Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 13, No. 2, 2014
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl
Into Eternity
When We Leave
Le Havre
Presumed Guilty
A Separation
Take This Waltz
Beyond The Walls
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Past




A & O film critic Nancy Snipper has seen the following films. Here are her ratings and comments, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.

3.5-- RACHEL, LA STAR AUX PIEDS NUES, Héléne Magny & Pierre Migneault
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] At the age of nine, Rachel Mwanza was living on the streets of Kinshasa, Congo. First abandoned by her father, then her mom, then her grandmother who threw her out but kept Rachel's brothers, Rachel spends over five years on the street. She meets Marlene who takes care of her in her decrepit squat along with other children. But the world is full of unfathomable surprises. Rachel starred in Ken Nguyen's 2012 film Rebelle (War Witch). Unable to either read or write, this resilient sincere girl ended up walking away with major prizes awarded to her at the big international film festivals. She was 14-years-old when she held up her Golden Bear Award. Coming back to Congo and her village, however, she encounters nothing but poverty, anger and street gangs who have turned Marlene into an alcoholic and a victim of multiple rapes. Her grandmother keeps asking her for money and Rachel lets her have it. One wonders if Rachel will have another golden chance to make her dreams happen. She wants to help the poor and become a star. This is one of those documentaries that show the great divide between the film world and real life

3.1-- LE SAVOIR EST UNE LUMIÉRE, Noémie De Pas & Tit Brecdlj
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A documentary that reveals the difficulties in getting kids into schools. Often, the parents need them at home to help them and sometimes they are far from the villages that dot the continent. We visit inside classrooms overloaded with kids. Some schools enforce kids to wear ties but they are hard to come by. Tests are now administered from the get-go, and in the past, there was no such thing as failure. Parents are afraid to send their kids to school for this. Kids are very attached to their villages and families, so schools represent a separation. The French do not want their kids going to the same schools as Africans -- a problem since colonization that still lingers. Methods of learning rely on stories; these age-old tales empower the children as each carries a moral. Africa's past learning conduit came from an oral tradition. Kids start school at age seven. There is much repetition of words as the students read little books in French. Teachers are most diligent, and the kids are well behaved. French is the language of learning in schools there. Kids are literate in the French language but not in their own language. They are given no alphabetization for their language. They feel a great uprooting of their own culture. One girl does not even know how to speak her native language, as her parents only spoke French. They learn a lot about France but not too much about their own country. Shaping character is stressed -- as much as academic acumen. This character building is directly aligned to each age, and each age is aligned with chores and activities in village communities. Music is taught along with the 3Rs. Traditional versus the modern is discussed in this illuminating film. Although we start at Burkina Faso, there is a flaw in that we do not know which schools or villages are shown in this film. On-camera interviews with educational specialists along with visiting village specialists contain no mention as to location. Still, this information-oriented film is most interesting and certainly appeals to teachers regardless of the country where one is a pedagogue.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This interesting documentary focuses on the rarely examined angle of past Jewish and Arab harmony in Morocco. Ben Gurion obliged Jews to abandon their Arab homeland to live in Israel. In turn, Arabs were sent back to Morocco. Another exodus in the 60s occurred; many Jews lived in Morocco, but left as well, believing they were now threatened. Arabs and Jews are interviewed and what is clear is Jews and Arabs were great friends and now each misses his Moroccan co-habitation in the land where conflicts between the two religions did not exist. It was fun to watch Jews and Arabs dancing together and playing superb music. The singing is so similar between both cultures.

2.3-- FORTUNA, LA MAMAN DE LA MAMAN, Rosalie Mbele Atangan
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] At 8-years-old Fortuna is sent by her parents toYaoundé to take care of an cook for the children. She also cleans the house. From Cameroon, she has been groomed for this job since she was five. Every day, she gets up at 5 to prepare food. She misses her home that is 500 miles away, but the female broker who negotiates finding children to come and take care of the family says it has become more difficult as prices have gone up. The parents want this for their girls so she can bring home money to the family. Fortuna takes care of her own family and the one she lives with. She is pleased she has learned to do the housework and cook what they want. Exploitation of young girls is a common occurrence in Cameroon. Before they take leave, women who are menopausal apply a ritual to her for a safe journey. They put a rooster on her head. The journey must be dangerous considering Fortuna, two men and the broker are all riding on a small motorcycle. There is no childhood for girls as we know it in Cameroon. The film was only 27 minutes, but you wanted it to go on longer: the humour and audacity.

