Thursday, November 19, 2020

Reel Asian 24 Film Reviews - Film Frenzy Shorts

The Last Ferry From Grass Island

A Quiet older man (Wang Yang) steers his fishing boat comes home with his catch of the day to his wheelchair- bound mother on Grass Island Hong Kong near Shenzhen China.  His mom (Yeung Yee Yee) is fixated on the TV watching a dubbed version of Police Story on the TVB channel.  The man preps the fish and starts dinner as a woman (Tai Bo) approaches with two baskets. She silently enters the home moving to the back of the residence past the older woman with intent. she has been sent to permanently retire the man who was her mentor. How they solve their dilemma offers twist and turns as her protegee is determined to finish the job and catch the last ferry out. Director Linhan Zhan packs an abundance of content and emotion into a largely silent.piece. Yeung Yee Yee offers depth and comic relief despite not uttering a single word as Ah Ma. It's a perfectly paced thirteen-minute short film that well worth the watch.

**** Out of 4.

Last Ferry From Green Island | Linhan Zhang | Hong Kong | 2019 | 13 Minutes. 


A voice speaks over a cracking line counting down to one similar to a psychologist attempting to put someone under hypnosis. a female voice joins in as the count approaches zero  then we see her in her home working as a telephone counselor. She is trying to help others as it is obvious that she has health issues herself. Siriani (Tahirih Vejdani) takes her next call from a drug-addicted woman who she is tries  to help get into detox but a medical clearance is required. The woman balks at the extra required step then the caller from the opening returns even more aggressive and controlling than before. At the same time Siriani is late departing for her boyfriend's Elliot's place to celebrate his birthday. Siriani is caught between her desire to help and doing right by her boyfriend as she falls  under the spell of regular caller Drake.

***1/2 Out of 4.

Receiver | Cavan Campbell | Canada | 2020 | 15 Minutes.


A girl walks home alone at night is a good description of Rong. The Girl Yoni (Maryam Supraba) gets into a shared van taxi and is ogled by the other male passengers inside. A male performer Lingga (Anceoeamar) in a local sideshow spots her in her red dress and follows her into an alley with bad intentions. Being ignored makes him angry and he commits a vile act before cornering Yoni. He appears to be dominant when the ground shifts beneath him and the hunter becomes the hunted. Performed brilliantly in a tight space Rong is a mix of the supernatural and the psychological underpinned by driving drumbeat with a series of closing images that will stay imprinted in the viewer's mind's eye. 

*** Out of 4.

Rong |  Indira Iman | Indonesia | 2019 | 13 minutes.

Bow -wow

Making sure that you are chosen is the musical theme of Bow-wow featuring dogs up for adoption in a kennel. Komi  Chan Kang) the six-year-old male Maltese seems depressed. He is down to three days left before facing a final fate. Mix comes up with the idea of Dog-ception as opposed to inception which is for humans.  The plan; go into Komi's dreams and plant happy thoughts armed with your totem to get Komi presentable for adoption before the looming deadline. There is no worry of limbo as dogs can only go two levels. The incantation is sung and in they go. Moong/ Furloss( Hyunkyung Ko) Chuu-Chuu (Shinyoung Park)  and the leader Mix (Donggyu Lee).  Level one is a happy bright wide open field but a deeper dive to level two reveals a cramped dirty apartment of Komi's former master where the trauma took place. The positive message is sung to Komi in three party harmony everything seems good then it's not. Bow-wow features a playful twist on Christopher's Nolan's Inception in Korean featuring taking dogs that take on human form when they dream. The lesson here include the importance of friendship, family and persevering through tough times. Does their plan work? It's left up to the viewer to decide. 

