Daniel Garber talks to Louis Theroux and John Dower about My Scientology Movie

Posted in Movies, documentary, L.A., Docudrama, Mind Control, Psychology, Interview, Religion by CulturalMining.com on February 17, 2017

mv5bnza0ndc2mjcxml5bml5banbnxkftztcwntk1mjcxnq-_v1_sy1000_cr006641000_al_Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

The Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, is an organization now led by David Miscavige.  Miscavige was raised as a Scientologist and has been a practitioner since he was a child. It attracts followers from around the world partly drawn by John Dowerthe success of its celebrity members. But its secrecy — along with rumours of mind control and corporal punishment — also attracts investigative journalists who want to find out what goes on behind closed doors.

Louis Theroux is one of these journalists, stymied from entering the inner sanctum of Scientology. Instead he decides to shoot Louis Theroux_My Scientology Moviehis own Scientology movie in LA,  auditioning actors to play the roles of Tom Cruise and Miscavige, with former members on hand to give first-hand guidance.

My Scientology Movie is a new feature documentary about Scientology, about making a film about Scientology, and about Louis Theroux_My Scientology MovieScientologists doing everything they can to stop him.

It’s presented by Theroux and directed by John Dower.

Louis Theroux is an award-winning BBC writer/broadcaster known for his intriguing but controversial subjects.  John Dower creates acclaimed documentaries like Thriller in Manila. The two of them co-wrote this film which opens today in Toronto at the Hot Docs Cinema.

I spoke to them in London from CIUT in Toronto via Skype.

Bro Movie Week. Movies reviewed: Before We Go, Meru, The Transporter: Refueled

Posted in Action, Adventure, Crime, Cultural Mining, Docudrama, Drama, Movies, Romance, Snow, Sports by CulturalMining.com on September 4, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Summer is almost over, so this week is Bro Movie Week. There’s an action-thriller about a driver who wants to get from here to there; a documentary about three mountain climbers who want to get from the bottom to the top; and a romantic dramedy about a guy who wants to help a woman he meets to get home.

11755254_1690148554546489_391372841939396319_nBefore We Go

Dir: Chris Evans

Nick (Chris Evans) is a bearded busker who’s playing his trumpet in Grand Central Station. He’s in NY City for an important audition the next day – the chance of a lifetime to join a famous jazz band. But he’s dogged by memories of a long lost love. Brooke (Alice Eve) is a well-dressed woman in a hurry. She wants to get back to her home in New Haven as fast as she can. And if she doesn’t get there in time… big 11012648_1694040134157331_8491743828569222621_ntrouble.

The problem is she missed the last train, and is penniless and without any ID. Her pursed got snatched in a bar that night. So as the station is closing, Nick goes out on a limb for her, and says he’ll help her get home. At first she’s cold and standoffish but soon realizes he’s her only chance. And so they step out into the scary streets of the city that never sleeps.

Over the course of the night, they find themselves in a dangerous den of thieves, performing on a stage at the wrong wedding, and running into lost 11807391_1694040120823999_4338576212858907929_oloves at a party. Will Brook ever tell Nick why she has to get home? Will Nick find closure with his own relationship? And have the two of them forged a new friendship, or possibly a lasting romance of their own?

Before We Go isn’t terrible, it’s just OK. More meh than anything else. The plot is uninteresting and predictable, and the characters are mediocre. Chris Evans is better known as Captain America so I guess this is his try at directing a movie. Nice try Chris, but try again. I’ve seen Alice Eve in lots of TV shows and movies, but she’s also unremarkable in this one. If you really need to watch a “Night in Manhattan” movie see Martin Scorsese’s After Hours instead.

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011Meru

Dir: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Renan Ozturk, Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker are three American mountain climbers. They’re not ordinary hobbyists. These are the guys with weather-beaten faces you see staring sternly at a cloud on the cover of Outside magazine; or dangling from a sheer face of rock in National Geographic. Climbing is their life. Profession, too. They make a living partly from taking the pictures and videotape of the mountains they’re climbing. But their white whale, their unconquerable peak is a mountain Meru Expedition, Garwhal, Indiacalled Meru.

