Movie Review

Movie Review

Movie Review

Mar 14

Wit
Director: Mike Nicholls.  Actors: Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald. John Woodward Christopher Lloyd. 2001. Running time: 105 minutes.

Brilliant middle-aged professor Vivian Bearing, a teacher of formidable reputation, specialist in the poetry of the 17th century religious poet John Donne, is told that she has ovarian cancer at tertiary stage. Her world falls apart.  She has to confront her loneliness and despair alone. Her independence is gone.  She turns into an experimental object in the hands of the doctors who deliver aggressive chemotherapy for her.  She had been a demanding teacher, a challenge to her students. Her intellectual prowess and knowledge do not help her face the reality. She is forced to reflect on herself and discover that she had missed her humanity all along and is now much like her students whom she had looked down upon. The young intern who attends to her treats her only as a case for research.  Not only is she the victim of her disease, but also the demeaning indignities meted out casually by the medical system. Her only solace is provided by two people—her attendant nurse Susan, who empathizes with her and makes her feel loved, and her former professor. Susan’s care and concern provides consolation to Vivian and restores her sense of human dignity. The nurse also speaks the truth of the situation—that she is dying. It only makes Vivian Bearing feel relieved! In her dying moments she is visited by her aged mentor, former professor who reads out a bedtime story to the dying professor like a mother reading to her child in bed. Vivian cries overwhelmed by the love that she had perhaps never experienced before.  Wit and intellect aren’t the things that you need when you are dying. The film turns out to be a powerful reflection on the questions of human mortality, dignity, relationships and care-giving in times of severe personal crises—lessons for all those who wish to live meaningful lives. The movie helps us understand the priority in health care: It is not an industry or about medical experiments; it is about human beings who need consolation and spiritual support in the face of suffering, a lesson for all care-givers.

The Killing Fields
Director: Roland Joffé. Cast: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich, Julian Sands, Craig T. Nelson, Spalding Gray, Graham Kennedy, Katherine Krapum Chey, Oliver Pierpaoli. 1984. Running time: 143 minutes.

This multiple awards winner is about the man-made tragedy of the killing fields of Cambodia under the heartless socialist regime of Pol Pot around 1980 A film adaptation of The Death and Life of Dith Pran by The New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, it traces the history of Schanberg’s experience of the Pol Pot days and of his friendship with one of its victims, Ditch Pram and his family.  As a correspondent, Schanberg went to cover the events in Cambodia when the Vietnam War was raging. Schanberg is helped by his Cambodian journalist,  Dith Pran. On the very day of his arrival in Phnom Penh, Schanberg learns of the indiscriminate bombing of Cambodian civilians by Americans. The US Army and the media try to gloss over this. Soon the country passes into the hands of the Khmer Rouge rebels, welcomed enthusiastically by the people. The ugly truth becomes evident when the Khmer start slave labor camps and death squads intended to “re-educate” the people and turn the country into a crude agrarian socialist state. Educated people are hunted out. Foreigners are evicted.  Shchanberg and his colleagues narrowly escape execution thanks to Pran’s help. Schanberg helps Pran’s family escape. But Pran does not manage to escape. Schanberg is unable to contact Pran for many years. His relentless campaign to trace Pran fails. Schanberg gets a Pulitzer Prize for his book.

Captured and tortured for being friendly to the Americans, Pran survives the  atrocities with his courage and shrewdness. He escapes and makes a dangerous journey through the jungles barely dodging his would-be executioners. On the way he is witness to the bone heaps of massacred Cambodians in the Valley of Death, the muddy “killing fields.” The Red cross camp on the Thailand border facilitates his escape. He reunites with his family and Schanberg in America. When Schanberg  apologizes to him he graciously replies “There’s nothing to forgive, Sydney, nothing.” The Cambodian revolution continued for nearly a decade more, claiming the lives of about three million people in the notorious killing fields.


Dr Gigy Joseph

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Movie Review

Movie Reviews

Feb 15

ELENI
Director: Peter Yates. Cast: Kate Nelligan, John Malkovich, Linda Hunt, Ronald Pickup Oliver Cotton.

