JvH48

IMDb member since October 2010
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Reviews

Searching Eva
(2019)

Reveals I am on the grey-haired side of a generation gap. Neither the many positive reviews nor the movie itself convinced me of any wrongdoing. So agree to disagree??
Saw this at IDFA 2019, the documentary filmfestival in Amsterdam. I cannot say anything positive or negative about this movie, as I have no idea what it was all about, and why we should be interested in lead protagonist Eva. Her decision to open up her life for anyone who wants to know, may be groundbreaking but it does not bring anything useful. It is not thought provoking either. She may be the "living proof" (quote from IDFA synopsis) of something, but I don't get it.

Possibly I got stuck on the grey-haired side of a generation gap, siding with people who detest all modernist phenomena. Still confused and uncertain, I randomly sampled 5 out of 11 critics reviews listed on IMDB, all proving to be overly positive. Nevertheless, their arguments did not change my position. Time to agree to disagree?? There is technically nothing wrong with the documentary, it may be enlightening for people who wants to know that this is all about, and I sat it out without a problem, hence the 5 (out of 10) score.

We Are The Robots (WT)
(2019)

If this film wanted to show that we have a long way to go as far as AI is concerned, it is a great success. Caution versus optimism about possibilities
Saw this at IDFA 2019, the documentary filmfestival in Amsterdam. If this film wanted to show that we still have a long way to go as far as AI is concerned, it is a great success. To understand human behavior and particularly our language, remains still a problem. We have surmounted a lot of issues in that area in the last 30 to 40 years, but we see here very clearly that proficiently handling dialogs is far away. In the beginning we see a clear misunderstanding about a common word: verb "to like" versus comparison "looks like".

Another striking example is that the robots have apparently learned a lot of standard opening lines. We see these used sometimes at the wrong place at the wrong time. Like Check's companion saying that Chuck seems to be good in bed, a sentence as misplaced as can be.

Also, the dialogs with the elderly women are evenso lacking a real mutual understanding. Maybe, when the respective "couples" get used to each other after some time, and continuously learn from each other, it can well become more productive that what we saw now. The couples are not really used to each other yet, their relationships are relatively fresh.

There was a good example of ethical problems, like curing cancer. A robot could propose to try 1000 cures on 1000 people, and then decide what was the best remedy, this in the context of what is good for mankind as a whole (what do 1000 failures mean when all people in the world will benefit). However, it is not the strategy we prefer, having it in our own (human) way. It abundantly emphasizes that we must choose a good assignment with the proper "fine print" conditions, to let an AI go its own way and proceed on its own devices. And, of course, there are legal issues, nowadays prominent when self-driving cars are concerned, but that is not the only area where such things are relevant.

All in all, several relevant topics are covered in a way digestible to viewers not primarily interested in SciFi. It gives food for thought by showing that overly optimistic news reports cannot be trusted blindly. It won't reverse people who already think that we can solve everything just by letting capable technicians work on it.

7 raons per fugir
(2019)

7 Short stories assembled into 75-minutes feature, each hilarious and unpredictable. Filmcrew and actors are common. Nothing else binds stories together
Saw this at the Brussel International Fantastic Film Festival 2019 (BIFFF for intimates). 7 Hilarious stories, some 10 minutes each, told one after another. In other words, we see 7 shorts assembled into one feature length movie. Writers, directors and actors are more or less common to the 7 stories, and the whole footage is shot in a handful of weeks, at a moment when all involved actors were available full time. (info from the Q&A after the screening).

Each of the stories gives us something to ponder about, either by turning things around in an unusual but interesting way, or to include some social commentary in an unexpected way. Lots of good ideas are included. I am not sure there is a morale, or one or more packaged messages as takeaways. I saw no final wrapup to tie all story lines together, so I stay with my statement about 7 shorts shown after another.

Divino Amor
(2019)

Futuristic view on religion in Brazil. No SciFi involved, rather social commentary on the present
Saw this at the Ghent filmfestival 2019. It is not easy for any filmmaker to create a futuristic 2027-world that visibly differs from ours, being believable yet not technically challenged. Luckily, this movie did not overreach in any respect, as cars, houses, appliances and so on looked the same as nowadays. No future vision in the traditional SciFi-sense was demonstrated, and I don't blame the film makers for (dis)missing the opportunity. Alternatively, they focused on two societal changes, viz. A growing influence of evangelicals on daily life, and the external visibility of women being pregnant by means of appliances reporting it while e.g. Shopping.