Meru is a formidable, bare, sheer peak of rock on a snow-covered mountain in the Himalayas. Its top is known as the Shark’s Fin. In comparison, Mt Everest is a popular tourist spot with plenty of sherpas there to help would-be climbers. Meru – at the source of the river Ganges in northern India – is a do-it-yourself climb. Basically, you carry, on your back The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011everything you need to eat, wear or use. You’re on your own. This movie chronicles the two attempts made by these driven climbers to get to the top of the un-climbable Meru.

The photography in this movie is quite spectacular. And some of the incidents caught on film – like an avalanche on a mountain side, or shots of the climbers inside a tent pinned near the top of a peak – is amazing. So if you’re into outdoor or extreme sports, or chronicles of guys who risk their lives climbing mountains just because they’re there, then you’ll love this movie. Otherwise… I think it only has niche appeal.

Transporter RefueledThe Transporter: Refueled

Dir: Camille Delamarre

Frank (Ed Skrein) is a driver in Monte Carlo. He’s known for his unmatched skills in a car. He can get anyone anywhere they want to go, no questions asked. Cops or robbers can’t stop him. So when he’s hired for a large

 © 2014 Ð EUROPACORP Ð TF1 FILMS PRODUCTION


© 2014 Ð EUROPACORP Ð TF1 FILMS PRODUCTION

sum of money by a mysterious woman to deliver a package, he agrees. What he doesn’t know was that the package consists of three beautiful women in identical blonde wigs and dark glasses: Anna, Gina and Maria (Loan Chabanol, Gabrielle Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic). Not only that, he has to pick them up right after they robbed a bank. And the money they stole? It belongs to Russian Mobsters. The women are all former mobster employees, aka slaves of nefarious sex traffickers.

Still_-_Transporter_Refueled_9But there’s more to the story than that. They hire Frank again for another job, and just to make sure he comes through, they kidnap his dad, Frank Senior (Ray Stephenson). And give him a time-release poison to which they hold the only antidote. They want to take down the mob, including Karasov (Serbian actor Radivoje Bukvic). But can Frank’s lightning-fast fighting and driving skills teamed with the vengeance-driven sex-workers defeat the worst gangster-pimps of Monaco?

This is the latest installment in an endless action movie franchise, that Transporter Refueledstarred Jason Statham as the Transporter in earlier versions. It’s dumb and ridiculous, and sexist of course, and riddled with logical impossibilities and melodramatic acting. And the dialogue is atrocious: did they take an already bad French script and feed it into Google Translate? Still, I have to say I actually liked it. The chases, the fights, and the shootouts were all good, and Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones) is credible as the new, artfully-scarred driver. It’s a crime action thriller, a B movie (maybe a C movie), but I still enjoyed it.

Transporter Refueled opened earlier this week and Meru and Before We Go both start today in Toronto and on V.O.D. Check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

Oct 19, 2012. Imaginative ImagineNATIVE. Movies Reviewed: Charlie Zone, We Were Children

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Earlier this week, I found myself munching some bannock and wild rice in a packed hall on Spadina to witness the opening ceremony of one of the warmest and friendliest film festivals I’ve seen in Toronto. ImagineNATIVE is a celebration of indigenous film, video and art in Canada and around the world and it’s on right now, and open to everyone.

There are free short film screenings tonight at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, art installations around the downtown, and films, parties, concerts and lots of great movies to see. So check it out. This week I’m reviewing two Canadian movies playing at ImagineNATIVE, both with aboriginal topics and actors, and both about people trapped far away from their homes.

Charlie Zone

Dir: Michael Melski

Avery (Glen Gould) is the strong silent-type, a tough Native guy who did time and never shies from a fistfight. Now he just wants to earn some good money so he takes on a sketchy job. He has to find a young woman in Montreal, abduct her, and drive her back to her parents. Easy, no?