Eleni is based on the true story of a Greek peasant mother named Eleni Gatzoyiannis, who heroically resisted the Communist violence in the town of Lia in Greece in 1948. Years later, Nicholas Gage, her son, now an American journalist, goes searching for his mother’s killer. During the war, when the Communist militia spread terror in Greece, the little boy Nikola was sent to his father working in America. Eleni planned to join them later. But she is soon shot by the rebel firing squad for her attempt to save her other children from violence. Nikola goes to Greece to seek out and take revenge on his mother’s murderers. He also interviews one of his former neighbours who was forced to testify against Eleni in order to save her own family from execution. When the Communist rebels took over Lia, his home village, field mines were planted around the village to prevent anyone from leaving. They tried to force Eleni’s eldest daughter to join. But Eleni burnt the girl’s leg wit a hot poker to prevent her on grounds of disability. The guerilla leader took the next daughter and then tried to capture all the village children for Communist indoctrination. Eleni secretly smuggled the children out of the village. She was tortured, tried, and executed along with several others. Nikola reconstructs the whole story. At one dramatic moment, he comes face to face with the killer, Katis, who has now settled quietly in Greece. But Nikola undergoes a moral change effected by the memories of his mother’s love and heroism. He renounces vengeance and returns to his family, with whom his emotional bond had become strained under his hatred for the killers. The film thus becomes a celebration of family devotion, forgiveness in the face of cruelty and a condemnation of dehumanizing political ideologies that destroyed millions of lives.

FREY MARTIN DE PORRES
Director: Raymundo Calixto. Cast :Pedro Telémaco, Dad Dager, Juan Carlos Gardié, Alan Ciangherotti, Aroldo Betancourt, Mateo Pastor, Daniela Spanic, Iván Tamayo

This inspirational movie covers the key aspects of this Afro-Peruvian saint who was a miracle worker and a great lover of animals and nature. At a time when slavery and racial discrimination were widespread, Martin transcended these evils and won the hearts of all people. Martin was born in 1579 in Lima, Peru, to a Spanish nobleman and a freed black slave. Martin was black, like his mother, while his sister was white, like their father. Their mother brought them up, with great sacrifice. Even from early childhood Martin showed extraordinary piety and love towards the poorest. He had the gift of healing already when he was apprenticed to a barber and medical man. He wanted to become a priest. But the prevailing racial laws would not permit him to be admitted as a regular aspirant to monastic life or priesthood. But his insistence led them to admit him as a “donated” servant. This meant that he had to remain as a servant doing menial jobs like gardening, kitchen work, etc. His devotion, humility and healing power made him a legend. He miraculously saved many lives. He faced racial insults, and doubts about his medical practices. But he displayed extraordinary miracles like levitation and bilocation and also the power to control animal behavior by communicating in their language. A most self-effacing moment was when he offered himself to be sold as a slave to save the monastery from financial crisis. Later, the superiors admitted him into the order as a regular Dominican Brother. When plague broke out in Lima, he attended to the sick and the dying and saved thousands of lives. When there was no room for treatment, he took the sick into his own room for care. This was against the monastery rules. When his superior questioned him about this, Martin humbly reminded the superior that charity should take precedence over rules. Saint Martin de Porres is a unique saint of modern times, honoured as the patron saint of racial harmony, mixedrace people, barbers, inn-keepers and public health workers.


Dr Gigy Joseph

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Movie Review

Movie Reviews

Jan 18

All or Nothing: Sr Clare Crockett
(A documentary, 2017, 85 Minutes. Available on YouTube.)

Sr. Clare Theresa Crockett died in an earthquake on 16 April 2016 at age 33 while working as a missionary among the poor in a remote village in Ecuador. She was a most unlikely candidate to join a convent, something she herself, as a young girl, could not think of. Born and brought up in a happy, nominally Catholic family in Londonderry, one of the most violent towns in Northern Ireland, Clare loved music, trained in theater and dreamed of a career in Hollywood for which she was eminently suited. Her ebullient spirit earned her the nickname “Live wire.” She used to declare that she wanted to be famous. She did act in a movie.

