When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun
Documentary by Dirk Simon that takes a fresh look at the tensions between Tibet and China, reassessing the success of the 14th Dalai Lama and counting the cost of his pacifist stance, which clearly has done little to influence the way policymakers in Beijing view the issue of subjecting Tibet to their will. The film faces up to some of the fundamental contradictions of the current position of monks, who in many ways serve as a leadership for the resistance against China, but must also accommodate their religious vows, and considers the idea that the movement for autonomy has been weakened by the divide between the Dalai Lama and more radical elements. A fresh look at events and a re-evaluation of the future make this a thought-provoking film for anyone interested in the issue.
A must-see for dance lovers and 3D skeptics. Directed by Wim Wenders, this documentary is a homage to the great German choreographer Pina Bausch, featuring interviews, both with the star and her dancers. Bausch died soon after the film went into production, and the intensity of emotion, expressed in her creative work, is given a further twist as dancers recreate the power and mystery of her vision. Wenders allows the 3D format to bring audiences into greater intimacy with the dancers, without crowding them. There is so much in the great choreographer’s life that the film feels a little broken up, with no focus either on an individual work or dancer. For all that, the film manages to convey something important about one of the major figures of 20th-century dance.
Step Up to the Plate
Documentary by director Paul Lacoste provides a captivating look behind the scenes of Michel Bras’ legendary hotel-restaurant in the remote plains of Laguiole, France, which has held three Michelin star for many years. There is plenty of kitchen wizardry on display, but like the recent release Jiro: Dreams of Sushi, this film is as much about the philosophy of food, tradition, and at the very center, the transfer of these things from father to son. At the heart of Step Up to the Plate is Michel Bras, one of the great luminaries of the European culinary establishment, and his son Sebastien who is soon to take over his father’s mantle. A clever balancing act between a family drama and food porn, this is a must see for foodies.
Burma: A Human Tragedy
Narrated and produced by Anjelica Huston, this documentary provides savage testimony to the inequity perpetrated by the military junta in Burma and the terrible suffering of the Burmese people, especially the Karen, which the junta has targeted for ethnic cleansing. It is not a film for the fainthearted, and shows images of the bloody toll exacted by the brutal and incompetent regime. The film attempts to clarify the complex web of hostilities that ravage the land, and is an in-your-face indictment of a conflict that for the most part remains on the fringes of international consciousness.
Another local romantic drama featuring beautiful people suffering from incurable illness. Sometimes you just wish they would get on with it and just die — but that is a rather unsympathetic way to look at Angelababy (aka, Yang Ying 楊穎), who plays a sickly young girl who only has her dreams of romance to sustain her in her lonely life. Inevitably, she meets up with rock ’n’ roller Mark Chao (趙又廷), who encourages her to realize her dreams. Tragedy and spiritual uplift follow. It is not much of a surprise that the real marketing ploy of the film is theme music penned by the king of Taiwan’s contemporary music scene Jay Chou (周杰倫), and indie singer/songwriter Cindy Yen (袁詠琳).