Sembene! - The tragedy of African cinema
The 2015 documentary, Sembene! is a welcome tribute to the father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene. We spend a chunk of the film soaking in co-director (alongside Jason Silverman), Samba Gadjigo’s reverence for the Senegalese filmmaker as he recounts the impact of Sembene, decades before they eventually met. “When I was 14 I dreamed of being French, like the characters in the books I read in high school,” we hear Gadjigo say. Fast forward three years and the acuity of Sembene’s work had him proclaim “I no longer wanted to be French. I wanted to be African.”
John Wick: Chapter Two
John Wick: Chapter Two left me with a lot to muse on for a film ostensibly with the simplest of narratives. For one, it is the first R-rated film I’ve seen in a packed theatre. The squeals of girls at the plentiful head shots were a welcome addition to the experience. There was a uniform wince as our eponymous hero tried his version of the Joker’s disappearing pencil magic trick and a lot of faces were buried in palms when knives were whipped out for thrilling close quarter duels.
Ousmane Sembène's Xala
My walk with Senegalese director, Ousmane Sembène continues with his 1975 film Xala, an adaptation of Sembène's 1973 novel of the same name. It’s the most modern of his films I have seen as yet, set some 15 years after Senegal’s independence. After a film like Emitai, where the French occupiers were the subject of Sembene’s scorn, the African elite is firmly in our director’s sights as he exhibits some scathing disdain for upper class who wasted little time in selling out.
Kong: Skull Island
This may be one of the few times my aversion to trailers may not have paid off. Happiness and satisfaction, as always, are functions of expectations. My baseline going into Kong: Skull Island was Peter Jackson’s King Kong which I can’t say I properly engaged, but damn, the sequences with the oversized spiders and scorpions and man sucking grubs still creep me out to this day.
James Mangold’s Logan presents to us a broken world with damaged people. The first line of film, "Fuck", is blurted out with a sense of weariness that hovers over this world. It also lays the groundwork for a series that has been waiting 17 years for an R-rating. It doesn’t take long into the running time for the film to unleash its full violent splendour affirming its departure from superhero movie PG-13 norm.
The Lego Batman Movie
I spent the screening of The Lego Batman Movie battling sleep. That surprised and disappointed me. It's Batman. I love Batman. Anything Batman should be able to grasp me for 90-plus minutes. But therein lies the question. Was this a Batman movie or Batman roast? This latest entry to the Lego movie franchise felt like the latter and that also upset me a little, in addition to being a bore fest. "Batman should be revered and not mocked", I seemed to be screaming internally the few times I engaged with the film.
It truly has been a while since a decision to immerse myself in a piece of cinema came with the reward of an emotionally overwhelming experience. Bless you Moonlight, bless you Barry Jenkins for your masterful and beautiful humanist approach to your characters, for chucking away the surface and reaching for the crux of your subjects with soothing poetic finesse unperturbed the joys or heartbreak that lie beneath.
My Father Die
Directed by Sean Brosnan ( our very own Pierce Brosnan’s son), My Father Die tells the story of a deaf man, Asher (Joe Anderson) on a collision course with his abhorrent and sociopath father, Ivan (Gary Stretch) in the rural American south. To call their relationship dysfunctional is an understatement given the first time we see them together, Ivan bashes the hearing out of Asher’s head then proceeds to brutalise the life of his older son, Chester. Details, almost animalistic in nature, abound but let’s just say Chester had his hand in a cookie jar labelled Ivan.
Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea manages to be one of the funniest films of 2016 whilst wielding affecting moments of distress and heartbreak. The bleakness of this picture has been overemphasised. Expectations had been inflated. But Lonergan manages to milk a welcome brand of dark humour that doesn’t make light work of a crux wrapped in its powerful layered examination of grief.
Ousmane Sembene’s Emitai
How about some Senegalese spice - Ousmane Sembene’s 1971 film, Emitai, is fueled by a spirit of protest that resonates decades on. The fact it wasn’t released in Sembene’s home country of Senegal and censored in other francophone countries endorses the strength of its message in a time when colonialism was something more tangible than chapters in textbooks.
Chaos is order yet undeciphered – the line that opens Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 film, Enemy. Two films later and hints of that idea are at play in the brilliant Canadian director’s latest film, Arrival. Unlike Enemy, Arrival presents a clearer narrative and denouement that is tied up in a knot of simplicity that still has the power to overwhelm.
Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge embraces the paradox ethos ingrained in Christianity. This film is about a pacifist who goes above and beyond in the line of duty during the Second World War. It looks to affirm the value of human life amidst the carnage of intense bloody battles on the Japanese island of Okinawa where human life is spent in droves to very little avail.