Ricardo, Miriam And Fidel
Radio technician Ricardo Martinez left his home and family in the 1950s to join Castro's forces fighting to overthrow the Batista regime and remained committed to the revolution. His daughter Miriam, disillusioned by modern Cuba, abandons her homeland to begin anew in America. Frei trails Miriam as she takes leave of friends and family, capturing the poignancy of parting between a father and daughter who agree on nothing, yet love one another deeply. Later, the film conveys her dulled dismay at the cold consumerism of the land of bright lights and instant popcorn. Includes excellent archive footage of the Cuban revolution and Castro's dictatorship, and candid interviews with both revolutionaries and Cubans broadcasting anti-Castro propaganda from Florida.
Courtesy of Christian Frei Filmproductions / Pro Helvetia / Panalpina.
In a career spanning two decades, James Nachtwey has relentlessly scoured the globe to capture and publicise not only the horrors of war, poverty and starvation, but also the poignancy of human grief, the small triumphs and feats of endurance which sometimes dignifies the most terrible suffering. Frei's documentary takes one on a haunting odyssey of the world's crisis spots as seen through Nachtwey's lens, and into the mind and methods of the man. Although Nachtwey's courage under fire makes for some spectacular footage, what emerges as his greatest strength is how, by his unhurried presence and quiet respect, he is able to gain the trust of his subjects even while trespassing on their pain.
Oscar Nominee, Best Documentary Feature 2002.
Courtesy of Christian Frei Filmproductions / Pro Helvetia / Panalpina.
A visually arresting exploration of the fate of music after China's Cultural Revolution, during which all Western music and even Chinese traditional music was branded "bourgeois" and counter-revolutionary A new generation was eager to learn once music academies were opened again, and we see how a rich new world, so long suppressed, inspired five composers. More than a musicological treatise, this film is also a beautiful impressionistic study of the ancient and contemporary sounds and images which have informed their imaginations, made them receptive to Western music and placed them at the forefront of making Chinese music accessible to Western ears.
Courtesy of Scarabee Films / Holland Film.
The Eye Of The Day
The turbulent tale of Indonesia's political and economic crisis in the late 1990s that forced President Suharto to resign after 32 years is told through the eyes of a 60-year-old woman and her two sons. The youngest can't hold down a job and, according to his brother, is wasting his life on gambling, pigeon races and student demonstrations. But like all Indonesians, the whole family is caught up in events that will change their lives forever. Beautiful cinematography and minimal directorial interference ensure that The Eye Of The Day offers a startling and nuanced glimpse into a dramatic moment in Indonesia's history.
Winner Prix SRG SSR and Audience Award, Visions du Reel 2001.
Courtesy of Scarabee Films / Holland Film.
James Ellroy's Feast Of Death
Oscar winner Jayanti has directed a most intimate and revealing glimpse of the troubled soul of crime writer James Ellroy. During a series of meals and eerie night drives with LAPD homicide detectives, Ellroy mulls over gruesome unsolved murders - his mother's included - reconstructing in chilling detail one crime scene after another. It's an insightful study of an obsessive imagination which dissects, with surgical precision and almost inhuman detachment, what drives people to kill, torture and mutilate. Juxtaposed with this nightmare vision is a gonzo public persona wielding blunt, outrageous humour like a club to lay bare what is most crass and debased about American society. Not for the faint-hearted.
Royal Television Society Award for Best Arts Documentary 2002.
Courtesy of Vixpix Ltd. / The British Council.
The Man Who Bought Mustique
This must-see movie takes us to the lush Caribbean island of Mustique, the late Princess Margaret's hideaway, and gives us a glimpse into the arcane mental meanderings of Lord Glenconnor. The riotously eccentric aristocrat bought the island back in the 1960s and was instrumental in turning it into a playground for the jet set of yore, including Mick Jagger and his entourage. Now virtually bankrupt, his Lordship returns to the island idyll he once owned and we are taken on a roller coaster ride into the mind-set of a bygone era, by a man who typifies the illusions that sustained the British Empire. Withering dialogue and brilliant editing deftly recreate that era by exploring this flawed but larger-than-life character. A masterpiece of documentary filmmaking.
