Film Review: HOLLOW IN THE LAND (Canada 2017) ***

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Hollow in the Land Poster
Trailer

A woman with a troubled past sets out to find her missing brother.

Director:

Scooter Corkle

 

Written and directed by Scooter Corkle, this moody crime suspense thriller uses the backwoods of British Columbia as the new underbelly of the inner cities for the backdrop of the story.  The nearby town is a paper pulp town that prospered from the local timber industry.

When the film opens, a bar brawl has just taken place.  Brandon (Jared Abrahamson from HELLO DESTROYER) has to be bailed out of jail by his sister, Alison (Dianna Agron).  Alison tells him that she has had enough and cannot keep doing this, while Brandon claims he is doing his best.  This no win situation gets worse, when Brandon gets caught, in what has been described by the unsympathetic local sheriff (Michael Rogers) ‘in a mid-fuck’ by his girl’s father, whose body has just been found.  Brandon, who is now chief suspect goes missing.

Alison is not a liked character in the local town.  She is known to be having a same-sex relationship with Brandon’s girl’s mother.  Whether the lesbian relationship is necessary in the story is questionable, as there is enough already going on in the film.

If the story all sounds quite straight forward, the story is actually quite difficult to follow in the film.  For one, it is only a third through the film that it is revealed that Alison is Brandon’s elder sister. It is natural to assume that Alison is Brandon’s mother at the start.  It is then confusing if the affair Alison is having is with the girl’s mother or maybe the girl’s sister.  Other identities are also blurred.  One wonders if it is the intention of writer/director Corkle to keep the audience on their toes to decipher the story or if it is unintentional.  The time setting of the story is also left unclear.  There are clearly no cell hones used at all in the film, but one could argue that no one needs one in the backwoods.

Though HOLLOW IN THE LAND is a nitty gritty drama set in a male dominated town, it is more of a feminist film. Corkle is a Not only is the protagonist female, but the story leans towards the female in more ways that one – including the lesbian relationship and all the other strong female characters, which is good given the way females are so less represented these days in film.  (The director Corkle is male.)  But that does not mean that all the male characters have to be weak ones, like the characters of Brandon and their father (who is ono shown at the end, of the film, with one tooth missing.)

To director Corkle’s credit, the atmosphere of dread, terror and suspicion are effectively created in the moody film.  The audience is also kept on their toes from start to end, and the film builds to a satisfactory climax.  It also helps that Agron delivers a power-packed performance as the reluctant heroine.

HOLLOW IN THE LAND ends up a better than average atmospheric thriller with well developed characters that the director makes sure the audience cares for.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpVl6b9CsJA

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Film Review: MR. GAGA (Israel/Sweden/Germany/Netherlands 2015) ***

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mrgaga.jpgDirected by Tomer Heymann

Review by Gilbert Seah

Timing is everything. MR. GAGA documentary about bad boy dance choreographer, Ohad Naharin is being released just a few weeks (though made earlier) after a similar documentary about another bad boy dance choreographer. The first doc called DANCER follows the troubled life of now 37-year old Sergei Polunin, acclaimed as ‘the most naturally gifted male ballet dancer of his generation’. Both films follow the same outline. They trace the influences (Ohad, dancing when young as a boy in the kibbutz) and childhood of the dancers, their troubles (marriage and choreograph methods), there talent and their rise to fame together with lots of footage of dance performances. Hopefully, MR. GAGA can still attract audiences after they have seen DANCER.

Ohad Naharin is the Israeli choreographer who’s revolutionized modern dance, even although he himself didn’t begin formal dance training until age 22. Now in his mid-60s, Naharin has headed up Tel Aviv’s famed Batsheva Dance Group since 1990, creating pieces and training dancers with “gaga” – a dance language he invented, whereby dancers feel the sensation of movement. In 1998, Naharin rebelled against censorship when he withdrew Batsheva from Israel’s 50th anniversary gala after organizers – bowing to pressure from religious groups – insisted he clothe his dancers more modestly.

The dance performances are well tracked and form the most interesting segment of the film – even f one is not an avid dance fan. Excerpts include:
2013 – The Hole
2015 – The Last Word
2003 – Mqnootoot
2011 – Sadeh (three times)
2005 – Three, the most homo-erotic, in that order.

The performances are put into perspective of the dance’s life, making them more relevant in the film.

As expected, the best insight into Ohad’s personality is provided by the dancers under his charge. They claim him to be ‘so strong’ and ‘so intense’. His intimidation can be seen when he tells them during their performances not to f*** it up, as it is his life. He would use words like: “Don’t f*** with me,” and “You are boring me”. These only goes to show that talent can never be substituted for hostility not matter how talented the antagonist is. There is no interview with his wife. It would have been even more interesting to know what living hell living with this man might have been. Director Heymann allows Ohad to have his say as well. Ohad claims that he is able to get the most of of his dancers. A former dancer recalls that everyday someone would leave the studio either yelling or crying.
Judging from most of his choreography, Ohad has a lot of aggression in him. His moves are fierce and hard and often include movements like falling and hammering. As expected, the genius and spoilt boy behaviour is incorporated in the same one person – in Ohad.

But Heymann keeps the audience on track with Ohad’s likability. If the audience hates the subject, it usually follows them hating the film. When the Government forces Ohad’s dance to wear leotards instead of their original skimpy outfits, he announces the change of costume to his dance troupe and subsequently resigns. This causes massive protests in the country. His wife and true love also dies of cancer and Heymann shows the power of dance to heal through Ohad,

The film is shot in English and Hebrew.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/139907441

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