Man (1956)
The Ten Commandments (1956)
12 Angry Men (1957)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
The Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Aparajito (1957)
Vertigo (1958)
The World of Apu (1959)
Ben-Hur (1959)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Viridiana (1961)
Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
Dog Star Man (1962)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Birds (1963)
Winter Light (1963)
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Au Hazard Balthazar (1966)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
My Night at Maud's (1969)
Andrei Rublev (1969)
The Sorrow and the Pity (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Solaris (1972)
The Godfather (1972)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Exorcist (1973)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Star Wars (1977)
The Last Wave (1977)
The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
Days of Heaven (1978)
Stalker (1979)
All That Jazz (1979)
Being There (1979)
Life of Brian (1979)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Blade Runner (1982)
Gandhi (1982)
The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982)
Koyaanisqatsi (1983)
Amadeus (1984)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Wings of Desire (1987)
Babette's Feast (1987)
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
The Decalogue (1988)
Alice (1988)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
The Killer (1989)
Glory (1989)
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
King of New York (1990)
Close-Up (1990)
The Rapture (1991)
The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
Unforgiven (1992)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Schindler's List (1993)
Blue (1993)
Red (1994)
Forrest Gump (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Clueless (1995)
Seven (1995)
Smoke (1995)
Fargo (1996)
Secrets and Lies (1996)
Breaking the Waves (1996)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Taste of Cherry (1997)
Open Your Eyes (1997)
The Celebration (1998)
Run Lola Run (1998)
Pi (1998)
Magnolia (1999)
Beau Travail (1999)
Rosetta (1999)
The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)
Fight Club (1999)
American Beauty (1999)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Matrix (1999)
Kippur (2000)
Yi Yi (2000)
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Amelie (2001)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Russian Ark (2002)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

viff07: the monastery: mr vig & the nun

Veiled hints from PTC that this is one to see...
The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun
Denmark, 2006, 84 min, DigiBeta
In Danish/English/Russian with English subtitles

Directed By: Pernille Rose Grønkjær
Official site

Jørgen Lauersen Vig, an elderly, deeply eccentric, never-married Dane, lives alone in dilapidated Hesbjerg Castle. It’s his life’s ambition to donate it to the Russian Orthodox Church. When the Patriarchate agrees to send a team to suss out the situation, it seems as if his dream may come true. However, he meets a stumbling block in iron-willed Sister Ambrosija, a young and remarkably attractive nun who arrives with a small entourage and her own plans about how to whip the crumbling manse into shape. Eventually, the two unlikely colleagues find companionship and common ground.

Shot over a period of years, director Pernille Rose Grønkjær’s affectionately crafted documentary doesn’t hide Vig’s foibles, nor does it make him a figure of fun. Once a parish priest and then a university librarian, Vig holds some peculiar views on life, love and religion that he enjoys sharing when he’s not asking the filmmakers for help with chores. He wants to set up a monastery because he wants to make something enduring. Turning the tables on the director, he asks wouldn’t she like a film that went down in history? It may not be in the record books yet, but Monastery won the prestigious Joris Ivens Award at Amsterdam’s International Documentary Festival as well as the Sundance World Documentary prize.

viff07: one hundred nails

Ermanno Olmi is the great overlooked Christian auteur, his films even harder to track down than Rossellini's (which reminds me: an Olmi retrospective is certainly in order). He's an Italian director most famous for THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS. I've only seen CAMMINA, CAMMINA, which uses non-professional actors (European auteurs love that) to tell the story of a bunch of peasants going on a long journey which turns out to be the journey of the magi to see the infant Jesus. GENESIS: CREATION AND FLOOD is supposed to be very interesting, another explicitly Christian film, and THE SECRET OF THE OLD WOODS is reputed to be a very significant work, Loren Wilkinson through and through. Now 76 years old, he's claimed that ONE HUNDRED NAILS is his last feature film. I figure Bresson, Dreyer, Tarkovsky, Rossellini are all dead: he's not of their mythic stature, to be sure, but highly regarded. I wanted to see SINGING BEHIND SCREENS, but it never did play here, far as I could tell: so this is a rare opportunity, however flawed the film might in fact turn out to be. (And don't get too worked up about the Da Vinci Code reference the blurb-writer trots out: there is simply no way this film by a man of the faith, an internationally renowned artist, will bear any real resemblance to the inanities we shall not mention again.)
One Hundred Nails
Italy, 92m
Sat6 19:00 PCP / Mon 8 21:30 G7 / Tue9 11:30 G3 (pg. 43)

In what he has vowed to be his last narrative feature, Ermanno Olmi goes out hammering. When One Hundred Nails begins, a librarian at the University of Bologna makes a shocking discovery: one hundred ancient volumes from the library's storied collection have been laid to waste, nailed to the floor and torn into pieces. All signs lead to an odd culprit--a young, well established university professor, lecturer of philosophy, who has vanished into thin air, leaving people to believe he has committed suicide after his crime. Actually, he has taken refuge in an old ruin on the banks of the Po river, where he enters into contact with the inhabitants of a nearby town, and is greeted as a sort of reincarnation of Christ. In turn, the professor learns to appreciate and love a simple life in contact with nature. But when the professor volunteers to pay a fine levied on the community for presumed unauthorized constructions on the Po, the Carabinieri find him out... Echoes of The Da Vinci Code abound in Olmi's last testament, which harkens back to some of his earliest work in its simplicity and divinity.