Courtesy of Vixpix Ltd. / The British Council.
Amandla! A Revolution In Four Part Harmony
A celebration of music in the struggle, Amandla! looks at how changes in the lyrics, rhythms and melodies of liberation songs reflected the radicalisation of black resistance in response to ever harsher crackdowns by the Apartheid state. In the context of the defiance campaign era of the 1950s, jaunty ditties warned "watch out Verwoerd, the black man will get you"; the Sharpeville massacre prompted a series of dirges, and the 1976 riots saw the emergence of songs expressing youthful dynamism, anger and disaffection. Revealing interviews with SA music greats - Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo - interspersed with disturbing footage of key events make for a compelling and novel retelling of this significant chapter of our past. We welcome Lee Hirsch who will introduce the film.
2002 Sundance Documentary Audience Award and Freedom of Expression Award.
The Dark Heart
A harrowing account of the recent spate of baby rapes that has shocked South Africa and the world. The film opens with a dramatic reconstruction of events surrounding the rape of 9-month-old "Baby Tshepang" in the Northern Cape. Interviews with wrongfully accused suspects, and distraught relatives who want mob justice, paint a devastating portrait of a community brutalised by poverty. But this is only part of the picture. Moving to another case in the Western Cape, the film poses the terrifying possibility that baby rape is linked to a widespread myth that it will cure Aids. In the event, both rapes appear to have been motivated by a sick vendetta, which simply heightens the perception that South Africa is on the brink of moral collapse. Cliff Bestall and Pearlie Joubert will introduce this World Premiere and take part in the panel discussion.
Courtesy of Bestall & Joubert / BBC.
My Land My Life
Zimbabwe has betrayed the hopes many placed in its success after independence in 1980. Desai's odyssey to the country he knew and loved, Desai traces the calculus of Zimbabwe's rapid decline into civil chaos, economic disaster and starvation. He visits war veterans [who call themselves settlers], farm workers and white farmers in a sincere attempt to understand why human rights and democratic principles appear to have been sacrificed on the altar of greed and cronyism. Tracing too the pre-independence origins of Mugabe's land reform programme and where it went wrong, the film also serves as a sober reflection on the pitfalls facing a post-colonial society held hostage to a global economy serving first-world interests. Rehad Desai will introduce the World Premiere of his film.
Courtesy of Rehad Desai / Ice Media.
When The War Is Over
Nearly three years in the making, When The War Is Over deals with the after-effects of the fight against Apartheid as experienced by survivors active in a militant self-defence unit operative in the mid-1980s. One is an army captain now, back from exile and still unable to come to terms with life after Apartheid, not least the prospect of marriage. Another is trying to abandon a life of violent crime. Gritty yet beautiful, visually innovative yet hard-hittingly realistic, this film takes us on an intense emotional and visual journey into a world of drug addicts, gangsters and militants, a world which seems to have little to offer the men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the struggle. Francois Verster will introduce this World Premiere of his film.
Courtesy of Francois Verster.
A devastating look at life on the streets in the Cape Flats, focusing on Kashiefa and her friends. She has hustled, done time in a reformatory, and witnessed and fallen prey to the brutality of a place where gangsters, guns, mandrax and rape are endemic. Now she is pregnant and desperately wants to turn her life around - and finally gets a shot at it. Unsentimental, expertly shot and creatively executed, Girlhood lifts the lid on the bleak realities facing many teenagers in South Africa's urban slums. We welcome Tracey Collis who will introduce her film.
Courtesy of Dancing Light Productions / e.tv.
Rather than succumb to despair in a neighbourhood so poor their children often have to go hungry, the fisherwomen of Ocean View, near Cape Town, brave the dangers of the sea to put some food on the table. Through a series of intimate interviews the film takes viewers into the hearts and minds of these remarkable women, and follows them on their often fruitless quest to wring a meagre subsistence from the sea. A gritty portrait of a fishing community enduring the ravages of poverty caused, in part, by rapidly diminishing marine resources and corruption in the subsistence quota system, this film is also a lyrical testimony to those just strong enough to survive against all odds. We welcome Penny Gaines who will introduce her film.
