The YES Men (2003)

December 29, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Posted in DVD Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I never did understand friends’ thumbnail accounts of what a couple of anti-global trade activists were up to; it was always “they turn up and pretend to speak on behalf of the establishment and get thrown out.”

But I finally got to see the documentary/film The Yes Men on DVD the other night.

It’s all about Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum campaign against the against the WTO (World Trade Organisation). Rather than taking to the streets or blogging, they speak on behave of the WTO ! As the documentary explains, Mike-and-Andy were give control of the domain gatt.org, which they turned into a parody of the WTO site. As they say: “On the Internet no one can tell if you are a dog”, and organisations/conferences started to invite representatives from gatt.org (thinking they were inviting an arm of the WTO) to speak.

The documentary/film follows Mike-and-Andy as they impersonate trade experts/strategists from the WTO at a number of conferences. We see Mike-and-Andy’s increasingly unsubtle send up of WTO policy – culminating in a ridiculous gold unitard.

The documentary is definitely sympathetic with Mike-and-Andy’s position. But regardless of your position, the documentary and Mike-and-Andy what do is pretty funny. Mike-and-Andy take stand-up satirical comedy to another level – without the laughter (track). Most of the venues where the guys speak are populated by analysts/accountants/academics/diplomats for whom english is a second-language – so something might be lost in translation. The latter might also explain why the audience never reacts to the ridiculous propositions Mike-and-Andy espouse.

If you like political satire this DVD is for you.

Jig (2011)

December 5, 2011 at 9:35 am | Posted in Dance Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I missed this at the International Film Festival, and so was keen to catch it when it came on regular release at the Paramount theatre.

Jig, as its name suggests, is about Irish Dancing. It follows a number of contestants as they prepare for the 2010 world championships in 2010. Sue Bourne has done a good job of showing the human side of and the hard work put by dancers. The support and sacrifice of the dancers’ families is also revealed : the mother who works extra to support his son; the mother who has mortgaged her house twice to finance one more year; and the family who moved from California to study with one of best instructors in the world.

The dresses the girls wear are so expensive that one mother went into business making them to cut down on costs.

Joe Bitter’s family moved from sunny California to Birmingham, so Joe could take classes with John Carey – eight times world champion.

Also at John’s school is 10 year old John Whitehurst – who comes from a family of soccer playing boys. It is his mum who works extra hours to pay for the lessons and competitions. It is his dad who sums up the quirky image of Irish Dancing: “it was like a Shirley Temple convention” of their first competition.

Irish dancing is shown as a global activity: New York, Birmingham, Derry, London, Moscow, and Rotterdam. There is the team of dancers with high hopes from Moscow; and the trans-atlantic (friendly) rivalry between two 10 year old girls: Brogan McCay and Julia O’Rourke.

The dancing itself is superb. This style of dance does not use the hands, so many of the bio-mechanical techniques available in other dance styles is not available; dancers must somehow maintain control during turns and jumps with only their legs. This combined with a very turned out foot position and fast percussive moves must be very stressful physically.

Good little documentary. The story is told through the dancers’ perspective – speaking frankly and with a quiet charm.

La danse: Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris

July 23, 2010 at 12:56 am | Posted in Dance Review, Film Review | 3 Comments
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Another 2010 Wellington International Film Festival : I went to see La danse:: Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris .

This documentary by Frederick Wiseman has not real structure: it is 4 (or is it 5 ?) days in the life of the Paris Opera Ballet company. Much of the footage is of ballet: reherasals and performances. The rest of the footage is fly-on-the-wall views of meetings – mainly with Brigitte Lefèvre, the Company’s artistic director.

Wonderfully shot – Paris seems a magnificant place, the Opera house and surrounds just wonderful. Some of the Company’s rehearsal spaces are lit by natural light from big circular windows. The Company’s reputation for flair and flawless technique is confirmed.

The documentary lets the image tell the story, so there are no voice overs or captions to tell you who is in what sequence, nor what work is being rehearsed or performed, nor what the ocassion might be. You only findout that Brigitte Lefèvre is the artistic directory, because it is bought up in conversation – in as much as you can have a conversation with a near devine entity as an artistic director! The dance bits, and they are the vast majority, explain themselves. But the union and company meetings about retirement age will be forever a mystery.

The film is well worth seeing if you have a serious interest in ballet – otherwise wait for the DVD, so that you can break it up. If seeing it at a theatre make sure to park the car somewhere you can leave it for a minimum of 3 hours!

Only When I Dance

April 15, 2010 at 1:02 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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A few weeks ago, I went to see Only when I dance at the documentary film festival.

March 18, 2010 by Show_Hanger

The documentary follows two talented young Brazilian ballet dancers from the poor district in Rio de Janero: Irlan de silva and Isabela Coracy. Both are coloured, which in the context of Brazil means that they have very little future professionally in Brazil. Their best chance to dance professionally, is to standout an high profile international ballet competition. Irlan goes to the same ballet school as Isabela, and probably were in the same classes.