No.

She’s an angry junkie who doesn’t trust anyone, and will do anything not to go home again – ever. Turns out, Jan (Amanda Crew) was adopted and now feels adrift – she doesn’t even know who she really is. It’s up to Avery to get her there safely. But things start to change.

There’s an extremely violent Quebec biker gang chasing the two of them, two young gangsters who think of Jan as their property, and a shady, secretive businesswoman orchestrating the whole deal by telephone for unstated reasons. And Avery is stuck in the middle of it — a thug magnet – but won’t give up on her. Are Jan and Avery enemies or allies? And will either of them ever connect with the people they really want to find?

Charlie Zone is partly an action-packed violent crime movie about the seedier side, partly a heartfelt drama about rural life, loves lost and families torn apart. Glen Gould and Amanda Crew make a good pair, (though without any sexual spark between them) and the plot-driven story keeps you guessing till the end.

UPDATE: This year’s ImagineNative Best Dramatic Feature award went to Charlie Zone: Producer, Hank White.

We Were Children

Dir: Tim Wolochatiuk

For over a hundred years, but especially from the 1930s to the 80s, 150,000 native children were taken from their families and sent to residential schools to learn English and French and trade skills, and to be assimilated into the dominant Canadian culture. Most of them were run by churches, and the children often treated as inmates not students. Harsh corporal punishments were common, as was malnutrition, and, shockingly, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of the boys and girls sent there.

We Were Children is a powerful film that combines a documentary history of two kids Lyna and Glen (now adults) who lived through this in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and a shocking dramatization of what it was like. Glen is locked in a dungeon room by an abusive priest and Lyna, who initially spoke no English was physically punished just for speaking her native tongue. Although they want to go home, they are prevented from leaving and treated like escaped prisoners if they run away. Not a one-sided film at all, it takes pains to show some positive characters at the schools, like a nun who helps the girls when they are hungry. This film is an eye-opening look at a shameful chapter of Canadian history and the attempts at cultural genocide forced upon First Nations children, scarring families for generations.

For show times of Charlie Zone, We Were Children and more, go to ImagineNATIVE.org . Other festivals in the city this weekend include the very scary Toronto After Dark, Ekran.ca the new Polish film festival (starting next week), and Brazilfilmfest.net for movies and music from Brazil.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

October 5, 2012. Just Beneath the Ground. Movies Reviewed: Semper Fi: Always Faithful, As Above, So Below PLUS Planet in Focus

Posted in Conspiracy Theory, Cultural Mining, Docudrama, Environmentalism, Garbage, Movies, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on October 13, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Like you, I know my way around the basic environmental issues…

Climate change: stop it

Veg: good

Organic: better

Local: best

Genetically modified food: potentially scary

Baby Seals: club them

Endangered species: save them

Bitumen pipeline: gonna spill

Water: most important

Toxins: avoid them

(Just kidding about the seals)

But when I go beyond the basics, that’s where I run into trouble. So that’s why the Planet in Focus environmental film festival (Oct 10-14) is so useful. It lets you see the various environmental issues laid out by experts with Q&As, world premiers, and some really great examples of filmmaking.

So this week I’m looking at two environmental documentaries that differ greatly in look, tone, aim and content. One’s a heartfelt look at US Marines looking for justice after a long-hidden crisis; the other’s a meditation on how we view the garbage and waste hidden beneath the ground.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Dir: Rachel Libert, Tony Hardman

Jerry Ensminger, a long-time Master Sgt at the Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, is hit by devastating news: his young daughter Janey has cancer. But when he digs around to find out why, he discovers some shocking facts.

The drinking water at the camp is horribly contaminated with chemical toxins, like TCEs and PCBs. And he finds out he isn’t the only one affected by these poisons. Young male marines who passed through the camp are getting breast cancer – yes, male breast cancer – and others are getting hepatic cancer and other rare diseases at alarmingly high rates.

