The President's Last Bang (2005, Sang-soo Im)
Slow to start, but pretty good once it hits its pace. Based upon the actual assassination of the South Korean president in 1979.
The defense minister, tired of the way things were being run and desiring real democracy rather than its imitation under what amounts to a military dictator, rallies his men in the K.C.I.A. and kills the president. The only problem is that all of the cabinet don't welcome the absence of the president in the way he expected. The coup d'etat fails and the conspirators are killed.
The film questions whether their actions, though perhaps necessary, were honourable. It also shows how disorganized such an event most likely always is.
Ahlaam (2005, Mohamed Al-Daradji)
Filmed during the active fighting of the U.S. invasion of Baghdad and its aftermath. Many elements feel as if the actors were inserted amongst them rather than being created for the film (i.e. at times it seems like the cast and crew sought out places where people were looting or there was gunfire in the streets and got the cameras out to film a scene).
We are introduced to the characters on the eve of America's "shock and awe" campaign in Baghdad, then shown how they got where they are in the mental hospital. Ali was a reluctant soldier in the Iraqi army who was sent to the asylum with his ear cut off for desertion though he was only trying to carry a friend to medics while shell shocked. Dr. Mehdi is dedicated and only wants to be a doctor to help people. Ahlaam has her fiance stolen away by Saddam's secret police on their wedding day and is hit in the head with a rifle butt, leading to her being placed in the asylum because of delusions.
A U.S. bomb breaches the asylum and the patients escape as the looters plunder. The madness from within the hospital seems to seep out into the surrounding area as we see Dr. Mehdi and Ali, who the doctor realizes isn't actually crazy, try to round up all the patients and return them to the hospital. Ahlaam searches for her fiance and is victimized by a group of looters before Ali finds her.
A sniper opens fire on the crowded street and Ahlaam flees into an abandoned building just as her parents and Dr. Mehdi catch sight of her. The Americans arrive on the scene and form up in front of the only visible entrance to the building Ahlaam went inside. Neither the Americans nor Ahlaam's family have interpreters, so they cannot explain the situation and are prevented from entering the building by the soldiers who know nothing of the customs of the country and take the family's behaviour as threatening.
Everyone recognized as good and bad. Lack of communication, and therefore understanding, is one of the biggest problems for the U.S. forces. The scenes with Ahlaam wandering in the dark are much more frightening and unnerving than what many other movies accomplish when they have bigger budgets and that is their whole point.
Frozen Days (2006, Danny Lerner)
This is the director's debut feature and was shot for $25,000. It was made because he wanted to prove that a quality film can be made on a tiny budget and because he likes psychological dramas. No one was paid, cast or crew, it was everyone's first feature, and they just liked the script. After the film won the Haifa(sp?) award, and its cash prize, everyone actually got paid.
It's a little bit of Jacob's Ladder. A girl who lives in vacant apartments and sells narcotics to get by meets a man she's been chatting with on the internet only to have him, presumably, lost in a suicide bombing at the nightclub where they were to meet. She takes over his life in the interim and finds that everyone takes her to be the him though he is in the hospital in a coma and covered head-to-toe in bandages. Only at the very end does she realize that things aren't the way she thought they were.
Some of the cinematography was good, and the actress was quite good (aside from her being exceptionally beautiful).
I met with Debs to finalize my travel plans today.
On my walk back from the films today, I ran into Mark and Pascal. They invited me out for a beer at the Broadway Cafe, which led to many meetings. Jerry, who was behind the bar this evening, told me about the play she was working on writing (I think she titled it The Animals, but I'm not entirely certain). After Mark and Pascal left, I went with a number of the Broadway staff members to the Lansdowne for even more meeting people. Surprisingly, I seem to remember most of everyone's names despite a glut of drink.