Both dancers go to Maria Estrella’s Centro de Dança Rio (dance school). She gives scholarships to dancers with circumstances such as Irlan and Isabela.

Irlan is good enough to enter the prix de Lousanne. And he is good; he has an arresting smile, and he clearly puts all of himself into his dancing. His dancing is full of energy and has that extra spark. For the prix he dances the slave dance from le Cosair and the power and height in his leaps is truly breathtaking, and his control/technique is also very good. It is good enough to get through to the final round, where he opts to do a contemporary piece – Nijinski’s ?. On the face of it, this appears to be counter intuitive, why choose something so difficult and so unorthodox? Why choose a piece that is nearly an anti-ballet? But his performance is briliant – he carries it off and wins a 1-year scholarship with a professional company.

For Irlan, Losanne is the first time he has flown, the first abroad, and the first time in falling snow. The look of wonder on his face as priceless.

The financial pressure on the young dancers’ families is immense. They come from low inclome families and the relative amount of money required, to go to ballet school and travel to competitions, is immense.

It is not just a matter of sending a tape to the entry committee of the competitions. Most international competitions have preliminaries in Brazil; and to enter these, you probably have to have a history of competing – to get experience, if not to qualify. So both families are constantly raising money.

Isabela has a more difficult time of it: she has injuries, she has weight issues (she is not stick thin!), she is black (in a white world),and her family seems poorer.

Isabela, earns the right – through placing high in Brazilian competitions – to go to New York, to take part in the New York Grand Prix. She does not get past the first round for individuals; though her school’s group dance comes third. This both a personal disaster and a family disaster. Her family have borrowed heavily to raise money. Here we see the real price of dreams.

The documentary ends with the contrast between Irlan and Isabela. Irlan is off to New York, to join the presitgious American Ballet Theatre. Isabela, and her family, must re-group, and decide what to do next.

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There is a happy ending. Googling “Irlan Isabela Ballet” led me to Ballet Talk and The TimesOnline, where I found out that Irlan is now at American Ballet Theatre – in the junior company; and that Isabela is now with the São Paulo Dance Company. Maria must be very pleased.

Young@Heart – Young at Heart Choir

January 20, 2009 at 12:20 am | Posted in Film Review, Musical Review | Leave a comment
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Warning: plot elements revealed

January 19, 2009 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

This is a documentary about a choir, whose average is over 80 years old! The Vienna Boys Choir they are not !! But they retain a passion for music and performing. The documenatry is shot over 7 weeks in a hand-held-video-camera style, and is very engaging. The story of the Choir and its members make for a lightedhearted exploration of a serious subject – what does one do as one approaches the twilight years? how show one deal with the loss of a friend and comrade?

The Choir makes regular trips abroad – from their native Northampton, Massachusetts, USA. Stephen Walker and follow the Choir as they put together their next show.

Key to the Choir is their director – Bob Cilman. Who keeps the Choir’s repertoire upto date and re-arranges the music for choristers’ older voices. He works the Choir hard and does not let them settle into the comfortable music of ther ‘youth’. So we see the Choir working on a Sonic Youth number – Schizophrenia!

The Choir members are constantly confronted with their mortality. By the time the documentary is filmed two of their number has died; By the time the documentary has completed post-production, a third member has died. And sadly, just before I saw this film, a fourth member, featured in the documentary has also passed away.

But, it is the way that the Choir deals with the loss of these fellow choristers and friends that is so moving. They resolve to go on performing. One chorister, talking about the death of Bob Salvini, says that if she dies on stage, that they should just push her off stage and keep on singing.

For me, the most moving part of the film was the Choir’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young to an audience of inmates at their local prison. The Choir had been informed just that morning of Bob Salvini’s death.

Singing seems to improve the quality of life for the Choir’s members – they were mentally alert (Bob Cilman makes them learn the words to all the songs they sing) and active (regular rehearsals and the choir has some light dance moves). And I think creates a support network for them – something to focus on, other than themselves.

The filming of the documentary must have been fun for the Choir too. Stepping out of a strictly documentary mode, Walker shot three music videos for the Choir – covers of: I Wanna Be Sedated (Ramones), Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads), and Staying Alive (Bee Gees). The Ramones video had the Choir dressed in hospital gowns in a hospital setting and was just surreal. NB: Bob Cilman is a huge Talking Heads fan.

The documentary team get quite close to a trio known as the Three Musketeers; today there is only one Musketeer left. Joe Benoit died before the filming of the documentary’s final concert. Eileen Hall, died at the young age of 93, during post-production; the film was dedicated to her.

The documentary does not dwell on the loss of Choresters, because the Choir doesn’t. The losses hurt, but people are remembered for their contributions and perfomances.

The Choir’s is pretty good – just don’t expect the vienna Boys! Eileen Hall’s rendition of The Clash number Should I stay or should I go, backed by the rest of the Choir, brings the house down. There are also some renditions of classic James Brown and Bruce Springsteen numbers.

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During research for this review, I discovered that Fred Knittle passed away on the 11th of this month. I will remember his solo of Fix It – originally intended to be a duet with Bob Salvini.

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