Because military bases and bootcamps are known for their constant turnover, it was difficult to keep track of who had been there. And cancers are slow to develop, usually long after they move away from the source of contamination. This made it especially difficult to prove.

The Camp LeJeune toxin crisis is as big as the Love Canal contamination in Niagara Falls NY, or the Minimata mercury poisoning in Japan.

But the problem are threefold. The chemical companies are lobbying to keep the toxins off the list of dangerous chemicals; the military is denying and burying info at every level; and the vets keep developing cancer but their insurers refuse to pay for expensive medical treatment or to grant them disability payments for injuries contracted on duty.

It’s up to the victims and their families to dig up the truth, appear before the Senate, and to do all they can to bring to light this monumental environmental disaster. The movie traces the story and the struggle. Semper Fi is a moving documentary, straightforward and traditional in its presentation of the facts. It’s less of an exciting or cinematic movie, more of a sentimental but informative TV-style doc.

Different in every way is:

As Above, So Below

Dir: Sarah J. Christman

This documentary follows a series of peripherally-related stories of people talking about garbage and waste from the past. One is a woman (the filmmaker, with her mother) who describes dealing with the death if her father and her family going through the things he left behind. She decides to turn his ashes into an artificial diamond, as a way of remembering him.

Another is an anthropologist working for the sanitation department who talks about the history of a landfill near NYC. The ominously-named Fresh Kills area has been a landfill for decades and holds completely intact records of the wastes of everyone who ever lived in that area. Robert Moses dug up some dirt in Staten Island to use in a parkway. It left behind a temporary hole to be filled with the city’s garbage, but it ended up being dumped in for decades. It’s now been covered and turned into a park, but one with all its intact history settling and burbling just below surface.

This movie is not a conventional collection of talking heads telling of random reminiscences and historical facts. Your ears hear speakers describe a moving personal remembrance or a shocking historical record; but your eyes see unsynchronized images of nature, like the long lost flotsam and jetsam on a beach called Dead Horse Bay (where the bodies of workhorses used to be rendered), or white plastic garbage bags and ice snow, or quivering winter twigs against an overcast sky.

As Above, So Below is an absolutely stunning and subtle artistic meditation on waste, consumption, death, loss and memory. It’s also the most gorgeous depiction of garbage you’ll ever see. Somehow, the editing, the photography and the whole movie’s context packs a personal wallop with an aesthetic sensibility that you rarely see in one movie.

As Above, So Below, and Semper Fi are both playing at Toronto’s Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival running from Oct 10-14. both open today – go to planetinfocus.org for more information. Coming soon, the ImagineNative indigenous peoples’ film and media arts festival, and the Ekran film festival (Ekran is the Polish word for screen). And don’t miss the amazing documentary Detropia, opening tonight at the Bloor.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

The Secret Disco Revolution: Daniel Garber interviews Jamie Kastner about his new tongue-in-cheek documentary, having its world premier at TIFF

Posted in 1970s, 1980s, Canada, Cultural Mining, Dance, Docudrama, documentary, drugs, Manhattan, Music, TIFF, Toronto, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on September 7, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM

What is it that some people call a movement, others a musical form, a fad, a plastic commercial fraud, or a subversive political revolution? I’m talking about Disco, and a new, tongue-in-cheek documentary having its World Premier at TIFF looks at its history, its origins, and perhaps an aspect of it you never considered. It’s called The Secret Disco Revolution, and its director, well-known Toronto filmmaker Jamie Kastner, tells me all about it.

You’ll hear about disco’s origin, the academic perspective, the musical side of it, why disco doesn’t really suck, and how a love of Pinter’s plays led him to explore disco music. Confused? Listen!

June 16, 2012. Indie Music, Indie Films. Movies Reviewed: Jobriath A.D., My Father and the Man in Black, KMS: Jewish Negroes, Safety Not Guaranteed

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Gruff, screech, pitta-patta, swoosh, grind, boom, buzz, scratch… (thank God I’m not a music writer) these are some of the sounds you hear at a club, on stage or under the open sky. And it’s what NXNE brings to you.