3.3-- TANGO NEGRO, Dom Pedro
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A rich revelation into the origins and historical development of Black Tango -- an infectious genre of music which seems to have taken root in Argentina. Transformed into various rhythmic idiosyncrasies from Africa and Cuba to Latin America, this music-filled documentary is a tantalizing taste into the instrumental and vocal reincarnations and debates into the truth about tango's first beats in the world. Tango is not Argentina's rightful claim to ownership -- it's more like usurpation with modern-day modification.  

3.3-- EXPEDITION GRAND RIFT, Loïc & Geoffrey de la Tullaye
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A stunning documentary in which two young French filmmakers take a journey following a watery trail from China to Tanzania to Israel to interview scientists, locals and nomadic peoples to shed light on the cycle of rivers and the dependency we all have on water. The forests and villages that surround these regions play their own role and we learn of these unique relationships. A dynamic documentary that turns the topic of water into a natural resource that is as prized as glistening gold. Will there be enough water 40 years from now? This quest also exposes issues that threaten our most vital resource. Not a dry delivery by any means, the directors overflow with enthusiasm humour and audacity. Beautiful to view, this important 26-minute film is timeless in content and message.

3.5-- RWANDA, LENQUÊTE MANIPULÉE, Catherine Lorsignol & Ogukuooe Brewaeys
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A complicated documentary that tries to uncover a French cover-up. It claims France was responsible for instigating the Tutsi genocide with the issue starting when Hutu's President Habyarimana was assassinated in 1994; his plane was blown up and the black box was not made public; France claimed it was never found. The Hutu started killing and historical tensions exploded. Where did the seeds of the Rwandan genocide begin and how? Many politicians are interviewed, and the film illustrates the consequences of French and Belgian governmental complicity that led to the genocide starting with Hutu revenge on the Tutsi. A riveting documentary that finally examines the massive brutality; the scale weighs heavily on French culpability.

4.0-- VIE PIGMENTÉE, Vic Sarin
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Canadian documentary filmmaker Vic Sarin returns to Brazil where he feels accepted being of India decent, and having spent much of his adulthood there. He claims that the music and dance that defines everyone's life there really brings all people together -- regardless of skin colour. He is married to a white. However, in the interviews he conducts, he discovers that colorism exists there -- that skin colour with various shades in between black and white can determine one's acceptance and rise in society. He travels to Jamaica, Philippines and Tanzania -- where albinos are killed by witch doctors for their body parts that go into potions to make others rich. Vicky, a black female journalist from Dar es Salaam, goes to Gambush in north-western Tanzania to investigate. She finds witch doctors -- two of whom admit to using body parts. These witch doctors are in demand, and their service used by policemen, religious people and ordinary people who buy into the myth of white and richness. Then there's South Africa that at one time had five different systems for classifying one's colour that was legally enforced and implemented the second one was born. Prejudice still resides in that country today. Clearly, no matter which country he travels to, it's revealed via old film clips interviews of whites, blacks and shades in between that colour discrimination exists world-wide and is far more prevalent than he wishes to believe. Poignant past and present-day examples are vividly illustrated by the women and men he interviews. One Filipino woman started her own whitening cosmetic and surgery company. Within family, the darker child suffers because of poor treatment by parents and siblings. Even the filmmaker recalls that within his own family, his mother urged him not go out in the sun. In India dark skin was not desirable, and the class system was rigidly based on colour as well. The filmmaker knew his first marriage broke up because he wanted to prove to his white colleagues he was equal to them behind the camera. He totally neglected his first wife and son. His honesty is compelling. When he moved to Toronto in the 1960s, he even gave up his vegetarian habits to be accepted by his white friends. Colourism is a worldwide rampant evil where people are judged by their skin colour -- devalued and dehumanized.

