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Film Review: MOUNTAIN (Australia 2017) *** (Opens Jan 12)

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Mountain Poster
Trailer

An experience about the highest peaks around the world.

Director:

Jennifer Peedom

 

We’re feared them, revered them, and even had the hubris to say we’ve “conquered” them.  So goes the narration of the stunning documentary on the giants of the world entitled MOUNTAIN.

If the voice sounds familiar, it belongs to actor Willem Defoe who is no stranger to providing the sarcastic, ironic, poetic and informative dialogue in a documentary.  For example, he narrates the message: you are never so alive as when you are close to death.  Defoe also narrated the excellent DO DONKEYS ACT?, his voice playing a big part to the success of that and also this movie.  The existential commentary is written by best-selling author Robert Macfarlane and director Jennifer Peedom  (SHERPA).  Robert wrote the book “Mountains of the Mind”.

The film begins with grand shots of mountains, often covered in ice and snow.  Humans then come into the picture, followed by the relationship between man and mountain.  The film has a loose narrative – the film best enjoyed by sitting back and relaxing, to enjoy the stunning cinematography and beauty of the mountains.

 The film demonstrates what mountains have meant to humans from past to present. The have been the ethereal homes of gods and demons, and places no sane person would have thought of ascending until a few hundred years ago.  Today, they represent a pilgrimage of a sort for millions of people worldwide. Peedom shows scenes of travellers (including amateurs) ascending Everest by the hundreds, ski down from vertiginous mountain tops, para-ski, fly from peaks using wing suits, rock-climb and ice-climb.  What ticks Peedom off is shown in two shots.  One is a helicopter with a huge banner of “Red Bull” followed by narration saying that mountains have been commercialized.  The other one, has a long queue perhaps of a hundred or so climbers, each attached to each other by rope with the narration saying that mountain climbing has turned to crowd control.

.There are excellent shots of solo mountain climbers hanging on to peaks, some falling and getting injured, skiing and mountain animals.  Besides showing the awe and beauty of the mountains, Peedon does it shy way from including scene that show blood from climbers that have fallen or skiers that have tumbled down their mountain runs.  

If one wonders how the footage was shot, much of them were accomplished using drones and using everything from GoPros to the best cameras.  No stranger to elevation, director Peedom began her career as a climbing camera operator on Mount Everest.  Adding music to the visuals, the soundtrack is backed by a majestic score of old-and-new classical works by Richard Tognetti. 

Though there are countless stunning shots of high mountains, one wishes these sights would be identified as to where they were filmed.  The only time a mountain is identified is Everest.  One has to wait till the closing credits to learn that he incredible footage was shot in 20 countries plus Antarctica, shows us high-elevation defiance of death in scenes of both incredible grace and beauty, and tragedy, injury and death.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=rOBB_VOFQHI

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MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (USA 2017)

A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Director:

Kenneth Branagh

Writers:

Michael Green (screenplay by), Agatha Christie (based upon the novel by)

Stars:

Daisey Ridley, Penélope CruzWillem Dafoe

Full Review: DO DONKEYS ACT? (Canada/Ireland/UK/USA 2017) ***

Do Donkeys Act? Poster
Donkeys inhabit and communicate with each other – and the filmmakers – in a Sanctuary.

Directors:

David RedmonAshley Sabin

Star:

Willem Dafoe

It has to happen eventually – a documentary on donkeys from the donkey’s point of view.

 

One might complain as the poetic prose narrative voiced by actor Willem Dafoe.  It might seem really silly, but after a while, one might accept the directors’ decision and play along with this somewhat funny poetic play.  Sample proses:  “These donkeys have a wind of curiosity on their side.”  “When donkeys walk to a dead end… They have several ways in but no way out.”  Dafoe is the ideal choice as the narrator of such sayings/

 

The film begins with words on the screen saying how other animals communicate without words but with song or rhythm.  It then goes to say that still others communicate by gestures in the shadows – whatever that means.  So, DO DONKEYS ACT? invites the audience to “step into their shade and to listen closely” as the audience attune to a series of dramatic performances in which one can eavesdrop on donkeys speaking amongst themselves.

 

The film elicits the audience’s pity of donkeys.  The film is quick to point out that these donkeys are often abused and neglected.  One was stabbed many times be teens playing stab the donkey with a knife while another is blind.  One was shown in neglect with long curved nails ingrown due to its hoofs.  The nails are removed by cutting using clippers.  Still, the directors show that these are still beautiful creatures with their thick manes and loud and distinct braying.  Hee-haw, hee-haw!!! 

     Among the film’s highlights are:

 

the donkey at the dentist (a live dental experience like an alien encounter;)

 

a beautiful and moving sight of donkeys freely running around in the open after a long winter confinement

 

the birth of a new foal

 

the feeding of a foal

 

Directors  David Redmon and Ashley Sabin have worked before on films like GIRL MODEL and KINGDOM OF ANIMALS as well as several other documentaries.  DO DONKEYS ACT? clearly shows assured work, quirky though it may seem, but still thoroughly entertaining.

 

Though it might seem trivial to learn more about donkeys, curiosity eventually has its day in this occasionally fascinating portrayal of the neglected animal who is still part of God’s animal Kingdom.  Everything you wanted to know that happens inside a donkey sanctuary. The film was shot in several docket sanctuaries in the U.K., U.S., Ireland and Canada including the one in Guelph, Ontario.

 

The film played to rave reviews at the Hit Docs Festival this year in Toronto.

 

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/200043031

 

HOT DOCS 2017 Reviews: DO DONKEYS ACT? Starring Willem DaFoe

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

do_donkeys_act.jpgDonkeys inhabit and communicate with each other – and the filmmakers – in a Sanctuary.

Directors: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin
Star: Willem Dafoe

Review by Gilbert Seah

 It has to happen eventually – a documentary on donkeys from the donkey’s point of view.

The film’s ethno-poetic-animal-fiction takes its playfully self-reflexive cues from Jean Rouch and Chris Marker.

Encouraging the audience to respect a major language barrier the audience might not otherwise consider––the mystery and intrigue of donkey utterances––DO DONKEYS ACT? invites the audience to “step into their shade, listen closely” as we attune to a series of dramatic performances in which one’s eavesdrop on donkeys speaking amongst themselves.

Narrated by Willem Dafoe, this tactic is amusing but sometimes, simplicity is the key.

Though it might seem trivial to learn more about donkeys, curiosity eventually has its day in this occasionally fascinating portrayal of the neglected animal who is still part of God’s animal Kingdom. Everything you wanted to know that happens inside a donkey sanctuary. The film was shot in several docket sanctuaries including the one in Guelph, Ontario. Present during Hot Docs will be Co-Director David Redmon.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/200043031

_________

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Happy Birthday: Willem Dafoe

willemdafoe.jpgWillem Dafoe

Born: July 22, 1955 in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA

Married to: Giada Colagrande (25 March 2005 – present)

 

 

 

 

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>

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