30 November 2009

Film Review: Leçon Siberienne (Siberian Lesson) by Wojciech Staron, ****

Malgorzata et Wojciech décident de quitter Varsovie pour aller vivre à 7000 kilomètres, en Sibérie, à côté du lac Baïkal. Magorzata va enseigner le polonais aux descendants de ses compatriotes exilés. Une fois arrivés sur place, ils découvrent une Sibérie irréelle peuplée de personnages extraordinaires. Pendant l'hiver, par -40°, le lac Baïkal gelé est ouvert à la circulation automobile. Les voitures sautent par dessus de grandes brèches dans la glace. Un jour, une fête est organisée par les populations qui vivent sur le lac gelé... C'est une Russie parfois terrible, souvent drôle et toujours surprenante que nous font découvrir ces deux jeunes Polonais dans ce film émouvant qui se transforme peu à peu en journal intime de leur histoire d'amour sibérienne.


A moving story of a Polish couple who spend a year in Siberia amongst Russians of Polish origins who want to rebuild their ties to their ancient homeland. She teaches Polish and he shoots this movie! The couple receives a very warm welcome in the icy tundra and are moved to tears when the time comes to leave Siberia and return to Poland. A great story of the ties that bind these two nations. This is half autobiographic love story and half documentary on the problems of post-Soviet Russia.

That they travel by train adds to the drama of the enormous distance that separates the Poles of Siberia from their ancestral land.

27 November 2009

Film review: Carnet d’un combattant kurde, by Stefano Savona, ****

Akif left Germany to join up with the PPK guerrilla fighters. His diary records the doubts, dreams and political discussions that the fighters share as they march through the mountains, and in the meetings where the women criticise male prejudices.

You can watch a trailer of the movie here.

Stefano Savona proposes a unique opportunity to look at the Kurdish fighter groups from inside. We see how they train, eat, sleep, study and organize their society on the run. While one may feel some sympathy for young idealists trying to gain a homeland for their nation, I was rather appalled at how the commanders both indoctrinate these fighthers and send them to a hopeless death against the Turkish army.

Buy it on Amazon.fr, or Amazon.co.uk in both English and French.

La versione italiana è disponibile qui.

20 November 2009

Film review: Opium, Afghanistan's Other War (2008), by Florence Gavage and Hossein Sadre, *****

Due to prolonged war and internal strife, Afghanistan has been devastated. The justice, health, education, welfare, communications and transport systems have suffered badly. The harvesting of poppies and the increase in the drug trade is now a major problem. Afghanistan is responsible for more than 85% of the world’s opium. UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) believes that although the systems are being implemented to tackle the problem, the production of opium is on the rise. The drugs trade is a major source of income and enables the Taliban, warlords and drug barons to maintain control of large parts of the country. As the most profitable cash crop, it also benefits poor farmers, and until there are viable alternatives, the poppies will continue to flourish. The confluence of myriad forces including the ongoing insurgency by the Taliban, the ubiquitous drug trade and a still-weak central government continue to hamper efforts at reconstruction and development. Today, the Afghan people are embarking on yet another long and arduous journey - this time on the road to recovery. Will they succeed ?

You can view this documentary on Youtube, thanks to the kind permission of the authors. See Part 1/2 here:

And Part 2/2 here:

18 November 2009

Film Review: Kurdish Yezidis (2009) by Florence Gavage, *****

According to ancient legend, in the beginning God created a white pearl and a bird. He then created seven angels including Melek Taus, the peacock angel whom he made the greatest of them all. To make land, He threw Lalish into the water which made it solid. And so the seven Angels went ashore at Lalish.  These people, the Yezidis, believe that they were the very first inhabitants on earth when the world was created. Yezidism is one of the most unusual and unknown religions on earth. It has survived during the centuries despite its status as an unrecognized religion under Islamic rule, and through many onslaughts against its Kurdish followers. 

This is a unique documentary on a little known people. The director has done thorough research and has traveled not only to Iraq to document the life of contemporary Yezidis, but also to various countries to meet Yezidi diaspora.

You can view Part 1/2 here:

You can vew Part 2/2 here:

15 November 2009

Concert: Sacrificium, by Cecilia Bartoli, *****

Today I went to listen to Cecilia Bartoli at the Brussels Bozar. One of the most powerful voices on the planet. This project is about XVIII century music written for "castrati", young males who were castrated before puberty to keep their voices from maturing into full male voices.

A stunning performance, she can not just sing but enthrall the crowd to with her flamboyant personality. She was clearly having fun! I was lucky enough to find a ticket close enough to her to feel my bones vibrate at her seemingly endless warble. Her technical virtuosity is almost painful to hear, one keeps wondering how she can keep going so long, so powerfully and so well without breathing. The concert hall was shaking. She sounds supernatural. Maybe she is. I think "Eyebags" put it very well here in this blog.

14 November 2009

Film review: The Last Assyrians, by Robert Alaux, ****

For six years Robert Alaux researched and wrote this documentary. It is the first film that tells the complete history of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people. History overlooks how they suffered from massacres, hunger and starvation during the1915 genocide; and the international community has not protected these people in their homeland after decades of mass exodus.

Despite their pain and suffering this indigenous Christian community, including the Diaspora, seek justice, peace, prosperity, security, and solidarity in the Middle East. From their ancient beginning in Mesopotamia to their present existence in the Middle East and around the world, the story of the last people to speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. I wish to thank Faito Doc Festival for having shown this movie to me and Robert Alaux for having presented it in Brussels.

This is a passionate accunt of the plight of an ancient people and a significant diaspora who can't really hope to have their own state but have been fighting to preserve their identity.

You can watch a trailer of this movie here. 

DVD available in English et en français. Contact the director here.

13 November 2009

Film review: Quantum of Solace (2008), by Marc Forster, ***


Daniel Craig returns as Ian Fleming's most famous creation in Quantum of Solace, the first film in the James Bond series to follow directly on from the previous entry. Continuing where Casino Royale concluded, Quantum of Solace finds Bond on a perilous mission to uncover the truth behind the betrayal of his beloved Vesper, while keeping one step ahead of M (Judi Dench – Mrs Henderson Presents, Shakespeare In Love), the CIA and a shadowy organisation fronted by the diabolical Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric – The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Marie Antoinette).

Recensione film: Dallo Zolfo al Carbone (2008), di Luca Vullo, *****


La storia e le sofferenze degli emigranti siciliani in Belgio che il giovane regista Luca Vullo ha voluto raccontare in Dallo zolfo al carbone, documentario di 53 minuti che prende spunto dal Patto Italo-Belga del 1946, accordo firmato dal primo Presidente della Repubblica Luigi Einaudi che con questa astuta mossa assicurava non solo un lavoro certo ai tanti disoccupati italiani, e nella fattispecie meridionali, ma anche una sicura fornitura energetica all’Italia in tempi di crisi post-bellica. La realtà dei fatti, quello che veramente è significato accettare quell’accordo, ci viene raccontata dalla viva voce, a volte rotta dalla commozione, a volte sorprendentemente energica, dei veri protagonisti della vicenda, coloro i quali nel dopoguerra erano bambini o ragazzetti e che, pane duro e coraggio, sono saliti su un treno e hanno raggiunto quelle preziose miniere di carbone.