As an historical record, the recently restored 1959 film Come Back, Africa is stunning. Secretly made to reflect the truth about South Africa’s apartheid, it follows black African Zachariah. Compelled by famine and recruited from his Zululand home by unscrupulous men, he becomes enmeshed in the racist system pervasive throughout South Africa.
In the sloppily made documentary First Position, producer/director and co-editor Bess Kargman follows six aspiring ballet dancers. They’re training hard to the U.S. Grand Prix Ballet Competition for those age 9 to 19. The best of an international pool will win scholarships and prestigious ballet company contracts.
Documentaries rise and fall on the charisma of the subject. And it doesn’t have to ever get any better than Sing Your Song that soars on the fabulous voice and inspirational work of Harry Belafonte.
As his films show, Richard Linklater has an offbeat take on people in general and humor in particular. His characters are, well, characters with the appealing quirks that make them unique, recognizable, and very human. Drawing on these strengths, director/screenwriter Linklater triumphs with his new film, Bernie.
Italian writer/director and actor Nanni Moretti can make serious films, as he proved in The Son’s Room, focused on the impact on a family after the accidental death of the teenage son. Moretti can also be quite amusing—see Dear Diary. In We Have a Pope, he winningly combines the silly with the satirical.
The Belgian/French film called The Fairy takes its name literally. A magical woman named Fiona enchants night-shift hotel clerk Dom whom she grants three wishes. Not too imaginative, Dom asks for a motor scooter, petrol for a lifetime and—he can’t decide what else he could possibly want before Fiona disappears. He must find her.
In Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, writer/director Whit Stillman illustrated his offbeat approach to familiar topics. True to his fresh, humorous perspective, Stillman’s new film Damsels write my essay in Distress follows four young women at fictitious Seven Oaks University through the trials and tribulations of this quartet of proper, patronizing do-gooders.