Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

A review requested by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous, with thanks for donating to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. The second-most interesting thing about the 2012 film Wadjda is that it the first movie shot, in its entirety, in Saudi Arabia. The most interesting thing is that it was the […]

The problem with being the director responsible for A Separation is that you’ll almost certainly never make something as good as A Separation ever again. Would I have fallen head over heels for The Salesman if it was just some movie, and not the seventh feature made by Asghar Farhadi? In truth, reader, I do […]

Early on in In the Last Days of the City, a filmmaker on a panel can be heard to grumble that he and his colleagues were there to discuss cinema, but that everything they’ve talked about has concerned politics. This is as close as this magnificently sloppy film comes to a direct thesis statement, for […]

The three films made by Jafar Panahi after he was forbidden by the Iranian government from making more films form an intriguing little symbolic arc. 2011’s This Is Not a Film is all clastrophobic realism, a barely-fictionalised diary of Panahi’s own life under house arrest, the director playing himself and his apartment playing itself and […]

Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar feels like the kind of movie that gets nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, which is exactly what happened to it. That’s not a criticism, and it’s certainly not a compliment, but the film’s “type” is clear enough: a political story told through a personal drama, harsh enough in its […]

The Congress, Ari Folman’s first film since his international breakthrough with the animated pseudo-documentary Waltz with Bashir, is surely a broken-down disaster of a movie, barely able to function as an entire self-contained object. But I am absolutely confident that I wouldn’t be half as thrilled by it if that wasn’t the case: like far, […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/20 & 10/22World premiere: 12 February, 2013, Berlin International Film Festival Firstly, Jafar Panahi isn’t supposed to be making films at all. This is something that everybody knows who cares about Iranian film at all, of course, and it doesn’t need repeating, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/13 & 10/15World premiere: 26 April, 2013, HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival Winner of the Gold Hugo for Best Documentary There is an Iranian man, Mahmood Kiyani Falavarjani, whose life in even the most succinct terms is so unbelievably interesting that a whole series of feature length documentaries might just about be […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/12 & 10/14World Premiere: 11 September, 2012, Dubai International Film Festival The first shots of Infiltrators end up having very little to do with the rest of the film, aesthetically at least, but they do make for an awfully compelling introduction to an awfully compelling documentary. Briefly, the opening introduces us to […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/12 & 10/20 & 10/22World premiere: 5 September, 2012, Venice Film Festival The title of Yema, I will begin by pointing out, is the Arabic word for “mother” or at least this is what I intuit from the movie itself. I gather that it has been put on the festival circuit under […]

Areas don’t get a whole lot greyer than the ones explored in The Gatekeepers, lately a nominee for the Best Documentary Oscar (it lost, and to a weaker film; but we had best not stay up nights for frustration at all the movies losing Oscars to weaker films). It is a film from Israel, broadly […]

This Is Not a Film. It is a legend passed around by cinephiles, of how Jafar Panahi, the director of several great, politically incendiary Iranian films (including The Circle and Offside), having been arrested by the government and forbidden from making any movies for 20 years, in addition to a six-year prison sentence, was able […]