AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

5/30/09

Tennessee: Mariah Carey Not Into Spouse Abuse


Okay, so domestic violence is just not cool, and that's it? And at the same time, it's unfortunate and rather lopsided, that the details of Mariah Carey's own character Krytal, lack the attention and depth lavished upon the male protagonists. In addition, what we have here is once again the black mammy syndrome, as Carey seems to be around mostly to tend to the physical and emotional needs of those perpetually moping males. She's even repeatedly fetching them food, long after Krystal has called it quits with waitressing.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

5/28/09

Under Our Skin Movie Review

A documentary film by Andy Abrahams Wilson

It takes more than a subject that begs to be known to create a documentary worth spending time and money to see.

This documentary, UNDER OUR SKIN is a case in point. The subject is riveting but it can be presented in a myriad ways given our present state of technological vehicles for comunication. So why pick the documentary with all the seemingly requisite ingredients, that in this case does not bring to life the plight of human susceptibility to the ever growing incidence of Lyme disease.

There is a robotic nature to this film, making it somewhat less than enjoyable. The narrator's voice is drone like, lulling the viewer into a quasi comatose state. The images of the afflicted people, the feature of this documentary appear inserted into the script without creativity, without regard to the artistry of documentary creation. This is a sorry state when the issue of Lyme disease, its failure to attract national attention, looms so large.

Perhaps the next go round for this important subject will produce more gripping results.

Opens June 19th

Linda Z
criticalwomen@blogspot.com

5/19/09

North Korean Film Unfiltered: No Shrinking Violet But Hardly A Pre-Revolutionary Feminist


The Tale Of Chun Hyang: Part Disney, part Karl Marx, the movie might be characterized as a North Korean post-revolutionary blockbuster. And where the besieged protagonist is hardly a shrinking violet but not quite a budding feminist. But hey, we're talking centuries ago.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

HE SAID, SHE SAID....What Goes Up

A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

HE SAID....

By Gerald Wright

Screenwriters Jonathan Glatzer and Robert Lawson wrote a cautionary tale concerning sexuality, drug use and a hint pedophilia starring Steve Coogan, Hilary Duff, Molly Shannon, Olivia Thirlby, Josh Peck and Max Hoffman. Despite the controversial and central concept of the story hosting an ex-Disney starlet, I really wanted to enjoy this film. However, as luck would have it, I was left bewildered and disappointed.

The plot starts off centering on a morally troubled New York reporter/journalist in the 1980s who is assigned to cover the story of a New Hampshire female school teacher's space flight. Once arriving in the small New England town Campbell Babbitt (Steve Coogan of Tropic Thunder) finds out that his old college chum and once local high school teacher has died. Rumors say it was suicide and it leaves his odd-ball students of his homeroom class depressed and confused. As a good reporter Campbell sees a good story in his old buddy's death and decides to put the space launching on hold.

As the story progresses it goes sour with the introduction of the dysfunctional high school students: Hilary Duff as Lucy a sexual tease, Olivia Thirlby as Tess who is socially depressed, and Josh Peck as Jim a paranoid doper. Other misfortunate students are Peggy, Sue, Ann (Sarah Lind, Andrea Brooks and Ingrid Nilson) and Brenna O'Brien as the Diminutive Girl. These characters set the stage for - Why did their favorite teacher kill himself? What are the hidden secrets of his life? Was he having an affair with young sexy Lucy? Will mature Campbell get in immature Lucy's pants?

I am not an overzealous adult who frowns on films that suggest pedophilia, but if it undermines feminism I find it in bad taste. As the plot attempts to develop it strays to and from a hunt for secrets to a pathetic Campbell Babbitt lusting after a high school sex kitten. Josh Peck's (The Wackness) character Jim is very disturbing and confusing because there isn't a hint as for why he is so angry with everyone except his misfit colleagues. Hilary Duff who has outgrown the Disney theme seems to be searching for a role that fits her. Unfortunately, this is not the role. The other young cast members were merely props in a high school movie attempting to recreate scenes from The Breakfast Club, Heathers and Juno. Molly Shannon plays Donna a middle age horny neighbor of Campbell who tries to put the "make" on him and fails. This is because Steve Coogan's whimsy character (Campbell) is too busy walking the thin line he encounters in being a predator of a provocative teenage girl suspected of an affair with her now dead teacher.

This story has far too many holes in it to hold an audience. For instance, where are the parents of these kids who hang out all day and have grown men yelling up to their daughter's window late at night? How and why would this middle age dead teacher have such an influence over the kids? Where is the guidance teachers of the high school? How could this be considered a "coming of age" movie that instructs or even hints at improper sexual encounters between adults and kids?

The performances of the ensemble isn't totally bad, however it does leave a lot to be desired. What a mess!

Directed by: Jonathan Glatzer
Running time: 107 minutes
Release date: May 29, 2009 (limited)
Genre: Drama, Comedy and Coming of Age
Distributor: 3 Kings Productions
MPAA Rating: R

FILM RATING (D)

Gerald Wright - Film Critic
HDFEST.com
Film Showcase


SHE SAID....

By Linda Z

Set as a quiet background, a seemingly unobtrusive event, is the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. Add to that the images not discussed of the school teacher, Sam Calailucci's plummet to his death off a roof top. Then add the humor that only young "misfit" teenagers can muster juxtaposed against the too well established adult world and what do you have, WHATgoesUP

What stays down on earth is our creation of heroes in our midst.
WHATgoesUP is the story of the reported Babbitt(Steve Coogan) obsessed by the death(suicide) of a local hero. He is reassigned to the New Hampshire hometown of the doomed teacher (an old college buddy) and soon to be suicide victim.

Two suicides, one failed shuttle with resounding heroic effects and youth confronting the advent of life in the troubled adult world.
And this is a comedy, a seemingly light hearted film for those who see films for the pleasure rather than the message to be learned or understood

My hero is the film maker who dared to go beyond the Judeo-Christian ethics and morality with which we are too familiar and accept too readily its limitations on our ability to live our lives as we want. He replaces this time honored guide to a "good life" with a discussion of Socrates, as the true hero in our midst.

Suicide victims do not go to hell and ABORTION is shown, (the first time I have seen it in a main stream film) without dire consequences. The teenage girl(Olivia Thirlby) is accompanied not by her parents and not with their consent or knowledge but by a girlfriend ( Hilary Duff), someone with true compassion and understanding of the necessity of the procedure.

And Thirlby's character survives! She becomes a hero, a mature young adult whose wisdom is well worth listening to.

I recommend this film because of the quiet, amusing and convincing way it presents highly charged ideas. My only regret is that the filmmakers didn't have the abundance of finacial backing to make this film an exravaganza of robust detail. They seem to have spent their limited funds on quality acting rather than expensive and elaborate sets.

