As the 70th anniversary of Holocaust Remembrance Day approached earlier this year, Poland passed some controversial legislation criminalizing any mention of Poles “Being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich.” They stated that the harshest penalties would be reserved for those who referred to Nazi-era concentration camps such as Auschwitz as “Polish death camps.” Many in Israel called this an attempt to whitewash the role that some Poles had in the detention and killing of around three million Polish Jews during World War 2.
Regardless of what you may think about who was complicit or how we refer to the role of Poland specifically, one thing is for certain; the holocaust occurred, it was one of the atrocious cases of mass killing, and we need to do everything we can to make sure such horrors never happen again. This alone makes AFTER AUSCHWITZ critical and compelling viewing. Recently I was invited to a sedar dinner where our host explained that one of the last remaining holocaust survivors at their local synagogue had just passed. As the years move on, so do most of the remaining survivors and our ability to hear directly from them about the atrocities each of them faced for a period of their lives
Jon Kean’s AFTER AUSCHWITZ, is a “Post-Holocaust” documentary that follows six incredible women after their liberation from Nazi concentration camps. It effectively captures what it means to move from tragedy and trauma towards life although we quickly learn that despite these women surviving and going on to build productive lives in the United States, they never truly find a place to call home. Well-constructed with appropriate archival footage and in-depth interviews, the documentary examines the question around what happens after surviving an unspeakable horror.
For survivors of the Holocaust, liberation was both an incredible moment and a devastating one. It marked the beginning of a life-long struggle. Most wanted to go home, but home no longer existed in devastated post-war Europe. Many came to America and wanted to tell people about their experiences but were silenced. “You’re in America now, put it behind you” is what they were told. The women Kean follows became mothers and wives with successful careers, but never fully healed from the scars of the past
Their stories not only show the indelible role immigrants and women played in the history of America during the second half of the 20th century, but also how each of them tried to assimilate, some more successfully than others. In all cases however, what strikes the watcher most about these resilient and inspiring women and what is captured perfectly is this incredible will to survive and a sense of duty they feel to live a full life.
Although AFTER AUSCHWITZ deals with a specific group of survivors, it is universal in the questions it ponders about which relate to moving on after tragedy and adapting to a “normal” life. It’s a story we see repeated by survivors of other genocides – a sad recurring reality that haunts the women in AFTER AUSCHWITZ. Their suffering from post-traumatic stress is also unfortunately universal, as seen in the lives of soldiers coming home from war and even in victims of childhood abuse.
“We normally learn about the Holocaust as if it started with Germany invading Poland, and liberation was the end of it,” says Kean. “Allied soldiers triumphantly told Jews in camps, ‘you’re free, go home.’ But what happened to survivors on the day after liberation? And the day after that? That’s the film I wanted to make. By seeing the world through the eyes of these amazing women, we not only hear unique female voices, we witness stories of resiliency and determination that audiences have never heard before.” Mission accomplished.
This is a rush out and see documentary that is compelling, heart wrenching and inspiring all at the same time.
AFTER AUSCHWITZ opens in Los Angeles on May 4th however for more information about the film, including dates, cities and theaters, visit https://www.AfterAuschwitz.com
I LOVE conspiracy theories, Who killed JFK, Area 51 and of course one of my all time favorites The Apollo Moon Landing of 1969.
So what if Apollo 11 never actually made it and what if, in reality, Stanley Kubrick secretly shot the famous images of the moon landing in a studio, working for the US administration?
This is the premise of the totally plausible conspiracy theory movie MOONWALKERS written by Dean Craig and directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet that takes us to swinging sixties London, where a stubborn CIA agent played by the delightful Ron Perlman (HELLBOY) will never find Kubrick but instead is forced to team up with the ever adorable Rupert Grint’s (HARRY POTTER) lousy manager of a seedy rock band to develop the biggest con of all time, in this riotous, high-tempo action-comedy.
Of course It’s a strange set of circumstances that lead our protagonists to meet, including one of their idiot friends who has a tendency to royally screw things up but when they do, there is undeniable chemistry between the pair and a sweetness mainly with the introduction of Robert Sheehan (THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, KILLING BONO) as the idiot friend who is equally huggable and slappable at the same time that forms the foundation of this recreational drug-induced caper of unbelievable proportions.
