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Category: Reviews

Film Review: Wajib

Annemarie Jacir’s family drama, Wajib follows father, Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri) and his estranged son, Shadi (Saleh Bakri), as they hand deliver wedding invitations in Nazareth. The coming together of jet setting son and his traditional father highlights the differences of what it is to be a Palestinian living in Israel and a Palestinian living abroad.
The leads, played by real-life father and son bring an authenticity to an already sincere narrative. Shadi has relocated to Italy, returning to Nazareth for his sister’s wedding. They struggle to see eye to eye throughout the film. Abu Shadi, of the older generation, accepts his life in Israel while Shadi fights against it. They constantly bicker with one another while their banged up volvo carries them from house to house.

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Film Review: The Seagull

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Unlike Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, the film adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s plays and short stories have not made much of an impact beyond festivals or art houses. While I still have vivid memories of watching Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson and Jonathan Pryce in a 1985 West End production of The Seagull, only Sidney Lumet obsessives are likely to remember the director’s curious 1968 version with Redgrave, James Mason and Simone Signoret. Lumet was probably more faithful to Chekhov’s themes of families and fading dreams in Running on Empty, his potent 1988 elegy for the idealism and myopia of New Left radicals on the run.

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Film Review: Hurricane

Reviewed by Lee Hill

World War Two is the safe space for a great deal of recent British film, television and theatre. Last year, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Joe Wright’s The Darkest Hour went mano a mano to prove that while our present Oxbridge brain trust in Parliament and other corridors of power may have difficulty deciding on a latte order, times were different during the Blitz. If you dash, you can also catch actor David Haig’s play Pressure in the West End, a reconstruction of the nerve-racking planning and brinkmanship that prepared Britain for D-Day. And pub bores, particularly those whose history of cinema often begins and ends with Pulp Fiction, would lose much of their material if Band of Brothers hadn’t nailed a certain type of haunted gaze/grace under pressure/male weepie to the mast.

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Film Review: Columbus

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It is one of the curious ironies of cinema history that many great films deal with characters in near static moments of transition. Something life changing has just happened or perhaps, more poignantly, characters are waiting for signs of the life they are meant to lead to finally appear. You could have a very provocative film season with such investigations of the space between (Tokyo Story, L’Avventura, The King of Marvin Gardens, Breaking Away, Diner, Kings of The Road or Lost in Translation come to this writer’s mind).  With his impeccably shot, sensitively acted and unapologetically meditative debut, Columbus, the Korean-American video essayist, Kogonada, would be a welcome participant in such a season .

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Film Review: Cold War

Reviewed by Zoe Margolis

Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War is a story of two people whose paths cross and their hearts become entangled forevermore. At its core, it’s an epic romance, but also a social commentary of post-war communist politics, sumptuously shot in exquisite black and white cinematography (Łukasz Żal).

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Film Review: The Children Act

Adapted by Ian McEwan from his acclaimed novel, based on the 1989 UK law of the same name, The Children Act asks the question: should the laws of a society, or the rules of a religion, take precedence? Set in London, around its central law courts, Emma Thompson plays Justice Fiona Maye, a High Court Judge who works on some of the most morally challenging cases, with literal life and death consequences; we are reminded of the real-life Charlie Gard, and Alfie Evans, and the public opposition those cases attracted. Early on, Fiona is tasked with rendering a ruling on the separation of conjoined twins, both of whom will die if not separated, but only one will survive if they’re parted. Faced with critical media coverage, and a heart-wrenching decision, Fiona still maintains calm as she issues her verdict; her ability to distance herself from emotion and issue a ruling show how clear-headed she is about these issues, and how seriously she takes her work in family law.

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Film Review: The Heiresses

Reviewed by Lee Hill

While there is a lot of fun to be had with the new Mission Impossible installment, summer film going is also about counter-programming. And few films achieve this with such calm panache as The Heiresses. This quietly assured debut feature by Marcelo Martinessi won best actress and best film at the Berlin Film Festival, earlier this year. While it does not quite achieve greatness – in part because it captures aging and loneliness all too well to be dramatically satisfying at times – it never feels false thanks to the astute casting.

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Film Review: The Negotiator

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It’s never a good sign when a film first appears at a creative friendly place like the Sundance Film Festival and then undergoes a change of title when it surfaces at your local multiplex. This is the case of The Negotiator, a ripped from “today’s headlines” (well, 70s/80s Lebanon to be exact) thriller, with a hardboiled take on Middle East realpolitk. Originally called Beirut, The Negotiator stars Jon Hamm as Mason Skiles, an idealistic American diplomat in the city circa 1972, whose life is turned upside down during a terrorist attack on his adopted home. Not only does he lose his wife, but he also loses a near adopted son, 13-year-old Karim, who turns out to be the younger brother of a key PLO member on the run.

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Film Review: Sicilian Ghost Story

Reviewed by Zoe Margolis

Based on the true story of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the teenage boy who was kidnapped by the Sicilian Mafia in the 1990s, and held captive for two years to prevent his father, another Mafia figure, from testifying against them in court, Sicilian Ghost Story wraps this real-life event into a fictional fantasy involving a teenage girl who is intent on finding the missing boy.

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