***1/2 Out of 4.

Bow-wow | Hyungnam Pak | South Korea | 2019 | 23 Minutes. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Double Exposure Film Festival Film Review - Enemies of the State

The story of Anonymous server host, hacker National Gard Vet and suffer from depression Matthew DeHart is told in Sona Kennebeck's Enemies of the State. The key event is a 2010 raid of the DeHart Indiana family home where the FBI took Matts computer claiming that they were looking for evidence of child pornography. In Matt's version the FBI were looking for files relating to his darknet server that he had shut down. The files contain material that would expose the C.I.A. as acting on U.S. soil authors of a homegrown terrorist attack. After the event Matt fled to Mexico. When he was able to return to the family home he ended up studying in Montreal. The conditions of his residency meant he had to renter the U.S. then go back to restart the clock. Upon entering the United States Matt was arrested for the outstanding charge of two counts of child poronography in Tennesse and spent the next two years in prison.  DeHart claims he was tortured, interrogated after being injected with  the hallucinogenic drug Thorazine left in a cell with no clothing or furniture, and subject to sleep deprivation. Upon his release and return home his parents Paul and Leann who were also military veterans and both at one point had security clearance decided to flee with their son to Canada in April 2013 to seek asylum. 

Director Sona Kennebeck explores the two competing narratives.The FBI pursuing, tormenting and harassing Matt and his family all retired veterans with his father Paul having worked for the N.S.A. Paul and Leann are deeply involved in Matt's life possibly a level too much as the film explores. The other told by the judge and investigating FBI officer the case supporting the child poronograpy charges. Two boys had come forward that met Matt online claiming that he came to Tennessee to meet them and was in possession of compromising videos. 

The film uses a heavy dose of reenactments that is a trademark of Errol Morris who serves as producer for the production. Matts interrogation after his arrest at the border, A bird's eye view of the conditions in that first prison cell, and the asylum hearing in Toronto all get the treatment. Given the current sentiment to be at least wary if not full out distrusting government agencies Matt's story although extraordinary could be believed. Attempting to smear a perceived threat personally with a disturbing sexual narrative is a long-standing tool in the F.B.I's playbook. It's not until late evidence comes to light into the closing stanza of the film does the balance of probabilities tilt to one side over the other. 

Enemies of the State is the story of a hacktivist with connections to Anonymous, Wikileaks, and the Dark Web who went on the run after an interaction with the FBI. DeHart sought to defect to Russia and Venezuela then eventually sought asylum in Canada over a described data dump on his server that had National Security Implications. Matt DeHart was doing something on his computer that attracted the attention of the government. The proof presented for one argument .vs the lack thereof of the other and Matt's ultimate actions will lead the viewer to one likely conclusion. 

*** 1/2 Out of Four. 

Enemies of the State | Sonia Kennebeck |  U.S.A. | 2020 | 103 Minutes.

Tags; Dark Web, Internet Server, F.B.I Raid, C.I.A Coverup, Cyber-Crime Arrest, Torture, Thorazine, Child Poronograpy, Indiana, Tennessee, Prison, Asylum, Anonymous, Wikileaks, Hacktivist. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Double Exposure Film Festival Film Review - MLK / FBI

Director Sam Pollard wanted to narrow the voices and let the archival material tell the story in his new Documentary  Film MLK/FBI. Pollard a close collaborator with Spike Lee on several films including Mo' Better Blues, Clockers, and Bamboozled limited the main speakers to 5. Two Historians, A FBI agent, two close friends of the Reverend,and a special appearance by James Comey. From 1963 Until his asssassination in 1968 the FBI conducted surveillance mainly by way of wiretapping on Martin Luther King Jr. The Reverand first came to the attention of the FBI after leading a successful 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Now seeing the mobilization that he was able to muster in the summer of 1963  Hoover felt active measures were required. He and his deputy director William C. Sullivan who called King "the most dangerous Negro in the future of this nation" used the threat of communism as the path to secure the authorization.

Stanley Levinson an inner circle advisor for King had well-known ties to the communist party.  Levinson was both a lawyer and a CPA plus they spun the notion that the black population would be more susceptible to communism. King argued the opposite finding it to be a wonder that more did not given the plight of African- Americans in the country. Hoover brought the communist leanings of Levinson to JFK who encouraged King to distance himself from Levison. King did not allowing Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to grant the first series of wiretaps on King in 1963.  They tapped the offices of the SCLC , King's home, and his close friend and speechwriter Clarence Jones who serves as one of the voices for the film. It was on the wiretap at Jones' home that the FBI learn that King was not always faithful to his wife and took the focus of the surveillance in a different direction. 