But at age seventeen, the feisty girl had a change of heart that stunned everyone. She decided to be a nun. Her family begged her to give up the idea. But Clare was the kind of person who would have “all or nothing.” “Neither success, nor fame, nor human love could fill me. I knew that only by doing what God wanted me could I be truly happy.”  She did everything in her life with a complete devotion and enthusiasm. Giving up the comforts of a normal secular Irish family was not easy. But she took to the rigours of her convent life with the same enthusiasm, joviality and infectious humour which made her popular among her fellow nuns, colleagues and the children she taught. Some time before the fatal earthquake she said that she would also die young like the Lord whom she loved deeply. And it came true when she and three postulants whom he was teaching music were crushed to death in the earthquake.

The film was made mostly out of photos and candid video footages of Clare, from her early childhood onwards and interviews with people who knew her closely. The movie radiates the infectious joyfulness of one who gave her life in loving sacrifice to Christ.

 The Young Messiah
Director:  Cyrus Nowraste. Cast: Sean Bean, David Bradley, Lee Boardman, Jonathan Bailey, David Burke. (2016, 111 minutes)

 Based on Anne Rice’s novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the film presents a fictional life of boy Jesus during his Egyptian exile and return to Nazareth on the death of Herod. The episodes are entirely unbiblical but its presentation is consistent with the Gospel view of Christ. It opens with Jesus in Alexandria. While playing with his friends, Jesus is attacked by a bully named Eleazer. But Lucifer trips Eleazer over, causing his death, for which Jesus is blamed. People turn against Jesus. Mary saves her son from the crowd. His cousins, who had seen him bring life to a dead bird before, ask him to do the same to Eleazer. Jesus sneaks into Eleazer’s house and brings him back to life. However, the resurrected boy only attacks him ungratefully. The boy’s parents want the Holy Family to leave the town. Joseph announces his intention to leave for the homeland. They are bound for Nazareth, accompanied by uncle Cleophas, who gets extremely sick. Jesus heals him. This miracle becomes widely known. Herod’s successor sends a Roman Centurion to find and kill Jesus because he believes that the boy will be a threat to his throne. Both Lucifer and the soldiers are now after Jesus to kill him. Joseph and family hide in a cave to escape the hunters. But Jesus steals out of the cave and travels to Jerusalem with the help of some pilgrims. In the Temple, he meets a blind Rabbi, from whom he comes to know his past history. He grows in awareness of his mission. He heals the Rabbi. The news of this healing spreads like wildfire. It leads the Centurion to Jesus. But he is unable to lay hands on Christ, because he is in the centre of a large crowd eagerly listening to his words. The Centurion is awed by the meeting. He returns to tell the king that he has found Jesus and killed him. Thus Jesus is spared and he returns to Nazareth with his parents to a normal life. The movie presents a suspenseful story line and presents young Jesus beginning to show signs of the Messiah in the making.


Dr Gigy Joseph

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Movie Reviews

Dec 17

Fallen Angel.

Director: Michael Switzer. Cast: Gary Sinise, Joely Richardson, Gordon Pinsent,  Jordy Benattar,  Michael Rhoades. 2003. Running time: 2 hours

Based on a novel by Don Snyder, Fallen Angel is about loss, return and reconciliation set against a Christmas background. Terry McQuin loses his mother at a young age and is brought up by his workaholic father who is a caretaker for the townspeople.  He gets a fingerprinting kit as gift for his ninth birthday, around the Christmas season, when he makes friends with little Katherine Wentworth, the daughter of Charles Wentworth.  The night before Christmas Eve, the two children are taken by Charles to a children’s hospital to give gifts to the invalid children. Returning home through the storm, the car slips on the icy road and kills a woman driver and her child. Charles flees and is thought dead. Katherine’s mother takes her and leaves to marry again and settle elsewhere.

The rest of the movie is about the children growing up, finding each other again, while Charles lives alone and poor. They meet and come together, and it is Christmas once again.

The Christmas Gift

Director: Michael Pressman. Cast: John Denver, Jane Kaczmarek,  Edward Winter, Gennie James. Mary Wickes, James Callahan.1986. Running time: 97 minutes.

Presented and acted in by the celebrity musician John Denver, The Christmas Gift is a tribute to the spirit of Christmas. Mr Renfield, a New York real estate business man, sends his deputee George Billings, a widowed architect, to an idyllic little town to survey land for a new project under the pretext of a Christmas vacation. He takes his little daughter Alex along. They are still mourning the death of George’s wife, who had passed away the previous Christmas.