Courtesy of Rapid Blue / e.tv.
Voices Across The Fence
This remarkable video greeting project - in which messages from Mozambican refugees living in South Africa were recorded then shown to relatives in remote villages back home - offers a unique glimpse into the lives of families torn apart by war and economic necessity. Mothers learn of sons who have passed away, wives discover their husbands have taken a new spouse and an old man's family get to see him for the first time in 15 years. Some of the villagers are disturbed by not being able to converse with the image of their loved one, although their messages are in turn recorded and sent to South Africa; others delight in this novel way of communicating across the border fence that separates them. We welcome Andy Spitz who will introduce his film.
Courtesy of Quintet / e.tv.
A whacky take on the geography of Apartheid in Cape Town. Using the Black River as both metaphor and embodiment of separation and displacement, Edwards constructs poetic tableaux of water and sound to convey how the city's musical traditions, often markers of ethnic identity, reinforce the ghettoisation of culture or serve to bring people together. Includes interviews, backstage banter and live concert footage of musicians ranging from kwaito stars and Brenda Fassie to right-wing Christian punk rockers. A beautifully shot, intelligent and compelling visual essay exploring the crosscurrents of history, culture and religion that gave rise to this fabulous city.
Courtesy of Big World Cinema.
My Son The Bride
This charming film tells the story of Hompi and Charles, two men who want to marry. A tribute to the South African constitution which outlaws discrimination, also in terms of sexual orientation, My Son the Bride makes it clear that however liberal our constitution, prejudices aren't easily overcome, especially when family is involved. Amusing and heart-warming, this film takes us through the wedding preparations while giving us valuable and indeed surprising insights into contemporary views on same-sex relationships, making nonsense of any notion that tolerance is the exclusive preserve of the well-heeled "chattering classes". Mpumi and Jill will introduce the film.
Courtesy of Jill Kruger / MNet.
A Red Ribbon Around My House
A mother. A daughter. Two women - two radically different responses to AIDS. Pinky is loud and flamboyant. She likes dressing up and speaking her mind. A tireless AIDS awareness campaigner who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, she spares no one's feelings in her efforts to publicise the disease. But her daughter Ntombi, like any teenager, just wants to fit in. She says if she had AIDS she'd take the knowledge to her grave, that if anyone asks she says her mother is sick because of cancer. A brutally honest, intimate, sometimes touchingly funny look at how AIDS has affected a family and the relationship between mother and daughter.
Courtesy of Steps For The Future & Day Zero.
Simon & I
Beverley Ditsie is a feisty lesbian activist from Soweto; Simon Nkoli was a hero of the struggle against Apartheid - who also happened to be gay. This is the story of their tireless battle against prejudice in any form, an effort which played a pivotal role in ensuring constitutional protection of gay rights. The film also explores Beverley's sometimes fraught friendship with Simon, as well his ability to inspire devotion and admiration in her and others. More than a moving account of a friendship born in defiance of Apartheid and homophobia, this is also a valuable record of an oft overlooked aspect of the struggle.
Nicky Newman will introduce the film.
Courtesy of Steps For The Future & See Thru Media.
Get Down: The Kwaito Story
The story of the birth of eclectic South African dance sounds and lyrics, known as kwaito, is told through series of fast-paced and revealing interviews with the early exponents and major stars of the genre, and the DJs who put it on the map. The film charts kwaito's meteoric rise in popularity from the days when musos flogged their tapes at taxi ranks to international tours and superstardom. It teases out the changing tastes of a public hungry for non-political role models and a new home-grown celebrity culture. Informative, entertaining, electrifying - this is kwaito uncut from the horse's mouth.
Courtesy of Floodlight Film & TV / SABC.
Reporting Live From The Concrete Jungle
A gritty montage of street scenes and city sequences set to a thumping rap, reggae and drum 'n bass soundtrack form the backdrop to this dark tribute to the creative spirit of the city of Johannesburg. Stills of sad, broken faces abandoned to a hopeless pavement life are juxtaposed with images of consumer temples and the high walls and electrified fences of the super-rich. The city is depicted as a living thing - restless, hungry, devouring those too weak to carve out the smallest sanctuary. Out of this fractured and decaying metropolis musicians, songwriters and street poets fret inspired threads and angry weave them into soundwaves, rhythms and rhymes - the flowers of the concrete jungle.
