Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Born into Brothels

About a week ago I watched this documentary called Born into Brothels, a story about a woman photographer who goes to Sonagchi, Calcutta to document the lives of women who make their living by being prostitutes. Trailer below:

But what happens is that she gets attached to the children of these women, and decides to start a school to teach these children how to photograph as well. After a while, and after she witness the enormous potential and talent untapped in these amazing boys and girls, she tries to remove them from their dangerous environment and enroll them into boarding schools, as to make sure that they will not turn into their parents.

I definitely recommend seeing this film, and I guarantee it will be both moving and heart-wrenching. But there are many ethical questions that this movie unintentionally provokes. Is it ethical to use hidden cameras to photograph the lives of people, especially if it shows them in a negative light? And is it ethical to profit from showcasing the lives of people who are incredibly disadvantaged? What happens if you take a picture or make a film of people who are in need? Are you now indebted to those people?

Watch the film, and read the reviews, as critical as they sometimes may be--it's worth discussing.

Bonnie and Clyde

A week ago I watched for the first time the movie Bonnie and Clyde, a film based on the true story of two notorious bank robber in the 1920s: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Trailer is below:

It's always interesting to see a story that personalizes people who steal and kill people, but what's more interesting is what motivates these two characters. If anything, this is a story about two people who are trying to live forever by ensuring they would be legends.

Bonnie Parker, in the beginning, lives in a small town where she lives routinely as a waitress, and when she meets Clyde Barrow for the first time (who claims he robs banks), she is excited by what looks like to be an opportunity of danger and adventure. And the two run off and start robbing banks, but the entire time they're being chased by the authorities. And throughout this journey, they constantly look for their names in the newspaper, taking pleasure for being a center of attention.

At one point in the film, Bonnie writes a poem to submit into the newspaper herself...titled "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde." When Clyde reads it, he turns to Bonnie and says "You made me someone that people will remember." It didn't matter what they would be remembered for--killing and stealing--but that they will be remembered was good enough. It was sad to see that this man and woman who could spend their lives together instead try so incredibly hard to become legends, or in other words, try incredibly hard to die.

Cleo from 5 to 7

A couple of weeks ago I watched this French film called Cleo from 5 to 7, a story about a woman, a lead singer in a band, who is afraid of getting a result from the doctor that may tell her she has cancer and will die. Trailer below, but its in French:

What I liked about this film is the transformation that Cleo goes through. In the beginning we see that she is a high maintenance girl who constantly looks at herself in the mirror and needs attention wherever she is. And eventually, what we witness is her slow realization that there are other people in the world, and that they have lives too. And all of this takes place in just two hours, from 5 to 7pm (as hinted in the title) when she finds out the outcome of her test results.

Cleo from 5 to 7 is very characteristic of French New Wave cinema with its jump cut editing and esoteric themes. And although some of it may be difficult to understand, its nonetheless a good film to see.


I have to get this one out of the way first. Yesterday, in my last film screening for one of my classes, I had to watch a Korean film called Oldboy, a story about a man named Oh Dae-Su who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years...after he is released, he tries to find his captor and seek revenge. Trailer below:

Would I recommend this movie? Honestly, no. Not because of the graphic violence or images or language, but because of what is revealed at the end, which I found to be too disturbing. Long story short, the best way to hint what I'm talking about is that there are similar themes between Oldboy and the play Oedipus Tyrannus.

But the concept of revenge is an interesting one in this film. Essentially, the two main characters are both living their lives for the one goal of avenging themselves, and one of them, who attains it at last, says "Now what will I live for?" And so this describes the main universal theme of this movie: the self-destruction that ensues from the seeking of revenge.

But don't watch it, unless you want to be really disturbed.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I made a movie...

About a year ago, I read the introduction to Amy Tan's novel Saving Fish From Drowning, and it contained an anonymous quote that reads:

"A pious man explained to his followers: "It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. "Don't be scared," I tell those fishes. "I am saving you from drowning." Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes."

Well, when I read this, many thoughts came to my head--especially the war in Iraq, because the similarities between the rhetoric were too close. And so I decided to make a short film--a political allegory depicting what may be another incident of saving fish from drowning.

Sansho the Bailiff

Last week I watched for the first time a Japanese film that was made in 1954 and directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, one of the three Japanese masters of film during the time. Sansho the Bailiff is a magnificent film that tells the tragic story of a family that was separated and sold into slavery.

From the trailer above, you can see that the cinematography of this film is beautiful--almost every shot could be a work of art. But what struck me more was the theme and plot of this film that could best be described by one of the repeated phrases: "Without mercy, man is not a human being."

And indeed, in light of this story, you can't argue with that--especially people like Sansho, the owner of the manor who literally uses a hot iron rod to brand his slaves. Eventually Sansho is arrested but not without the cost of so many lives--what is interesting is that he is arrested by one of his former slaves...perhaps revealing that no criminal act can ever go unpunished.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

A couple of days ago I watched this film that was known as Ben Affleck's directorial debut: Gone Baby Gone, a movie about two Boston area detectives investigating the kidnapping of a little girl. Trailer is posted below:

The only notable thing I really found of this movie is its plot, which conludes quite controversially. What is eventually revealed is that the kidnapping is in fact a conspiracy--that the Chief of Police himself (played by Morgan Freeman) kidnapped the little girl to save her from living a life with a neglectful and drug-addicted mother. But when the young detective Patrick (played by Casey Affleck) finds out, he turns in Morgan Freeman's character, thus having the girl returned back to her mother.

People have argued over whether what Patrcik did was morally right--is it ok to report a crime even if its end result is good? Patrick decided that it was the right thing to do, even if that meant having the girl grow up in a bad environment, but I am not so sure...I saw this as a lose-lose situation. The mother seemed so incredibly unfit to raise her daughter, but at the same time, Morgan Freeman's character broke the law as well as put so many lives in jeopardy by arranging this kidnapping that it makes you ask why on earth could he not have just simply requested to adopt the child? Because it makes for a good story? Not a good enough reason, in my view.