Who can fault that!

Jonathan Glatzer Director
Writers:
Jonathan Glatzer (writer)
Robert Lawson (writer)

Steve Coogan, Josh Peck, Hilary Duff, Olivia Thirlby, Molly Shannon

LindaZ
WBAI Women's Collective

Beethoven's Guitar Shred DVD: Burkas And Tattoos


Move over, Jamie Foxx. The Soloist's insanely genius Julliard apprentice is up against some formidable competition, and she's female. Part classical music remix maven and part speed metal manic musical mime, The Great Kat is basically showing the male competition how it's done, better and faster.

FoundryMusicRob asks The Great Kat:

Question: Seriously now, I get the shred, I get the classical, but where does the maniacal dominatrix thing come in? Is that supposed to be sexy?
The Great Kat: WHO CARES if you FAGGOTS with your 1 INCH PENISES think a “MANIACAL DOMINATRIX” is “SEXY” or NOT!!!!!


More female chauvinist than feminist, Kat, aka Katherine Thomas, is best described as a 21st century Janis Joplin who breaks out of the conventionally assigned gender role limitations of acceptable female behavior, creatively and otherwise, to give the historically male dominated music scene a woman's energy and edge. And her raging, fast forward in real time Beethoven's Guitar Shred DVD performance art is like nothing that has come before. Though Kat's monarchistic self-proclamation as inventor of a one woman revolution does tend to clash ideologically with her broader egalitarian claim of liberated classical music for the masses.

Alernately donning pink ribbon decked assorted retro-Victoria's Secret knockoff period cleavage with bloody leather wear, burkas and crucifix tattoos, Kat slings manically fuming guitars and violins on stage. And each of seven video vignettes tells a forcefully lunatic fringe, compelling musically reinvented tangy tall tale, shedding somewhat imaginatively deranged new light on a mix 'n match medley of Beethoven, Bach, Abu Ghraib and Islamic insurgency.

A classical/metal lovers everywhere wakeup call, these mini-musicals for guitar, violin and machete could very well blow your mind, but hopefully not your ear drums. Consuming the multi-sensory tripping Great Kat Experience at low volume is highly recommended.

TPR Music
Unrated
3 stars

DVD Features: Seven Shred Videos; Hot Shred Bits 2; Shred Geniuses; Metal Fugue: Bach's The Art Of The Fugue; Shred Cartoon.

Shred Online: GreatKat.com, BeethovensGuitarShred.com.

Everlasting Moments Movie Review


Swedish master Jan Troell returns (he was previously an Oscar nominee for “The Emigrants” in 1973) as his country’s current official foreign language Oscar submission with “Everlasting Moments,” a rich, intensely personal film, that distills its epic scope into a series of memorable evocative images.

Winner of five prizes at Sweden’s Academy Awards, including best picture, the film is based on the difficult life of the grandmother of Troell’s wife. The movie is set at the turn of the previous century, where Maria Larsson (marvelously played by Maria Heiskanen) struggles to manage her family as the mother of seven children and wife of a an abusive, womanizing, alcoholic laborer (Mikael Persbrandt).

She ultimately finds solace in a Contessa camera she won years before in a lottery and stored away. When she meets the empathetic proprietor of the local photographic studio (Jesper Christensen), he gets her involved the subtle art of picture-taking. “Not everyone is endowed with the gift of seeing,” he says encouraging her, after seeing some of her images.

Troell and his cinematographer Mischa Gavrjusjov have that rare gift of seeing, as they recreate for the viewer the ambience of Malmo, Sweden in the years preceding and following the First World War There are magical moments throughout in simple images like a lonely streetcar making its way through a snowy night and there are Maria’s photographs that find magic in black and white and elevate their conventional subjects.

Another pleasure of this movie is its stately pace. The changes in Maria’s life are incremental, like the images she develops the old fashioned way in the darkroom. As she accepts her exceptional talent as a photographer, other changes also bring brightness into her once bleak life.

Jan Aaron
Education Update

HE SAID SHE SAID....JESSICA BIEL TANGO WITH EASY VIRTUE


A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

SHE SAID....

'With a shady past, hair as platinum as Jean Harlow's (always a recipe for "trouble") and zany, current circumstances that find her racing cars in Monaco, how can a flapper girl bordering on 30 adapt herself to jolly old England?....'

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

Penelope Andrew
The Huffington Post


HE SAID....

The adaptation of Noel Coward's play is a celebrated costume comedic drama with a romantic period piece which contains all of the elements of a successful love story but somehow ends up feeling more like a casual fling than a full-blown love affair.

Easy Virtue takes place in the period of the 1920s where the most influential and wealthy exploit their lavish lifestyles. In an elegant, laconic tribute to a lost world of a lost world of drawing-room dramas it depicts the moralistic, tight-lipped but fundamentally hypocritical society.

Garbo: 'It may be easy, but it ain't virtue.'

Jessica Biel plays the primary role of Larita, an American, racing car driver and divorcee who falls in love with a younger upper class Englishman named John Whittaker (Ben Barnes). The lively couple return to his home, which is a large country estate on where the starchy family doesn't accept her. John's mother Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) has a great dislike for her new daughter-in-law and in a series of comedic scenes spars with Larita in order to cancel out the marriage. Mrs. Whittaker is a stern and controlling women who manipulates everyone around her. John's father Mr. Whittaker played by Colin Firth is a depressed veteran of WWI and somewhat free spirit seems to find a Larita a breath of fresh air to a stale household. With a host of snobbish family members and friends portrayed by Kris Marshall, Kimberly Nixon, Katherine Parkinson, Pip Torrens, Christian Brassington and Charlotte Riley (Sarah, John's initial fiance) give great supporting performances.

It is evident that in a lead character position Jessica Biel's effort to play an active and assertive role in her role causes conflict because her performance is too fluffy and flighty in the mixture of witty and intelligent performance of Kristin Scott Thomas who is a major adversary in most of the scenes. I find the romantic chemistry between Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes is a strained performance and lack any sense of realism.

The film takes a turn to a triangular romantic alliance between two men (father and son) and a woman (Larita). This is an ambitious relief in the plot, however not in the performances. Colin Firth's (Mr. Whittaker) performance as the new love interest of Larita lacked credibility. His character remains too undeveloped and too shallow to have any real resonance. It's still a mystery by the end of the film what Larita sees in such a spoiled immature John. Their relationship feels puzzling rather than electrifying.

The costume design and sets are wonderful to behold, framing the drama beautifully. It's something which is very easy to overlook when it's done correctly, but disturbingly obvious when it's not. In this film it serves as a highlight for the flamboyance of the period that it lavishly decorated. Extravagantly giving the most to the interiors these sets and costumes are a feast for the eye.