The only thing noticeably novel, also very original, was a drive-thru confession facility (very unlike the fixed ritual like in Roman Catholic churches when I was young, but rather a good conversation when in doubt about your belief). Our main protagonist uses this facility very often. Her usual complaint is that she has done so much to support the basic principles of her religious belief, by hindering people to get divorced, that she finally wants a deserved "sign" from above to confirm she has done well.

What definitely changed in the years between nowadays and 2027, as per this movie, was that the separation between church and state seemed less apparent anymore, at least not as clear cut as it is for us. The neutrality of the civil servant in the person of our main protagonist, may or may not be an exception, but I would not be surprised when the filmmakers referred to a growing fundamentalism in Brazil, given recent developments in that region. I cannot imagine this to be pure coincidence (in other words: social commentary included). The sect with the express objective to support couples wanting to forward their matrimony towards its ultimate goal by helping them to become pregnant, showed some unusual rituals to accomplish that. Only couples were allowed, which becomes overly clear near the end when our female main protagonist cannot even enter to have an urgent dialog with the mistress, flatly being refused at the door.

The story went in a different direction than I had assumed (and hoped for). Given that she checked the DNA of her baby with those of the men in the sect, she was sure that the father would not be someone out of that circle, and neither her own husband. (Note: She was in the unique position to have DNA info on all men in the sect out of her job as registrar, where every applicant had to provide DNA.) Having eagerly waited for a "sign" as thanks for her efforts (see above), she made a bold assumption being touched by God. Hence, she deduced the Second Coming was imminent, herself being the chosen one to carry the Messiah. The pastor was not prepared to accept that, reported her to higher authorities, after which he was not allowed to speak with her any further. I'n not very sure what the next step of the church would have been (the movie does not enlighten us), as the Second Coming is something not all religions think equally.

Gullregn
(2020)

More interesting than average synopsis suggests. Surpassing racial and immigration issues, by portraying complex family relations and swindling social services as a bonus
Saw this during the Movies That Matter 2021 filmfestival, normally in The Hague but now 100% online. In the first hour I had the wrong impression that the migration/racial issues where the main ingredients of this movie, things we have seen in plenty of documentaries. Luckily, it becomes more complex and also more interesting when other sides of Indiana's life are revealed. She, for example, has swindled social services for many years already, which counters her disdain for migrants who work to earn their own salary, like her maybe-daughter-in-law does. This makes this movie surpassing the usual race/national supremacy theme, also making us curious while watching how these story lines can come together in the end.

I wanted to write much more about this movie, but it is easier for me to refer to an already existing review in MovieMovesMe(dot)com, under the title "TIFF 2020: The Garden", written by Ulkar Alakbarova. I fully agree with that review and cannot add anything useful.

Oeconomia
(2020)

Informative movie about things I thought I understood, confronting me with the harsh conclusion that I never really did. Ominous fact is that experts in the movie do neither
Saw this at the Berlinale 2020 filmfestival. Very informative documentary about things I thought I understood, finding myself confronted with the clear conclusion that I never really did. Don't be embarrassed when you feel the same after watching this. You are no different from the various experts who were interviewed, some even were left baffled on the filmmaker's questions, not knowing how to answer, though speaking eloquently and not visibly hindered by legal counsel or communication departments.

I saw only one who was evasive, along the line of "your sort of people", apparently assuming that all journalists are left-wing by definition and thus think negatively about free economics in general and banking in particular. Of course, some companies did not want to be interviewed at all and declined to answer her questions sent to them in advance. Another tactic was to cut down the allotted time for the interview to a harmless half hour (two hours were requested initially).

The documentary opens with very well visualized illustrations showing how a loan contract appears in the books of the bank: it starts as two separate entities from the outset, one of these giving out the wanted money to pay the house, and the other one assuming that it will be paid back in time. Both contracts add as extra lines to the balance sheet on opposite sides (so in a way "cancelling out" each other). After having digested this, it becomes abundantly clear how bad loans can corrupt the balance sheet and thus the financial position of the bank, especially when they start to appear in large numbers, a sort of rotting process, eventually adding up to a mere disaster.

Car manufactory BMW's Finanzvorstand (CFO) opened up an extra viewpoint, when saying that half of their cars sold are being financed by them, adding a second profit line, next to their core business of marketing, producing and selling cars. This makes them partly a bank and partly a manufacturer, blurring the separation line between these two economic factors, one creating money (like a bank) and one using it (like us).