Courtesy of Xolani T. Qubeka.
Gangsters & Bioscope
Join Joey September, ex-member of the Stalag 17's, on a trip down Cape Town's District Six gangster memory lane. During the 50s and 60s the area was home turf for infamous gangs such as the DK's, Jesters, Avalon Rangers, Lawbreakers, Stalag 17's and the Killers. Their affiliations and character traits were indicated by nicknames such as Gawd, Leader of the Globes, Hamti-1-Eye, and the fearsome Aap Honde. Joey introduces us to some of the gangsters of yore who recount tales of their wild hey-days and about how they would meet and hang out at the bioscopes. That is, when they weren't out pickpocketing, housebreaking or fighting with home-made weapons in the streets of District Six!
Courtesy of KykNET.
Made as part of a Master's thesis, this is a film about the Cape's political history, which in many ways was more complex and diverged markedly from that of the rest of the country. Cissy Gool recognised the divisiveness of the Cape franchise laws and fought for the enfranchisement of all South Africans. Central to the political debate was the damaging and heated antagonism between the respective followers of Trotsky and Stalin. Gool, a courageous and controversial figure, inspired others who fought for a just South Africa. Interviews with her contemporaries, R.O. Dudley of the Unity Movement and Pauline Podbrey, help provide a valuable context, as do members of Gool's family.
Courtesy of G Paleker / UCT History Dept.
Film producer Xoliswa Sithole sets off on a deeply personal journey to interview young women who, like herself, have lost their mothers to AIDS. She meets an adolescent who fled her abusive step-father after her mother's death and now lives on the streets of a shantytown, exposing how HIV sufferers and their offspring are often stigmatised and abandoned by society. Next she travels to the epicentre of the epidemic in KwaZulu-Natal, where families comprising only of the very young and very old are typical. Here a teenager has sacrificed her hopes and dreams to look after eight siblings, all surviving on their grandmother's meagre pension. A terrible account of a lost generation robbed of parental guidance and emotional support by the killer disease.
Grand Jury Prize Best Long Documentary, Washington D.C. Independent Film Festival 2002.
Courtesy of Xoliswa Sithole.
Very Fast Guys
A mesmerising chronicle of the desperate and dangerous life of car hijacker Tebeza and his gang. Hanging out at their headquarters at a settlement near Johannesburg, they drink beer and get high before cruising the city for their next victim. Without trying to condemn or glorify their life of crime, the film offers a startling glimpse of the human face of car hijackers - their motivations or justifications, deadly squabbles, fears, hopes and regrets. The gangsters talk openly about buying guns, bribing cops and plotting crimes, resigned to the imminent prospect of arrest or death. Shot over the course of one year, the film also serves as a valuable record of a social milieu that holds few prospects beyond dicing with death for a fast buck.
Courtesy of Clear Media / SABC.
Very Fast Girls
A year in the life of the girls who love a gang of car hijackers called the Very Fast Guys. Unemployed, at school or recent dropouts, living in a settlement near Johannesburg which offers few prospects, the girls pin their hopes for a better life on the Guys. Money, glamour, a fast-paced lifestyle, even romance and marriage - these ought to be the rewards of a gangster's girlfriend. But the film charts the sad descent of their relationships into a morass of lies, jealousy, betrayal and abuse. Those who manage to escape to finish school or find a job, uncowed by beatings and death threats, are soon replaced. A poignant tale of wasted opportunities and small triumphs.
Courtesy of Clear Media / SABC.
Wa 'N Wina
With a camera strapped to his shoulder, Phakathi decides to find out how the people in his old neighbourhood are coping with their lives in a time of AIDS. Those he interviews - friends, former neighbours and acquaintances - talk candidly about sex, relationships and their attitudes towards the disease. Parenting and responses to safe sex are openly contested, and date rape frankly admitted. Phakathi avoids guiding responses or framing answers in terms of statistics or sociological analysis. The result is a revealing personal journey that paints an intimate, complex portrait of ordinary people getting on with their daily lives, of a community adjusting to, or denying, the realities of AIDS.