It is a shame the same can't be said of Stephan Elliott's plot development. While serving to link disparate scenes together in witty and amusing ways, it's delivery feels in my opinion clunky and artificial. Easy Virtue lacks the depth and chemistry that a film driven by passion demands and so, like Larita and John's romance, is a mistake.

Directed by: Stephan Thompson
Running time: 95 minutes
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy and Adaptation
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: PG-13

FILM RATING (C)

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.Com
Film Showcase

Documentary Film In An Era Of A Battered American Psyche



The Rise of the Documentary Film in an Era of a Battered American Psyche: Theater of War, Body of War, Fog of War and Michael Moore

An Essay in Three Parts

By Penelope Andrew

Part III

A Body Is Finally Produced: Body of War


This film was not at all a darling of the critics. But the great mission of the directors is clear: Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro have defied the order to hide the bodies.


Of the five documentaries, Body of War (2007) may be the most painful to watch. The bodies of the dead and the living casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seldom been seen, and their stories have never been told at length. The tragedy of the men and women coming home is far from over and only just beginning. This film was not at all a darling of the critics. But the great mission of the directors is clear: Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro have defied the order to hide the bodies.

Tomas Young is a brave anti-war activist and a troubled war veteran. His body has been paralyzed from the waist down after being wounded on the fifth day of his Iraq tour, and his psyche is fractured with symptoms of PTSD. The audience can sense too that Tomas has a broken heart from the abandonment and betrayal by the U.S. military, the Veteran’s Administration, the legislative body known as the U.S. Congress, and his President.

The audience witnesses the promise of Tomas’ marriage to an understanding woman, whom he cannot accept and eventually pushes away leading to the agony of his divorce; a mother’s devotion so intense that it crosses the boundary of an Oedipal taboo—on a trip to an anti-war event, his mother handles her son’s penis while helping him change his catheter; and the conspicuous absence of his father made more difficult by the lack of any father figures he (and the audience) can come to believe in again.

Tomas finds many surrogate sisters, wives, and mothers—Cindy Sheehan among them—on his painful journey. There are scenes where widows, mothers who have lost their sons, and other women reach out to hold or just to touch him. They are excruciatingly beautiful and very painful images. They underscore the enormous burden Tomas carries on his shoulders—to represent all lost soldiers. His yearning for a masculine hero and a father figure in whom he can identify and be comforted by becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses.

Paralleling Tomas’ struggle is the story of the U.S. Congress—the legislative body--that gave extraordinary presidential power to rush to war. There is one dissenting voice louder and more eloquent than any other, and it emanates from Senate’s oldest member, Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Tomas finds a father figure and a hero in Senator Byrd and so does the audience. Never does the Iraq veteran seem more at ease and more comforted (even happy) than when he meets with the wise, dignified, yet humble silver-haired Robert Byrd. Next to Bush and the grey, bald-headed Cheney, Byrd is a dream come true.

This film forces the audience to come to terms with the fact that Tomas and all soldiers are used by the Fathers of War as human shields. In his development as an activist and in his use as a sculpture permanently cast in celluloid by Donahue and Spiro, he is elevated from an object to a symbol. He realizes the dream of Trumbo’s protagonist Joe Bonham to be displayed and used as an anti-war statement. In Body of War, we have not another war statue, but an anti-war monument in Tomas Young.


The Dark, Power-Hungry Soul of War: Moore Finds a “Reel” Job in Fahrenheit 9/11

“Fiddle-dee-dee? War, war, war! This war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this Spring! I get so bored I could scream!”

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara

Gone with the Wind


“Stay out of trouble, go find real work.”

President George W. Bush in a shout out to Michael Moore.


Like George Bush’s vacations, Scarlett O’Hara will not have her parties spoiled by real (reel) talk of war. Unlike Bush who traveled back home to Texas for many, many vacations and upon retiring from the Presidency, Scarlett’s ancestral home and way of life have been destroyed. Her mother becomes a casualty of war and refusing to ever go hungry again, Scarlett becomes Mother Courage herself.

How quintessentially American of Michael Moore to be so un-American as he dares to challenge a legacy begun in the McCarthy era run amuck in a doctrine adopted by Bush. In Fahrenheit 9/11, what is up is down, what is Right is wrong.

He is artful in documenting the stolen 2000 presidential election, the corruption and betrayal in using 9/11 to enter a dirty war, the use of tactics to frighten the American people into submission for untenable foreign policies and a loss of domestic Constitutional liberties, the shameful torture of prisoners, and other miscarriages of justice in the Bush era.

Moore was reassured by Quentin Tarentino that he won the Palme d’or for his artistry and not his politics. Fahrenheit 9/11 may well be Moore’s Guernica. He also unintentionally offers himself up as the anti-hero we long for--a bad-ass artist, outsider who holds the camera firmly on a larger-than-life mother figure we can call our own in the never less than magnificent Lila Lipscomb.

A frame is also put around The Congressional Black Caucus as a dozen of its members and an Asian-American Congresswoman step up to protest the falsified election of George W. Bush. These women and men—whose illustrious membership has included the late Shirley Chisholm, the late Barbara Jordan, feisty Maxine Waters, its current chair Barbara Lee, James Clyburn, Charles Rangel, Jessie Jackson, Jr. and the irrepressible John Lewis--have been unsung heroes in the U.S. Congress for too many years. Their objections to the legitimacy of the votes counted in Florida that lost Al Gore’s election to the presidency were raised on January 6, 2001 and dramatically documented in this film.

They rise one by one to register their frustration and outrage at not finding one Senator to co-sign their petitions. Each of the twelve distinguished members of Congress is shot down. The images of Gore—whose election they sought to secure--ruling them out of order are stunning in their irony.

How different history might have been if they had secured a single Senator to sign their official objections.


Artists and Art Capture a Greedy Business in Theater of War


“Who worked for nothin’ in the war?

It’s dollars and cents, nickels, and dimes. What’s clean? Half the Goddamn country is gotta go [to jail] if I go!

Why am I bad?”

Edward G. Robinson as Joe Keller

All My Sons

Directed by John Walter and theatrically released on Christmas day 2008, Theater of War fuels a philosophy and exposes an important, forgotten mission of theater (and, by implication, of film as well).

It explores the brilliant, colorful, radical, anti-war playwright Bertolt Brecht, and what many people consider to be the definitive anti-war (also anti-business) play, Mother Courage and Her Children. More specifically, it documents the 2006 production of Mother Courage produced by The Public Theater, in a new translation by playwright Tony Kushner, directed by George C. Wolfe, and starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Austin Pendleton.

Unlike Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Mother Courage has never successfully been adapted as a narrative film (there is a 1961 German film with no DVD that has vanished into relative obscurity). This documentary is a chance for the masses to be exposed to Mother Courage, Brecht as playwright, artful dodger, and anti-hero replete with photographic images of him in a leather jacket looking quasi-punk in his youth.