All in all, very informative while educating us on things we thought we understood more or less but never really did. It is a bit ominous that the many experts who were interviewed, were no better in their understanding of the mechanisms involved.

Wir
(2020)

Social commentary in triplicate. Iranians in Germany from various angles, of which a gay relationship is just one
Saw this during the Movies That Matter 2021 filmfestival, normally in The Hague but now 100% online. I have many problems to find a position in this drama, which is a positive conclusion, all things considered. There are no bad guys/girls, and no one behaves badly or opportunistically at the expense of someone else. We see the differences in language and culture we expected, but it is not the core of the plot. The story moves forward under the impending doom of what awaits those seeking asylum in a country that is not very eager to accept new immigrants. We also see lots of other topics pass by, like a proposal for a marriage of convenience as a legal way to stay in Germany. We see parents with the best of intentions working day and night to prepare a bright future for their son, who however does not seem to fully appreciate all their efforts. We see the same parents deliberating to stay in Germany or to return to Iran where their heart still is. And so on. The social context makes this movie the must-see it certainly is.

Apart from all that, there is the gay relationship that tends to dominate the story line. If gets much attention in the proceedings and takes a considerable part of the running time. This is logical and pertinent to the story, as most bystanders frown on it, Germans as well as Iranians, and the two men make weak attempts (not with great success) to conceal it. We see lots of action in bed, but without frontal nudity and without genitals in sight, which is a good thing as most viewers abhor gay sex and would consider it a reason to avoid this movie. The latter would be a pity, as there is much more to it than bed scenes.

If that gay relationship had been the single plot line, the movie would not have been half as interesting. There are ample side topics to make watching it worthwhile. I regret that many announcements for this movie emphasize the gay relationship too much, thereby risking to mislead potential viewers and letting them avoid it. Do not give in to this negative reaction, and you get social commentary in triplicate.

Ich-chi
(2020)

Mixture of bad things inherited from the past versus contemporary family differences. I missed some clues due to unfamiliarity with local mythologie, plus overly dark images
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. Main ingredients: Ancient issues carried over from the past "the land never forgets", tradition/landlife vs modern/western/city, blatant lies, superstition "crow in the house!", and differences between grown-apart brothers. It all comes together in this movie and worked out much better than I had assumed after reading the synopsis on the festival website.

Dreadful events in the past reach out to the present. We get several hints that things in the ground are relevant, for example the plough that got stuck and halted the tractor. This is later elaborated on when we are told that possessed people were beheaded to release their possessed souls, and their skulls were buried deep to lock the evil spirits in the ground.

A pity that it was difficult sometimes to follow what was going on, due to the inherent darkness of the images. In the last quarter there are some switches back&forth to a past where witchcraft was believed in, showing events wherein Aisen seems to actively participate, but details went over my head or drowned in the darkness on screen. The only thing clear to me is that a skull he undigged in an earlier scene, is particularly pertinent to everything happening. The final 5 minutes are lost on me, while we watch a police team investigating the house after (it seems) all their inhabitants were reported missing, and where Aisen wanders round yet unnoticed by the detectives. Then the credits start rolling, with a song in the background with ominous sentences like "Let no one know of our strength. Let our secrets be kept forever", and much more along that line. Finally, a horseman appears, no face visible, saying nothing, only fading away in the background. Then the remainder of the credits appear.

I'm not sure the last half hour delivered on the promises laid out by what happened before. What did I miss because of the dark images and/or lack of knowledge about local folklore?? Nevertheless, the mixture of past and present is presented very well, very appropriate in the rural environment of the story.

No matarás
(2020)

Unexpected turns of events and many surprises along the way. Well made and perfect one-off entertainment. Anti-hero in a lead role carries the full story
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. Many unexpected turns of events and even so many suprises while the story progresses. Well made. Anti-hero Dani as main protagonist succeeds in carrying the complete story. Believable or not, in desperation and sheer panic anyone can rise above himself, precisely what we see Dani doing.

A heart-warming start in the first quarter. Not all families are connected so well, most fight over the inheritance and boast how well they cared for the deceased while calling the other lazy and indifferent. None of that is the case here.

The second quarter could be an average love story. Nothing spectacular, other than that we know there is much more to follow to fill the allotted running time. It all becomes different and surpasses average romantic affairs when Mila's boy friend Ray appears.