From it’s innovative psychedelic titles to the groovy sixties production, MOONWALKERS is a really fun and enjoyable movie which is both silly and thought provoking at times with great action and comedy. Full of 70s clichés and nuanced yet likable bad guys on every corner, our anti-heros (complete in funky and colorful costumes), lead us from one absurd scene to another on their journey to complete an equally bizarre yet extremely important task
“The film is an action/comedy that combines what I love: fights and stupidity. I enjoy situations where two opposite characters must join forces to accomplish a common goal as it leads to the most hilarious conflicts” states Bardou-Jacquet
As trippy as the era it’s representing, this comedy of errors reminds us of the unresolved question that still plagues many of us after all these decades; was the moon landing real?
“Why would an audience be interested in a movie like this? Bardou-Jacquet continues “Google “moon landing,” and add up the viewers interested in the conspiracy theory about it, and you’ll find millions of hits. All these people deserve at last the true story of how we “never” landed on the moon”
Of course, it also had me thinking about who would actually win in a standoff between America’s supreme CIA agents and England’s finest thugs?
MOONWALKERS enjoyed it’s premier at SXSW 2015 and will be released on January 15th. Check local listings
Just over a month has passed since the annual San Diego Asian Film Festival closed it’s curtains and I’m still gobsmacked by all of the incredible movies that were screened. For it’s sweet sixteenth session, the festival run by the Pacific Arts Movement screened over 130 films from 20 countries and many to record sell-out crowds. All of the beautifully and carefully curated movies had one thing in common – they were thought provoking, poignant and showed off the talents of diverse Asian filmmakers from across the world whilst showing us many of the cultural threads and different lives in the countries that make up the rich tapestry of the continent of Asia.
This is a recap of the coverage that we live tweeted and recorded on Facebook during the festival
Some of Moviewallas favorites:
MISS INDIA AMERICA
Directed by: Ravi Kapoor
Screenwriter:Ravi Kapoor and Meera Simhan
MISS INDIA AMERICA kicked off the festival and tells a story about Lily Prasad (Tiya Sirdar) who is a winner, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Fresh off her valedictorian speech, Lily intends to continue living her storybook life according to “The Plan,” her meticulously-crafted scrapbook that ropes in her less-than-willing high school boyfriend Karim (Kunal Sharma). But when Karim is caught flirting with the reigning Miss India National, Lily is livid and takes aim at the crown to win Karim back, restore “The Plan” forever, and reaffirm her endless magnificence. Lily is appalled though when she finds that the path to glory is challenged by not just a drop-dead beauty of a nemesis (played by New Girl’s Hannah Simone), but also the internal nausea of having to win despite all consequences.
This is a smart and funny movie that transcends race and tells a story which is applicable to any nerdy girl who is threatened by the thought of losing her boyfriend to a model! Most importantly it is a feel good tale that reminds us that we are who we are, and deep inside there is a model waiting to get out in all of us. Sassy and clever dialogue elevates the movie that crosses somewhere between Clueless and Legally Blonde, I can’t wait to see what this talented writing team brings us next
Directed by: Hyo-jin Kang
Yeon-woo (played by Uhm Jung-Hwa, Dancing Queen, SDAFF ’12) has the complete bourgeoisie starter package. A slick new BMW. A mixed martial arts personal trainer. Rare red steaks and French wine for breakfast. And she is head legal counsel to the biggest, sleaziest company in town.
But if we know anything about Korean rom-coms, it’s that sudden shocking comas are attracted to the rich and bitchy as much as grizzly bears are attracted to salmon wearing nightgowns of honey.
An automobile accident lands Yeon-woo in heaven, but even death can’t keep her spirit down. Korean angels cut her a deal. Teleport down into the chores, credit limits, and complications of a shabby housewife for one month. Then she will be allowed to return to the glitz, glamour, and unscrupulousness of her old life.
There have been many movies that explore what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes or bodyswap and most often these fit squarely in the comedy genre e.g. Freaky Friday, Heaven Can Wait and most recently The Change-Up. However, there are few movies that elegantly explore the emotion that goes with waking up as somebody else with a life that isn’t yours and is everything you didn’t want. Welcome to the WONDERFUL NIGHTMARE; this is a deep and thoughtful look at what happens when a woman who seems to have it all wakes up in a life that she truly never desired and doesn’t want to be a part of. This is a delightful movie that will have you laughing whilst reflecting on what it means to be human and what’s really important in life.