2.3-- RUMOURS OF WAR, Sussaba Cissé
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Twenty-six-year-old Soulymane Touré is married, but his wife is raped by Tuareg rebels when the couple is ambushed outside. Soulymane used to be a radio reporter in the North (Timbuktu) and was attacked by terrorists having been accused of inciting the youth to the rebel side. Now she is a sex slave in warring northern Mali. He curses Mali for having given so much to his country, but there is no hope. Still, he wants to return to help. A discussion between men reveals their love of country but their despair that nothing is being done and that there is no leadersip. Even ECOWAS has been failure. Founded i 1975, its mission is to promote economic integration in all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial development, as well as social and cultural matters. It has proven useless, as it is controlled by the French, so no aid ever reaches the North. The film is a discussion between men and women who delve into topics of treachery, indifference, cowardice and humanitarian causes, such as aid that never reaches the refugees. It gives us information on the plight of Malians. Soulymane enters a nightclub and makes a ruckus about the North -- insulting the club-goers for wasting time dancing instead of fighting for Mali. He is arrested, as his ID papers are not on him. He calls them police thugs, pigs and druggies. He remains defiant. He spends the night in jail, and must pay a hefty fine to obtain his release. A friend pays it. A sorry state of affairs in a realistic but slow-moving film lightened by great music which features at the end a club singer whose message says Mali will never be divided -- a plea to unite for sure. The comedian at the end turns the tables making it funny. At this point, Soulymane takes the mike, stating every young man must fight against the terror in the North, He announces he is going there.

2.4-- MALAGASY MANKANY, Haminiaina Ratovoarivony
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Three young people are together in a car. The young Indian girl, Charu, is pregnant; she has no money; Bob is with her because he likes her, so he's tagged along. He met Charu at the bus station before they all climbed in the car to get a lift from Dylan, the driver who is racist. Jimi, a scholarship student, was picked up at the bus station by Dylan, his rich stand-offish friend. He is taking Jimi to see his dad who is sick. Dylan must drive over 500 to reach the destination. Dylan is on the run. H has just killed a rich Indian man in his house and robbed him of millions. The car radio is turned on every hour so he can hear the news. A young boy saw Dylan leaving the crime scene, so Dylan is nervous. Charu is the da'ghter of the murdered man, but no one knows this. She doesn't know Dylan did it. In fact, they "get it on.' They have all made a bet that each will have Charu. Each has a different motive for taking the trip, but seedy scenes unfold against a verdant setting in the back roads of the island -- now full of road blocks. Dylan's fate is sealed and it's his road trip buddies who discover what transpired in the murder -- all videotaped in the camera in the trunk. Dylan says: "This is a country of no rules," and this movie shows how manipulation is the modus operandi in Madagascar -- at least from the director's seat, who interestingly enough now lives in Chicago. This Madagascar movie is interesting. Comments about corruption and monopolies seep into every facet of life according to the story and characters. A cyclone has hit the island and the radio is making a plea for the rich Indian community to donate. Clearly, the lines of race are drawn here: the film illustrates conflicts between the well-heeled Indians and the poor Malagasies. Dylan ends up a hero, and the others rise to their own heroic destinies. The acting made it all seem real.

