Daily Archives: June 4, 2004

Control Room

Jehane Noujaim, an Egyptian-American woman who graduated from Harvard, directed this documentary about the independent Arab news channel Al Jazeera, a network boasting 40 million viewers. Some Westerners seem to regard Al Jazeera as a mouthpiece for Osama bin Ladenin part because it reports Iraqi casualties with the same attention our media give U.S. onesbut Noujaim is fair-minded enough to include sympathetic interviews with a U.S. Army press officer and American journalists as well as many Al Jazeera staffers (one of whom hopes to send his kids to college in the U.S.). Shot during the March 2003 invasion and the early stages of the American occupation, it tells us more about how the channel decides what to report than we probably know about most American newscasts. In English and subtitled Arabic. 84 min. (JR)… Read more »

Underground

Not to be confused with The Weather Underground (2003), this is Emile de Antonio’s 1976 documentary about the radical antiwar group the Weather Underground, made with cinematographer Haskell Wexler and editor Mary Lampson. Back then Billy Ayers, Kathy Boudin, Bernardine Dohrn, Jeff Jones, and Cathy Wilkerson were still on the run and had to appear partly incognito. It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but at the time I found it provocative as well as informative. 88 min. (JR)… Read more »

Jihad!

A young Palestinian immigrant in New York divides his time among his painting, his job at a pet shop, and his affair with a married woman, but his comfortable life is complicated by a visit from his cousin, an angry radical. Directed by Muhammad Rum, this ambitious DV feature oscillates between dreams and reality while addressing its cultural issues in a talky and somewhat didactic fashion. But the difficulty of the dramaturgy is counterbalanced by Rum’s compelling use of music and the lively and effective ‘Scope camerawork by producer Nara Garber. In English and subtitled Arabic. 110 min. (JR)… Read more »

Arna’s Children

Heartbreakingly compassionate, this 2003 Israeli documentary by Danniel Danniel and Juliano Mer Khamis starkly juxtaposes a Jewish woman’s founding of a theater workshop for Palestinian refugee kids in 1989 and her actor son’s quest to discover what happened to these kids over a decade later and why. In contrast to the clueless media cliches about suicide bombers, this offers a comprehensive and comprehending portrait of what helps to produce them. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 84 min. (JR)… Read more »

Alila

Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai (who speaks the credits over the opening footage) loosely adapts Yehoshua Knaz’s novel Returning Lost Loves into a mosaic of about 40 scenes, each an extended take photographed by the masterful Renata Berta. This 2003 drama follows the messy lives of a few characters in a Tel Aviv apartment complex, and Gitai deserves credit for emphasizing the illegal immigrants, because the multiculturalism of the Middle East tends to be overlooked. More generally, the movie is notable for the authentic unpleasantness of its milieu; at one point an 18-year-old army deserter tells his father, Fuck this country!, which may be the closest we get to an epiphany. In Hebrew with subtitles. 123 min. (JR)… Read more »

Our Man Flint

Among the many parodic James Bond spin-offs that sprouted like mushrooms in the 60s was this jaunty item (1966) featuring James Coburn as the man from Z.O.W.I.E., filmed in ‘Scope and directed impersonally by Daniel Mann; it eventually spawned two sequels, one of them made for TV. With Gila Golan, Lee J. Cobb, and lots of gadgets. 107 min. (JR)… Read more »

Popcorn Punditry [THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW]

From the Chicago Reader (June 4, 2004). — J.R.

The Day After Tomorrow

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Written by Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff

With Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Dash Mihok, Kenneth Welsh, Jay O. Sanders, Austin Nichols, and Perry King.

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Roland Emmerich’s latest summer blockbuster is an exceptionally stupid movie. Of course the consensus is that summer blockbusters, even ones that come out in the spring, are supposed to be stupid. But occasionally a summer blockbuster is also expected to offer some food for thought. The Day After Tomorrow, the latest big-budget SF disaster flick, broaches — or stumbles over — the issue of global warming, or what I prefer to call Bush weather, a topic that’s surely worthy of some reflection.

Al Gore declared that this movie was at least an honest fiction about global warming — unlike the fictions about the subject emanating from the White House. Using a stupid movie to call attention to a serious problem put him in a less-than-dignified position, but if he hadn’t tied his arguments to a stupid movie the news media might well have ignored him.

When JFK came out in 1991, all of a sudden, decades after the event, the New York Times and other papers decided the assassination of John F.… Read more »

Ford Transit

This innovative 2002 feature by Hany Abu-Assad (Rana’s Wedding), a unique mix of documentary and fiction, follows a minibus driver transporting diverse cargoes of passengers in Ramallah and Jerusalem. Sometimes the film interviews Palestinian and Israeli artist/intellectual passengers about the ongoing conflicts and sometimes it constructs mininarratives about the bus’s progress and adventures between various checkpoints. Almost everything we hear sounds intelligent and reasonable, and the presentation, which resembles at times a variety show, keeps the proceedings absorbing and unpredictable throughout. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 80 min. To be projected from DigiBeta video. Also on the program: Dominique Dubosc’s The Illness Called Hope (37 min.), a quirky, attractively shot Palestinian travel diary. In French, Arabic, and Hebrew with subtitles. Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »