You Must Watch…..”WELCOME” – A Film About both Hope and Desperation

“WELCOME” is an award winning French film dealing with the tough issues of refugees and migration in the Northern port city of Calais, France. “Welcome” presents the lives of desperate people in seemingly desperate circumstances.

The film, directed by Philippe Lioret focuses on Bilal (Firat Ayverdi), a young Kurd, who, having failed to cross the Channel hidden in a lorry is now desperate to get into the UK at any cost, no matter how bad the risk. Such is his need that he asks a local swimming instructor Simon (Vincent Lindon) to train him to swim across the daunting channel. A feat very few people have achieved unaided.

There are few things which cause men to do certain actions. What is Bilal’s motivation? Aside from his dream of a better life, his is, of course,  love. His girlfriend lives in London and he longs to be with her.

Simon is both world-weary and in the midst of divorce. Initially reluctant to help, a longing for his ex-wife (a refugee volunteer) and the injustice he sees stirs him into action. In the face of huge risks, he befriends, trains and mentors Bilal and a sense of empathy grows between the two. The have an uneasy yet close relationship and Simon sees such great naïvety in Bilal but respects him for his dreams of a better life and the drive he has to fulfil it.

Bilal has already travelled 4000km almost on foot and endured torture to get to Calais. He is ready to risk his life to overcome the final hurdle, the vast emptiness of the channel.

“WELCOME” has been a smash hit in France and is now slowly gaining greater popularity around the world on the film festival circuit. Some members of the French government have criticised the film for how it shows the authorities in a bad light. Others have praised the piece for its realism and sense of empathy. Like any thought-provoking film, the piece has polarised opinions.

The characters and their sense of desperation are well portrayed. Often seen as mere faceless and nameless numbers, the refugees in the film, are fleshed out and their humanity is for all to see. As the film progresses, you gain a greater sense of empathy with their plight and their simple dreams which sadly, for the majority, will not be achieved.

Does Bilal make it across the channel? Regardless of the result, the film and the characters will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.

You Must Watch…..Babel – A Truly Global Film

“Babel” is one of the truly most “international” films ever-made and tells of a truly multi-layered and complex story set across several continents and cultures. Babel was directed by auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu with a global cast from all around the world including Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (Morocco story), Gael Garcia Bernal and Adriana Barraza (US/ Mexico Story) and Rinko Kikochi (Japan Story).

All the interweaving stories are linked by one incident early in the film which sets off repercussions all around the world. Babel presents that we are all interlinked in life; beyond race, religion and culture, a common humanity lies in all of us.

End of Babel – Photo: Youtube

All the characters in the stories are struggling to deal with issues; there are, of course, misunderstandings yet as the story switches from one side of the earth to the other, viewers can see their struggles are ultimately the same and ones which everyone can emphasize with. The soundtrack for the film is simply enchanting and very melancholy.  Endless Flight by Gustavo Santaolalla closes the film nicely………..

Endless Flight by Gustavo Santaolalla

Furthermore, Babel is seemingly named after the story from the bible about the Tower of Babel whereby the people of earth in their attempts to literally build a tower to reach heaven and god are punished; their common language is now no more and they literally cannot communicate and go their separate ways around earth yet remaining quintessentially the same as humans; imperfect and flawed.

The ending of the film is very beautifully placed together. In the end, all the different stories from around the world draw to a close; are the conclusions perfect? No, but there is a sense of positivity which lingers in all.

“THE LUNCH BOX” – A FILM ABOUT FOOD AND ROMANCE WITH IRRFAN KHAN

Sometimes, people who are destined to be with each other, sadly actually never have the chance to be with together. This is the premise of the hit Indian film, the Lunch Box, starring Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) and Ila (Nimrat Kaur) whose paths never cross in the film though slowly fall in love with each other through the food that IIa ‘delivers’ to her ‘cheating’ husband though due to a mistake is delivered to Saajan, a mild-mannered and lonely widower who is fully devoted to his job. 