In the third quarter, all cosiness is gone. Ray is violent by design. Especially when Dani finds a wheat farm in the apartment, killing Dani is the first thing on Ray's agenda. Revealing his secret business adds to having messed with his girl friend. Dani would have been strangled when he had not grasped a pair of scissors and killed Ray. Mila is devastated and jumps out of the window from the 5th floor, landing on a car roof below.

A tense fourth quarter shows Dani cleaning the apartment, removing all traces that might point to him, and subsequently leaving the building despite being surrounded by police cars. He succeeds, not bad for him with no criminal experience. It becomes even more tense when Dani remembers the selfie taken in the tatoo shop, hanging on the wall there. After he breaks in successfully, he finds himself trapped in an extremely dangerous situation.

I can go on, with still more surprises on the way, but I leave it here for spoilers' sake. The above gives a good impression that fast-paced developments will continue, gaining more traction and speed when the story progresses. It also includes a moral dilemma about getting rid of an unwelcome witness, who might reveal things that Dani does not want known. All in all, a perfect thriller leaving no desires for improvement. Serves its purpose very well as one-off entertainment.

Me and Me
(2020)

One of the alternative titles of this movie "Lost time" describes exactly what I felt after the screening
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. As one fellow reviewer wrote: watching this is indeed "lost time" (one of the alternative film titles). I cannot explain how everyone can be so positive about this movie, with the exception of two fellow reviewers and me.

It is not a real detective, no whodunit in the traditional sense. Nothing is revealed in the end and we are left as confused as we were before the finale. I sat it out while waiting for a rational explanation, how the former cop maintains his looks and his own memories, though everyone sees the teacher in him, and he is treated accordingly. Intriguing, as it is exactly that same teacher whose death he was investigating. When the credits appeared, I was puzzled, but not in the positive and healthy sense after the usual detective story.

Historia de lo Oculto
(2020)

Maybe interesting for Argentians knowing about the junta-times in the 1980-ies. An unprepared European viewer, like me, has lots of trouble to sit it out
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. Could not make heads or tails of it. I sat it out but had to force myself while attempting to follow what happened. For us Europeans there is not enough material to make a connection. An introduction of the parties involved, and especially the role of the journalists trying to phone-in with extra material, would be in order. I soon got lost what exactly the issues were. I kept watching in eager anticipation of a finale, hopefully revealing all secrets and intrigues, but it did not happen.

During the Q&A after the screening I thought I heard that the complete history around the TV-show was made up, and not related to reality. Freely translated: a vehicle to keep the story in motion. That was the moment I stopped the Q&A, lost my leniency to follow it, and switched to writing this commentary. I may have missed something important when the protagonists were introduced, however.

The black&white is another annoyance. It may intended only to suggest we are back in the 80-ies (color-TV existed more than 15 years before that time). It did not work for me and it is redundant anyway (whoever wants The Ten Commandments and/or Ben Hur shot in black&white to remind the viewer that this happened in the past??).

Coming Home in the Dark
(2021)

Intriguing plot and even more intriguing developments about accountability, guilt and maybe revenge. Secrets come out during a long car ride
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. What can possibly happen to a family that is more dreadful than what we saw in A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick 1971) or Funny Games (Haneke 2017)?? This movie seems to follow a similar path, at first sight, but there are important differences. The killing of the two kids at an early stage, allows this movie a headstart in dreadfulness. It also leaves no doubts from the outset about the drastic intentions of the armed drifters who take the couple on a long car ride to an uncertain destination. Anything can happen underway or at the endpoint.

After half an hour, the resemblance with the two movies from 1971 and 2017 disappears. We learn that the two perpretators have some axes to grind, dating back some 20 years. They are not harassing them as random targets. It makes a great difference, so aforementioned two movies are no candidates for comparison. Yet, the resemblance popped up immediately in my mind when reading the synopsis, though proving to be a red herring as the story progresses.

For spoiler's sake, I cannot reveal much of what happens next. It's all about accountability, guilt, maybe revenge. Memories are refreshed during a long ride to the place where it all happened. One of the stories even drives the two parents apart (how could you allow that). Exactly what it all entails, is revealed bit by bit. It is no spoiler when writing here that there are no winners nor losers, just victims.

