Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)

“Our point of view follows a trajectory to become the vanishing point of our own failure.” —Jacques Lacan

“Who plunged this place of light into darkness?” asks with a heavy heart an Iraqi actor sifting through the bombed ruins of what had once been Iraq's film office and archives. Though rhetorical and sappy it may sound, the question epitomizes the visual dilemma Abbas Fahdel's documentary expands on. At the very centre of Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) are in fact questions of representation, of cultural perspective and omission of the visible. The film, divided into two parts, follows the director's extended family and friends in the run-up to the American invasion of Iraq (“Before the Fall”) and in its fatal aftermath (“After to the Battle”). Presumably due to the family's temporary move to a countryside house during the bombing of Baghdad, the war itself—that is, the military invasion of of a sovereign nation—is not featured in the documentary. This absence becomes more and more telling as the film progresses and we realise that the armed aggression of Iraq was but the prelude to a nightmare of unspeakable proportions. Fahdel's film is disarmingly simple yet unprecedented in that it shows the daily reality of those on the receiving end of our humanitarian wars. Despite the overwhelming proliferation of images, “Homeland” has the same impact of footage from a newly discovered planet, something we literally have never seen before. Even the most courageous and truthful attempts to describe the Iraq war (Laura Poitras' My Country, My Country or Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah, for instance) are irremediably removed from the epic naturalism that unfolds from every frame of this film. The most distressing aspect of the war that the film captures is not the actual invasion but its consequences: the descent of Iraqi society into utter and violent chaos. Far from being a collateral damage of sort, the disintegration of Iraqi society is a strategic ploy (as old as colonialism itself) that the American administration carried out by any means necessary. For the citizens of Iraq this meant a forced cohabitation between the bearable lightness of everyday life and the dim indeterminacy of incessant, deadly danger.
Continue reading here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

“I Don’t Throw Bombs, I Make Films”: The Cinema of Terrorism

It would be interesting to know why George W. Bush and his inner circle decided to call their neo-imperialist crusade a “War on Terror” and not a war on terrorism. Why, in other words, they waged war against a feeling, rather than against a political phenomenon. Doclisboa, one of Europe’s most daring and ingenious festivals, this year dedicated a program not to the issue of terrorism itself, but to its on-screen representation. It’s an issue made all the more relevant not only by the tragic attacks that recently shook the French capital and beyond, but also by the crucial role that visual (self-)representation of terrorism plays both in our perception of it and its amplitude. Terror groups, or alleged such, have always counted on and manipulated the media to amplify the reach of their actions, for there cannot be hysteria without the mass-mediated propagation of fear—a lesson ISIS seems to have learned criminally well judging from its sophisticated online presence, brand awareness and lethal propaganda machine made of Hollywood-like trailers and intimidating “coming soon.” To analyze the representation of terrorism is to understand the way it functions and perpetrates its deadly goals, but also the way in which it is used to justify repression and mass surveillance. The definition of terrorism, often hazy and subject to interpretation, is on the contrary ontologically clear. The Oxford Dictionary defines terrorism as “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation against innocent civilians in the pursuit of political aims.” While officialdom and authorization may be debatable concepts, the killing of innocent civilians is certainly not.

Continue reading here.

Friday, 4 December 2015


Cinema punctures the human skin of things, the derm of reality. It exalts matter and makes it appear to us in its relationship with the mind from which it emerges.

- Antonin Artaud

In a festival world so seemingly bent on its own self-referential circularity, Doclisboa tries not to severe the umbilical cord that connects cinema to the placenta of life before and beyond the screen. Despite further cuts to its budget, the festival, now in its 13th edition, continues to forward an idea of cinema as a site of both elaboration and continuation of the world at large. The very way the festival embraces its visitors is a pleasant diversion to the inbreeding snobbery endemic to the festival circuit. It is precisely under this anti-elitist perspective that the artless decision to isolate the festival from any form of market activity feels somewhat incongruous. Festivals and films, however radical, do not in fact exist in a vacuum and their dissemination is invariably determined by economic factors which, if tactically put to use, can broaden the audience of Doclisboa to include those not privileged enough to attend the festival. To avoid the risk of sectarian implosion an indispensable festival like this one has to discorporate, outlive its established duration and let its critical seeds germinate outside of its own elective field. For, if anything, the stimulating exuberance of its programming begs to be shared. 