The people of the small town form a vibrant community life and everyone knows everyone. They believe in Santa Claus and miracles. Their belief springs from the legend of a little boy who was among the first settlers who came there a hundred years before. The settlers arrived on Christmas Eve in bitter cold and blizzard near starvation.  There appeared a strange old man who was starving to death and begging for food. A little boy takes pity on him and goes around collecting scraps from the already starving settler community and feeds him. The next morning the settlers find their wagons all provided with plenty of food and provisions. The little boy knew it was Santa Claus. It inspires them to write letters to Santa every Christmas season and they believe they will experience miracles.  The townspeople are preparing for the Christmas celebrations. Caught up in the lives of these people Billings does not want to carry out Renfield’s business proposition which will harm the Georgetown community. The story ends with a jovial Christmas celebration. The film celebrates the beauty and joyfulness of small Christian community founded on faith, neighbourly love, friendship, charity that makes miracles happen.


Dr.Gigy

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Movie Reviews

NOV 15

JESUS

Directors: John Krish, Peter Sykes. Cast:  Brian Deacon, Rivka Neuman, Alexander Scourby, Niko Nitai Joseph Shiloach. Run Time: 117 minutes. 2007.

There have been numerous movies made on the Jesus story and the Bible over the years. Jesus stands out among these in a unique way. Compared to the mega budget Hollywood spectacles, this film is made on a comparatively small budget and is focussed on a single Gospel—The Gospel of St Luke. Luke’s narrative is chosen for its comprehensiveness and historical perspective and completeness compared to the other Gospels. The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) was used for the film. Most of the film’s dialogue comes from Luke. In the three decades since its production, it has been translated into over 1600 world languages and stakes a claim to being the most widely watched film in history (about 5 billion viewings in many languages around the world).

The film follows Luke’s narrative closely, with imaginatively visualised scenes to contextualise Jesus’ teachings, his choice of the disciples, the journeys, the miracles, his confrontation with the Pharisees and the Jewish authorities and, finally,  the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. The movie is good for Gospel study groups and catechists. Some additions were done to the original version in 2002 in an attempt to make it more relevant and contemporary. The new complete movie begins with a prologue covering the Old Testament events from Creation to Abraham’s sacrifice and references to the prophets regarding the coming of the Messiah and his historic mission. There is also an epilogue that focuses on the faith value of the story.

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ROMERO

Director :John Duigan. Cast: Raul Julia, Richard Jordan, Ana Alicia, Eddie Velez, Alejandro Bracho, Tony Plana, Harold Gould Lucy Reina as Lucia, Al Ruscio. 1989. Run time: 105 minutes.

The Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador is known around the Catholic world as one of the great modern martyrs of Latin America.  As bishop of San Salvador, he was the most outspoken critic of the brutal dictatorship that held the country in its vicious grip and smothered any attempt to bring peace and freedom.The movie covers the three critical years of Romero’s life beginning with his appointment as Archbishop. Initially deemed acceptable to the establishment as a conservative, apolitical and moderate, his experience with the government and the  cruel realities of  oppression and exploitation of the poor by the military and its stooge government of the rich, turns him into an open critic of the government. He advocates free elections, freedom of organisation, land reform, and human rights. He reaches out to the poor and stands up to authorities. He notes how the elections are subverted by intimidation and terror. Peaceful citizens are abducted, tortured and shot, girls and women raped and even children are murdered in the crossfire between the left guerrillas and the military. A church is vandalised and turned into a military barrack. He fearlessly opposes this and offers mass even after the gunmen destroyed the altar and the tabernacle. One of his trusted priests is tortured and murdered. Romero writes to the American President to stop arms supplies to El Salvador because these are used against their own people. He is dubbed as a communist by his enemies. But he makes it clear that his stance is that of a man of faith and has no sympathy for Marxism. In his last pubic speech, he makes an open appeal to the military saying “Brothers, each one of you is one of us. We are the same people. The farmers and peasants that you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear the words of a man telling you to kill, think instead in the words of God, ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the Law of God… I implore you! I beg you! I order you, stop the repression!” The next day, while celebrating Mass, Romero was shot dead. Soon afterwards El Salvador plunged into a decade long civil war that cost the lives of over sixty thousand citizens.

 

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MOVIE REVIEWS

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THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998)

Director: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells.

