Friday, 8 February 2019

Feb 7th
On the Basis of Sex
The Hate U Give

It's another week where two of the three films reviewed have overwhelmed me with their power, their themes, their tackling of injustice, their compassion and their fine film-making. And just to reiterate, my scoring is often so high because I simply don't go to see those films I think will not be so good. Why waste two hours of one's life!?

Director: Nadine Labaki
Length: 126 min
© Madman - your heart will break for the lives
of the many poor and refugee people in this film.
This is Lebanon's entry for Best Foreign Language Film in the forthcoming Oscars. First the question on everyone's lips - why the title? Not to be completely confused with the Biblical town, (both may have similar derivations) - it means a confused disorderly jumble. When outlining her film's themes, director Labaki had so many that the title evolved. It is the lives of the characters that are in total disarray. This is the story of Zain, about 12 years old (no he has no birth papers) who lives in a slum area of Beirut with many siblings and abusive parents struggling to get by. When the father sells 11-year-old sister Sahar into marriage Zain runs away, and is given shelter by an illegal Ethiopian immigrant Rahil, who has a young baby Jonas. When Rahil suddenly disappears Zain is left to attempt to protect and care for the baby, stealing and working street jobs. This is a remarkable piece of film-making, straddling documentary and fiction. Most of the actors were pulled from the streets, their real lives mirroring those of the characters they play. The young lead boy (Zain al Rafeea) is simply mesmerising, as, with a doggedness and responsibility, he does whatever it takes to care for the baby, before ultimately going to court to sue his parents for ever bringing him into the world. Yordanos Shiferaw as Rahil similarly was an illegal immigrant when pulled in for the role, and as for the baby, the little girl Treasure playing the impish Jonas is beyond adorable. All these actors bring the truth of the pain of their lives to this wonderful film, that has already risen to my top 10 for the just-started year.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

On the Basis of Sex
Director: Mimi Leder
Length: 120 min
© EOne - fabulous subject matter - not totally
sure about the directorial approach
Here's a biopic where it becomes hard to separate strong subject matter from film-making technique. Last year we saw the excellent doco RBG about US Supreme court judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an inspirational woman who spearheaded the fight for gender equality and many other social inequities. Here's the feature film version starring British rose Felicity Jones as aforesaid Ruth, and the impossibly handsome Armie Hammer as her husband Martin. The film traces the early years of Ruth's getting into Harvard law school, in an era where women were expected to be wives and mothers, and mainly men were accepted to the bar. When Martin finds a taxation law case discriminating against a man, Ruth takers on the might of the legal patriarchy to mount a case of gender discrimination. It's a nicely acted film, with an extremely important historical theme, but it employs, especially in the early part, too many cliched film-making techniques. And the soundtrack, which I refer to as "jaunty choofing-along music", annoyed me immensely and detracted from the gravitas of the story. Nonetheless it's a good recreation of the era, and in the second half, where more silence is employed and legal thrust and parry get more intense, the film definitely lifts its game. Despite flaws, the film is worth a look, but I preferred the doco.
3 - recommended!

The Hate U Give
Director: George Tillman Jnr
Length: 133 min
© Fox - I haven't been so angry in a film for a 
long time - racial injustice yet again
This film has just blown me away. Based upon a young adult novel, it is the story of Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a black teen at a white private school, living almost a dual life with two distinct styles of presenting herself to the world, her schoolgirl "white" self, and her ghetto black self. All is going well until she is sole witness to her childhood pal Khalil (Algee Smith) killed by a white policeman. As tensions mount within the rival black gangs in her neighbourhood, and within the black community as a whole against white injustices, Starr must decide if she has the courage to stand up and speak out. There are simply too many issues and themes to enumerate in this important, gripping and moving story, but Tillman handles them deftly, never preaching, but never shying from the hard truths of what hatred means, both between the races and within a neighborhood. The title comes from a song by murdered rapper Tupac Shakur, THUGLIFE (The Hate U Give Little Infants F...s Everyone). How relevant is this in a world, regardless of color, that still hasn't learned that lesson. The performance by Stenberg moved me to tears, (and every other cast member is simply brilliant), the rampant ignorance and prejudice enraged me, the family connections inspired me, and overall this is one mighty fine movie, not just for young adults but all of us.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

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