2.3-- O GRAND KALIPY, Zézé Gamboa
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] La Maison des étudiants de L'Empire in Lisbon was formed to keep bright African students from stirring up political problems and integrating. They were watched diligently by the police. The MPLA (resistance movement) was active; it comprised the Ambundu ethnic group and the educated intelligentsia of Luanda, the capital of Congo. In 1960 up until 1974, Portuguese colonization in Angola brought evil and opportunity. One of the better vehicles that drove the dramatic change for Angola was letting students study abroad in Portugal and Brazil. The film however does not weave in a stirring manner this political backdrop with the personal aspects, and the overall dual themes create a diffuse landscape, and tension is lost. The plot is huge, and is worthy of being told. João Fraga from Luanda in Congo, is one such student. He comes from wealth and is accepted by high society. He's classy and confident. The film vividly shows how a bright engineering student is accused of being a Don Juan with White women (which he is -- he has a white lover, Carmo -- daughter of a Minister. She pays him for sexual favours and more). He also makes a play for Rita -- his best friend's girlfriend. She only has eyes for Rui, her boyfriend. He brings both to a seaside house that one imagines Carmo has paid for. He meets Lola, a high class club lady -- a stripper and he starts up with her. Carmo follows them and she intentionally hits João with her car. One day in the countryside, he is stopped by the police and Lola's car is the one he's driving. He says she's his wife The best scene is inside a Fado club. We hear a Fado singer and Rui sings too. He is also great. Rui has deserted from army training, and makes a getaway with his best friend helping him. He will go to France. Maybe, he'll do Fado there. Meanwhile back with the main plot: Lola is visited by João and the cops are there. Lola works for the head cop, but she feels bad about it all. João is taken in. Rui's photo is shown to João and he refuses to tell the cops he knows him. They beat him. He returns to Luanda and works in a travel agency. His father is angry that his son has wasted his future, but gets him a job at the ministry in the finance department. He embezzles, and with the money, acquires a vintage car and a new girlfriend named Mitó -- all the while generously supporting the illegal MPLA and a soccer club with his money. His friends are black and white. The narrator telling this entire story comments that it is inconceivable that this insignificant man living in a white milieu has dared to have a white lover. The biggest surprise is the discovery that his own father is sympathetic to the MPLA. One night at a nightclub, this multi-womanizer -- he takes up with his childhood girlfriend (father of the man who sold him his new car, cheats on her) is arrested. The old cop from Lisbon is back. However, rumours circulate that Joäo is actually an undercover agent trying to infiltrate the MPLA. He becomes very powerful, but his childhood gal's father brings in the cops and he is put in jail. Finally, Angola gets independence, and the hero is freed. The film did not focus on anything intense. The director is a documentary filmmaker, but this biopic failed to move us.

3.3-- VIVRE, Maharaki
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An adorable short from which features Thomas in his classroom in Guadeloupe daydreaming about what he wants to be after his teacher asks the students. His imaginary journey takes him from being a drug dealer to an astronaut. The superb editing and humour make this production from France a winner.

1.1-- DAKAR TROTTOIRS, Hubert Laba Ndao
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Salla and her ruffian boyfriend Siirou are subject to the threat of Blinky, a man taking over the girls of the neighbourhood that the violent Siirrou 'protects.' Siirou ends up killing him and together the pair flee to the protection of Padre, her older friend. While taking refuge there, Salla drops her ring, given to her by this man when she was young. She discovers her misfortune once back in her home -- without Siirou. She returns to this man and they make love. She wishes to marry him; he's a good man. Siirou robs an old man in his apartment and beats him up. He buys drugs. He kills in order to find his girlfriend who by now is with Padre. Siirou has not only lost her but his sanity. Poor Padre is killed by him and Salla sees it all. The streets and sidewalks of Dakar (Senegal) are full of treachery and hopelessness. It seems women have the worst of it -- always needing to fend off the overtures of men or in need of their protection. Murder, depravity and confusion constitute this sorry film. A bad film all round, but the acting was tolerable.

1.3-- SOLEILS, Olivier Delhave & Dani Kouyaté
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The daughter of a 16th-century king seems to suffer from a lack of identity and depression. The king summons his healer who is the girl's uncle. He's also a great story teller. He tells stories that have messages, and illustrates them by going back in time. Together, the wise man takes her into various scenes where philosophers, liars and personages throughout history engaged in slavery and other evil deeds. This film says the sun has three locations, material, vocal and living creatures of sweetness. I did not understand the ramblings of disconnected scenes that seem to deal with different comedic farces and tales of deceit between villagers. Lies and truth were obsessively, yet gently referred to in these various vignettes. Nelson Mandela even came up in topic and scene. As morals and men of history are revealed, the healer takes his niece to Ouagadougou, Le Cap, Robben Island, Berlin, Mali and Belgium. A total Burkino-Faso/France screw-up, yet the philosopher/healer/story teller was enlightened, and he held our interest. The music was great, but the acting was more theatrical than cinematic in delivery.

3.7-- HORIZON BEAUTIFUL, Stefan Jäger
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A gorgeous film about an orphan boy whose dream is to go to Barcelona and train properly for soccer. Even his school does not have any soccer. He hears Franz Arnold, a superstar recruiter from Switzerland is going to be in Addis Abeba to watch some players. He is totally disinterested, nasty and heartless; he despises the people. That little boy tracks him down but arranges for a fake kidnapping by a gang of teens, but the gang seriously wants to kidnap him for money. The kid follows Frnaz as he escapes from the thugs. He ends up jumping into a garbage truck and the little fellow jumps too. Franz has passed out. He has a heart condition. Together, they trudge through the backwoods of Ethiopia. The journey is one of discovery for them both. This heartwarming film offers the unexpected with an ending full of sadness and success. The acting was superb, and the little boy is not really an actor, yet he stole the entire movie; his range of emotions was incredible.