Prince of Egypt is brilliant animation, undoubtedly one of the finest of its genre. Its lively depiction of the events summarised in Exodus (1-14) covers the events from the birth of Moses to the Ten Commandments episode, make it entertaining as well as educative for movie lovers of all ages… Prince of Egypt begins with scenes of Israel’s sufferings under Egyptian oppression praying in song for their deliverance. When little Moses is set afloat in the river by his mother Yocheved, fearing for the life of her first born son under the pharaoh Seti’s orders, he is discovered by the pharaoh’s daughter, who adopts him. He grows up as a brother and bosom friend to Pharoah’s son Rameses. When Seti appoints his son as Regent, he immediately appoints Moses as the Royal Chief Architect. He learns of his past and realises that he is one of the Hebrews. But life changes for Moses when he meets his siblings one night. His sister Miriam even tells him of his future life mission as liberator. It sets him against Pharaoh. He tries to intervene to save an old Hebrew slave from an Egyptian slave master’s cruelty. He is forced to flee when the Egyptian dies accidentally. In the desert he meets Jethro’s daughter Tzpporah and tends his father-in-law’s sheep. He encounters his ancestral God Jehovah in the burning bush and is assigned the task of liberating his people from Egypt. He has to confront the Egyptian sorcerers and Rameses himself to rescue his people and lead them towards the promised land. His meetings with his adopted Brother and now Pharaoh Rameses fails to convince the ruler either about Jehovah or about ending the oppression. The ten plagues only make the Pharaoh more determined to oppress the Hebrews. The rest of the story accurately follows the familiar Bible story. Fictional elements are also added. Humour and good music liven up the various sequences.

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LIFE FOR LIFE: MAXIMILIAN KOLBE (1991)

Director: Krzysztof Zanussi Cast: Edward Zentara, Christoph Waltz, Artur Barcis, Gustaw Lutkiewicz, Krzysztof Zaleski…

Life for Life …presents the life and death of St Maximilian Kolbe, martyred in the notorious Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1941. Kolbe is known to have volunteered to die in place of a fellow prisoner named Karl Gajowniczek when the camp commandant sends ten prisoners to the death chamber following the escape of one prisoner. It unfolds through the experiences of Jan, the Polish insurrectionist escapee from Auschwitz. He comes to believe that it was his escape that prompted Kolbe’s death along with ten others. Kolbe had offered to substitute himself for Gajowniczek, while Jan has made good his escape. He seeks asylum in the Franciscan monastery at Alwernia, where he confesses to the priest. Jan’s conversations with the Friar Anselm lead him to believe that his escape had caused the death of Kolbe. In his desire to avoid the truth, he defiantly asks: “Do you want your own saint?” Brother Anselm retorts, “You think the world doesn’t need saints?” Jan believes that “there are no saints in this world, only egoists,” forgetting that he is safe precisely because of men like Kolbe and Anselm. The beauty of such utter selflessness is lost on him. A series of flashbacks recall the significant aspects of Kolbe’s life through the memories of many persons. One episode recalls his boyhood devotion to Mary. In a vision She offers him two crowns – a white one for purity and a red one for martyrdom. He takes both. Towards the end, the restless Jan watches the TV report of the beatification of Kolbe. He goes down on his knees under the weight of his emotions. The last sequence focuses on Kolbe’s death administered through carbolic acid injection inside the death chamber. Only Kolbe had survived that long after having comforted and prayed for the fellow victims till the end. The film is a deeply reflective recreation of the meaning of martyrdom, self-sacrifice and human freedom.

 

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Movie Reviews

Sep 11

The Confession

Director: John La Raw.  Actors: Jung Young Hoon, Gang Jong Sung, Park Jun Hyoung, Go Eun Gyeol, Kim do Hyoung. 2016. Running time: 19 minutes

This South Korean movie, which won the Best Short Film at the International Catholic Film Festival, focuses on what happens in a confessional. It delivers a thought-provoking and  powerful message. The scene is a confessional in a South Korean Catholic church. The young priest is hearing the confession of a sick, elderly man. The penitent begins to tell of a terrible crime he had committed twenty years before.  He feels that he would be facing death soon and wants to seek forgiveness from the victim’s family and also desires to go to the police. As the details of the story come out, the young priest realises that the penitent is the killer of his own father! He recalls the hit-and-run incident in which, as a little boy, he had witnessed his father run over by a drunken driver. It had been the most traumatic experience of his life.  Completely upset, he asks the man why he had not informed the police or taken the victim to a hospital. The man is shaken up and admits his cowardice in dodging the law and being callous.