The Q&A with director James Ashcroft after the screening was very informative. Firstly, the theme originates from documentaries the director has contributed to, about institutions who were responsible for educating younger people, without taking the proper care to protect these juveniles. Even the difference (is there any?) between acting badly versus not interfering when something bad happened, is explored. Secondly, there is no real lead role. All interactions are relevant and become more and more important while the story progresses. Thirdly, an interesting detail about casting is that Erik (Hoaggie) is well-known in his country from TV, where he plays roles of friendly characters. He was nevertheless prepared to take this role.

Fried Barry
(2020)

Alien in human form learning along the way, stumbling thru matters of life/death/sex/language. No SciFi, except a tiny bit in final scene
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. The plot seems simplistic. As a thought experiment, think of yourself immersed in city night life without understanding any of it, yet randomly picking up facts-of-life along the way, testing it on people you meet.

In the first half, too many of the scenes involve sex, be it m/m of m/f. That changed in the second half, paying more attention to other matters of life&death. As in passing we see some unworldly powers, like healing a man with a heart attack, or switching TV channels by blinking. "Barry" (mind the quote) learns sentences he hears, without knowing their purpose nor the appropriate context. Everyone he meets treats him as a normal human being, and only we viewers know it is not true.

The basic idea is very interesting, but it wears out along the running time, merely turning into a running gag. Nevertheless, we must admire the variety of situations we get to watch, each very different from the previous. And finally, a SciFi-ish wrapup, very unexpectedly.

Blood Conscious
(2021)

Full-fledged horror despite tiny budget, limited cast and small-scale location. Kept us interested throughout full running time
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. We saw demonstrated that it IS indeed possible with a tiny budget, a limited cast, and a small-scale location, to create a full-fledged Horror movie that kept us interested throughout the full running time. Lots of developments, turns of events and (counter)accusations. Tension is maintained as we are continuously in doubt who is who with a possibly hidden agenda, and who is telling the truth. Even about the dead we are unsure they are really really dead and won't pop up later.

Its initial appearances of a traditional slasher movie may mislead you. It made a commendable effort to move away from the known clichés. There is a role mixture, where killings are not confined to one single protagonist.

I was not that much focused on racial issues, but maybe I'm not "woke" enough to see it, even after various recent (anno 2021) events. The Q&A after the screening clarified this topic very well. One may see similarities with the famous Get Out (Jordan Peele 2017) but there are major differences, so no imitation attempt. Moreover, this movie was completed before Get Out was released.

In the Shadows
(2020)

Filmmakers went at great length creating a dystopian mining operation, with covertly controlled workers. Many mysteries about operations and its purpose
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival 2021, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. Filmmakers went at great length to create a dystopian world full of mysteries, e.g. The technician speaking semi-understandable sentences full of hidden meaning. It was apparently a mining operation but without any visible purpose other than the daily routine and keeping the machines working. Compliant behaviour was not enforced by an external power, yet deviant actions were distrusted as harmful for the group. In other words, a form of self-control without any help from outside.

I had expected much more from the finale, but it did not solve anything and revealed nothing about what was behind all this. There was no Q&A to enlighten us.

Colombia in My Arms
(2020)

Unprepared viewers need patience to wade through the talking heads in the first 45 minutes, before understanding the political failures shown and what the message is
Saw this at the Movies That Matter 2021 documentary festival, normally running in The Hague but now 100% online. An unprepared viewer needs lots of patience to wade through the talking heads of the first 45 minutes, before it becomes clear what is going wrong and what the message of this movie is. One should watch this documentary twice to get its intentions.

That first half is a commendable attempt to show many sides, but it seems to lead nowhere. We see and hear just talking, without a compelling narrative to bind it all together. A pity. Context is needed to follow this documentary and maintain interest in its cause and its message. Viewers like me, from other parts of the world, are not familiar with Columbia and its history hence fail to connect the dots.

The pseudo-philosophical 15-minutes finale about machism does not help in appreciating this documentary.

Av: The Hunt
(2020)

Tense chase throughout running time without weak moments. Still more relevant is the social commentary
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. Indeed, a tense chase throughout the running time with no weak moments. However, we saw such chases in many other movies. The sole purpose of this one is to show the lowly position of women in that country, being the possession of men who can do whatever they want when she crosses the line. It is something we already knew, though an intense showcase like we see here serves very well to revive that notion. The social commentary is thus the core of the story. The finale leaves all involved empty handed, everyone looses.

