Showing posts with label documentary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label documentary. Show all posts

17 February 2013

Film review: Born into Brothels (2004) by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, ****

"Running" by Gour, 13 years old

The most stigmatized people in Calcutta's red light district are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little possibility of escaping their mother's fate or for creating another type of life. Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in the red light district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them lessons and cameras, igniting latent sparks of artistic genius that reside in these children who live in the most sordid and seemingly hopeless world. The photographs taken by the children are not merely examples of remarkable observation and talent; they reflect something much larger, morally encouraging, and even politically volatile: art as an immensely liberating and empowering force.

The winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels offers a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art. Devoid of sentimentality, Born into Brothels defies the typical tear-stained tourist snapshot of the global underbelly. Briski spends years with these kids and becomes part of their lives. Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities or primitive imagery, and a true testimony of the power of the indelible creative spirit.

29 July 2012

Film review: Egypt, Rediscovering a Lost World (2006), BBC, ****


Focusing on three of the most important discoveries from the world of the ancient Egyptians, this series journeys back in time to explore Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Great Giovanni Belzoni's finds from the reign of Ramesses II and Jean-François Champollion's deciphering of the hieroglyphs. Join Carter, Belzoni and Champollion as they overcome immense obstacles to unlock the secrets of an as-yet undiscovered world and reveal their seminal finds. Then travel even further back, to the amazing period of Egyptian history unveiled by their astounding work.

Disc 1:
Episode 1 and 2 : Carter and Tutankhamon
Episode 3: Belzoni and Ramses, first part

Disc 2:
Episode 4: Belzoni and Ramses, second part
Episode 5 and 6: Champollion and the hieroglyphs

Disc 3:
The making of the pyramids
Extras: trailers, photo gallery, fact files, visual effects


Tut Ankh Amun funeral mask, Cairo Museum
This is a fictional rendering of the life and work of the three most important discoverers of ancient Egypt. It is a comprehensive work, at least as much as can fit into three DVDs packed with action. The idea of a fictional narration instead of a pure documentary is a good one in this case, as it helps bring the characters to life. The three stories of research and discovery are interlaced with the personal lives of the three men, their strengths and weaknesses, and it all makes for an entertaining as well as instructive narration.

I am not sure why the authors chose this particular order of the episodes, in that Belzoni should come first, as his discoveries preceded the work of the two others. Carter's episodes should be the last: not only did he work a century after Belzoni and Champollion, but his subject, Tutankhamun, lived a thousand years after Ramses and the inventors of the hieroglyphs. The viewer might want to watch episodes 3 and 4 first, then 5 and 6, and finally 1 and 2.

Abu Simbel before restoration
Acting is not going to win any Oscars but that's not why one buys this set. The third "bonus" DVD on the pyramids is the worst of the three. The CGI are rather poor (more like 1990s than 2010) and the narrator's voice tries to be solemn but is just boring.

You can read my review of the book on Giovanni Belzoni by Marco Zatterin (in Italian) here on this blog.

Buy the European DVD set here:

In the US you can buy it here:

15 March 2012

Filw review: The Pacific (2012), by Carl Franklin and David Nutter. ***

recensione in italiano di seguito in questo post


This limited collector's Blu-ray edition includes a bonus 7th disc entitled "Inside the Battle: Peleliu."

The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a portrait of WWII's Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines - Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain firests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before

Inside the Battle: Peleliu: An exclusive look into the battle of Peleliu. Combining exclusive historian and veteran interviews with real footage from the battle of Peleliu, this featurette illustrates the massive undertaking of the battle for Peleliu in the Pacific theater of World War II.

John Basilone