Thursday, 6 May 2010

Film Review: No-one Knows About Persian Cats

This Iranian film about setting up an indie rock band in the face of oppression and censorship was one that we hoped to see at the film festival but missed. Thankfully it was shown again this week and I can see why I have heard many people recently say that Iranian films are some of the best non-English language films out there.

It follows two young musicians Nagar and Ashkan and their would-be agent Nader (who was undoubtedly the best character in the film - think Jack Black in High Fidelity but with even more energy).  They try to set up a band and dream of leaving Iran to play gigs throughout Europe and desperately try to obtain false passports, visas and permits (on the friendliest of Black Markets) that would allow them to perform.

As the film reaches it's climax the plan begins to unravel as their passport 'fixer' is arrested. This starts a chain of events that leads to a wonderfully unexpected Romeo and Juliet ending.

A beautiful and trendy score includes everything from indie rock to heavy metal to blues to trance and even a pretty good rap sequence, and provides a stunning narrative throughout the story, which itself is told in the most natural way with some excellent performances from the actors themselves.

I thought this was an excellent film that, throughout, lifts the spirits with its musical performances and moments of comedy only for them to be dramatically shattered in the final few moments.

No-one Knows About Persian Cats (2009): 5/5

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Election Day approaches

So tomorrow is election day and here in the wonderful constituency of North Down we have a vast array of names to pick from.

It seems though that the incumbent, Sylvia Hermon (who was elected in 2005 as an Ulster Unionist but who has since left the party after disagreeing with their decision to form an electoral pact with the Conservatives) is the favourite to retain her seat as an independent.

However, I I have been unable to find out what a single one of here policies are. The leaflet that came through he door only mentioned her achievements in the past like it was some sort of hastily written CV. Her website also contains nothing to tell us what she stands for and she has made no appearanes on TV.

How can anyone vote for a candidate that seemingly has no policies? Even more pressing, how can that candidate be the favourite to win?

At least the Conservative and Unionist candidate gave us some policies and 'Call Me Dave' Cameron paid a visit to us yesterday.

Dont get me wrong, I still haven't made up my mind but we shall see if anything happens to sway my vote one way or the other in the next 24 hours.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Location:Botanic Ave,Belfast,United Kingdom

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Film Review: The First Movie

This incredibly powerful documentary by Belfast director Mark Cousins had an experimental feel to it. He took some hand-held video cameras to a small village in Iraq and handed them out to some of the young children to let them film their lives.

What followed was full of brilliant imagery and emotional story telling from the children themselves, focusing on their surroundings and stories from their imaginations, which prompts Cousins to reflect on his own upbringing in Belfast.

The director said in a post-show Q&A session that he needed to prove his cinematography skills in order to secure funding, and the result is some of the very best cinematography I have ever seen – long panoramic shots, close images of wildlife, and one particular scene involving the children playing with balloons were stunningly good cinema.

The film ultimately tries to tell us how film can influence and change lives, and it was an emotional and incredibly inspirational piece of film that deserves wider distribution.

This was the final film we saw at the Belfast Film Festival and what a way to end. It has been a brilliant two weeks and we have seen some fantastic films and listened to some interesting discussions. Hopefully the success of this year’s festival will lead to an even bigger event next year. In the meantime, the QFT is showing some of the festival films again over the next month or two so I may update my blog in the future with some other reviews.

The First Movie (2009): 5/5

Film Review: The Battle of Algiers

Set in Algiers between 1954 and 1960, this film tells of the struggle of the Algerian people to retake their city from the French colonials.

Having never seen it before, I didn't go in to it with any real preconceptions, but it didn't take long before I was hooked in to the drama that unfolded in an edge-of-the-seat kind of way.  The black & white format in which it was filmed only added to this.

Particularly pleasing were the musical motifs used to identify characters and stories through the film, and they were even used to highlight the differences in fighting methods between the Algerians and the French.

But perhaps the best thing about the film was the determination of the director to tell the story in a completely neutral way – the stories told were equally passionate and even-handed on both sides.

This film stands as a great piece of history – both in a political and film sense, that is as relevant today in all parts of the world as it was when it was made.

The Battle of Algiers (1966): 5/5