"Every story must have a leading character who becomes an ideal example for us: man or woman, in love's passion or caught up in hatred… So, WHOM should I talk about? WHOM have I got to know, amongst the throng of historical Greats who have made their mark on my life?…Is it too predictable to say Christ?"--Ermanno Olmi

Darren Hughes, who saw the film at TIFF, has this to say; "One Hundred Nails worked for me only in a few scenes. I think it's flawed conceptually."

And this from Doug Cummings; "Olmi's new film is certainly not as good as his last two films, "The Profession of Arms" and "Singing Behind Screens" (to say nothing of his illustrious career) but it is quite interesting as an auteurist work in the way it handles its themes of humanity vs. religion, and nature as a kind of Eden, as well as its relaxed tone, earthy humor, and excellent use of nonprofessionals."

viff07: samson and delilah

Samson and Delilah
Netherlands, 2007, 100 min, Sony HD Cam
International Premiere

Directed By: Corina van Eijk
MUS: Saint-Saëns
Cast: Charles Alves da Cruz, Klara Uleman, Peter Michailov, Murad Amirkhanian, Vincent Le Texier

This radical reinterpretation of the celebrated Saint-Saëns' opera is a splendid example of cinema offering many things that the stage cannot. Ingenious ideas abound, from the political sparks of the contemporary setting to the sensational use of the simplest of décor to the very entertaining use the singers make of the freedom cinema allows for facial expression.

Billed as “a brazen and lascivious film version about war and love and the whole range of human weaknesses they entail,” the film lets you know you're in for something different right from the start. The setting is Gaza in Palestine, and the soldiers wear uniforms that are very like those worn in today’s Middle East. This is, of course, an Old Testament story of the struggle of the Israelites against the Philistines, and the effectiveness of the glorious score comes not only from its French melodies, but also from its successful Orientalist use of Hebrew chants and tonalities.

Samson may be a hero to his people and a noble soul, but he's a sucker for a pretty face and when Delilah and her handmaidens (bedecked in outfits that would make Cher proud) come calling, Samson (the mellifluously hunky Charles Alves da Cruz) quickly throws off his prayer shawl. Klara Uleman is unforgettable in her steamy turn as the carnally inclined temptress who tricks the strong man into a haircut.

Since 1989, Opera Spanga has been producing opera and opera films in its own idiosyncratic way in the hamlet of Spanga (Friesland) under the direction of Corina van Eijk. World premiered on stage only this summer, their production of Samson and Delilah has now begun its tour on the silver screen. Bravo!!!

viff07: we are together

We Are Together
UK, 2006, 86 min, Digibeta(PAL)
In English, Zulu with English subtitles

Directed By: Paul Taylor
Official site

The Agape Orphanage in South Africa is home to children whose parents have died of AIDS. Director Paul Taylor first met 12-year-old Slindile Moya and her brothers and sister, when he volunteered at the orphanage. Over the next three years, Taylor filmed the Moya family as they coped with tragedy (an older brother is diagnosed with AIDS, and the orphanage almost burns to the ground) and triumph (the Agape Choir prepares for a series of concerts in London). Music and family are the twin cornerstones of the children's lives, and in some fashion they are the same thing, or as Slindile says, "Singing makes me think of home, because that was where I learned to sing." Scenes of the choir rehearsing are juxtaposed with those of the Moya children visiting their parents' graves, but despite the almost unbearable sadness of the subject, Taylor's film never strays into easy sentiment, partly because the children's determination and resiliency outshine even the most despairing of circumstances.

Winner of Audience Awards and Special Jury Prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Amnesty International Film Festival, and the One World International Film Festival, the film is partnered with Bono's One Organization, which fights AIDS and extreme poverty, and with Keep A Child Alive. "Paul Taylor's film stands above others in the field for its unsentimental tone and its portraits of strong children in the face of a plague."--Screen International

Monday, September 03, 2007

viff07: in memory of myself

In Memory of Myself
Italy, 118m

Friday, Sep 28th 3:00pm
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 1

Saturday, Sep 29th 7:00pm
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 1

Italian director Saverio Costanzo's sophomore feature is a world away from the domestic interior of the Palestinian household of his award-winning film Private. The title refers to the erasure of self that occurs when you surrender your individual identity to the greater reality of God. This is the act contemplated by a young man named Andrea, who gives up a life of privilege and choice to enter the carefully prescribed world of a Jesuit noviate. At first glance, Andrea doesn't look like someone who would devote his life to spiritual pursuits, he's young, good-looking and in the midst of a profound crisis of faith, not with God, but with the rest of the world. In the cloistered quiet of the religious order, overseen by the rather severe Father Superior (André Hennicke), the process of becoming a man of God is undertaken one step at a time. It is not an easy journey. Like Andrea, the other novitiates are actively searching for communion and a sense of belonging in an increasingly fragmented and confusing world.