Caveat
(2020)

Interesting movie for its visuals and sound. Tense for an hour but after that it loses its logic and it lost me too
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. An interesting movie as far as visuals and sound is concerned. It kept me very tense for the full first hour. After that, alas, the logic failed on me. I could not care less what the protagonists did and said, and who would live or die in the end. Apart from that, the dialog was not fully understandable (due to the Irish language??), which could have made me miss some clues. The final scene was completely lost on me.

The Night
(2020)

Apart from a few eerie creepy moments it generally failed to deliver on its promising plot and evenso promising location
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. There were a few eerie, creepy moments (no jump scares, luckily) but it generally failed to deliver on its promising plot and the even more promising location in the form of a large yet apparently near-empty hotel.

It took us some time to be made aware that the lead couple had hidden secrets and a few other issues. It would have been more effective to include this somewhere earlier in the story to become an integral part of the tense situation. Now we only have the eeriness and the daunting location during the first hour to worry about, and not their relational problems popping up too late to become interesting.

Censor
(2021)

No satire, no social commentary, no stance about censoring. Having a B-movie (framed) in a movie could have been interesting but was not
Saw this at the Imagine filmfestival, usually in Amsterdam but now 100% online. The synopsis on the festival website was promising, but I missed satire, social commentary, and no stance about censorship. It seemed interesting to have a B-movie inside a (frame) movie, offering an opportunity to explore how far a director can go in realism to keep his audience interested. Similarly interesting could have been some attention for politics around censoring a movie, lobbying by film producers against cuts, selling uncensored movies "under the counter", and so on. We see vague hints touching these topics, but none of my expectations came through to merit more attention for this film. The only positive note that I can think of, is that I sat it out without being bored.

Influence
(2020)

Relevant documentary about spin-doctoring, influencing mass behaviour and even steering "democratic" elections (mind the quotes)
Saw this documentary at the Movies That Matter 2021 festival, usually in The Hague but now 100% online. It demonstrates the truth in the festival title, as the stories behind this movie really matter, despite the first quarter feeling a bit caleidescopic with a series of short fragments, seemingly not connected with each other. But soon we arrived at two pièces de résistance, one about UK/Margaret Thatcher and one about South Africa/Nelson Mandela, both telling consistent stories about hidden influences on behaviour of the masses and more particular the outcomes of elections.

After Vance Packard's 1960-ies bestseller The Hidden Persuaders, we already should know the truth of the following quote from this movie "Understanding individual's behaviour is very tricky but understanding group behaviour is very simple because of certain criteria that are perfectly measurable. (...) We moved advertising and marketing out of an art form into a science." We deemed that relatively innocent at the time, and (of course) it did not work on ourselves, seeing right through such tactics. But is it so small scale and harmless?? A more ominous statement, also heard in this movie, is the quote "Now it becomes a controlled democracy, maybe available to the highest bidder."

Those two important parts of the movie are followed by more anecdotical stories about Iraq and other political changes around the world. It becomes caleidescopic again, and it is not easy to follow everything and decide about its merits. I assume all statements are properly researched and documented, but still, it is a lot to digest when it is even half true. In passing, we learned that Russia and particularly the KGB is 30 years ahead on us about influencing in the broadest sense of the word, which includes steering the elections in other countries in the direction they prefer. The modern word "influencer" in terms of Facebook and Instagram pales in comparison.

All in all, this movie showcases several recent political developments, putting some important influencers in the spotlight. That said, it could have gained some more power and effectiveness by constraining itself to fewer cases. At the end you feel exhausted, being force fed with so many talking heads and overloads of name dropping.

Schlaf
(2020)

Maintains tension throughout the running time. After one hour logic failed on me, possibly my fault. Finale does not bring solutions I anticipated
Originally, I had this movie planned to see during the Berlinale 2020, part of the section Perspektive Deutsches Kino (Perspectives of German Films/Filmmaking). For some reason I missed it there. Got a second chance during the Imagine film festival 2021, normally in Amsterdam but now 100% online. The movie starts very well, despite the inherent somber subject. It proves to be very well possible to maintain tension for the full running time without using any of the genre cliches, like jump scares, squeaking doors/stairs, eerie music, and more along those down throdden paths.

Near 1H running time, I lost track of the logic in what I saw people doing, and what purpose I could imagine behind their actions (if any). Assuming to be enlightened about past events that would take care of connecting the dots, I was anticipating clarity in the end. I persisted watching this movie and ignored some logic flaws.