The man faints when he realises that his victim had been the confessor’s own father. The priest gets out of the confessional to attend to the man and gets back to the chapel, where he struggles with his own agony, torn between forgiveness and anger.   Tearfully he recites “Our father” on his knees. The face of the tortured Jesus rises before his eyes. The prayer has a new meaning for him now.  He must forgive before God does. Outside the confessional, he goes to the shattered old man and assures him that he has forgiven.  The penitent must forgive himself. The young priest now feels that he must console the old man. He tells him a “white lie” to console him, namely, that his father had actually survived and died only three years back.  In the closing sequence, we see him holding his father’s youthful picture saying that he knows that a priest should not tell a lie. But he hopes that his father’s soul would forgive him since he was acting out of mercy for a guilt-ridden soul.

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Bernadette

Director: Jean Delannoy. Actors: Sydney Penny, Roland Lessafire, Michelle Simonet Bernard Dheran Dalou. 1988. 120 minutes

This award-winning film by the prominent filmmaker Delannoy traces the history of St Bernadette Soubirous who had visions of Our Lady in1858. The story begins in 1857 with the poverty-stricken but happy family of the Soubirous move to the south-western France, in the Pyrenees. Bernadette’s mother works as a washerwoman and her father is a casual labourer. The eldest of five siblings, Bernadette was sick, illiterate and deeply devout. In February 1858, when she was fourteen, while collecting firewood near a grotto called Massabielle in the company of her sisters, Bernadette sees a light inside the cave and the figure of a beautiful young woman. This is the beginning of a series of apparitions and messages.  Bernadette’s mother is alarmed. The church authorities are initially sceptical and think Bernadette is hallucinating. The civil authorities turn their wrath on her. As the news spreads, the government tries to prevent the gathering of the devout. The crowd around Bernadette during the apparitions sees her wonderfully transformed. But only she sees the figure of the lady.  She receives several messages, the chief of which is ‘penance.’ Doctors examine her for normalcy. The police prefect interrogates her and forbids her to visit the grotto. Bernadette never says it is Our Lady,  since the apparition did not reveal her name. Only the poor people in the town believe it to be the Virgin. The local physician comes to her defence clearing her of allegations of insanity. Guards prevent people from collecting the water of the miraculous spring. But when Emperor Luis Napoleon’s infant son is cured of a mortal illness, the ban is lifted. Bernadette, tired of all the public attention, seeks refuge in a convent and later becomes a nun. Ecclesiastical authorities ratify the veracity of her visions and a chapel is built in Lourdes.  The film closes with a report of Bernadette’s death on 16th April 1879 and her canonisation in 1933. Her exhumed body was found uncorrupted and is preserved in Nevers, France.

 

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Video Reviews

AUGUST 14

This month, instead of our usual movie reviews, we present three short YouTube videos on Organ Donation. They are very well made and touch the heart. You are sure to find other videos too on this topic.—Editor

Live to Give

Ranjith is the only son of Leela and Alok Sharma. They are a loving and happy family. Ranjith rides his bike to the college as usual, after he and his mother wave at each other with evident affection. On the way, Ranjith is badly injured in an accident. His heart-broken parents beg the doctors to save the life of their son. The doctor explains to them that he is brain dead, and that nothing more can be done for him. He shows them some young people and a middle-aged man who got a lease of life through organ donation. Though suffering intensely from their personal tragedy, Ranjith’s parents agree to this.

The video touches the heart and appeals to our generous side. It makes us realize how each of us can be a real life-giver, even after our death, if we agree to be organ donors.

(Hindi video. Because of the good acting, the story is clear even to those who do not follow Hindi. Duration: 12 minutes.)

Ek Nayi Shuruvat

This award-winning video starts with a doctor visiting…

 

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MOVIE REVIEWS

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The Day After

Director: Nicholas Meyer. Cast: Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, Georgan Johnson, Steve Guttenberg John Lithgow, Amy Madigan. Runtime:126 minutes. 1983.