This celluloid document drives home the genius of Bertolt Brecht. He is shown appearing before the HUAC where he literally waltzes his way through with a performance of very broken English in a snappy German accent. Also, one is treated to a large dose of Mother Courage by way of a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the artistry of Meryl Streep finding her character in a fascinating rehearsal process. It also offers rare commentary on Brecht’s personal life and work by his daughter Barbara Brecht-Schall.

Theater of War resonates with a current, enthusiastic, growing appetite in those who believe that art matters. It also elevates art’s practitioners to quasi-hero status: Brecht, Wolfe, Kushner, Streep, and Walter.


Can A Film Be Like Therapy? Waltz With Bashir

Ari Folman’s personal journey into the dark recesses of his own memory, the memories of his fellow war veterans, and the collective memory of Israel, the country they served bears a striking resemblance to the work of Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone, his platoon, and the United States.

Waltz With Bashir (2008) makes traumatic memory truer in its use of the surrealism of animation, which so effectively and powerfully portrays the nightmare of war and genocide witnessed and aided by a group of confused, very young soldiers. To see the animated version of the dark grandfather of war, Ariel Sharon, is to look deep within a dark, creepy, detached soul of war.

What happens to memory when the psyche has been assaulted and overwhelmed? Waltz with Bashir is a study in this too. Two psychotherapists, one a friend and colleague and another, a trauma expert explain. They are the quiet, behind-the-scenes heroes of this story. This is a film where one of the main characters—Folman’s fellow vet has a terrifying recurring nightmare from the war and asks the director, can’t a film be like therapy?

Another important question is: When will societies and governments, individuals and groups embrace the wisdom of empathy, the merit of deep excavation, and the answers to be found in artful interpretation, which are the tools and techniques of psychotherapy/psychoanalysis and great filmmaking?

This extraordinary film traces the traumatic, repressed, and nearly forgotten memories of the veterans of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon when Bashir Gemayel was assassinated shortly after he was elected president. The “waltz” refers to a description of one of the soldiers who dances (representing the collusion of the Israeli army with the Christian militia responsible for the massacre of Palestinian civilians trapped inside the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps) while spraying ammunition from an Uzi-style weapon.

The confluence of several tragic circumstances mounted upon a heap of traumatic history that began with the death camps of WWII through the eerily similar slaughter of innocent Palestinian civilians in refugee camps is another example of atrocities that are doomed to be repeated. The level of brutality is as obscene and perverse as the Nazi exterminations of the Jews decades before.

Waltz With Bashir is a story of transgenerational trauma,13 survivor’s guilt, identification with the oppressor and the oppressed, and all the psychological damage that war, violence, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities cause, which is the essence of PTSD. This film really begins in Folman’s psyche—in his knowledge as a child of the atrocities of the Nazi death camps where his family was interned. His close friend, who is a psychotherapist and a filmmaker, explains how memory and trauma operate and posits that at about age six, Folman was deeply affected by the stories of the atrocities his family suffered.

Folman’s film exemplifies the deeper truths that are to be found in art and in therapy; in the vicissitudes of memory; in trauma and recovery; and how one traumatic event is often related to another and doomed to be repeated if the lessons of history—no matter how ugly and painful--are not heeded.


Conclusion

Only time will tell how this unique yet eerily reminiscent period of American and Middle Eastern history beginning with September 11, 2001 will transition or end with the election of President Barack Obama, our most Capraesque of political figures. He is the condensation of a dream symbol comprising Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Sidney Poitier, among other film icons. His extraordinary campaign exemplified Bazin’s theory of filling in “the dream desires of the masses.”

The documentary films made during this confusing period in our history may well have—at least in part—paved the way to be able to embrace such a figure Barack Obama.

These films have not only informed and moved us; they have mirrored and defined us in showing us our darkest, worst natures, while providing flickers of a hopeful return to our better selves, which Mr. Obama represents. They have helped us find our way back from the distortions, terror, lies, and atrocities of the Bush years and provided necessary cathartic, therapeutic, and other transcendental experiences—“allowing the ‘realization’ of the marvelous.”14

As we emerge from the fog, the vertigo, the hangover, and the shame of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove era, it will be fascinating to witness how documentary films and narrative features will evolve during the Obama years.

We are certain to move on to other subjects, but not before one more unflattering close-up. Mr. DeMille, roll the cameras: We Shall Remain, the documentary series on the history, culture, and diverse experience of Native Americans from American Experience has just premiered. We hold up a mirror to reflect another chapter of American shame. Perhaps now, stronger and a little less confused, we can embrace this even older, painful Truth.


NOTES

1. Joe Bonham is not the average Joe that Sarah Palin nauseated the American public with, but an extraordinary Joe. Trumbo’s narrator and protagonist is one of the most powerful anti-war heroes ever written. One could hear a pin drop in the audience as Donald Sutherland clutched his beaten up copy of Johnny Got His Gun and recited the part of this maimed soldier. His riveting soliloquy drew cheers from the audience at the recent screening at the IFC Center and shouts of “Go Donald!”

2. Why would anyone choose the subject of war? It is perhaps to complete psychologically my own “tour of duty” as a social work intern and honor the Vietnam Veterans with whom I worked. This article is inspired by them and dedicated to all my patients who have survived trauma.

3. Trauma—an event outside or beyond everyday events or daily reality; the breakdown that occurs when the psyche is exposed to stimuli that are too powerful to be processed in the usual way.

4. Sontag, Susan, Updike, John, et al. “The Talk of the Town,” section devoted to 9/11, The New Yorker (September 24, 2001).

5. Truth—property of being in accord with facts or realities; sincerity in action, character, and utterance; fidelity, honesty, actuality, etc. Truth—when capitalized: often means transcendent, fundamental or spiritual reality; sometimes synonymous with God.

6. The extent to which the American psyche and system have been traumatized and twisted to fit so well with the Neoconservative agenda is outlined in: Naomi Kleins’s, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Toronto: Knopf, 2007).

7. Elected, of course, foreshadows and refers to the ultimate election of Barack Hussein Obama.

8. Beauty—quality or group of qualities of a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or exalts the mind or spirit; brilliant, extreme or egregious example of something; particularly graceful, ornamental or excellent quality.

9. Bazin, Andre, “Every Film Is A Social Documentary,” translated by Paul Fileri. Originally published as “Tout film est un documentaire social,” Les Lettres Francaises, No. 166, Vol. 5 July 5, 1947.

