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Monday, March 18, 2013

OUR NIXON

By D.E.Levine

A New Directors/New Films 2013 Selection

Even if you're too young to have experienced the dark era associated with the Nixon presidency and Watergate scandal, this fascinating documentary comprised of  8mm"home movies" by prominent White House staffers, predominantly H.R.Haldeman, Dwight Chapin and John Ehrlichman is mesmerizing to watch.

Initially we're told that the films sat in a government vault for 40 years and now paired with news footage from the same era we see deeply into the Nixon presidency of 1969-1974.
Everyone looks so young and they were young with young children.  We tend to forget that there were a lot of young people staffing the Nixon White House, even Henry Kissinger is mentioned as being a young, flirtatious bachelor.

Nixon comes across as having an actual sense of humor and being a rather charismatic speaker.  He appears to have been genuinely liked and admired by his staffers, who, when interviewed, still don't consider themselves to be criminals.

Director Penny Lane uses the films primarily to explore the audio recordings made secretively by Nixon rather than to explain the inner workings of the white house.  And there are skillful interweaving of news reports, especially after the Watergate admissions when Haldeman, Chapin and Ehrlichman shot less film.

Regardless of your feelings about Richard Nixon, the film is fascinating to watch,


Friday, March 15, 2013

STORIES WE TELL

By D.E.Levine

A New Directors/New Films 2013 Selection

A truly fascinating and personal documentary by Oscar-nominated director Sarah Polley.  The story unfolds like a thriller as Polley searches to uncover her family's darkest secrets.

Having gotten her family members to portray themselves at their current ages, Polley uses actors and family home movies to portray them and her deceased mother at earlier stages.

Bravely using her film as an investigative tool, the Toronto-based director and actress uncovers a fact long rumored in the family and among family friends - the man who raised her and who she calls Dad is not her biological father.

The news has already been disclosed in newspapers and magazines, but this fascinating look at how Polley discovered she was the result of an extramarital affair her mother Diane had while performing a play in Montreal, is full of surprises at every level.

The happy baby joined four older siblings upon birth and although her mother died when she was eleven, except for rumors and teasing, and the fact that she didn't resemble other family members, there was never any real proof she wasn't the product of her parents Diane and Michael.

While it's unconventional that Polley was able to convince family members and friends to agree to interviews discussing the most sensitive of subjects, and even get them to appear in the film, it is n the extraordinary that she was able to track down her real biological father and get him to appear in the film as well.

There's no judging of anyone in the film.  It's a dispassionate look at facts that also points out we are each the result of our environment and upbringing rather than our DNA.


Friday, March 8, 2013

A HIJACKING

By D.E.Levine

A New Directors/New Films 2013 Selection

Based on a true event, Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm provides a fascinating and fast paced look at the takeover of the cargo ship Rozen in the Indian Ocean, by Somali pirates.

The boat owners company's CEO Peter (Soren Malling) negotiates directly by phone and fax with the pirates against the advice of a negotiation expert (Gary Skjoldmose Porter).  The pirates have a multilingual translator, Omar, (Abdihakin Asgar) negotiating from the ship.

The story is a fascinating look at leadership, teamwork and negotiation in an unusual and highly pressured situation. While the corporate offices are cool, pristine and comfortable, the scene  shifts back to the Rozen where the crew has to cope with increasing temperatures and lack of access to basic hygiene facilities.

Although the actual hijacking is not shown, the action on film is split between the Rozen and the Copenhagen-based ship owners who feel a deep responsibility for seeing to the safety of the Rozen's crew.

The viewer never loses interest and the pace never lessens in this tightly woven story.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

BLUE CAPRICE

By D.E.Levine

A New Directors/New Films 2013 Selection

A thriller based on the 2002 "Beltway Murders" or sniper attacks in and around Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, this film is extremely disturbing.

After introducing the subject through news and surveillance video and 911 recordings, the scene shifts to the island of Antigua where the relationship between the lead characters, a teenage boy named Lee (Tequan Richmond) and an older man named John (Isaiah Washington).

Lee's mother has left to take work elsewhere and has time stretches on and he becomes bored, Lee strikes up a friendship with John, an American who has removed his three young daughters from the United States in violation of a custody agreement.

Without a father figure, Lee is highly susceptible to John's "life is unfair" remarks and drilling.  Taking the boy back to Tacoma, Washington with him, John continues to vent against his ex-wife, who has taken his daughters and moved to somewhere unknown.

Taken along to the woods for a target shooting session, Lee turns out to be a natural marksman.  John intimidates Lee into killing people whom he has a grudge against and then strangers, by telling him thee act is a way to show his love and gratitude.  He also subjects the boy to some grueling physical and emotional tests to harden him and break his moral resistance.

Directed by Alexandre Moors, this taut film examines a dark place in the American psyche and is particularly forceful because the actual events of the Beltway murders are still current enough for people to remember them, and recent shootings by deranged individuals have had a powerful impact on society.