NXNE is Toronto’s monumental indie music festival, but it’s also a film festival, playing movies, videos, documentaries and feature films — all with a musical element to them: this means the good movies always have amazing soundtracks.

So this week I’m talking about two documentaries on famous musicians and their managers; another one about a hiphop team with zero turntables and a microphone; and an indie comic-drama about a would-be journalist meeting a would-be time-traveller.

Jobriath A.D.
Dir: Kieran Turner

Who the hell is Jobriath? I vaguely remember seeing the name on covers in record delete bins, but that’s it. But it turns out he was this openly gay pop-rock performer in the 60’s and 70’s, who had a tumultuous rise and fall. This amazing documentary — with a wicked glam-rock soundtrack – delves into his history as a small town boy, who moves to LA, stars as the sexual character Woof in the famous hippie musical HAIR, records orchestral folk/pop songs, composes music, and then, under the wing of bigtime promoter Jerry Brandt, launches as a glam rock superstar. He imagines a Parisian extravaganza with him climbing the empire state building on stage in a King Kong suit, fighting off airplanes and transforming into Marlene Dietricht. His rise and fall and rise again – as a moustachioed Cole Porter-like piano player in Manhattan – is documented in this very cool biography of a little-known musician ahead of his time. Maybe there are too many clips of other musicians giving their opinions on hiom, but its more than made up for with vintage TV and film recordings and very cool animation sequences that illustrate each stage of his life.

While there are a few too many talking heads for my taste, this is a really great documentary about an otherwise forgotten pop/rock legend.

My Father and the Man in Black
Dir: Jonathan Holiff

When London, Ontario promoter / manager Saul Holiff committed suicide, he left behind a storage locker packed with transcripts and recordings of his day-to-day life with Johnny Cash. He was the guy who got the singer out of jail, who booked him to play in Folsom prison, who introduced him to June Carter – who made him a superstar and turned his life around.

But he’s also the guy who more or less abandoned his wife and kids as he travelled around North America with the C&W singer. This fascinating and unusual documentary was made by his son Jonathan, and it delves into the strange and sometimes bitter relationship between the drug-addicted and later born-again Johnny and the hard-driven, pragmatic Saul. The film uses beautifully-shot, silent re-enactments with recorded voice-overs, along with period footage, snapshots and documents, and filmclips taken from the director’s dad’s collection, to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on Johnny Cash.

KMS: Jewish Negroes
Dir: Moran Ifergan

In the news a lot these days is the plight of East African migrants and refugees living in Israel, some of who are facing discrimination, violent attacks or forcible removal.

This movie is about a different group, a largely ignored population – Israeli-born citizens of Ethiopean background who have fallen by the wayside. It concentrates on three hiphop artists, “KMS” band, rappers living in a grim, run-down housing project in Rehovot. This is a raw documentary that follows the three of them through impromptu performances with just an ipod and a microphone, their travels to the big city, and encounters with police, and their largely hostile neighbours. Very interesting movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed
Dir: Colin Trevorrow

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is fairly miserable. Her dad says she’s carried a black cloud around with her since her mom died when she was 14. Now she’s in her 20s, struggling with her unpaid internship at a Seattle magazine. Then she gets her big chance to follow a story – a newspaper classified ad asking for a companion to travel through time: “This is not a joke!”

So Jeff (Jake M Johnson), a douche-y magazine writer, Darius, and the other intern Arnau — a meek, sexually repressed nerd – climb into a car and drive out to the small town to find the guy who placed the ad and write a story about him.

Darius poses as the companion but soon becomes a real friend with the paranoid conspiracy-theorist Kenneth (Mark Duplass). He works in a Big Box store, but claims he has found the secret to time travel – and that’s why the feds are chasing him. Well, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you: turns out there really are men in trench coats following him around!

