Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

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Movies That Matter Festival: Chuck Norris vs Communism and What I Remembered

The first film I remember watching – ever – was one in which the main character is a guy dressed in white. Somehow I believe it was Alain Delon but I’m not sure what makes me believe that. And what happens is that he dies in some sort of corrida arena, not killed by a bull but by someone, someone evil. I don’t remember most of the concrete details, as you can see. What I remember is the strong impact the scene had on me, it felt like something I had to think about and I did think about it for a while. I was probably 4 or 5, film ratings were non-existent back then and and my parents, like many Romanian parents at that time, were watching films in secret, illegally smuggled into the country.

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Movies That Matter 2015 in 9 Points: Some Thoughts and Some Good Docs to Watch

The Movies That Matter Festival just ended, and this edition reminded me why I love documentaries and why I write about them. I had a week of films and debates, and I feel I got some new insights and ideas and also some new questions. And that’s great because this is what documentaries do, they open up the world a bit more, one film at a time, and challenge our emotions and knowledge. So here are some thoughts and feelings from and about the festival, fresh from the oven.

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Taxi

Taxi (2015, directed by Jafar Panahi)

Yesterday I ran through the cold rain and arrived soaking wet at the Movies That Matter Festival to see Jafar Panahi’s new film, Taxi. Panahi has a 20 year ban on making movies in his home country, Iran. But he doesn’t stop making films, filmmaking is his life and this is his third film since he got the ban. Taxi won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale this year and I was very curious about it. But… I was disappointed. Here’s why and also here’s what’s good about the film.

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IDFA2014 (part I): Six new docs you shouldn’t miss

This year’s IDFA had a lot of interesting stuff, including some new program sections like The Female Gaze, about women and their fingerprints on the genre; Of Media and Men of which the title speak for itself; and the really exciting DocLab: Immersive Reality program, where I had my first IR experience. DocLab is one of the IDFA programs I follow year after year, and this year I feel it was a sort of a turning point because of the special focus on IR. I will write more about this later.

This was my fourth year at IDFA. Or fifth? Not even sure. And, as usual, except for hunting for stuff I needed for my articles, I got to watch a lot of films I wanted to see. And even though I had five full days at the festival, I still feel I could have watched even more films but I ‘wasted’ to much time on coffee and sleep.

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Finding Vivian Maier (2014, directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel)

Vivian Maier’s work was discovered accidentally. She took photos all her life and kept them hidden while working as a nanny. No one knew about the photos. In 2009, soon after her death, John Maloof accidentally bought a box of negatives and undeveloped films at an auction. He didn’t know what he was buying and he was amazed by what he saw when he scanned the photos. I heard the story some years ago and now I was looking forward to seeing this film he made, in search for this amazing artist that kept everything about herself to herself, including her wonderful photos.

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Kumare

Kumare (2012, directed by Vikram Gandhi)

This is one of those documentaries that I think everyone should watch. For this doc, Vikram Gandhi (who later on gave this really entertaining and insightful TEDx talk about his film and his ideas behind it) becomes Kumare, this fake guru who gets genuine followers and no matter what he does it’s being looked high upon, as long as it seems spiritual. Deepak Chopra said this film is perhaps the greatest lesson a guru can teach. It is a film about how people in search for something more to life, and having a fascination of Eastern spirituality, are willing to follow just anyone who fits the imagery of an Eastern guru. And it’s about how little people understand or question. If it looks and acts like what they know a guru should look like and act like, then it’s all good. That is a lesson and something to think about.

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Ukraine is Not a Brothel (2014, directed by Kitty Green)

Kitty Green’s debut film Ukraine is not a Brothel tells the story of the controversial Ukrainian organization Femen and the women behind it. And despite my allergy to Femen’s thirst for media attention which seems to be a purpose in itself, I found the film interesting and insightful. The story is personal and the surroundings have a distinct feel, the sad beauty specific to post-communist countries. More than that, the film reveals the paradoxes and contradictions behind this controversial organization.

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Mistaken for Strangers (2014, directed by Tom Berninger)

I love The National so when I discovered this documentary, I thought it would get me some charming insight into this band, its members’ lives, the lyrics and the magic. And I did get some insight. But a very different one from what I imagined.

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Oscar

The Oscar 2014 Award for Best Documentary Feature: my bets and my thoughts

The countdown for the Oscars began and five documentaries are left in the race for the Best Feature Documentary Award. My bets are on 20 Feet from Stardom and The Act of Killing. But on a more nuanced note, I would give each of the five a different prize.

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