10. Should I have to justify placing Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner in the company of Capra, Ford, Wilder et al, I will (with pleasure). By Arzner’s very nature as a gay woman and one of the few artists who chose not to marry for convenience in the Hollywood of the 30s and 40s, she is a quintessential anti-heroine. Her films took on taboo subjects for their time, such as marital infidelity and questioned traditional institutions such as work and marriage. Lupino dared to tackle the subjects of rape and bigamy. They focused on serious subjects on domestic and institutional fronts, just as Capra took on greed and political corruption; Ford looked at the shame of the Great Depression and poverty; Chaplin focused on fascism; and Wilder exposed phoniness and shallowness everywhere.

11. An original invention of Morris’s, aptly named by his wife.

12. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—a psychological consequence and casualty of war and other catastrophic events, those that occur outside the “normal” range of human events.

13. Transgenerational trauma—psychic damage passed from one generation to another; the most often used example are the children and grandchildren of Nazi concentration camp victims and survivors.

14. Bazin, Andre, p. 1.

Penelope Andrew, a NYC-based writer who contributes to The Huffington Post and Critical Women on Film, is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle. Her article: “Trauma & Recovery: A Review of I’ve Loved You So Long,” will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter of the American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work. A certified psychoanalytic psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, she maintains a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Her second-year internship as a social work graduate student involved working with Vietnam Veterans.

Part I: Introduction To The Documentary Phenomen

Part II: Way Beyond Journalism or It Takes a Documentary

This article also appears in The Huffington Post

HE SAID, SHE SAID....MANAGEMENT: JENNIFER ANISTON BOSSY IN LOVE


A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

SHE SAID....

By Prairie Miller

Management, whether of hotels or bad artwork, is beside the point here. It's all about the decisions people make to impose order and logic on their love life, or determined lack of it. But finding themselves instead hopelessly ruled by their emotions, when not helplessly making complete romantic asses of themselves, grabbed or not. Jennifer Aniston, bossy in romance. And in a smitten stalker sex comedy perhaps more appropriate for a motel horror movie say, like Psycho...

Click to Read Review Here

HE SAID....

By Gerald Wright

Writer Stephen Belber makes his directorial debut in this romantic dramedy. His career as a playwright is well established on Broadway and now his eyes are on the silver-screen.

The simplest way of looking at comedy is to say that it surprises, startles, shock or delights. When combining drama to a film the genre takes in tragedy in which the central character faces defeat and some overwhelming disaster. Such is the case in this movie.

Management is a romantic comedy with a challenging dramatic foundation about Mike Cranshaw (Steve Zahn) and Sue Claussen (Jennifer Aniston). Mike is a slacker who lives and works at a motel owned by his parents Jerry (Fred Ward) and Trish (Margo Martindale) in Arizona when Sue who sells hotel and motel paintings checks in. Jerry sees her and falls for her immediately, however Sue is put off by him. With persistence and a range of absurd approaches Jerry manages an ironic sexual encounter that Sue encourages.

Sue checks out of the roadside motel and returns to her Maryland headquarters and the quick intimate incident turns into a complex cross-country romantic journey of these two people looking for a sense of purpose. To do this dramedy uses a whole range of comic tactics from sarcasm, mockery and irony. The basic theme of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl back is predictable in this very witty and funny film. What makes this quirky movie different from most romantic comedies is how each of the tactics used in the fine performances by Aniston and Zahn comically disturbs, disrupts, alters and changes things from what is expected. Aniston's character Sue displays the daring exposition of feminist principles of exerting and initiating her sexual wants to Mike. The plot goes beyond the ordinary, the dull and the familiar as it creates a glee and relief to the norms of real life.

Woody Harrelson hilariously plays Jango an ex-punk rocker turn wealthy entrepreneur of a famous yogurt company who Sue marries, but soon finds out that they are not well matched. Though Jango is married to Sue, Mike doesn't give up his bizarre courtship. Sue has baggage as well, she is somebody who subjugates her own needs for helping other people and not taking care of her own needs and wants.

This movie sets out a whole range of ways to make people laugh with the aphorism of Steve Zahn, the sauciness of Jennifer Aniston and the zaniness of Woody Harrelson. The chemistry between the Aniston and Zahn is magnetic and reminiscent of the Tracy and Hepburn duo. With long uninterrupted scenes, absurd and improbable situations, witty dialogue exchanges and skillful acting this road trip love story triumphs as a quick-witted, humorously and sensationally warm romantic date flick.

Directed by: Stephen Belber
Running time: 93 mins.
Release date: May 15, 2009
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
MPAA Rating: R

FILM RATING (A)

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.Com
Film Showcase

5/18/09

HE SAID, SHE SAID....JULIA: Abducting While Under The Influence


A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

SHE SAID....

Tilda Swinton does smashed, sassy and super-mean as the perpetually inebriated protagonist, in this rather untimely story of convoluted bottom feeder financial ripoffs and rampant greed by a host of morally deficient have-nots. And at a moment in history when the planet has been plunged into economic misery by the corporate and banking elites for real.

CLICK HERE TO READ REVIEW


HE SAID....

By Gerald Wright

Writer/Director Erick Zonca of La Vie Revee des Anges (The Dreamlife of Angels, 1998) was a huge success with critics and audiences alike. He is now inspired by John Cassavetes' 1980 film Gloria starring Gena Rowland (Cassavetes wife) in which female lead character Tilda Swinton (two-time Golden Globe nominee) dominates from the first frame to the last.

In a film that crosses borders in genres from a drama, a thriller, a crime/gangster and a film noir Tilda Swinton plays Julia. She is a 40 year old alcoholic, pill popping over-the-hill party girl. Her life is slipping away and going out of control from the every night partying, and then waking up in unknown places without a memory of the previous night. She is a woman who believes she can fool anyone with lies and scams.

As a result of her uncontrollable lifestyle, she loses another menial job. Her friend Mitch (Saul Rubinek) advises her to attend AA, where she meets her Mexican neighbor Elena (Kate del Castillo). After another alcohol induced "black out" night, Julia wakes up in Elena's home. Elena propositions Julia for $50,000 to assist in the kidnapping her 9 year old son Tommy (Aidan Gould) from his wealthy grandfather in Mexico. Julia doesn't realize that Elena has a history of psychosis, and she doesn't have the money. However, young fatherless Tommy's grandfather does have money, and that's reason enough for Julia to risk this alone for financial gain.

It is amazing to watch Tilda Swinton's energy in this film. She shows vitality, and is very physical in her performance throughout movie. The opening scenes display all of the elements of a character study of a troubled woman that most people would turn their backs on. However as the story unfolds the audience will take a cinematic journey with a complex woman. Casting her as a hard-boiled title character was a mark of genius. Erick Zonca wrote and directed a tightly-plotted multi-genre tale that she certainly looks natural in and does not lead the audience by the hand.

