Tuesday, 15 November 2016

November 17th:  
I, Daniel Blake
German Film Festival

Finally caught up with the best sci-fi I've seen in years. This year's Cannes winner is finally out, along with a delightful dance film, and the German Film Festival, with a truckload of films for your delectation. 

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Length: 116 min

© Roadshow - Adams and Renner - a great team!
It's been a while since we had a thinking person's sci-fi film, but this could be it. Alien spaceships in the form of giant black pods arrive and hover over the earth in 12 different locations. The military co-opt linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to join the "first contact" team in an attempt to find a means of communicating with the strange beings in the pod. Astrophysicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) is along to assist. Whether the beings have arrived in a hostile capacity, or perhaps to make positive changes upon earth, is for the humans to figure out, but given humans seldom manage to cooperate, this could be a tall order. What surprised and impressed me is the way the film absorbed me in thinking about the nature of communication, but also the unexpected emotionality derived from the fact that Louise is suffering grief from the death of a daughter. The whole issue of time/space continuum is explored in light of this, and aside from blowing my mind, it really brings something fresh and invigorating to the genre.

4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!
For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

I, Daniel Blake
Director: Ken Loach
Length: 100 min

© Transmission - life is easier to bear with friends - especially 
when battling the welfare system! 
Director Ken Loach is almost synonymous with films about the downtrodden classes in Britain, and this latest is no exception. Winning the top award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, the film tells the heartbreaking story of Daniel Blake, who is told by his doctor he cannot work until he is fully recovered from his recent heart attack. But the British welfare system demands he go job-hunting, otherwise his payments will be stopped. He's in a bind! He meets a  struggling single mother, and the friendship they form gives them strength to battle the heartlessness of the welfare system. This is disturbing, anger-inducing and confronting film-making, and with Loach's choice of non-actors in the parts, it feels ultra-authentic. 

4 - wholeheartedly recommended!
For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Director: Douglas Watkin
Length: 82 min
Exclusive to Cinema Nova

Fresh from this year's MIFF is a doco about the Australian Ballet's first Indigenous dancer, Ella Havelka. Growing up in Dubbo, Ella always had a burning desire to dance, and won a scholarship to study with the National Ballet School. In attempting to reconcile her roots with the more classical ballet style, she headed off to do a four-year stint with the Aboriginal Bangarra dance company, before being chosen for the Australian Ballet.  While not a ground-breaking doco in its style, it is a compelling story of a personal journey, features an extremely appealing subject and some beautiful dancing. It should be a winner for fans of dance and stories of Indigenous empowerment and identity.  

3 - recommended! 

German Film Festival
Melbourne 17-30 November (see guide for other states)

This year's festival is chock full of excellent films- yet again!! Among the many dramas, comedies and documentaries are remakes of some favourites, like Heidi and The Diary of Anna Frank, as well as four old films celebrating 70 years of the former East German film studio DEFA. Among the many special events are a Swiss Soiree, a talk on queer identity in film, and panel discussions after selected screenings.
I'm lucky to have caught a few films in advance:  
4 Kings: A challenging exploration of troubled young  people spending Christmas Eve in a psychiatric unit. Despite the heavy subject matter, there is something gentle and ultimately positive about the the story, and the film showcases Germany's up and coming acting talent. 
Hordur: something for all ages - a delicate and heart-warming story of a Turkish/German teen serving a community order at a horse stable. The effect the Icelandic pony Hordur will have on her life is immeasurable. 
A Heavy Heart: I can see why Peter Kurth won Best Actor in the German film awards for his portrayal of a boxer, succumbing to a neurological illness and desperate to make amends with his estranged daughter. It's a really tough film to watch, but an expertly crafted one. 
Original Bliss: Certainly not for everyone, but with outstanding performances by two of Germany's top actors Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur, the film explores the interrelationship between faith, domestic violence and sexual degradation. Worriesome stuff!  

For all the information on the films, dates and events:

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