The film cleverly merges the fascinating “Dabbawalas” system of food delivery in which millions of lunches are delivered straight from a persons home to their loved one at their office and then back again after the meal is completed. The system is incredible and has been featured in many different documentaries and even studied by Harvard. 

The beauty of the film lies in the fact that, the two never actually meet, and simply fall in love via the wonderfully prepared meals that IIa creates and the eventual correspondence that the two have via the discreet letters which are sent back and forth in the both full and empty containers. It is the power of ‘food’ and the written word which draws them together despite being from a different social class and world. 

The film is show beautifully and offers an insight into every day life amongst the urban sprawl and how, in a city of millions, two people who still somehow ‘find’ each other. 

This is a simple and whole-hearted romantic film which harks back to the old style love stories in which the theme is just two strangers falling in love though destiny is not always meant to be. 

Highly recommended! 

You Must Watch…..The Goddess of 1967

The independent gem, “The Goddess of 1967” was written by Clara Law and Eddie Fong and directed by Clara Law. It is a ‘Road’ movie like no other and viewers will be instantly drawn to the characters who are both damaged and hopeful.

Quintessentially a dramatic road film set in the isolated and haunting backdrop of the Australian outback. The story follows a Japanese businessman trying to find meaning and focus in his life. He is also completely obsessed with Citroën DS (French car brand nicknamed Goddess). He travels to Australia for the car and encounters a young disabled girl (Rose Byrne – years before she made it huge in Hollywood) and as both are outsiders, they bond and develop a relationship as they travel across Australia. Both do not fit into mainstream society and both are seeking for greater meaning in their lives. It is a whimsical film and is beautiful in terms of the scenery and lead roles acting.

Unfortunately, the film was somewhat shamelessly ripped off by the film “Japanese Story” with Toni Collette.

The ‘Goddess of 1967’ is a magical film which is well worth trying to find to view.

‘PENINSULA’ – The Sequel to “Train to Busan”, South Korea’s Runaway Hit Film

After years of anticipation and riding on the wave of success for South Korean cinema, the highly anticipated film, “Peninsula” has released it’s latest trailer. The timing of the trailer, for better or for worse, is during a time of global struggle due to a deadly virus.

The film is supposedly set four years after the original film ends and focuses on a new set of survivors who are trapped in a nightmare world where most of the population has been transformed into out of control lethal zombies.

‘Train to Busan’

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TRAIN TO BUSAN POSTER

The smash hit South Korean film, “Train to Busan”, delved deep into the dark recesses of the human psyche and how humans react to near death experiences and how everyone can be perceived to be a ‘good’ person until they are faced with a life or death situation though some people do rise to the challenge and show themselves to be brave and empathetic.

“Train to Busan” also played on how people may not always give the correct first impression and how appearances can be deceiving.The ‘Train’ and the film itself capture the failings and upside of humanity in a few hours. It seems the ‘train’ itself and the people trapped on it are a metaphor for society; the train hurtling towards disaster though people will still try and help those less fortunate than themselves out.

‘Seoul Station’ – Cartoon Prequel

Seoul Station

To round off what is now a ‘trilogy’ is, ‘Seoul Station’ the cartoon film prequel to ‘Train to Busan’. The animated film shows the lead up to the breakdown of society and the chaos unleashed as the world is overwhelmed by zombies.

The three films paint a world as a grim and chaotic place where hope still prevails….

You Must Watch……The Outlaw King

For those who love history, you may want to watch “The Outlaw King”, which serves to be an unofficial follow up to ‘Braveheart’ which starred Mel Gibson. The aforementioned film, ‘The Outlaw King’ follows the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) as the real life character initially wrestles with his morality and conscience, after again, pleading his loyalty to both King Edward 1 and England after the bloody demise of William Wallace.