3.5-- C'EST EUX LES CHIENS, Hicham Lasri
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Majhoul has been in prison for 30 years and is freed in 2011. There is a huge demonstration going on in the central square of Casablanca in which he gets caught up -- it's the 1981 grand strike all over again. Majhoul is accosted by a reporter and his camera man. They try to get him to stay and talk in the camera, but he's a highly stubborn and taciturn fellow; he refuses to talk. He's very disoriented after being a prisoner for so long. All he wants is to find his wife and children once more. The reporter and his cameraman keep him in the car, driving around, promising they will help him find his wife, but first he must be interviewed. They woo him by feeding him, buying him a wheel for his son's bike which he never lets go of. Bit by bit, the puzzle of Majhoul's life unfolds and as it does his wife -- now remarried is fianlly located. His son now a bitter adult disowns him, insulting him. He tells him never to come back. By dropping in on old friends, knocking on wrong doors and revisiting old haunts, Majhoul terminates his quest. The reporter and cameraman have become his best friends. This heartwarming and often funny film offers frenetic camera movement that imitates the fractured memory and mind of the film's poor hero in search of his family. Reality hits Majoul at the end of the film, and for the first time he addresses the camera directly; he says a true sentence about the beginning of his life. "I was born in Casablanca in 1950." The film ends there. You either love or hate this film which does go on too long, but as we follow Majihoul, his strange behaviour and dogged determination to find his family become part of our life too; we begin to wish we were tagging along helping him.

0.0 -- IMINIG, Menad Embarek
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Moussa and his wheel-chair-bound mother live in total solitude on the shore of some Algerian town. Their only escape is the sea they sit in front of -- as seen in the closing scene in this depressing film. They dream of getting out of their terrible existence in a land where Moussa's dad met his end through Islamic terrorists. That part of this short was referenced in a line only. Who could imagine that the 20-minutes that snail along in this short could be interminably long and oh so boring!

2.2-- LA LEÇON D'ANGLAIS, Sophie Robert
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In this 18 min. short, a young Mauritian couple try to get accepted to immigate to Canada, but they can't speak English and that is the reason they aren't accepted. The young wife Lakshimi gets a job taking care of a little rich white girl named Victoria. They really get along and Victoria begins to teach her English. The wife ends up giving her husband some classes too. They research London, England, and the film ends with them on the airplane. Evidently, it's a happy landing for them both.

1.5-- FAMILY SHOW, Pascal Lahmani
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A rather ridiculous story passing off as presenting an entertaining comedic plot. The story involves two neighbouring families whose kids are friends though the parents aren't. This is due in part to one of the grandfather's ongoing philandering with the neighbor -- but he's dead now; his ashes are carried around by his old heavy daughter -- even on stage when the two families become rivals on a dance TV show called, Family Show. Differences are solved though when they join forces to beat out a rather nasty rival team. The stage dancing is silly and it goes on far too long. The little girl who is the force behind getting her family on the show in the first place and who directs them as she dances is a darling actor, but even this petite dame's talent can't save this facile movie whose entertainment value wears thin after they all hit the stage of Family Show.

2.3 -- AYA DE YOPOUGON, Marguerite Abouet
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An amusing feature animation that gives us an inside glimpse into Yopo City, a working-class neighbourhood in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Everyone is sleeping around, yet no one knows what is really going on until secrets are revealed. Aya is the main character who ends up with no one, but her friend becomes pregnant. She is the daughter of an employee at the city's beer company. She pretends the big shot owner's son Moussa is the true father of her unborn son. But when the baby is born, it becomes clear that the little guy bears no resemblance to Moussa, but instead, looks just like the neighbour who sports a huge afro -- just like the baby has -- chaos ensues. The music and colourful drawing capture the refreshing spirit of the town. The animation brims with details that add entertainment value to the otherwise silly plot substance. (This film opened Montreal's 2014 Vues d"Afrique Festival - celebrating its 30th anniversary this year).



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