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’12 Years A Slave,’ ‘The Human Scale,’ ‘Tasting Menu’ Highlite Last Day of Hamptons Film Festival Oct. 14 2013

In retrospect: Best movie was ‘The Rocket,’ shot in Laos. Excellent. Great cinematography of the landscape of Laos, with superb Laotian actors. Enthralling classic movie to be seen again and again and again. 2nd best: ‘Oh Boy’ – German movie about a young man, a bit adrift in life, getting slammed in all directions as he deliberately contemplates his next step, but too often gets stepped on. Great characters, acting, humor. ‘The Human Scale’ as noted above. ‘Tasting Menu’ also noted above.


‘The Blue Umbrella,’ ‘God Loves Uganda,’ Highlight Our Day 4 Hamptons Film Festival Oct 13 2013

We saw five shows today. ‘God Loves Uganda’ tells a terrifying story of what is happening in this post-Idi-Amin (murderous dictator) African nation invaded by evangelist missionaries, promising Ugandans that they will only have everlasting life (after they die) if they take Jesus Christ as their savior. And other movies & shorts reviewed from Hamptons Int’l Film Festival October 13 2013


‘The Rocket’ Could Be Best Film in 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival Oct 2013

The 21st Hamptons International Film Festival started off with a big literal bang for my wife and me as we were lucky enough to see the wonderful movie, set in Laos of all places, entitled ‘The Rocket.’  The Laotian cast is magnificent, from Ahlo, the little boy, who is the star of the show, his beautiful mother, his grandmother (with just black stumps for teeth, who is tough as nails, spiritual, superstitious), his father, the little girl he meets and her uncle, played by Thep Phongam, into the music and aura of James Brown, who is different and accustomed to being rejected by the drones of local society.  The Laos of the story is under communist rule, and when a dammed area is to be extended to flood Ahlo’s family’s village, not much can be done but be relocated.  The survival story is that of creative adaptable people, doing what they can against severe forces of man and nature.  There is much joy and terrible tragedy.  But the hope of the movie goes to a rocket festival, the winner of which will win a large sum of money.  The panoramic landscape cinematography of this beautiful wartorn country, strewn with rockets and old bombs like the massive ‘Sleeping Tiger,’ is magnificent and frightening.  A classic fantastic movie not to be missed! It won the Audience Award for Best Narrative film this year at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, NY.

(Now it is Saturday Oct 19, 2013 and in retrospect, yes, ‘The Rocket’ has to be my favorite movie of the entire festival.  Good start this year, to see it as the first movie for us, this past Thursday 10 -10 – 13.  A movie so good you might want to buy it and have it around your house to watch every year or two, maybe on Independence Day July 4 in America.  Fireworks.  Rockets….)

The next movie we saw was the documentary ‘Chimeras,’ another Asian film, about two Chinese artists, shot in mostly Beijing and Shanghai.  The artists are Wang Guangyi and Liu Gang, real life artists struggling with their artistic creativity in an oppressive totalitarian China.  Guangyi is very successful, middle-aged, doing massive works, with very interesting industrial techniques, much in appreciation of communism’s struggle, honoring Mao Tse Dung, including one gigantic portrait of him, with small bars over the image of his face.  When viewing this work several times during the film, I couldn’t tell if he was behind the bars, or more likely the viewer was.  The magnificence and grandeur of scale of today’s Beijing is gigantically surprising to me.  All I had ever seen of it was smog and dark huge monolithic ugly buildings, but this is not what we see in Mika Mattila’s cinema depiction.

The huge scale of China’s capital city fits the massiveness of our planet’s largest country. The beauty and the architecture, the traffic, the tall needle structure like that of the building in Seattle, the colors, the intricacy of design is worth the price of admission to this interesting film.  During which, Wang Guangyi is not hesitant to voice his disgust for authorities, critics, always comparing his and other seminal modern Chinese art to western art, as if western art is the basis for all fine art.  We see him do this at meetings, and in discussions with other artists.  His work ‘The Other Shore’ of a valley and finely depicted trees and vegetation in light yellow, green and white, as on a slightly cloudy day, starts the movie off and finishes it, but again, behind bars, as with Mao’s face, as the movie ends.  Liu Gang is a young fortunate photographer who has garnered sudden success with his works in a ‘Paper Dreams’ theme that has travelled around the world.  He takes shots of advertisements and other images and crumples them up sometimes to uniquify them.  The portrait ends of him getting married, with very creative wedding photos being presented in his ‘paused’ career, as he now is working in a Dutch Museum in Beijing to earn money to support his three person family.  He had wanted to do a next presentation about China’s ‘One Child Policy,’ but had met much opposition to this project.  We also learn about children being murdered during the operation of this policy, and pregnant women being targeted, gangs of men attacking and kidnapping them at night.  This is an intriguing, sometimes disturbing, intellectually rewarding film by a Finnish director that I would have to give a high A+

Good quote about art, shared in this movie: “If you fail, art is suffering.  If you succeed, art is still suffering.”


‘Two Autumns, Three Winters,’ is a romantic French film shot in cinema verite, with the actor acting, then talking to the camera, then seamlessly continuing along in the context of the scene.  There are basically two couples in this tale, that mostly takes place in Paris.  Tragedies occur to the two male leads in separate incidents, framing the film and its romantic interludes.  Maud Wyler is the lovely Amelie, and Vincent Macaigne plays the main character, another artist, who has abandoned art and a relationship that brought him to Paris in the first place, from Bordeaux.


