Reporting Directly From The New Zealand International Film Festival!

It must be a horrid thing sitting in the dark through hundreds of thought-provoking films from all over the world just to pass judgment for the benefit of Witchdoctor readers. We gave PAUL ROSE this most demanding of jobs. Here’s his first instalment.

 

In Ritesh Batra’s new film, Photograph, Rafi – a street photographer played by Bollywood star Nawazuzuddin Siddiqui – convinces a middle class student, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), to pose as his fiancée to fool his meddling Grandmother.

Rafi (a Muslim who lives in a shack in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum) takes Milomi’s photograph in front of the iconic Gateway of India, but while he’s printing the shot, Milomi (a middle-class Hindu) has disappeared into the crowd. Later the same day he learns from one of his five roommates that his grandmother, who believes that he is engaged, is making the three-day train trip from her village to visit him in Mumbai to meet the bride to be.

Panic sets in, but the next day the forty-something Rafi recognises the face on a massive billboard advertising an accounting school as the mysterious young woman he had photographed the previous day. He hatches a plan and tracks her down at school. He gives her the photo and convinces her to pose as his girlfriend just long enough to fool his meddlesome, matchmaking grandmother. What ensues is a slow burning romance that is taboo on many levels: there’s at least a 20-year age difference, Rafi’s a Muslim and Milomi a Hindu; one lives in a slum in an overcrowded shack while the other lives in a comfortable house in the suburbs; Rafi has no education while Milomi’s a star pupil. Milomi’s parents want her to marry a nice, wealthy Hindu man and Rafi’s grandmother just wants him married.

The film is a slow-paced romantic comedy that suffers from a predictable plot, but which is rescued by fine performances from an excellent cast. Director Riesh Batra (The Lunchbox) has an obvious love affair with Mumbai and the film is beautifully shot. Photograph is a heart-warming and at times thought provoking film that will please fans of romantic comedy. Rating – 7/10

 

Section 63 of the British 1994 Criminal Justice Act gave Police the power to shut down events featuring music that’s “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

Beats is about the brotherhood between two best friends, Spanner (Lorn MacDonald) and Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and the events in a small Scottish town in the summer of 1994. The lads have been friends since primary school even though they come from either side of the tracks. Spanner comes from a working class broken home and lives with his older brother, a violent drug dealer. Johnno on the other hand lives in a middle class suburb with his mother and his latest step father, who happens to be a policeman.

Johnno’s parents strongly disapprove of Spanner and have bought a new house in a posher part of suburbia hoping that their imminent move will isolate Johnno from Spanner’s influence.

The two lads hear of an illegal rave being promoted by a pirate radio station and decide to go, even though Johnno has been grounded by his stepfather. Spanner pinches some money off his older brother and armed with booze and pills they hook up with some older friends and start to party in an abandoned swimming pool. There’s an out-of-it car ride into the countryside to an abandoned warehouse for an all night rave, followed by a wild night that the boys will never forget.

Welsh has made an astonishing film, which hurtles along at 140 bpm. Filmed mostly in black and white, Beats is a tribute to the rave revolution and friendship. The 10-minute kaleidoscopic climax to the rave is mind-blowing. The soundtrack includes the likes of Leftfield, Orbital, The Prodigy and Joey Beltram. I absolutely loved everything about this film, the script, the cinematography, the soundtrack and especially the performance of the two young stars. This film deserves a wider audience and it should get a decent release after the festival season. If you want to take a cinematic trip full of tears and laughter you must see Beats. Rating – 10/10

UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold was killed in a plane crash in 1961, just minutes before its expected landing at Ndola airport in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). Hammarskjold and his entourage were en route to broker peace in the Congo, where the Katanga region had staged a rebellion, backed by mining interests and European mercenaries, against the newly independent Government in Kinshasa. Hammarskjold was an unpopular Secretary General, as he was an outspoken advocate for African self-determinism, making his views contrary to those of the USA, Russia and the European colonist countries. So what brought the Douglas DC-6 down? Two British investigations pointed to pilot error and a UN investigation in 1962 reached an open verdict.

 

In Cold Case, Hammarskjold, director Mads Brugger and Swedish private investigator, Goran Bjorkdahl, undertake an investigation to determine the cause of the crash. Having grown up in Zambia I was really looking forward to this documentary and I was thoroughly disappointed. Instead of a serious investigation, instead we get two hours of Brugger gratifying his own ego. He, rather than Hammarskjold, becomes the focus as we are taken down a conspiracy wormhole that ultimately goes nowhere. The film took six years to complete, with Brugger interviewing a host of uncooperative suspects and conspiracy theorists.

Most of the second half of the film concentrates on the mysterious clandestine organisation, SAIMR (South African Institute for Marine Research) and its leader Keith Maxwell, who as well as masterminding coups and other violence across Africa, was a racist with an apocalyptic obsession with HIV/Aids. We learn that SAIMR was intending to spread Aids in African countries using a false vaccination program. What has this got to do with the downing of Hammarskjold’s aircraft in 1961? Well, nothing really, and thereby lies the problem with this film.

The UN has been undertaking a new investigation into the crash, which should be completed later this year. If you do have an interest in what happened to Dag Hammarskjold I would wait for its release and not bother seeing this film. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Max Brugger by all means go and see it, he’s on screen for virtually the whole 128 minutes.

A huge disappointment. Rating – 3/10

 

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