Aidan Gould plays 9 year old Tommy, the grandson of Elena's father-in-law. He is quirky, yet sharp, and gives a outstanding performance. Tommy's grandfather is a wealthy Mexican crime czar who has ties in the U.S.. When Julia kidnaps Tommy from Mexico, returns to the U.S./American border, and blackmails the grandfather for 2 million dollars, he alerts U.S. and the Mexican authorities and the chase scene begins. Not leaving any room for doubt, the grandfather sends his goons. Foul-mouth Julia and mischievous Tommy spend quite a bit of time together on the run. He is a bright active boy and proves himself as her match. She becomes the unexpected guardian of a young boy.

Julia finds herself protecting herself from a wicked world armed with just her wits and a revolver. This film for some people might be considered an invented story, perhaps the kind you don't expect in life. However, cinema is larger than life. By using classical means of storytelling and a visual narration, this movie creates a morality theme between Julia and young Tommy. What is most interesting is that Julia's pursuers are outclassed by a woman whose maternal instincts have been aroused, and she will do anything to protect this tough little guy she's trying to keep out of harm's way.

This movie is highly recommended to those who enjoy being surprised. I picked up on clues as to one major plot twist early on (hoping I would be wrong); however, I was only partly right. You might think you figured it out, but with the many twists in this flick, you'll find the final scenes a surprisingly delight to watch.

Directed by: Erick Zonca
Running time: 138 mins.
Release date: April 24, 2009
Genre: Drama, Thriller and Gangster (English & Spanish with English subtitles)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

FILM RATING (A)

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.Com
Film Showcase

5/9/09

Downloading Nancy : Self mutilation and more



Johan Renck: Director

Writer: Pamela Cuming, Lee Ross
Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewel, Amy Brenneman

This film is not for everyone. In all probability it will not make huge profit at the box office. However, it explores a subject of real dimension that promises to grow in proportion as the Internet continues to dominate our lives, our ability and means of interacting with one another.

This is a story told with exceptional acting and palatable insidious pain as the viewer is forced to see another way towards liberation from inner tormoil.
Nancy addresses her pyschological pain by inflicting physical pain of increasing intensity upon her body. She deems a sharp razor a requisite item to be thrown into her pocket book cosmetic bag when she leaves the house.

With grueling precision Downloading Nancy depicts Nancy's progress towards liberation in the execution of a plan established on the Internet with a man committed administering her pain and ultimate demise; this time without use of the computer. In the process they go beyond their 'plan' into the realm of 'normal' human interaction that we are all familiar with.

There is a pivotal moment captured in the image of the 'man in the bath tub'.

During the course of my viewing experience I have seen (as you probably have) well over one hundred scenes of an adult in a bathtub with or without benefit of bubble bath. But Christopher Doyle offers an aerial view of the man, the bathtub, the surrounding ceramic that takes the banal and elevates this familiar image into breathtaking visual moment.

For me this visual transformation captures the essence of the film: there is nothing shown that we do not know but to know this human process in search of easement of psychological pain through the eyes of Downloading Nancy's creators is an entirely new and awesome experience.

Downloading Nancy might be a first brutally honest film on self mutilation but I am confident it won't be the last.

Release Date: June 5, 2009 (Limited)

LindaZ
WBAI Women's Collective

5/6/09

Jerichow: Black Cloud Rising

Director: Christian Petzold

Cast:
Benno Fürmann ... Thomas
Nina Hoss ... Laura
Hilmi Sözer ... Ali Özkan


Although many Americans live with the guilt or jubilation from the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb that resulted in an en masse destruction of civilian life, Jerichow brings that event into clear focus with the use of three characters, (two men and a woman) moving slowly into the depth of their lives, with their progressive almost predictable interactions.

At its core Jerichow is an achievement of the impossible: to bring world level events of War, of the incrediants of climate change into the human everyday experience of ordinary people. This film, like none I have ever seen, talks to me about the world of destruction, of the black cloud that is us and also hovers over us, whether we see it or not.

Jerichow isn't for everyone but everyone who sees it will applaud it as one of the great moments in film.

Opens May 15, 2009 in New York City: Fim Forum

German subtitles

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective

HE SAID, SHE SAID....Women In The Third World And Beyond The Fourth Wall


HE SAID...

The Stoning Of Soraya M.

By Gerald Wright

In the Middle East nation of Iran, discontent has simmered for decades. In this thought provoking film on social and relationship ills, screenwriters Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and her husband Cyrus Norwrasteh adapted a true story based on the book of the same title by Freidoune Sahebjam. The mistreatment of women is not an incidental problem in the Muslim world, a side issue that can be dealt with once the more important political problems are out of the way. It is a primary problem where an enslavement of Islamic women are the subject of most fanatical interpretations of Islam.

CLICK TO CONTINUE READING REVIEW HERE

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.com
Film Showcase


SHE SAID....


Mère-bi/Mother of All

By Nancy Keefe Rhodes


2009

Director: Ousmane William Mbaye

Senegal's Annette Mbaye d’Erneville Subject Of New Film

There is a wonderful scene late in the new film Mère-bi/Mother of All, Ousmane William Mbaye’s portrait of the charismatic Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, in which she is sitting with her grandson, Laity Ahmet Mbaye, teaching him to recite poetry. He looks to be about 14. In the poem at hand, she praises her own son – Laity’s father, who’s also filming this conversation – for getting through his circumcision at about age six without crying. She wants her grandson to read one line with more verve and shows him what she means, drawing one phrase out with an elegant sweep of her arm. He reads the line as she did and goes on; when he’s done, he asks her about the ceremony.

“This man, the Namane, he puts sand on your lap to see if you’re trembling,” she says.

Laity listens intently, his eyes wide and the corners of his mouth pulled back a little in a grimace of apprehension. When she reaches the part where “he cuts it in one go!” and demonstrates with another sweep of her arm – she adds, “The blood gushes!” – Laity’s head snaps back at the thought of it, after which the old woman and young teen relish a laugh together.

Now 82, d’Erneville says in the film that with grandchildren “you have this feeling of infinity.” She still directs the Henriette Bathily Museum of Women, named for her close friend and colleague, which she founded in 1994 at the historic slave port at Gorée Island, and she says her sole ambition now is that her magazine “Ciné Culture Afrique” be printed regularly and survive.

Mbaye, 58, distilled this film – first about 90 minutes long and now 55 – from 50 hours of footage shot over 15 years. Besides being a poet, D’Erneville was Senegal’s first degreed journalist, valedictorian of the program founded by Pierre Schaeffer in 1952 when he headed radio broadcasting for overseas France. That year she began broadcasting to West Africa from Paris, to which she had gone in the late 40s as a student. She continued as a journalist when she returned to Senegal in 1957 with her husband and the first two of four children. Léopold Sédar Senghor – poet, major intellectual in the emergence of the Négritude movement, Senegal’s first president, and d’Erneville’s tutor in Paris – had exhorted Senegalese ex-pats to go home and build their newly independent country. There, D’Erneville founded Senegal’s first women’s magazine, Awa, was Radio Senegal’s program head, a prime mover in the film festival RECIDAK, a founder of the national writers association, a poet and writer of children’s books and a teacher. D’Erneville divorced her husband, whom she had met in France, when he tried to curtail her many public activities. Mbaye treats this matter-of-factly in his film, including a number of clips of his father during which Ndakhte Mbaye adds his comments.