Historian Beverly Gage gives the FBI point of view that was the prevailing one on the day. The FBI under Hoovers 48 year reign carefully crafted their image as America's protectors bringing the best and brightest to the agency. There was the look of a G-Man tall and athletic that ranged from Fraternity boy to ex Football player. Plus a patriotic public campaign started by Hoover in the late twenties, that included newsreels and portrayals on film then the post war communist threat feed the beast. King biographer and author David Garrow gives a matter of fact comment noting that the FBI was not acting off-book. They were part of the political establishment and their actions were signed off both by Bobby Kennedy and later Lyndon Johnston. Both men were friendly with King but not disavowing Livingston led the former and a stong anti-Vietnam stance guided the latter to see things the F.B.I.'s way. 

MLK/FBI explores a leading goverment agency obsession boarding on paranoia to squash a threat that in their view tcould affect American society as a whole and more to the point themselves. Hoover reached the pinnacle of outrage when King was awarded the Nobel Prize. He publically labeled King the most notorious liar in the U.S. and launch a plan by Deputy director Sullivan to link King to a hotel rape. The plan was only called off due to King's April 4, 1968 death. The FBI saw themselves as standing up for white Christian ideals a position that was supported by the man on the street. Director Pollard presents the information clearly ad plainly and given the current relationship between minorities and authorities timely as well. 

***1/2 Out of 4.

MLK/FBI | Sam Pollard | U.S.A. | 2020 | 104 Minutes. 

Tags: MLK, Montogomery Bus Boycott, Baptist Preacher, SCLC, March on Washington, FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, Wiretaps, Imformants, Audultery, Survellance, Reel to Reel, Tapes, Nobel Peace Prize, Annoymus Letter, Assassination. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Double Exposure Film Festival Review - The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel

Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott return with Joel Bakan co-directing this time 17 years after their landmark 2003 Documentary The Corporation which she co-directed with Mark Achbar based on Bakan's screenplay. The pair have been stewing over the last few years seeing that corporations have taken the diagnosis from the original film as being psychopaths to rebrand themselves as being on your side environmentally conscious and declaring that they have families too and want to leave the plant in a better state for both your and their grandchildren. 

The directors manage to make their way to the World Economic Forum at the invitation of its founder Klaus Schwab which is the focus of the first section of the film. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is the executive in the crosshairs for most of this sequence. He holds court in Davos where the world financial elite meet to exchange views and set world economic policy. Current and past Heads of Sate mingle with billionaire CEO's and think tank chairs while techies looking to fund their startups struggle to get some face time. Dimon trumpets his plan to rebuild Detroit where in reality as the prior practices of his bank and his colleagues including floating dodgy mortgage funds lead to the collapse of the market, their bailout, and the demise of Detroit in the first place. 

The documentary as its predecessor continues to explore the expected suspects Google, Amazon, G.E. Facebook, Pepsi Co, and Merck outlining their schemes to avoid paying taxes and sheltering their profits offshore. Even a sequence where Microsoft invests to educate children in developing countries through a program known as Bridge International Academies is skewered as the teachers are not fully qualified, tethered to tablet that they are forced to follow strictly. The takeaway; if the driving principle is to make a profit social responsibility, a green agenda and making the world a better place will always come second. 

The most off-putting part of the film is the list of steps referred to as the Corporation Playbook. The directors outline a series of steps that Corporations take to put themselves at the centre of society. The main points is not paying their fair share of taxes creates a shortfall in the government's budget to deliver services. Because there is a shortfall the most vulnerable citizens suffer. Here steps up the seemingly altruistic Corporation to privatize the former government service: water, prisons, war, and education for a profit. They proclaim the government is falling short therefore the community-minded cooperation has to act. In the last third of the piece, the Directors touch on the rise of the progressive movement. Operation Wall Street, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Progressives running for and being elected to office as a pushback to the Market Society. Black Lives Matters and Covid-19 are also explored as a coda. as The additions seems a bit forced and the film would have been more cohesive without the last minute inclusion. The directors raise some good points but do not cover any new ground that the viewer has likely contemplated while watching a B.P. ad on how they are doing great things for the environment hoping that the consumer has forgotten the event of the Deep Water Horizon Horizon spill. If the conclusion from the first film was that Cooperation are Psychotic The New Corporation lays out the case that 17 years later it is in fact  Chaotic Neutral. 