The story wavers between adventure/comedy and simple romance: Kenneth and Darius may become more than just time travelers; obnoxious Jeff may find love with a woman he had sex with in highschool; and meek Arnau might come out of his shell when he meets some small-town Goths looking for fun. And what about the time travel? Is this science fiction or the newly popular genre faux-science fiction? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Aubrey Plaza and Marc Duplass are a great team. Safety Not Guarateed is a good, cute very low-budget film – much more fun than the average rom-com.

Safety Not Guaranteed, and the great art documentary I reviewed last week, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present both open today, check your local listings; Jobriath, My Father and the Man in Black, and KMS: Jewish Negroes, (plus the wonderful Slaughter Nick for President) are all playing at NXNE straight through the weekend and are included with festival passes or bracelets – go to NXNE.com for details. And Ingrid Veninger, the Toronto director of the sweet romance Modra and the biting art satire I am a good person I am a bad person, is showing her films at the Royal, and is holding a $1000 dollar feature film challenge for prospective low-budget filmmakers! Go to punkfilms.ca for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

Aug 19, 2011. History Rewrites Itself. Movies Reviewed: Sarah’s Key, United Red Army, Caterpillar, The Whistleblower

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, and movies that taste good, and what the difference is.

Lot’s of people say: if you don’t watch out, history will repeat itself. Maybe so. But I’m more interested in the way history rewrites itself.

What once was glorious is later seen as shameful. What once was righteous is later cruel and unfair. What once was dubbed a “Mission Accomplished” is now seen as the start of an illegal war. And then there are all the people and events that seem to disappear entirely only to be brought back decades later. Faces of purged politicians used to appear or disappear in official photos in the days long before photoshop.

So today I’m looking at four movies set in the past where the filmmakers or characters present history in a new way.

Sarah’s Key

Dir: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Julia (Kirsten Scott-Thomas) is a magazine journalist in Paris who is moving into her husband’s apartment in Le Marais, even while she’s researching the notorious Vel d’Hiv incident. This was when the French police rounded up most of the Jewish immigrants in Paris and locked them into a bicycle racing stadium for afew days before shipping them off to their death in German concentration camps.

So, after a bit of research, Julia’s disturbed to discover that her husband’s family had first moved into the apartment she’s about to live in on that very day in the 1940’s. And then she finds out that two kids, a little girl Sarah and her brother, who used to live in that house are nowhere in any historical records. What happened to them? The movie jumps back and forth between Julia’s quest, nowadays, to discover the truth; and little blonde Sarah (Mélusine Mayance)’s attempt to escape back home to rescue her little brother whom she had locked in a hidden closet during the roundup.

The kids’ story — and what became of them — provides the suspense in this movie, as Julia gradually pieces the puzzle back together and reveals the hidden truth of Sarah’s extraordinary wartime adventure.

Are Sarah and her brother still alive? If they are, where are they now? And what was Julia’s in-laws’ actual role in all this?

This is a French movie, so the English dialogue sounds a bit stilted. The dramatic, historical flashbacks are more interesting than the present-day parts, but the sum-total still leaves you with a generally good, exciting drama.

Caterpillar

Dir: Kôji Wakamatsu

Lieutenant Kurokawa (Keigo Kasuya), a brutal husband and a vicious soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army in WWII, is badly burned while sexually assaulting a woman in her home on the Chinese battlefront. He barely survives the fire, and his armless, legless torso with just a badly burned head is sent home to his village. He’s declared a hero and a War God, and sits silently in his military uniform like like an evil anti-Buddha. He can barely speak, and his wife Shigeko (Shinobu Terajima) is horrified. She almost tries to murder him, but stops when he begins to speak.

At first Shigeko stays subservient and dutiful toward her cruel husband. She is shamed by her neighbours into keeping up appearances.

He sleeps, he eats, he sleeps, he eats, and glories in the medals he won, and the framed newspaper clipping extolling his exploits for the sake of the Japanese Empire. And by grunting, and pulling at her skirt with his teeth he tells her whenever he wants sex. She grudgingly, patriotically goes along with him.