Courtesy of Steps for the Future / Day Zero.
A Mere Grain Of Nothing Is My Death
Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker existed, in the words of Breyten Breytenbach, in the schism of "living in a social hell in a physical paradise." A life of romantic compromise and socio-political injustice became unbearable, culminating in her suicide in 1965, aged 31. Her relentless inner dialogue expressed with searing intimacy and imagination the impasse of her life, her relationships and her country, thus ensuring her literary stature _ as did Nelson Mandela's tribute to her in 1994 when opening South Africa's first democratic parliament. Interviews with those who knew her and various literary figures provide insight into this artist, whose life, tragically and courageously, came to symbolise the pain of her native land.
Courtesy of VPRO TV.
Aftermath: The Remnants Of War
The weapons of war continue to exact a grim toll long after peace treaties have been signed. This compelling film takes us from the forests and fields of Verdun, where French farmers are still being killed by inadvertently detonating shells dating from the First World War, to Stalingrad in Russia _ the watershed battle of the Second World War. Next we go to Vietnam, where thousands are still suffering the consequences of the defoliant Agent Orange, used by the American forces, and Sarajevo, Bosnia, the scene of atrocities many thought would never be repeated on European soil. A sobering reminder that millions are still fighting wars we choose to forget.
Gold Medal Best International Affairs Documentary, New York Festival's TV Competition 2001.
Courtesy of Storyline Entertainment.
Live From Palestine
An instructive behind-the-scenes look at day-to-day operations of the Palestinian Authority's official radio station. We follow correspondents crossing Israeli checkpoints, denied access to hotspots or reporting live on demonstrations and suicide bombings. The film provides insight into the choices and dilemmas faced at newsroom conferences and the emotional toll on journalists forced to confront, digest and convey daily horrors. It raises interesting questions about partiality of media coverage in the Middle East. Do radio stations such as this offer their listeners a meaningful alternative source of news, especially in terms of story selection, emphasis, and context, when official statements, recycled by the local and international media, tamper with the truth? Or are they guilty of biased reporting in the name of a just cause?
Courtesy of Article Z.
Account Of A Catastrophe Foretold
This howl of rage against the prejudice, denial and neglect surrounding AIDS argues the pandemic ravaging the world today could have _ and should have _ been prevented. Through a series of hard-hitting interviews and instructive archive footage, the film exposes how indifferent, misguided or careerist politicians and health officials, as well as profit-hungry corporations, threw away a golden opportunity to control the disease before it spread out of control. It is small consolation that the virus has made it back to the top of international agendas now that it is viewed as a threat to global security.
Courtesy of Dominant 7.
AUGUST: a moment before the eruption
In an absurdist romp reminiscent of Nanni Moretti's Dear Diary, Mograbi sets out to make a film about what it is he hates about August in Israel. After a series of false starts derided by his wife as morbid and uninspiring, the true theme of his project emerges: recording people's reactions to his own artifice as filmmaker. Arab workers, wealthy Jewish suburbanites, soccer yobs, Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli policemen - no one escapes the dogged gaze of his camera, the acerbic righteousness of his wit. A curious, scathing satire of a society fuelled by hatred, intolerance and misunderstanding.
Best International Documentary Sao Paulo It's All True Trophy 2001.
Courtesy of Avi Mograbi.
After 56 years of self-imposed silence Tr_udl Junge unburdens herself with a detailed and fascinating account of the daily routine, the personal foibles and whimsies of her boss, the man whom she now recognises as demonic: Adolf Hitler. She is candid, admitting to, but not absolving herself of, her naiveté. As a young girl of 22, she found herself at Hitler's side on the day of the failed Stauffenberg plot to assassinate him on July 20 1944. She also experienced the eerie denouement of the Third Reich with the Fhrer and the Goebbels family in the Berlin bunker as Soviet forces invaded the city. She was at the calm centre of the maelstorm, the Blind Spot. Throughout, Junge comes across as an intelligent spectator coming to terms, ever since those fateful days, with having been at the epicentre of evil.