*** Out of 4

The New Corporation: The Unfortunate Necessary Sequel | Joel Bakan/Jennifer Abbot | 2020 | 106 Minutes. 

Tags: World Economic Forum, Davos, Klaus Schwab, J.P. Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, Detroit, Bridge International Academies, Corporate Citizenry, Tax Avoidance, Privatization, Microsoft, Amazon, G.E., Progressive Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Protest, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19. 


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Double Exposure Film Festival Film Review - 76 Days

 76 Days covers the hectic period of the lock down in Wuhan at the start of the COVID-19 virus. The main focus is on the hospital workers who are covered from head to toe in PPE, completely unrecognizable to each other except for their I.D.'s and grab any opportunity to sit and have a moment of stillness. The film opens with one of the staff arriving at the room of her father just after he has passed. She is physically restrained by her colleagues as she expresses her uncontrollable grief. She just wants to say goodbye but is not allowed to do so as words of encouragement are sent her way for her to be strong as her long shift has just started.

Director Hao Wu put the film together from New York while Weixi Chen and an Anonymous contributor shot the footage guerilla-style in Wuhan. The pair would upload their footage to the cloud where Hao Wu would go to retrieve finding the best threads to begin to piece together a film. The results are poignant yet devastating from the uncontrollable opening sequence to the end when the lockdown is finally lifted. 

The project tracks a patient referred to by staff as Grandpa throughout the film. He is restless, does not wear his mask properly, and is constantly wandering throughout the hospital especially at night trying to get out and go home. From this personal and measurably happy tail, the embedded filmmakers train a lens to the entrance of the facility. The doors are locked and there is banging and shouting in the small space between the doors and the elevators. The area is full of infected people trying to get in for treatment. The hospital can handle 50 maximum slowly working their way through a selection process a few patients at a time. Another morbid task is making calls to the family of the deceased as the nurse on duty goes through personal belongings including cell phones, I.D. cards, and jewellery that the staff remove from the dead feeling the family would want to keep as a souvenir. 

The directors did not want any of the staff to be identified in reviews of the film for fear of potential backlash from the Chinese Government.  The film is shot in four different hospitals with the name of one being prominently displayed towards the end of the film. The spirit of the community is something to behold. Volunteers come from all over the country to help out. Citizens turn their vehicles into transports for the infected sanitizing the best they can and decontaminating after each trip. 

On top of it all the project originally set for a U.S. network to was eventually scrapped once the virus found its way to U.S. shores. Hao Wu continued to edit during the down period later convincing his two collaborators a world away to keep going as this was an important project that people should see. 

76 Days is a close-up view of medical workers working with the unknown.  The lessons learned that are being applied to the second wave that is now sweeping the globe were unknown to these virus battling pioneers. They manage to have some tender moments when they show their kindness by blowing up plastic gloves to create get well soon balloons placed amongst the tubes of a ventilator. They are the only people that these suffering manly seniors see in an isolated setting with a good possibility that their patients lives could be coming to an end. 

**** Out of 4

76 Days | Hao Wu/ Weixi Chen/Anonymous | U.S.A. | 2020 | 93 Minutes. 

Tags: Wuhan , China, COVID-19, Lockdown, Pandemic, PPE, Guerilla Filmmaking, Ventilator, ID Card, Smartphone, Facetime, Bracelet. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

LevelK Film Film Review - TOVE

The Moomins iconic big snouted hippo-like characters from children's books, comic strips, and toys are known the world over. The big snouted hippos are a regular staple of kids toys on every continent. However not much is known about their creator Tove Jannson (Alma Poysti) a free spirited starving artist who first did the caricatures that would be her life's work as a distraction to fill time.  Her real work was painting  under the watchful eye of her famous father sculptor (Robert Enckel). If she thought differently her father was always present to remind her that she was wasting her time her characters that were not art.  Seeing that she continued to be left off the grant list Tove receives a job offer to create an invite for the Mayors 70th birthday. The provider of the offer was the mayor's daughter Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen) another artist whose upper class status and marriage of convivence allows her to pursue all of her wants with little consequence. She runs a local theater spends months on end in Paris where she maintains a flat and soon has Tove under her spell. Tove's other main relationship from the post World War II era of the film is with Socialist Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney) a local M.P.  He is married but does not hide his relationship with Tove as his wife will call her flat/studio looking for him if they have an appointment that day. 