At 1H25 running time I was clawing for some straws to clear up the mist between past and present, as the mixture of both seem prepared to explain everything. It was not self-explanatory for me, however. I persisted again, waiting for the finale that might offer the solution to all these riddles. Despite my failure to understand the deeper purpose of the proceedings, it was not boring. Something happened all the time, continuously bringing some new clues, but none were conclusive.

The final 10 minutes did not bring the explanations I expected. Something important hit me here, namely, how to find out whether you are dreaming or awake. This dilemma was presented in a very early scene but not making sufficient impression then to realize its importance. Many scenes run along parallel lines and switch between past and present, leaving me guessing for their significance in the story. In this respect, the movie did not fullfill all promises, at least not for all issues calling for a solution.

All in all, the plot is ambitious and intriguing, but it faltered near the end and failed on its closure. I think I missed some important clues underway. I think this would not have happened during a more focused session in a film theater, with less distractions than a virtual screening at home. Neverheless, it certainly is a good watch due to including social commentary and references to German history, though some are bound to partly missing the point when directed to us outsiders, not living in Germany.

Yalda
(2019)

Wonderful film, a thriller on one hand with unexpected turns of events, also educating us about Iran and Sharia law on the other hand
Saw this at the Berlinale 2020 film festival. Most important thing to note is that you'll learn many new principles of Sharia law, like forgiveness and blood money (for me, it was the second time, seeing these appear earlier in Timbuktu (2014, by Abderrahmane Sissako), where these concepts came about too). Apart from that, the concept of a temporary marriage is alien to us too (Wikipedia offers loads of reading material on the concept, as not all muslins agree on it). In the final Q&A some was explained by the director, as far as possible in a handful minutes. But he also added that these principles dating back from many centuries ago, are not always literally enforced. In several movies I saw earlier about Iran, it became clear that the nation is "in transition", wanting to be modern in many respects but also retaining traditions wherever possible.

I don't think that a standard "forgiveness" TV-program in Iran runs like this example (I'm assuming here). Out of the ordinary this time is that Mona does not tell the truth about several things, and this comes successively to light in small portions. We, as viewers, are helpless here and can only follow what is going on, handicapped by the fact that barely know anything of the judicial principles involved. Besides, there are several unexpected turns of events, like that Mona is in debt and the blood money is very welcome, something that may bias her decision. Also, Mona states that her father was still alive for 20 minutes after what Maryam insists was an accident, so that Maryam could have sought help instead of running away (in panic as Maryam says). Also, Maryam's pregnancy was in direct violation of the terms laid down in the "temporary marriage" contract. Mona denied that Maryam told her in time that she was pregnant, contrary to Maryam's statement they went to the gynecologist together. Clearly one of them did not tell the truth, or at least not all of it.

I cannot tell more about unforeseen developments, to prevent spoilers. We see a variety of elements that are common to the Thriller genre. Firstly, everyone around in the studio tries to influence the proceedings. Secondly, we see people from outside bringing in surprising material and some new facts. Still, what sets it apart from a normal Thriller is that the main topic is not the actions by murderer (Maryam) and victim (her husband), but rather the setting this story takes it course in. The TV show adds a unique perspective, with heavily biased Mona apparently in a position to set Maryam free from the death penalty, and where home viewers can cast votes too, on which basis the sponsors pay part or all of the blood money.

All in all, a wonderful film about Iran, a country we don't fully understand, very modern in many respects while at the same time upholding laws dating back many centuries ago. This mixture is exactly what we see here.

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World
(2018)

Informative documentary, also showing risks and counter forces. Only touching some problems needing a solution in the long run
Seen at IDFA 2018, the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam. It provides for a good understanding of what Bellingcat entails, more accessible than I had imagined beforehand. I had feared ample techno babbles and screens full of gibberish that frighten people on average, turning them away from the subject at hand. The film makers even left out the seemingly inevitable images of busy data centers, flashing lights and network cabling as usually shown on IT-related news item.

By showcasing a number of well-known high-profile cases, the movie succeeds in keeping any viewer interested. The film makers are also honest in discussing counter forces that go at any length to discredit their initiatives, thus downplaying their reports, by portraying Bellingcat as amateurs or armchair investigators. In other words, using any argument to suggest their results cannot be relied upon. And with powerful adversaries against you, mostly state supported actors or with deep pockets, this is not something to ignore. In passing, some of the personal risks for the contributors (and their families) are mentioned, which is not to be neglected either, and can be a deterrent for new volunteers to participate.

