Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Roots (2016) – ***(*)

Posted: November 7, 2017 in 2016, Drama, Historical, Slavery, USA, XXX1/2

Back in 1977 a television series was ground breaking (and successful) telling the story of the descendants of a captured young African warrior who was shipped from The Gambia to the United States and sold as a slave. His name was Kunta Kinte and his struggle and legacy is still known and popular in American pop culture. Just think of the hit single of Kendrick Lamar (‘King Kunta’). But the 1977 show looks a bit old fashioned for young kids and so a remake was produced, shown last year to critical acclaim.

It’s a powerful story, stretching over several generation. From 1750 before the American Revolution to the end of the Civil War in 1865. It’s not just the story of Kunta Kinta, but also of his daughter Kizzy, his grandson Chicken George and grand-grandson Tom.

Compared to the original series (seen four years ago), this remake is much shorter. It has more action. The acting is better. The setting is more professional. It’s visually a much better series. It’s what you can expect from a big budget tv series these days. Even though the story is based on a fictitious character, the events are depicted in a neutral, historically correct way. (Alt-Right Neo Nazis may disagree of course). Compared to the first series, the ‘white characters’ are better developed. There’s even a good white character this time. Hooray!

This is and excellent series for those who aren’t too familiar with the early history of the African American community. An absolute must. But it’s also worth watching for those who have seen the original show. The acting is truly much better. That Malachi Kirby is phenomenal as Kunta Kinta. But Regé-Jean Page as Chicken George is also quite exceptional. Jonathan Rhys Meyers kills it in all of his scenes. He’s a delight. Even though he’s the mean white slave owner.

The creators had to cut a lot of stories to fit in just four episodes. That’s a bit sad. Because there is much more to tell. The decision to skip several decades from time to time was necessary and it works. But you want to learn so much more.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3315386

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Detroit – **(*)

Posted: October 29, 2017 in 2017, Civil Rights, Drama, USA, XX1/2

Injustice: the movie, part 654!

Luckily for all the movie makers out there, there’s a lot of injustice going on in the world. There are thousands of movies that focus on inequality, discrimination, abuse, outrage etc… Some are very factual. Others twist the events and rewrite history. And most add a little bit of drama to the actual story, such as in this retelling of a hostage situation in Detroit during the riots of 1969.

It’s interesting to see how, before the end credits roll, a notion is made of this.

Nevertheless, extra drama or not, this is an entertaining and gripping story. It’s well-directed by Kathryn Bigelow and the little known cast performs really well. Especially Algee Smith and Will Poulter. The former plays a talented singer, who after the evacuation of a concert hall during the riots, ends up at a motel with his best friend. The latter plays a racist cop, who decides to search the motel for an alleged sniper who fired at them. The situation gets out of hand and all guests from the hotel are being detained by the cop and his colleagues…

The movie is about racist cops who get away with killing innocent black people. The story is set in 1967. However, similar events have happened over the past years as well. And so, it’s pretty obvious that not every cinema going movie fan wants to be confronted with this reality. The movie flopped – people prefer fiction – and that’s a shame. Maybe it will do better here in Europe. It’s a good movie. But as the events were written down during the court hearing, more drama was needed. It’s good drama, but it still feels pretty superficial. We don’t really get to know anything about these people’s lives before ending up at the motel. Maybe this would have been better as a four-part miniseries.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5390504

A United Kingdom – **(*)

Posted: August 11, 2017 in 2016, biopic, Drama, Historical, UK, XX1/2
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United Kingdom tells the fascinating story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, who become the first president of Botswana and his wife. The fascinating thing about it is that Seretse was black – of course – and Ruth was white. Quite remarkable at the time. And still quite remarkable right now. Unless you’re from Botswana or have travelled the country or have a keen interest in the history of Southern Africa, chances are very high that you’ve never heard about this remarkable history fact. So, hooray for the producers who made this an entertaining history lesson.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing more than that. It’s well acted, sure. And it’s nicely shot. But it’s a straight forward, uncontroversial, chronologically told succession of events. White girl meet black lawyer student in London. Guy turns out to be the heir to a chiefdom. Girl accepts marriage proposal. Everyone is against it. Her family. His family. The South African government. The British government. And so the trouble starts…

A lot is covered and it’s covered well. The situation is explained in clear and short dialogues. No excessive explanation. But also not that simplified. It’s a well done film. For the masses. Who didn’t go see the movie though. A shame. Stories like this need an audience. But maybe more for a tv night on Fridays.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3387266

 

Hidden Figures – ***

Posted: April 5, 2017 in 2016, Civil Rights, Drama, USA, XXX

Hidden Figures is light-hearted, but memorable. It’s a movie for the largest audience possible. It’s a chick-flick with a masculine theme. It has three black women in the lead who anyone can relate to, regardless of the color of their skin. It’s a period drama, with references to today’s society. It’s a movie for young and old. For black and white. For men and women. It’s positive. It’s good. It’s a jackpot. It only has one flaw: Jim Parsons. Of all people they could cast as an annoying math scientist they chose Sheldon! But he only has a few lines. So you’ll survive. Watch it. Period.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4846340

This is a movie for those who love Jane Austin stories, but think they are too white. It’s set in the same period of time, but this time the female heroine is a mulatto heiress.