Official Trailer

As the film progresses, Robert the Bruce, realises that the Scottish people are still feeling persecuted by the English and their rule. He decides to again rally the fractured Scottish clans into a fighting unit, though this of course, is not easy as internal rivalries still persist. The story sees Robert the Bruce initially suffering many setbacks and disappointments through betrayal and defeats in battle.

The story slowly turns as Robert the Bruce rallies a stronger fighting force especially as King Edward I forces begin to plunder and kill those who are deemed not loyal. The characters of both Edward 1 and Edward II are seen to be ruthless and cunning and eager to destroy the uprising at all costs. The film ends with the battle of Loudoun Hill which is an incredible set piece which is both gory and realistic. The film could continue on much longer though the story ends there and offers a glimpse into what could have been an epic mini series or a much longer extended story. The film decides to offer a short but concise view into the desperate early stages of the campaign when the clans were divided and needed one person to attempt to unite them.

‘The Outlaw King’ is entertaining with beautiful cinematography and though was not universally popular with critics and had much wider scope for the film to explore, it is still a must watch!

FIFA – RUSSIA 2018 WORLD CUP FILM – FREE FOR ALL

FIFA have a history of working in collaboration with documentary makers to produce their ‘Official’ films and have recently released their Russia 2018 film for ‘free’ online on YouTube for everyone to view. The 2018 tournament was a incredible action packed spectacle and with so many people missing out on ‘live’ sport, it is a great way to remember the drama on and off the pitch. The film is narrated by the famed actor and thespian, Damien Lewis.

Queen Of Katwe: A Story of Hope and Chess….

The “Queen Of Katwe” is the inspiring true story about finding hope in the most unlikely of places. The story is set in a shantytown in Uganda and focuses on the main character, 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), who lives in harsh conditions with her mother, Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o) and younger members of her family. Life is a struggle and there seems to be little to no upward mobility to attain a better life. 

Phiona life changes when she stumbles upon the chess school run by the kind-hearted, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), who hopes to give the children under his guidance the confidence and skills to improve their current status. For Robert, life is a game of chess and is a metaphor for life and, to him, major life decisions can be made quickly or with strategic grace and thinking. 

Under the guidance of Robert and her fellow chess players, Phiona realizes that she is a natural at the sport and she not only becomes the best player in her club but eventually her region and then the country.

This little gem of a Disney film is both realistic in its portrayal of everyday life yet throughout the film offers hope and the constant promise of a better future for its characters. The film does not shy away from the pressures of everyday life and the desperate situation some people are in and the normal teenage emotional rollercoaster young people go through.

Well worth watching!  

Cobra Kai – 80s’s Nostalgia Blasts Back onto the Screen with the ‘Karate Kid’ TV Update

Some films are best left to their own devices and left to the passage of history and sometimes, the story should continue even in the form of a online TV show. Against the odds, some of the shows are incredibly well done and deserve greater recognition.

This is the premise of “Cobra Kai”, which is the series, which takes the original ‘Karate Kid’ film’s two main rivals, Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and re-introduces them in the present day and adds in a whole new bunch of characters and throws a few surprise twists which, in turn, will make you re-examine the original film.

The series is set over three decades with the two having taken a totally different path in life with LaRusso now a financially successful car dealer while Lawrence is down and out on his luck in all areas of his life.

The story does not play out as one would expect and the script delves deeper into each of LaRusso and Lawrence’s characters as both struggle with their own demons. A series of coincidences mean that they are again drawn into each other’s lives. Each of them becomes a mentor to several youngsters and of course, this leads to an eventual show down.

The late Pat Morita

The notable absentees, who were in the first films, are the late Pat Morita, who gained an oscar nomination for his role as Mr. Miyagi and Elizabeth Shue yet the show retains the sense of innocence and wonder of the original film.

The stars reflect on the late Pat Morita

“Cobra Kai” would not work on most levels though it does and it has great spirit and soul and draws in the viewers into the newly updated world of the “Karate Kid”. It is perfect for those who grew up in the eighties and wish to take a journey back on memory lane.