Tove's career as a cartoonist begins to blossom due to an act of kindness from each of her lovers. Vivica gets her dad the mayor to commission a fresco at City Hall for Tove to complete. Viciva sees it as a way for Tove to earn the funds to come and see her in Paris oblivious to how much time the project would take. Atos proposes a comic strip in the local socialist paper which gets her noticed by the Evening News at the time the biggest newspaper in the world. 

Director Zaida Bergoth gives a real insight into Tove's life during the pivotal years spanning the film, the lived experience of artists in Finland, and the life philosophy of the title character. Early on Tove declares that she will never get married. She describes Vivica the love of her life as a beautiful Dragon that attacked her but Tove realizes that you cannot hold onto a dragon as they have to go back out into the wild. She also knows that Atmos will do anything for her but she is also not the type of person that would take advantage and hold him to any arrangement. 

Tove brings the audience into the world of writers and artisans in post Second World War Europe. Their freedom of expression, passion for each other and the arts. It will remind the viewer of the more celebrated period of artistic exploration a generation before when the late twenties rolled into the early thirties. At the centre of the film it is an influential creative mind behind a global franchise who spirit is captured beautifully in the film. 

***1/2 Out of 4.

Tove | Zaida Bergroth | Finland/Sweden | 2020 | 100 Minutes.

Tags: Bomb Shelter ,Dancing, Visual Artists, Gallery Exhibition, Grant, Commission, Momintroll, Thingumy & Bob, Paris, Edith Piaf, 

Friday, September 18, 2020

TIFF '20 Film Review - Spring Blossom

Suzanne(Suzanne Lindon) is bored with her friends, her routine and all people her age. She is a sixteen-year-old student who would rather curl up with a book than go out with her sister Marie (Rebecca Marder) or do something with her parents. Her only area of interest is a much older man Raphael (Arnaud Valois) who is performing in the play in the town square. He smiles when he sees her staring at him from a distance on her way to go to school. They strike up a conversation when she is hanging around at the side of the theatre. Raphael is also bored. He doesn't know how to act anymore, does not like the directors' stage direction, and only finds joy in the music of the production so doesn't mind the  attention. 

Lindon wrote directed and stars in the film. much. But it's behind the camera and her imaginative script where she excels. She creates a brilliant coordinated sequence where Raphael passes over his  headphones for Suzanne to listen to music from the play. The pair sitting side by side at café tables begin synchronized movements as Suzanne closes her eyes to absorb the piece. The story she tells is a simple one. A High School girl falls for a guy twice her age. 

Suzanne begins to pay more attention to appearance, makeup, hair and even going as far as to ask her dad if he prefers women in skirts' or pants. When the two of  them are together they are happy to be in each other's presence. Affection consists of gases, hand-holding or a kiss on the neck. Suzanne won't even get on the back of Raphael's scooter forcing him to walk pushing it beside her as they tour around town. 

Spring Blossom is the story of a girls first foray into the world of romance. She awkward, unsure shy and quiet. Suzanne and Raphael are both present when they spend time together. They are interested in what each other has to say and their respective likes and thoughts. Lindon is omniscient in this work not taking the story along any expected or obvious path. It's an undertaking from a first time artist that's worthy of the viewer's attention sparking anticipation this new talent's next project.

*** Out of  4.

Spring Blossom | Suzanne Lindon | France | 2020 | 73 Minutes.

Tags; Boredom, Melancholy, Fantasy, Routine, Theatre, Paris, Montmartre, Rehearsal, Café, VIAN, Grenadine & Lemonade, Red Scooter, Strawberry Jam & Toast