The illegitimate daughter of a wealthy navy officer (and a slave from the West Indies) is raised by her uncle and aunt, who are already raising another niece. When her father dies she has a good fortune, but that doesn’t mean much, because as a mulatto she can’t really go higher up in society. Until a noble man fancies on marrying her, telling her that ‘unlike others’ he is ready to ignore the traits she received for her mother because ‘it is clear that the traits of her father luckily are more evident’.

In the mean time, the uncle is settling a case about a (slave ship) company that threw their human cargo overboard in order to get money back from their insurance. A young lawyer is trying to convince the uncle that he should speak against the company. Soon the mulatto heiress falls for him.

Yawn.

It’s a period piece. With a different take. But it tells the same story. It sucks being a woman at that time. Let alone a mulatto woman with money.

Somehow, British people love seeing movies and series about class distinction so they can continue using it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404181

There are only positive reviews of Son Of Saul, winner of Best Foreign Language Movie at the Academy Award Ceremony of 2016. It’s one of those movies that all critics just adored. Probably because none of them want to come across as heartless or anti-Semitic if they didn’t.

But apart from them, no-one else recommended it. It kind of flopped at the box office as well. It wasn’t even a success in the arthouse theaters. Very few people saw it and those who did, didn’t spread the word.

So finally after more than a year the time was right to watch this heavily awarded Holocaust drama!

The best thing about this Hungarian movie is the direction and the editing.What makes this movie really great is the distance from which the camera films the main character. It’s like he’s pulling the viewer along in his story. It’s a very daunting and thrilling experience. You’re so close to this man that you feel like you’re really next to him. Excellent! It also feels like the whole movie was recorded in one single take. Which it wasn’t of course, but that’s the merit of the editor. Another unique cinematographic feat is the depiction of the horror in a blurry and distant way.

The story however isn’t all that engaging. The setting is quite dramatic of course. But the actual story isn’t.

Saul, the protagonist, is part of a Sonderkommando working at a concentration camp near the end of World War II. A jewish prisoner himself, he is forced to help bring incoming prisoners to the gas chambers, remove all the valuables from their clothes, pull out their bodies (called ‘pieces’) and carry them to the ovens, then disinfect the chamber and also bring the ashes of the burnt prisoners to the nearby river. That’s the setting. If you haven’t read/seen/heard anything about this aspect of the concentration camps and you are used to watching movies like La Vita E Bella or The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, then yes, this can be very unsettling.

The story however is about this same man who spends all movie long trying to save a dead boy from being burnt with the others and give him a typical Jewish burial. For that purpose he needs to find a rabbi. But he also needs to ‘steal’ the body, hide it and find a place to bury. All within 24 hours. He is also given the task to collect certain items for a riot that the Sondercommando he’s part of, is anticipating. Somehow, this just doesn’t make sense. Sure, he wants to do at least one thing right after all this time of forcefully collaborating with the atrocious acts of the nazis. But why add the riot story?

Watch it nevertheless.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3808342/

The Loving Story – *(*)

Posted: February 20, 2017 in 2011, Civil Rights, Documentary, USA, X1/2

After watching Loving, you may want to watch the documentary that was the main source of the movie: The Loving Story.

Mr and Mrs Loving were the interracial couple who were sentenced to exile in the state that they lived (Virginia) just because they married ‘a different race’. Their case ended up being brought to the Supreme Court, which allowed interracial couples to be married all over the United States.

The most interesting thing about watching this documentary is the realisation that the casting director of Loving did a tremendous job looking for actor that ressemble the real life characters. The actors must also have watched this documentary over and over again. The HBO special itself isn’t giving that much extra information about the case. It’s pretty much all covered in the movie. You get to see still pictures of the couples, home videos of the family, interviews with the lawyers (at the time of the trial and later on in life). They also add vintage footage of tv interviews from back in the days when people just openly talk about wanting to keep segregation…

That said. It’s 2017 and you have the alt-right KKK-clones claim the same things on tv.

It’s sad that you don’t really get to know much more about the family members. They interview the daughter, but she’s basically telling general stuff about her parents.

So, watch the movie and leave it at that.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1759682