Mère-bi has screened recently just twice in the US before Mbaye took it back to Africa and Europe for upcoming festivals in Cameroon, Spain, Milan, Brussels and Cannes. It’s been airing on national television in Senegal and in June will air on TV5-World. One of the two US screenings occurred during Syracuse International Film Festival (SYRFILM), the result of its having been recommended by Senegal’s Ben Diogaye Beye, SYRFILM’s African liaison and a visiting artist here last year. Mbaye brought the film to Syracuse directly from Old Dominion University’s ONFilm Festival in Virginia, where his sister, Mariè-Pierre Myrick, lives.

As it happens, the poem in that scene with her grandson is “Kassacks,” written in 1958, from d’Erneville’s book Kaddu. “Kassacks” appears in A Rain of Words, the new anthology of 47 women poets from 12 French-speaking African nations, published late last year by the University of Virginia Press, edited by Irène Assiba d’Almeida and translated by Janis Mayes. Mayes teaches at Syracuse University and takes students abroad for Paris Noir, the program focused on the mid-century cultural and political ferment in Paris among African intellectuals who gathered there to study, from which emerged the movement called Négritude. Mayes was alerted to the Syracuse screening by Myrick and d’Almeida, and in turn alerted others. The film, which screened in the same time slot as the crowd-drawing Appaloosa, still had a sizable and enthusiastic audience, and Mbaye sold DVDs of the film while here.

Mayes said afterward that the “audience response was fantastic,” adding that “women especially have not received the artistic and scholarly attention they have earned and deserve. Mère-bi is a stunning record of the force of her decisions, and more. My very favorite part of the documentary is at the end, when this beautiful, dynamic woman responds in Wolof – in poetic verse – to her son's teasing question, ‘What do I mean to you?’ And my next favorite part is the response she gives when asked if she regrets not having married again! Wow. ‘Have you seen my photographs? Believe me, I had opportunities.'”

Greg Thomas, who also teaches at SU and has a new book out himself, attended the Syracuse screening and calls d’Erneville “legendary.” He says the film “is the best of tributes in the great Pan-African tradition – just beautifully and custom made for the whole Pan-African world.”

In one scene Mbaye asks Myrick for one word to sum up their mother and she replies, “Multicultural.”

Mbaye spends considerable time on this subject in the years well before d’Erneville ever reached Paris, from tracing his family’s roots – both the Serer tribe and the Frenchman “who began a family in Senegal in 1780” – to the effects of d’Erneville attending the teachers’ training school at Rufisque run by the ardent Gaullist, Germaine Le Goff, who “taught us to straddle two worlds” by loving both Africa and France, a revolutionary idea at the time that had its detractors among both Europeans and Africans. There is a wonderful scene, apparently filmed three or four years ago, in which d’Erneville reminisces with three of her old classmates; you can only be grateful that Mbaye, who cut his film by a third to fit television length, spared this conversation. Later, driving through Dakar, d’Erneville reflects.

“Each time I hear ‘La Marseillaise,’ I feel something inside,” she says, adding that it’s the same with “Pincez tous vos Koras,” Senegal’s national anthem. “I like Samba Diabare Samb, I like Youssou N’Dour. But I also like Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand. I can’t say it’s a duality. There’s no struggle. It’s a symbiosis.”

D’Erneville also hosted for many years a weekly salon called Club Africa in the large courtyard of her Dakar home, modeled on gatherings she’d attended during her student days in Paris, both at the homes of French intellectuals and artists like the young actress Simone Signoret and those among African students living in the Latin Quarter. These gatherings of young artists, intellectuals, activists and journalists in Dakar particularly earned d’Erneville the nick-name “Mère-bi.”

Contacted in Dakar by email before I sat down with Mbaye at the Renaissance Hotel the morning he left Syracuse, filmmaker Ben Beye – who also appears in the film – wrote back quickly, “I'm very glad you met my friend Willy and that you'll interview him. We did lot of things together and not only in the film business. Mère-bi – his mother – was my boss when I was working as a radio broadcaster. I can say that she's also MY mother. In fact she is the mother of everybody from Willy's generation. Tell him that his friend Ben wants him to make Syracuse people know about Club Africa.”

Like Ben Beye, Mbaye has been coming to the US for some years as part of an on-going exchange between African and African American filmmakers as well as to visit friends and his sister on holidays in Virginia. Beye first came in 1978, invited by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art as one of a group of Senegalese filmmakers. Then Mbaye first came in 1981 – Ben Beye also made that trip – for a gathering hosted by the National Black Program and Consortium. The opportunity to meet colleagues in a relaxed setting was a huge draw for Mbaye to come to Syracuse, along with the film’s editor, Laurence Attali. Here’s part of our conversation.

NKR: I understand that your film was recommended by Ben Beye, who was here last year.

OWM: Yes, he talked to Owen Shapiro and my film was accepted. I am really happy to be here because at this festival I meet many filmmakers of different nationalities, and it’s difficult to meet them in other places. Here we have time to talk with them and we are in the same hotel, so it’s easier to make contacts. I think it’s a good thing. I’m really happy.

NKR: How did you come to make this film? You’ve been working on it for some time.

OWM: Yes, for many, many years. About 15 years, over 50 hours of footage. I made this portrait as an example to young people. I think it’s time now to show to young people the people who believe in something, who fight for something, and who win. Because now I think young people think it’s not possible. But sometimes you make some sacrifices in your life and in your love, but if you have an idea, you can follow the idea and win. And it is to show African youth that now you can be African and be emancipated. Some Africans think to be open about the world is to take on the culture of others. You can keep your culture and be open and attain modern life, you know? That’s the example I want to show.

NKR: Your sister uses the word “multicultural” to sum up your mother. And that comes through very strongly, that your mother has been able to move between cultures and to be very accomplished in each one.

OWM: Yes, exactly. It’s that I want to show young people. You can have your culture, you can have your religion, and be open to others. And if you’re not open, you have a terrorist. If you are not open, you become a fanatic. We have the capacity – you can be Muslim, you can be Catholic, and also give the other their choice to be what they want to be. My mother and her generation traveled. She was born in the village. She went to school at St. Louis – in Senegal – after which she went to France. She returned to Senegal for independence and tried to make something for the country and the people. That’s why she’s open. And I think the young people today who travel can go anywhere, but they don’t open their eyes.