Courtesy of Menemsha Entertainment / Austrian Film Commission
In this quirky and entertaining exposéof corporates covering up health risks associated with their products, Helfand uses what she calls her "uterus money" - the payout from a drug company that admitted the oestrogen therapy her mother received while pregnant gave Judith cervical cancer _ to investigate PVC, a potentially toxic plastic used to make anything from cellphones to drainpipes. Armed with a raft of vinyl siding, the second skin of so many American dwellings, she embarks on a quest to discover the truth about this ubiquitous substance. The film includes interviews with scientists, industry bosses and vinyl plant workers dying of cancer. An eye-opening account of the lethal consequences of corporate greed. Helfand and Gold will introduce.
Documentary Excellence in Cinematography Award, Sundance 2002.
Courtesy of Toxic Comedy Pictures.
Dogtown & Z-Boys
Dogtown: a 1970s Santa Monica seaside slum and extreme surfers' paradise. Z-Boys: an ethnically diverse, street-smart, naughty crew of innovative boys and a girl who trashed the cutie-pie competiton standard of skateboarding with their radical surf-inspired manoeuvres. Their influence catapulted the sport into a high-flying multi-million dollar celebrity industry. Sean Penn narrates this exuberant and thoroughly energetic eyewitness account of youth culture. It comprises unique footage of the era mixed with contemporary interviews and a rollicking rock 'n roll soundtrack.
Audience Award Best Documentary; Director's Award Documentary, Sundance 2001.
Courtesy of Columbia TriStar / Ster-Kinekor.
Sami is your classic kid from a broken home. His mother was abandoned by her Yemeni husband, single-handedly raised her children in a Copenhagen slum and turned to alcoholism; his adored older brother committed suicide out of helpless despair. Sami, now a movie director, decides to make sense of his squalid upbringing by tracking down his father. Together with his Danish girlfriend, they make a film about the process. As bitterness and trepidation give way to a more dispassionate attempt at understanding, Sami begins to revel in the joy of rediscovering his extended family. A deftly shot, moving and candid account of one man's often reluctant journey back to his origins.
Winner of Joris Ivens Competition, IDFA 2001.
Courtesy of the Danish Film Institute.
Gambling, Gods & LSD
The search for the meaning of life takes many paths and has taken this filmmaker all around the world. It is a contemplative tale of the lengths, highs and depths to which humans will go in search of the sublime. From a gathering of ecstatic, waving Christians whose church is in the flight path of a major airport to the basilicas of Mammon and Eros in Vegas. Thence to Switzerland, home to _ you've guessed it - LSD, and onwards to India, an abiding transcendental experience. Mettler is patient and observant, his photography and editing lyrical - the hours, all three of them, will flow byÉ We worked hard to get this award-winning film here, with permission for only one screening in each city. Don't miss it!
Grand Prix UBS, Visions du Reel 2002.
Courtesy of Max Image / Pro Helvetia / Panalpina.
Martha Argerich, Conversation Nocturne
An intimate glimpse into the life of one of the greatest concert pianists alive, the Argentinian Martha Argerich. Talent and dedication don't require histrionics: Argerich comes across as deeply sensitive and intelligent, in awe of her craft and those who have gone before her, paying particular homage to her teacher, Friedrich Gulda as well as the composers "who like her". The film takes us to Warsaw, where she won the Chopin competition as a young girl, and around the world, including her native Buenos Aires. Interspersed with these are casual moments of conversation in which she proves to be both remarkably unassuming and inspired.
Czech Crystal for Best Documentary; Best Film, StudentsJury, Gold Prague 2002.
Courtesy of Ideale Audience International.
The Wives Of Haj Abbas
In this remarkable gem, Mohsen Abdolvahab captures in delicate poetic images the lot of two Iranian widows who were married to the same man and now live on either side of a yard. Thrown together by an impotent man's desire for children, there is little love lost between the pair. The first lords it over the second who, so bent with age she can barely stand, is forced to cook and slave for her rival. For her pains she is rewarded with constant abuse, apparently received with stoical submission. Gradually, however, we catch glimpses of defiance, hints of an unbroken spirit, as well as some appreciation of what motivates domestic tyranny. A beautiful meditation on life, death, loneliness and the bitter fruits of forced companionship.