THE BEAUTY INSIDE
Directed by: Jong-Yeol Baek
Screenwriters:Seon-jeong Kim, Jeong-ye Park and Kyung-hee Noh
Woo-Jin wakes up every morning with a different body. At first, it was a shock. Now, years later, he’s used to looking in the mirror and discovering a stranger. With only the companionship of a supportive mother and a highly-entertained best friend, Woo-Jin’s been forced into anonymity, working as a furniture designer taking orders from online clients he never has to meet. Falling in love is of course off limits. That is, until he meets E-Soo, a furniture saleswoman who makes him never want to fall asleep again.
From there, THE BEAUTY INSIDE becomes a most unusual romance, the kind that pushes its protagonists into the ultimate tests of love: can Woo-Jin be in a relationship with somebody who doesn’t recognize him? Can E-Soo feel security from a man who starts every day as a stranger? With all the magic of a good fantasy, THE BEAUTY INSIDE has the audience seeing the romantic comedy anew, much as E-Soo and Woo-Jin treat every one of their encounters like a rediscovery.
THE BEAUTY INSIDE is one of the most unique movies that explores the true nature of who you are and how this changes if you physically don’t recognize who you are in the mirror. Stunningly shot with elegant dialogue, this film will leave you feeling like love truly can conquer all. The most impressive thing about the movie is it’s female lead Hyo-ju Han who effortlessly captures our hero’s heart.
IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG
Directed by: Emily Ting
Screenwriter: Emily Ting
Josh struggles with his lucrative job in finance, his practical-minded girlfriend, and his desire to become a novelist. Ruby, content with her job designing toys, imagines what she could be doing had she pursued her love of fashion design. Both are young American expats who happen to be on the same Hong Kong street when Ruby gets lost and Josh decides to help her find her way.
Soon though, their serendipitous meeting and stroll through the city leads to the kind of expat fantasy that seems to allow for limitless possibilities – even infidelity. Together, they begin to see their desires come within reach, however stymied by impracticality and fear of the unknown.
IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG elegantly and wistfully captures what happens when a spark is ignited between two people with an ocean separating them and the questions that arise when we find ourselves in a situation that we shouldn’t be in. The chemistry between real life couple Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg as Ruby and Josh is electric and we find ourselves rooting for this would-be couple who have more than distance to potentially contend with. Moviewallas caught a screening of this during LA Film Festival earlier in the year but the movie was so good that we couldn’t help ourselves watching a second time.
MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART
Director: Zhangke Jia
Screen-writer: Zhangke Jia
At first, the latest from filmmaker Zhangke Jia appears deceptively simple, a step back perhaps, crude even. Why would the director of THE WORLD and STILL LIFE and most recently, the brutally unsparing Cannes winner A TOUCH OF SIN, want to make what seems a visually unkempt and thematically shallow love story. A girl in small-town China has to choose between the affections of her ambitious, pushy, city boss and her aggravatingly shy, local coworker. You wonder if the great Zhangke Jia has finally wandered into a genre – the romantic triangle – that is outside his grasp.
And then you spend the rest of the film realizing how wrong you were to doubt him in the first place. Because it is only after awhile that the ambitions of the movie become evident. And when they do, you sit back in awe. As this film jumps from the initial story set in 1999, to 2014, and then giddily to 2025! And here is why this film needs to be sought out by cinephiles, because even as the movie sprints 15 years ahead with each leap, it also literally opens up, with a widening aspect ratio. The screen widens with the passage of time! And this was one of the most joyous surprises I witnessed in a cinema hall all year. And the widening is unqualified, as the film opens up thematically (it only lulled you at the start into thinking that this was a romantic melodrama), geographically (from rural China to Shanghai to Australia) and the scope of its reach (easily commenting on the big themes as the film progresses). The film also smartly avoids the rigors of traditional epic storytelling in which the very same characters are examined through a lifetime. Instead MOUNTAINS MIGHT DEPART concentrates, in the moment, on a specific character(s) during each time period. Yes, these characters are related, but the film has no interest in looping back to re-examine each of the original players from the first act.
The visionary filmmakers often tend to put all their cards on the table at once, aiming to dazzle you upfront, but they sometimes have a hard time sustaining that through the last act when things whimper to an end. I am more impressed by films which calculatedly build their fort and become increasingly more breathless on their way to the conclusion. MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART takes off in its last act, when it bravely somersaults into an unconventional (if not transgressive, for some) relationship between two new characters. How many filmmakers possess the bandwidth to grasp for so much.