Costanzo is filmmaker unafraid of tackling larger issues, and here he gives the great philosophical questions time and space to resonate. This gravity of purpose is helped along by truly beautiful cinematography. Filmed entirely on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, the seminary with its vast arches and long hallways combines sound and image to stunning effect. "In Memory of Myself bursts with powerful originality and some very deep thinking on screen, along with a tense, involving atmosphere."--Variety

Indiewire: "The compositions have a frieze-like symmetry; the soundtrack is all hymnal swells and echoing footfalls. Evocative and mysterious, the film is also a triumph of functional design..."

Darren Hughes, who saw the film at TIFF, calls the film "one of the strangest films I've seen in quite some time. ... I've gotten in the habit of describing Saverio Costanzo's In Memory of Myself as a genre film, a suspense thriller in which the central, driving mystery is faith. It might be strangest film I've seen all week, with shades of Kubrick and Dreyer and a formal rigor I wasn't expecting and have yet to fully process. I honestly don't know if it's a good film but I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm reserving all judgment until after a second viewing, which I hope comes sooner rather than later."

viff07: join us

Join Us
USA, 93m
International Premiere
Official site

Thursday, Sep 27th 10:30am
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 5

Tuesday, Oct 9th 8:45pm
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 5

Wednesday, Oct 10th 1:30pm
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 5

Directed By: Ondi Timoner
PRODS: Ondi Timoner, Vasco Lucas Nunes, Jared Tobman
SCR/CAM: Ondi Timoner
ED: Tim Rush, Ondi Timoner
MUS: Richie Kulchar
It's not that much of a jump from rock stars to cult leaders as Ondi Timoner's (Dig!) new film demonstrates. Timoner follows four families who are attempting to rebuild their lives after the unholy devastation wrought by one Pastor Raimund Melz, and his Mountain Rock Church. Pastor Raimund, a born-again German who survived the concentration camps, founded his Church on a program of ironclad obedience and near constant attention to the wages of sin. Total financial dependence, along with the literal application of "spare the rod spoil the child," helped to further cement his church's congregation. According to the pastor's wife Deborah there is a correct way to hit your kids: brutally. Some of the children in the church were beaten so badly their clothes had to be peeled off them after they scabbed onto their bodies.

With unprecedented and intimate access, Timoner uncovers how seemingly reasonable people can be convinced that beating a child as young as three months is a Christian act. As the families attempt to mount a legal case against Melz, they encounter an entirely new source of problems. According to one of the counsellors interviewed in the film, there are approximately 10-15 million cult members in the US, most of them belonging to small tax-exempt churches, which operate freely outside federal jurisdiction. Join Us! features candid interviews with Pastor Raimund himself and his wife, but even more remarkably, the film dares to suggest that many born-again churches operate on similar strategies of control, submission and legalized theft.

viff07: for the bible tells me so

For The Bible Tells Me So
USA 95m

Thursday, Sep 27th 9:45pm
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 2

Sunday, Sep 30th 3:30pm
Empire Granville 7 Theatre 2

Directed By: Daniel Karslake

What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality? The term "abomination" is bandied about, but since the same word is used in connection with eating shellfish or masturbation, that might not be as dire as it first sounds. The hermeneutics of hate are given a precise translation in director Daniel Karslake's look at how a literal reading of the bible has been the justification for centuries of persecution, violence and hatred.

Karslake follows five different families, each with a gay member, as they struggle to reconcile their faith with their family, a process as enlightening and provocative as it is heartbreakingly funny. "We thought she was… a good athlete," says one set of parents about their lesbian daughter. Featuring interviews with Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes and Rabbi Steve Greenburg (one of the few openly gay Orthodox Rabbis), one of the most engaging ideas uncovered is the power of language to shape cultural values and cause untold human misery and suffering. In the days of the Reverend Ted Haggard, and Catholic Church sex scandals, the hypocrisy of perpetuating anti-gay rhetoric may seem almost an antiquated notion, but as evangelical elements continue to infiltrate the American government, the idea of state-sanctioned prejudice starts to appear far more ominous. “Powerful…a brave and noble effort..."--Salon. Winner of Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle Film Festival.

Salon: "Powerful... A brave and noble effort..."

Makes the expected claims about even-handedness, but the "hermeneutics of hate" phrase above suggests otherwise, and what's with "evangelical elements continue to infiltrate the American government"? Sounds a tad paranoid. One mustn't confuse blurb-writer with film-maker, of course, but if you can watch the film and not think twice about writing a phrase like that...

Seattle International Film Festival
Arts & Faith