But gradually power shifts: without hands he can no longer beat her to keep her compliant. without a voice, he can’t shut out her opinions. And given his newly submissive position in sex he begins to identify with the women he had raped in China.

This is a brilliantly acted, absurdist black comedy about the collapse of Imperial Japan. It contrasts the tragedy and cruelty of war with the inane barrage of recorded martial marches, brass bands and morality lessons, and slogans repeated by everyone on the homefront. Radio propaganda broadcasts predict imminent victory even as the Americans are firebombing Tokyo. An extremely strange but fascinating movie, Caterpillar shows the disconnect between the official history of the period and the lives of ordinary Japanese people.

In another movie…

United Red Army

Dir: Kôji Wakamatsu

Iooks at an almost forgotten period of radical upheaval from the far left in a more recent period of Japanese history – the 60’s and 70’s. Supposedly peaceful Japan was turned on its head with authority challenged by protests, sit-ins and violent occupations at hundreds of universities.

This long and devastating docudrama, looks at two breakaway radical revolutionary groups in Eastern and Western Japan that temporary joined together into the United Red Army under its two charismatic leaders, a man and a woman. In an isolated cabin in the Japan alps they rethink their policies and insist that all members take part in self-criticism.

(These are the same groups that, along with the German Red Army Faction, were hijacking planes around the world in the 1970’s.)

This movie is divided into three sections. Part one is a cold, documentary-style look at the upheavals at that time. Part two, is an epic, human drama of what becomes of the idealistic revolutionaries when they are hidden in their mountain cabin, and how their grandiose ideas of Cultural Revolution gradually degenerate into an agonizing, Lord-Of-the-Flies-style struggle, leading to violence, bullying, torture and death. The third part follows some of these members who later take over a country inn in an extended showdown with the Japanese police.

United Red Army is a devastating, relentless look at the members of the radical Japan Red Army and their ideological implosion behind the scenes.

In another rewriting of history,

The Whistleblower

Dir: Larysa Kondracki

…is a dramatic thriller set during the UN peacekeeping period following the Yugoslavian civil war in the 90’s. Kathryn (Rachel Weiss) a divorced, small-town American cop, takes a position in Sarajevo so she can earn some money and pay for shared custody of her daughter. She is quickly promoted (by a kindly Vanessa Redgrave) to a special unit that advocates and investigates crimes against women.

Meanwhile, Raya (Roxanne Condurache) is a young Ukrainian from Kiev who also takes on a foreign job in Bulgaria for a few months. She ends up in Sarajevo as well. But Kathryn is shocked to learn that Raya (and many women like her) are trafficked across borders, and are living in horrific conditions in a brothel, as virtual sex slaves. And the plot thickens when she discovers that some of the peace-keeping soldiers, corrupt local police, “Fancy diplomats” and UN bureaucrats are also involved, not only as johns, but possibly as pimps and organized criminals. So it’s up to Kathryn and her few allies to try to blow the whistle on this scandal. But who can she trust?

I wanted to like this movie – which seemed like an extended version of Law and Order SVU – but it was a pretty bad, no, an awful movie. I am not giving away any spoilers here – the whole movie basically tells you what’s going to happen in the first couple minutes. It’s called the Whistleblower, so no surprises here. It’s mainly just helpless weeping women saying “save us”, evil Bosnian Serbs saying “NO!”, and smarmy UN personal who just don’t care. Kathryn has to do it all herself. It’s much too simple and predictable a plot:

United Nations = Bad

Yugoslavians = Bad

Peacekeepers = Bad

Women = Victims

US small-town cop = Good

The Whistleblower is now playing, check your local listings, Sarah’s Key opens today in Toronto; and United Red Army and Caterpillar also open today, exclusively at the Projection Booth, a new theatre in Eastern Toronto. Also opening is Spy Kids in 4-D with smell-o-vision: warning: most of the spots on the card smell like SweetTarts, just don’t sniff odour number 6!

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for CIUT 89.5 FM, and on my web site, Cultural Mining . com.

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