First presented as a television movie, by ABC in November 1983, The Day After generated an intense national debate in the US about the dangers posed by nuclear build up during the 1980s. It imagines the break out of a full-scale war between the US led NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. It focuses our attention on the life of ordinary citizens living in the town of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, as well as several family farms situated near the American nuclear missile silos. The characters include: a dedicated doctor, Dr Russell Oakes, who is completely tied up with his tight hospital schedule; Denise Dahlberg eagerly preparing for her wedding to take place soon; Stephen Klein who is looking forward to his college graduation. Their peaceful daily lives are destroyed by the missile attack, the reasons for which are irrelevant to the story. The series of attacks vaporise whole towns, destroy almost all life around and leaves a few survivors to witness the utter waste and horror of the aftermath—the nuclear winter…

 

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MOVIE REVIEWS

JUNE 15

Taare Zameen Par

Director/producer: Aamir Khan; Writer: Amole Gupte; Cast:  Aamir Khan, Darsheel Safary, Sachet Engineer, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma; Run time:165 minutes. 2007.

The film addresses a usually ignored problem in schools. It tells the story of a dyslexic child who faces misunderstanding and ill treatment from parents and teachers on account of his reading disability. His redemption starts when an understanding teacher steps into his life.

The dyslexic Ishaan Awasthi is an otherwise normal schoolboy of eight. His elder brother excels in studies. Ishaan’s teachers and parents fail to identify his problem and treat him as lazy and truant. In school he is the butt of laughter and ill-treatment. His parents shift him to a boarding school in hope of ‘disciplining’ him. But it only makes matters worse. Lonely and homesick in the new school, Ishaan becomes introverted and withdrawn.

Into his troubled world comes the new arts teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh. Nikumbh identifies the little boy’s problem and helps him out of his shell. Ishaan is talented in painting. He has a great feel for nature and animals and is highly imaginative. This becomes his winning point and the arts teacher is able to convince his parents about this. The climax of the movie is when Ishaan comes out winner in a school painting competition. His parents are relieved and overjoyed to see their son in a new light. The movie is a heart-warming experience, enhanced by Shankar Mahadevan’s musical score and some fine graphic animation that evokes the fantasy world of a child.  It is a lesson in empathy for marginalised children, an inspiration for teachers and parents everywhere. As its subtitle says: “Every child is special.”

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Salaam Bombay

Director: Mira Nair. Cast: Shafiq Syed, Hansa Vithal, Chanda Sharma, Raghuvir Yadav, Anita Kanwar, Nana Patekar, Irrfan Khan.  113 minutes, 1983.

The film’s narrative centres on Krishna, a little boy who is sent out of his house by his mother for setting fire to his elder brother’s motorbike. He has to earn Rs 500 to repay his brother for the damages. He works in a circus. One day, when he is on errands, the circus leaves. The little destitute arrives in Mumbai, where street boys rob everything he has. But he soon makes friends with them, especially with Chillum, who finds work for him as a tea-carrier in a red-light district. Chillum is a drug-addict enslaved by Baba, the drug-dealer whose wife is a prostitute.  Baba’s wife is frustrated by the thought of bringing up their only daughter in such situation. But Baba is unwilling to take them elsewhere. Krishna develops a crush on a new girl named Sola Saal at the brothel. He supports her in resisting her initiation into prostitution, and tries to rescue her by setting fire to the house. They are caught.  He is beaten up and fired from his job.  The madam of the house asks Baba to ‘break’ Sola Saal into her ‘work.’ Krishna does all kinds of menial jobs to earn money to support himself and the hopelessly addicted Chillum, including a burglary. Chillum steals Krishna’s money and overdoses himself to death. One night Krishna and Baba’s daughter are taken by the police and put in a juvenile home. The boy escapes to return to the street. Krishna’s hope of eloping with Sola Saal are dashed when she tells him that she is charmed by Baba and does not care about Krishna and moves off to meet her first “client.” The enraged boy kills Baba and tries to run away with Baba’s wife. They get separated in a procession. The movie was developed from the actual experiences of Mumbai street children.  The filming was done entirely on location. It throws light on the conditions of life lived literally in the streets of Indian cities, and the inadequacy and casual cruelty of social institutions meant to help the people living on the edge. We also see the dignity and resilience of people who are treated as “non-persons.”


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