Silver Wolf Prize, Best Short Documentary, IDFA 2001.
Courtesy of Cima Media International.
Missing Young Woman
The Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez is a prime example of globalisation spun out of control. After a slew of US companies set up shop there, workers especially young women flooded in from the impoverished countryside. In the last decade 200 to 400 women fitting the same description have been abducted and killed. In an eerily evocative investigation into the disappearances, Portillo lifts the lid on police indifference to finding what appears to be a serial killer on the loose, encouraged by government statements blaming the women for their own fate, while deftly sketching the social ills bred by a free-wheeling market economy. A chilling whodunit that will have you hanging on the edge of your seat.
Special Jury Prize, Sundance 2002.
Courtesy of Xochitl Films.
When Barry Stevens was 18 he found out he was conceived by artificial insemination. A detective story with a difference, Offspring documents Barry's often hilarious efforts more than 30 years later to find out who his real father was. In looking for possible DNA matches with sperm donors, Barry edges closer to the truth about his origins - and is united with a half-brother along the way. Without taking itself too seriously, the film teases out some intriguing questions. How does an infertile father feel about rearing living proof of his failure to procreate? Should a child's right to resolve an identity crisis supersede the sperm donor's right to anonymity? And now that genetic science has proved we're all pretty closely related anyway, is identifying one's immediate progenitor even relevant?
Audience Award, IDFA 2001.
Employing her trademark fly-on-the-wall style, this time in a shelter for runaways in Tehran, award-winning director Kim Longinotto returns to the subject of Iranian women living in a society which is modernising its public institutions, yet still essentially patriarchal at a domestic level. With often painful persistence the camera records runaways recounting harrowing tales of beatings, sexual assault, humiliation, nervous breakdowns and suicidal despair suffered at the hands of abusive relatives and partners. The film makes no attempt to comment on the material or shape it into a narrative, rather letting the runaways and their tales speak for themselves. It also offers a fascinating glimpse into Iran's social welfare system and presents a complex portrait of the women driven to avail themselves thereof.
Courtesy of Vixen Films.
Sex: The Annabel Chong Story
A provocative romp through the life of self-proclaimed sex performance artist Annabel Chong, who set a world record by having intercourse with 251 men during a marathon 10-hour session. Although the film includes graphic footage of the event, it goes beyond simply being porn dressed up as art. During interviews and chat-show clips Chong presents herself as a sex terrorist rattling the cage of conformity and exploding feminist notions of exploitation with her radical concept of the female stud. But as the film delves deeper into her motives and methods _ and records reactions to her feat by university classmates, teachers, relatives and friends - what emerges is a complex portrait of what is arguably a disturbing pathology.
Courtesy of Omni International.
That's My Face
Blackness is probed in many of its manifestations as the director travels from the US to Tanzania, and on to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, to find out what it means to be black. A heartfelt quest for identity leads him to conclude that being black and the descendant of slaves makes Catholic Brazil -"a New World culture which embraces its African heritage" - a far more livable country than the Protestant US. But it's not all a bed of roses there either. The quest continues for a man uncontent in his own skin, trying to find out why being black should weigh so heavily upon him, should always place him at odds with the dominant culture. Thomas Allen Harris will introduce his film.
International Filmmaker Award, Toronto Reel Black Awards 2001.
Courtesy of Chimpanzee Productions.
War & Peace
Banned in India - this film is pertinent in the light of current events. "Nuclear nationalism was in the air. The memory of one who had opposed the bomb on moral grounds alone had begun to fade"So begins Patwardhan's terrifying account of the nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India. Juxtaposing footage of politicians whipping up public hysteria and interviews with ordinary Indians and Pakistanis, many of whom find their leaders"bellicose posturing unfathomable, he demonstrates how religious symbols have been hijacked and the legacy of Ghandi betrayed in the service of greed and power. A committed peace activist, Patwardhan sees the friendships and goodwill he has witnessed between Pakistanis and Indians as the only antidote to the seeming insanity of their political elites -"the silver lining in the mushroom cloud".
Grand Prize Earth Vision Film Festival, Tokyo 2002.