There are series of shorts, collected as themed shows, scattered throughout the festival.  Often these include the jewels of the festival, but this was not overwhelmingly true for ‘The Edge Of The World’ shorts.  Mostly bleh and not very inspiring, yet interesting enough to sit through – - what deserves the only high mention is the animated ‘Oh, Willy.”  Chunky small-eyed Willy returns to his mother on her death bed all sad and lonely.  She is living in a lovely environment, that turns out to be a nudist colony in summer with beautiful vegetation and buzzing flying insects and birds all about.  This short is delightful, and the redeeming one of ‘Edge’ – - plus it has won eighty awards internationally.


More later from day 2.


Conrad Miller M.D.   HIFF  2013  October 10

Best Films of 2008 Hamptons Int’l Film Festival

Another year, another great Hamptons International Film Festival.  Many different films show us how the world looks thru many different eyes and lenses in 2008.  And these films come to us, if we are able to visit the cinemas hosting this terrific festival.

‘Song of Sparrows’ – might as well start at the top.  Best film of the festival in my eyes.  Fantastic cinematography.  Maybe best I have ever seen complementing the story of a blue collar father portrayed by ?Reza Naji trying to survive.  It all starts on an ostrich farm, and that is different.  Ever watch ostriches move, and run?  Unique!  And the director, Majid Majidi, has to be one of the best directors alive.  Or even dead!  It turns out he also was the director for my two favorite films: ‘The Color of Paradise’ and ‘Children of Heaven.’

Now I have seen all three of his monumental films at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF)  over the years!  What a credit to this festival!

Karim is the character for whom life does not flow smoothly, yet he can fix anything, has the confidence to do almost anything.  The colors in this movie make the viewing of it a visual/mental orgasm, along with all the perspectives and scenes you are blessed to see.  Whenever this movie comes close to you, go see it, along with Majidi’s other movies I mentioned above.  You will not regret it.  Remember, these are Iranian movies, so explicit political commentary would not be wise to make.  Poetic plot and visuals is the way the director has chosen to work.

Next great film:

‘Taking Root:  The Vision Of Wangari Maathai’ took the prize for me as the best documentary.  Wangari Maathai is perhaps the most important individual in modern Kenyan history.  After the English
colonialists came in and tried to make an England out of Kenya,
cutting down so many of the land’s trees, laying railroad tracks and roads, subjugating the people with the unction of missionary religion, there came two dictators, Kenyatta and Moi, who further subjugated the people.  Ms. Maathai noted how important trees were to the survival of the country, combating soil erosion and drought.  This caused her to start a tree planting movement in 1977.  This led to a confrontation with President Moi who wanted to build a towering skyscraper and a very tall statue of himself on the last piece of public parkland in Nairobi.  If this occurred there would be no place for the common citizen to freely sit and/or gather in the capital city.  Moi made fun of Maathai, in a typical man-rules macho manner.  Then the women who had had their sons arrested for various political reasons by Moi’s henchmen decided to call a hunger strike and sit in the still existing park.  After a few days, Moi tired of the embarrassment and had his forces destroy their little tent, beating the women and anyone else who tried to fight back.  Maathai was beaten unconscious, ending up in a
hospital for several days.  The world press picked up on the story.  Naturally, the Moi project had been backed by the World Bank, but with the adverse press, the Bank withdraw its approval of the project.  Maathai had won a victory, which led to Moi’s downfall after two decades.  Much of this was captured on film, which the producers Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, beautifully displayed,.  The colonial footage was particularly stunning as was one particular statistic: 100,000 Kenyans
were killed as a result of the English incursion, with only ~350 English dying.  This is almost the exact ratio we see in Iraq today: 1,000,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the Bush administration incursion there, with about 3500 American soldiers dying.  As time passed, Maathai was elected to parliament, and was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Her wisdom and determination are in evidence as we hear her talk and act, starting with her Green Belt
Movement, along with many other women.  Planting trees to combat erosion and drought, leading to a political movement freeing the nation from dictatorship and the entrails of colonial thought.  Religion however remains to erase much of Kenya’s native culture unfortunately, as has occurred in so many African countries, and other colonially demeaned lands.

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ also played during the festival.  I confess I did not see it, for I heard it had already been picked up and would be shown in the USA commercially.  Subsequently I did indeed see it, and reckon that it is one of the best films of the twenty-first century.  The scene in the outhouse on the boardwalk with the younger protagonist brother has to be one of the most classic scenes ever filmed, especially in terms of comedy.  The director, Danny Boyle, is not an Indian.  He also made ‘Trainspotting’ which I had to exit from within the first ten minutes due to its graphic sensationalism of injecting heroin, the lover spitting on the needle before inserting it.  Those who dislike Slumdog object to its Boyle-istic sensationalism, and lack of Indian involvement.  However, the original creation was written by an Indian.  The colors in this movie are unbelievable, as is the cinematography.  {But not to surpass that in ‘Song of Sparrows.}  The story is very current, with plenty of tension, and some real purty faces.  Go see it is all I can say.  Despite any detractions, still, the movie overall is great. 

More comments on films will follow in the forthcoming weeks, as time permits…….