NKR: She was in Paris at a very important moment and you were yourself born in France.

OWM: I don’t remember my childhood in France. I just remember my education in Senegal. But Senghor and the Négritude movement – a cultural movement – they were with French intellectuals. You see that Picasso opened his eyes. He came to see African art and took its influence – because he’s open. If you are not open, you cannot make a body of work. And I think the best period was Négritude because they mixed African, they mixed Caribbean, they mixed French – and they spoke the same language. After, the same people wanted to create unity in Africa. But the French colonists didn’t want Africa unified. French colonization worked to break old alliances, old confederations among tribes.

NKR: The French wanted you to fight with each other.

OWM: Yes. And they broke the unity. It’s why Africa has so many problems. The United States is very strong because it’s united. Now you can’t name any country that can be strong alone.

NKR: The area that your mother works in and emphasized was arts and culture. Was there a choice on her part to emphasize arts and culture instead of politics?

OWM: Yes. Because my mother, when she come back to Senegal, she wanted to serve Senegal. She began with the women’s movement and culture. A little politics. But she didn’t want to be political, though all the Senegalese politicians met and talked with her. She made the first women’s association. She made the first journal about women. And the politicians were with her in Paris. They knew each other a long time ago.

NKR: Your mother is 82 now, very healthy and still working.

OWM: Yes. She is still working for the museum, because she doesn’t have money for the film journal. So she directs the museum in Gorée Island. And when you see her – [laughs] – when she goes to the meetings, she goes to the island, she takes the boat – she has energy.

NKR: Tell me a little bit more about your own filmmaking, because you’ve been making films for many years and have won some major awards at festivals such as Carthage, Milan and elsewhere.

OWM: Before Mother, the last movie I made was Fer et Verre in 2005, another portrait of a Senegalese woman, the painter Anta Germaine Gaye. Before that I made Xalima la Plume, a portrait of the Senegalese musician Seydina Insa Wade. Before that, my mother had organized a film festival in Senegal – RECIDAK – and I worked with her seven years. Before that I was Ben Beye’s assistant in his first film, the short film Les Princes noirs de Saint-Germaine des Prés. I worked on that film in Paris with Ben and also on his film Sey, Seyeti in Dakar. I made Dial-Diali, a short film about the aptitude of Senegalese women to charm the men. After that I made Fresque, about five Senegalese painters who go to Paris to make a fresco for a big salon near the Eiffel Tower. And I made Dakar Clando, which opened the Rotterdam Festival. I made Duunde Yakaar and my first film was a short film, Doomi Ngacc. That is about the village of my grandfather and the title means “child of.” I was also assistant director to Ousmane Sembene for his film Ceddo. I was assistant director for many films, also screenwriter, art director and producer.

NKR: You know I have emailed Ben Beye about meeting you and he said to ask you especially about the Africa Club. Would you tell me about the Africa Club?

OWM: You know, in Senegal, just after independence there was only one political party, with no opposition. And the young people – like us – formed a cultural group for talking to each other about politics without having a political party. We found the theater and cinema and conferences, you know, to talk to people. We didn’t have a party – instead we had a cultural and social club, and the name of this club was Africa. And my mother opened the house for the group Africa. And after that started I began working in cinema.

NKR: Ben said that your mother was his mother. And that she’s really the mother of your generation.

OWM: Yes.

NKR: And he said that Club Africa was where everybody met everybody else. How has that been for you?

OWM: Ben is a friend, but in Africa, Ben is my brother. Because my mother is the mother of all. My sister in Virginia, she put that on the poster for the film screening, “Mother of all.” Sometimes I say I have many sisters and brothers but we don’t have the same blood. But they are my sisters and brothers! Really, because they consider my mother like their own mother. If I see them, I say, ‘My sister! My brother!’ because we have the same education, the same upbringing. They were all the time in my mother’s house. I don’t know if Americans understand but in Africa it’s easy. Because Ben is my brother, I can’t fight Ben. Not only my friend and my colleague. There are other filmmakers – they are my colleagues, but Ben Beye is my brother.

NKR: One of the things I remember Ben talking about when he was here is that many of the movie theaters in Senegal have closed.

OWM: Yes, now the movie theaters are broken down. If you go to Dakar, you cannot see movies in the cinema. There’s no regular theater in Dakar. And Dakar was the city of cinema in Africa! We have tried to form “cine-clubs.” I started a cine-club in one restaurant in Dakar and some younger filmmakers started another cine-club in the cultural center. It’s really hard! And now you have a generation who never see a movie in the dark. They watch a movie on the computer or on TV. I say it’s a problem. For movies you must be in collectivity and in the dark. There’s movies, there’s television. It’s not the same. I think there is a transformation of the mentality of young filmmakers who don’t see movies in the dark. They don’t make movies like real movies. Because they are young now and they have rap songs, they make their films very fast, without concentration. A young filmmaker may make one, two, three films and never see a classic film.

NKR: When you were growing up there were lots of movies in Dakar.

OWM: Yes, yes. You would go with your girl friend, with your friends, with your family. If you had a meeting with anyone and you didn’t see a film, you were not happy. For two days after you go to see them, we would still talk about the film.

NKR: Are there some films you’ve seen here at this festival that you were glad to see?

OWM: I didn’t see many films because I have a problem with the language. My English is not good and I don’t understand the subtitles. But I understand that the editing makes the structure of the films. I saw a Hungarian film yesterday and two of Rob [Nilsson]’s, Need and Northern Lights. Yes – very beautiful. I liked his films very much.

NKR: Any rising young filmmakers in Senegal whose names we should know?

OWM: Yes, we have a young filmmaking generation and I think they can do well. I want to mention my partner – Laurent Attali, who did the editing of this film. She’s also co-producer, and she’s a filmmaker. She has directed many films in Senegal. We worked hard together because Mother is a film that only four persons made. Because there is the character, Annette d’Erneville, first. Me, I directed. Laurent Attali, editing. And the musician, Doudou Doukouré. It was enough – we four made this film.

NKR: And you shot it?

OWM: Yes, directed and shot and sound. It’s why this film is particular for me.

NKR: How did you come to work with Laurent?

OWM: Laurent came to RECIDAK after she come to Senegal to make a film, and I drove her around Senegal – for contacts for making a film – and I would tell her what I think, and we began to work on her film and after that, we continued to work on my film. She lives fifty percent in Senegal and fifty in France. Now she has Senegalese nationality. We go to Paris together today. She stays in Paris. I go on to Dakar and I come back for Cannes. Mère-bi will be at Cannes at the international market. The organization Culture France invited me.

A shorter version of this article appeared in the 5/14/09 print edition of the Syracuse City Eagle on page 17 & is posted at cnylink.com - click Entertainment. Reach Ousmane William Mbaye directly regarding this film at williambaye@hotmail.com.