Archive for January, 2015

Being in South Africa makes you check out classic movies you’ve heard about but never bothered to watch. Cry Freedom is one of those must see. It’s stars Denzel Washington as Biko, an activist from the seventies fighting against the Apartheid regime. He has a supporting role and is excellent. He dies in the movie, which isn’t really a big surprise if you know your history a bit. The main character is played by an equally excellent Kevin Kline, who portrays a liberal editor of a newspaper that is critical to the government.

The first part introduces the two brave men and show how they start a fragile friendship. The second part focuses on the threats uttered against the editor who wants to tell the world that Biko did not die of a ’hunger strike’. And the finale is a tense escape thriller as he tries to get across the border to Lesotho and ask for political asylum.

It’s a long movie, but one that never bores. It’s historically accurate, but a lot of drama was added for the sake of entertainment. The police and minister of justice are depicted as nazi-like oppressors, the black population as saintly victims. Good vs evil works well in a story like this, but recent movies (by f.i. Quentin Tarantino) have shown that the bad guys can be cool too and that the good guys can be pretty badass as well.

It’s nevertheless an important must see with excellent acting and brilliant dialogue. It’s easy to understand why they add the scene of the Soweto massacre of 1976 at the end, but it really doesn’t fit well with the rest of the story. But hey. It was made in the eighties when the West reacted against Apartheid by means of economic boycott and cultural events… It helped (maybe).

Being in Lesotho makes one watch movies from Lesotho. Not that there are many, but The Forgotten Kingdom is a recent world movie festival favorite.

It has all the ingredients for making blockbuster movie fans shun away: it’s poetic, symbolic, spoken in a foreign language, with long shots of natural beauty. However, it’s also filmed in a very modern way and has enough humor, violence and romance to attract a larger crowd.

It helps if you actually know the area. There are plenty of references to the culture of the Basotho (the inhabitants of Lesotho – a landlocked mountainous country in Southern Africa). But it may work as a nice introduction as well. It’s quite logical that many tourist centres sell the dvd in their gift shop.

The story deals about a semi thug from Johannesburg who learns that his estranged father has passed away. Both moved from Lesotho to the South African metropolis for a better future, but they landed in a township and the father was pretty absent in the boys’ life. The deceased made all the arrangements for his funeral… in his home country, so his son reluctantly goes back to his native land.

What follows is a physical and emotional journey of a young man still in search of a better future. But it also shows a modern side of today’s Lesotho, where educated women still struggle in a family (father) ruled society and where AIDS claims a lot of victims.

It’s really not as depressing as it sounds and it’s the kind of ’world movie’ made like anything from the West. The main character is escorted by a little kid, who can be interpreted as an inner guiding spirit. That’s a very nice touch to a well made movie (with a debatable end).

Zulu – *

Posted: January 15, 2015 in 1964, Action, Drama, Historical, UK, War, X

In preparation of a journey through Zululand, it seemed worthwhile to watch Zulu, a British movie about the Anglo-Zulu wars in a South Africa. It’s the debut of Michael Caine, who plays an arrogant officer of a small platoon of British soldiers defending the ’British Empire’ against the Zulu tribes. The story is based on historical facts. After the Zulus have slaughtered a whole battalion of British soldiers, they are eager to attack a nearby hospital as well, protected by only a small amount of men. Needless to say that they withstood the attack (why else make a movie about it?). So, there you go.

There is absolutely no tension in this war movie. You already know the outcome as soon as you hear about the attack. And that’s not the only flaw. The acting is terribly theatrical. It’s a movie made in the sixties, but feels like it’s made in the twenties. Luckily, actors have mastered the skill of dying realistically in recent decades. Here they fall down so slowly with expressions so ridiculous that it’s not even funny. The Zulus are depicted as wild brainless beasts. The sick in the hospital as mentally troubled drama queens. Furthermore the story is one-sided. You learn nothing about the Zulus. It’s just a stage play about bickering officers in an attacked station.

All that is left is the cinematography beauty. But there again, the director only uses one magnificent background over and over again. There is only one real location (the hospital), so showing the splendour surroundings is limited. But still, it feels like the camera team was fixed on one spot only.

So. End result: BORING!

Guardians Of The Galaxy – *(*)

Posted: January 9, 2015 in 2014, Action, Fantasy, USA, X1/2

Heralded as the best and most innovating action movie of 2014, Guardians Of The Galaxy pretty much disappoints. Sure it’s funny to see a raccoon shoot at people and give semi sarcastic remarks or a tree trunk utter the line ’I Am Groot’ in every conversation. It’s also unconventional to use a tape with older seventies and eighties rock as a soundtrack (and a clever tool in the script), but overall it’s just another action movie set in space.