A nice example of what they can accomplish was their investigation of a photo showing the aftermath of an apparently regular car bomb explosion with many dead/wounded lying around. They established that it was a fake, starting with a car exploding on an empty square, after which the "bodies" walked in, to be randomly scattered around, all ready for shocking pictures to be taken. Of course, the original (fake) was picked up by the media. It took a lot of effort to let the news outlets (like Reuters, CNN etc) retract their original report. And even when publicly withdrawn, the damage to the public opinion cannot that easily be repaired.

There is one thing that worries me. The movie mentions it yet without badly needed emphasis: how to archive all material so that it will sustain a court case, and cannot be dismissed by lawyers?? The underlying information can disappear, due to being deleted by the author, on his own initiative or due to pressure. Or it can be removed by the platform (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc), due to being too graphical or not politically correct. It should actually be sealed (as I call it loosely) to prevent it from being altered, and this "seal" has to be resistant against critical lawyers when the case is presented in court at a later stage.

All in all, this movie offers a fascinating insight in recent initiatives, where technical knowledge, lots of time and ample motivation to chase for the truth, is invested in fact-checking. This is desperately needed as powerful parties and even state sponsored actors do their best to create their own "fake" news that better serves their interest, better for them than the real facts. However, there is also such a thing as responsibility to protect your sources, like witnesses and leaked documents, and premature naming and shaming of alleged perpetrators and their family, who have done nothing wrong but can be threatened or involuntarily damaged. And finally, can Bellingcat ever be wrong, in spite of their good intentions?? I don't have the answers, and neither has the movie.

Lamentations of Judas
(2020)

Clever remix with re-enactments of New Testament and interviewing former mercenaries. About "free will", betrayal, and regrets over past actions in war time
This movie was the opening film of the Movies That Matter Festival 2020 in The Hague. In March it was cancelled due to Covid-19, but later made available online and augmented with an after-talk via Zoom. The description did not attract me at the time the festival program was published, but I stand corrected now. It proved to be a clever remix of New Testament re-enactments, interviewing former mercenaries, and several other ways to discuss the concept of "free will", betrayal, and regrets over past actions in war time.

A recurring discussion, for instance, was about the Chain of Command in an army hierarchy, and particularly how the concept of "free will" fits in (or not). It made clear that soldiers are not persé guilty when executing a task assigned to them, even when reluctant to do what they are told, as long as telling who sent them and when they have no means to escape or to refuse (mostly the case for soldiers). Also, the term Betrayal appears here in two distinct forms: on one hand, the mercenaries were supposed to act against their brothers while being commissioned by the Apartheid regime, while on the other hand these former soldiers were abandoned without pay and without future after having served many years. The term Betrayal applies to both, despite very different.

A very proficient way to raise all such issues was conducting interviews with these soldiers, each starting with asking for name, rank, serial number and which bataljon they served in. All sorts of topics pass by, mostly provoked by specific questions, sometimes arising spontaneously along the flow of the conversation. These interviews are placed at random moments in the movie's running time, not always directly related to what we see on screen yet always pertinent and relevant. It works out perfectly as an overall wrap around the issues that the film maker wants to raise. Not all questions were answered, some seemed even impossible to answer even in hindsight, but still contribute to the context in general.

A means to enlighten us with some history lessons is provided by open-air classroom sessions where a "teacher" behind a blackboard tells his "pupils" (no children, just fellow soldiers) about the mechanisms of the war they had their role in, about countries and institutions involved, and how things developed for better and for worse. The maps on the blackboard are very crude, and I have my doubts that all historic "facts" were accurate. Nevertheless, yet another way to provide for some context, implicitly binding the movie scenes together.

Re-enactments of parts of the New Testament covered part of the Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and when Jezus was captured in the garden of Gethsemane. We see, during the Last Supper, that Jezus sort of selected the one who was to betray him (he who I now give the bread, will betray me). Judas is clearly not happy with this task. He wanders around while being unable to sleep, but Jezus comes to support him by emphasizing that it is the will of God that the story runs this way. Anyway, Judas seems different from the inherently bad guy like he is displayed in general, but rather an executioner of a divine assignment.

All in all, despite the description of the movie did not pique my interest at the time, I now stand corrected. This movie is much better than its synopsis. You have to watch it to appreciate its richness of contents. The issues covered apply to many situations. Even more so nowadays. The people shown on screen may seem mildly interesting on themselves, but in combination and placed in the proper context by the film makers, the issues raised are thought provoking and will make you re-think later everything said.

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