This year the festival exhumed two of the greatest humanists of world cinema (a dying breed indeed): Billy Woodberry and Stephen Dwoskin. The latter having passed away a few years ago returned in “Before the Beginning,” while Woodberry broke his thirty years long silence with “And When I Die I, I Won't Stay Dead,” both of which received their world premiere in the “Risks” section, curated by veteran Portuguese film critic Augusto M. Seabra. “Before the Beginning” titular suggestion is the very premise and emotional essence of the film that the late Dwoskin had begun to make in 2004 with his colleague and friend Boris Lehman. This cine-missive from the afterlife is an intimate act of reconnoitring the two directors made in preparation of a film that never was. In it they share their embryonic ideas and frailties, unrealized intents and filmed memories. A comforting collage of preliminary notes, rehearsals and desultory drafts, Dwoskin's and Lehman's film exudes an impalpable eloquence, hidden away in the most (in)significant gestures. Like many of Dwoskin's films “Before the Beginning” is at once transient and profound. A film that exists in several indefinite versions and that we can only imagine since we will never see it completed.

"And When I Die, I Won't Stay Dead"

 Thirty years after “Bless Their Little Hearts,” one of the late masterpieces of LA's Pan-African-American wave that had its creative epicentre at the UCLA but reached as far as Ethiopia, Billy Woodberry re-emerged, it remains unclear exactly where from, with “And When I Die, I Won't Stay Dead.” A documentary about a certain Bob Kaufman, lesser known beat poet whose metrical elegies were not accorded the same shelf room Ginsberg or Ferlinghetti got. It is precisely his “lesser notoriety” the investigative core of this documentary, conventional only on its surface. Woodberry's film performs in fact, two thirds into its duration, a sort of supplementary immersion into the murky waters of Kaufman's life. If being black and Jewish had already been a good enough reason not to reach his peers' fame, Kaufman's political past was not exactly a selling point. Active in the last militant phase of the workers' movement in America, before McCarthy's purges and Hoover's iron fist erased it even from national memory, Kaufman got to San Francisco's North Beach having already lived a life worth living. Not even time has in fact managed to turn him into a marketable beat icon, he stayed true not only to himself but also to his idea of poetry which he experienced as the retching of the soul, not the pursuit of a publishing deal.

The festival winner this year was “Il Solengo” by Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis. At a time when so many films are made about the supposed idyll of rural life, “Il Solengo,” which roughly translates as “the loner,” constitutes a probing and calmly unnerving inversion of tendency. The protagonist, which we never actually see (or do we at the end?) is recounted in the words and anecdotes of his neighbours. A loose cannon in the mountains outside Rome and its communities which in the films are faithfully rendered in all their insular obscurity, “the loner” inhabits the dark recesses of the valleys and their subconscious. The directors show considerable talent in capturing the undercurrents of a natural landscape removed from the simplified rendition we often get on screen and actually rendered in all its sinister intricacy. In tune with the surrounding landscape, the stories we hear about “the loner” are burdened by a sense of verbal inadequacy – like something we are not really supposed to listen to, let alone fully grasp.

This article has been published on the January 2016 issue of Sight & Sound.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Anti-Gentrification Double Bill

THE HOMEBODIES (dir. Larry Yust, 1974)

"When a quiet group of pensioners learn that their homes are to be torn down to make way for a block of flats, they decide to take action. What starts as an attempt to discourage the developers soon escalates into wholesale murder of both the developers and the construction workers."