In watching sons deal with the footprints of their fathers, and in its formal structure, this is like a smarter version of Derek Cianfrance’s THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. But no matter how you cut it, this is the work of a master.
Riot Club is no Downton Abbey however, it cleverly explores class, gender and economics in a modern-day England where the existence of a privileged “Old Boy’s Network” is often under-estimated.
Filthy. Rich. Spoiled. Rotten. A band of overprivileged rich boys run wild in this savagely funny satire of money, sex and power. In the elite realm of Oxford University, no society is more exclusive than The Riot Club, the ultra-selective fraternity for Britain’s most privileged sons. When he’s recruited to join, down-to-earth first-year student Miles (Max Irons) is at first amused—but he’s about to get a taste of upper-crust entitlement at its ugliest when a hedonistic night of drinking and drugs spins out of control. The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin co-stars in this deliciously dark look at boys behaving badly from the Oscar(R)-nominated director of An Education Lone Scherfig. The movie is adapted for the screen by Writer Laura Wade from her play of the same name citing: “I think we are fascinated by that class, those of us who aren’t of it and I think we love watching rich people behaving badly”.
When all over the world the British Monarchy are loved and the presence of them almost envied, Riot Club explores the “Haves” and “Have little” along with the politics of the one percent in a country where young affluent boys are the heirs to debauchery, power, excess and a consequence of who they are born to vs what they will or won’t achieve; where as a result of deep routed nepotism, your family name can open up a lifetime of doors and quickly bury any of your mistakes should you make them.
Entitlement and breeding are a key theme throughout the movie as it explores rich boys behaving badly and rich boys who want to do something more than be known for who their Fathers or brothers are. Palpable tension is at work throughout as this group of would-be playboys work incredibly hard to have a good time and leave a legacy.
Riot Club starts as a smart satirical comedy but quickly gets dramatic as ideas about right and wrong are pushed to the limit. Sometimes a little tonally inconsistent, this movie does do a good job of examining what it means to belong and the limits you go to in order to protect it. A look at life behind the walls of an age-old institution with often strange rituals, ultimately what I took away from this movie is that there are no limits to entitlement and the fact that often it’s not what you know but who you know
Check local listings for show times
It’s 3pm on February 22nd and if you are a movie fan then you will know that we are only hours away from the Oscars commencing; the crown jewel, climax or mother of all award shows.
If you are not such a movie lover and even if you are these days, it’s easy to feel fatigued from the never ending news cycles of Who is wearing what, Who will be presenting and what is in this years swag bag. However by the time it gets to the end of February, most people are wondering why they should even care anymore especially when you realize that this year’s cycle of film festivals and early predictions of next year’s Oscar winners is already underway with the first of the larger film festivals Sundance already over by the beginning of February.
Award shows are important though, not only because they support a huge number of jobs in a variety of industries but also because they have a direct impact on the films you will want to watch. There is a reason why the nominations occur in mid January a full almost six weeks prior to the ceremony. Often this gives movies released earlier in the year a second wind and allow those that only had smaller openings to go mainstream once they receive a nomination ala whiplash or The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Before starting Moviewallas, we often used to find ourselves waiting for the nominations so that we could check off any of the movies that we hadn’t seen that were deemed to be noteworthy by those who knew. We too found ourselves in a long line unlike anything I had ever seen in 2009 waiting to get into Slumdog Millionaire, a film I hadn’t even heard of up until the day of the nominations.
In subsequent years since having had the privilege of doing Moviewallas, we love the fact that films that we have only been fortunate enough to watch through a film festival or a screener catch fire and gain momentum and become available for everyone to watch. The most frustrating thing as movie reviewer is that often films we love and get to watch don’t either get distribution or get such a small release and only in major cities.
There is a notion that over the last few years there has been a proliferation of award shows and well, that there are just too many these days. Is it so wrong though for each association such as The Director’s Guild, The Hollywood Foreign Press, The Producers Guild and many others to celebrate and reward/award good work and recognize their own?
One could say that that ultimately award shows are just for entertainment and that’s ok in my book too. Ultimately whether you enjoy a movie more or less because it was nominated is not important, long after the award season is over you wont even remember whether those movies that had a lasting impact on you were nominated or not. What does matter though is that good movies (studio or independent) keep getting made, that we find out what they are and we have a means to watch them and if award shows help, I say the more the merrier. Now who do you think will win Best Picture this year?