BREAKIN' ELECTRIC BOOGALOOS (dir. Sam Firstenberg, 1984)

"A developer tries to bulldoze a community recreation center. The local breakdancers try to stop it."

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


"Crimes against children are the most heinous crime. That, for me, would be a reason for capital punishment because children are innocent and need the guidance of an adult society." 

- Clint Eastwood

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Runaway Train

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. 
But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”

- William Shakespeare, Richard III

Sunday, 2 November 2014

March of the Penguins - Amazon review

In case anyone is still doubtful in regard to the benefits that the internet has brought to the practice of film criticism...AMAZING review!

Via Autodespair

Monday, 8 September 2014

New luxury cinema service allows guests to sleep through film and have someone tell them what happens after

Dream Factory Consumers

With 5-star offerings such as reclining seats and waiter services already prevalent across many Gulf cinemas, film fans in need of a little more luxury will soon have a new option to choose from.
Landing in multiplexes over the next couple of months, CineSnooze is a brand new technology that is being billed as “the ultimate movie theatre experience”.

Upon entering the CineSnooze fitted cinema screen, each guest will be taken to their own freshly made bed and given a warm mug of hot chocolate to help sooth them off to sleep. Earbuds and an eyemask will also be provided so the film doesn’t interrupt them throughout the entire experience.
“We found that so many of our customers choosing cushioned premium seats were falling asleep within minutes of sitting down, so thought we should cater to their unspoken demands, which in this case was for pocket sprung mattresses, 100 per cent Egyptian cotton sheets and Hungarian goose down pillows,” said Javier Ghent, regional manager at ArabCinePlex, which has been developing the technology. 

But the real genius of CineSnooze comes into effect once the film has finished. Having been woken from their well-earned slumber, guests will sit down with a trained member of staff who will explain the film’s main story arc, central characters and plot themes, as well as providing details of essential quotes and scenes.
“We want to ensure that should a conversation regarding the film arise – whether it be about a lightweight Michael Bay actioner or a mind-boggling Jean-Luc Godard art house affair – all CineSnooze guests will be able to hold their own and offer a confident, well-considered critique,” added Ghent.

The first CineSnooze service is set to launch in Dubai next month, but tickets already on standby having sold out weeks ago. Cinemas in Abu Dhabi and Doha are now fitting dedicated CineSnooze rooms. “I see this becoming the next big deal in the region’s cinema industry,” said entertainment journalist Barry McQuigley. “Judging by the responses so far, it seems that film fans across the Gulf are crying out for the chance to put their heads down and sleep soundly through the latest multi-million dollar summer blockbusters.”
But while CineSnooze may take the premium, top-tier cinema crown, those in the cheaper seats also have something to look forward to.
“We’re going to be trialling a new concept where audiences can choose to lower the volume of the film should it begin to interrupt their conversations,” said Ghent.

Via The Pan-Arabia Enquirer

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Pasolini's Heretical Empiricism

"This language of production and consumption - and not the language of man - appears as implacably deterministic. It only wants to communicate functionally; it doesn't want to perorate or exalt or convince - advertising slogans see to all that."

- Pier Paolo Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism

Monday, 16 June 2014


That's exactly how the Swiss football team would look like according to the recent referendum on immigration.

Go $ hell!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Still from Darktown Strutters

Friday, 6 June 2014

Taliban willing to return all five Taliban leaders in exchange for Jennifer Lawrence

NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN: Less than 24 hours after the controversial prisoner swap between the US government and the Taliban, leaders of the militant group have announced that they would be happy to return all five Taliban leaders in exchange for Hollywood starlet Jennifer Lawrence. “We feel this is a fair deal that should appeal to Obama,” a leader of the Afghan Taliban told Al Jazeera. “Ok, we’ll throw in another three militants.”

 It is not the first time that the mujahedins express their love and respect for Hollywood stars. Back in the 80s in fact, they had fought side by side with John Rambo against the evil Russians. The love is apparently mutual, as the final credits of Rambo III remind us.

Final credits of Rambo III