If you are a fan of wrestling, especially wrestling circuits that are small and are continually growing, “The Booker” is a documentary that shows the hardships in the wrestling business but also one man’s persistence of taking an idea and making it a reality and just doing all he can to make it happen!
© 2012 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: The Booker
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 96 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Documentary, Black & White, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: December 10, 2013
Directed by Michael Perkins
Cinematography by Rod Fiore, Alexander Williams, Michael Perkins
Associate Producers: Katherine Skinner, Huckleberry Starnes, Stosh Kozlowski
Edited by Alexander Williams
Steve Scarborough doesn’t like what’s happened to professional wrestling, so he’s set about changing it, one match at a time. The Booker follows Steve as he takes Platinum Championship Wrestling from idea to reality. Shot over the course of 4 years, watch his wrestling school grow into a wrestling promotion, from working in the back room of a theater with 4 students to holding a show at a 2,500-seat area. See how far Steve will go to be a successful booker and save pro wrestling from itself.
For former wrestler, Steve “Platinum” Scarborough, having seen wrestling turn to more of a stunt show, wants to bring back professional wrestling by creating his own wrestling company known as Platinum Championship Wrestling.
Filmed over the course of 4 years, we watch how Steve Scarborough goes from having a wrestling school and grow into a wrestling promotion.
From his days of working the back room of a theater space with four students and growing PCW of a show at a 2,500 arena.
This is one man’s journey of creating a wrestling promotion by leasing space and slowly growing the business in Georgia. From business relationships that were lost, to making things go right and disciplining wrestlers and referees in order to make for a better show.
As filmmaker Michael Perkins captures the life of Steve Scarborough within four years, will we see Platinum Championship Wrestling succeed or will his show fail?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
Contrary to the DVD cover saying the film is in color,”The Booker” is a documentary presented in black and white and is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
Picture quality is good as what one can expect on DVD, but shot in black and white, it’s probably a good decision by the filmmaker and editor to go black and white as it doesn’t make the film looked aged. Especially with the older wrestling footage included.
“The Booker” comes with a theatrical trailer.
As a fan of wrestling and having grown up watching wrestling on television, even ’til now.
But after watching “The Booker”, you have to admire Steve Scarborough for what he has accomplished for Platinum Championship Wrestling.
I was raised on watching the old wrestling from the ’70s and ’80s and as these shows became more entertainment driven, at least from the ’90s to the early ‘2000s, there was something to be excited for. There were wrestlers who you followed because they were a great presence but they went further by doing stunts that can literally end their career (Mick Foley anyone?).
But today’s wrestling has evolved into a big business. A business that is targeting families, children and for the most part, the landscape of wrestling entertainment is somewhat disheartening for fans who grew up watching wrestling back in the day.
But to make a credible run of bringing competition and athleticism to wrestling fans via a new promotion is not always easy and for Michael Perkins’ documentary “The Booker”, this documentary shot in a span of four years chronicling Steve Scarborough’s wrestling idea to a newer and bigger level is quite fascinating and also respectable.
This is a man who has not strayed away from his plan to make PCW a growing business but he also knows that he needs to make money, he needs to trust his wrestlers on putting a good show but sometimes things don’t go as perfectly on a show and we can see Steve Scarborough losing patience with certain wrestlers and refs and giving the important lecture for those not to screw up and how to fix the problem.
While the film does cover Steve Scarborough’s ideas and the growth of his company, too bad that the cameras didn’t stay with him for another year or two as people would get to see the synergy created with the PCW/EMPIRE matchups. The fact is that Scarborough’s idea and has grown to become something bigger and who knows how far he will be able to take it.
But as one can look at “The Booker” as one man’s journey to create and build “Pacific Championship Wrestling”, I also look at it as one man pursuing a career that he was born to do and capturing those intimate moments behind-the-scenes of PCW and how it can take a toll on Scarborough as a businessman, a promoter and also a man who wears several hats for this company.
The DVD is presented in black and white (not color as the cover mentions on the back), dialogue is clear and understandable and for the most part, the DVD looks good in black and white and as for special features, there is only a theatrical trailer. It would have been nice if there were special features included. More behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes or perhaps even a followup of what is happening with the PCW.
Overall, if you are a fan of wrestling, especially wrestling circuits that are small and are continually growing, “The Booker” is a documentary that shows the hardships in the wrestling business but also one man’s persistence of taking an idea and making it a reality and just doing all he can to make it happen!
Eric Trenkamp’s “American Bomber” is a fascinating, fictional indie film that explores domestic terrorism and how a normal person would could be responsible for a heinous act on American soil. A film worth watching!
© 2013 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: American Bomber
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013
DURATION: 90 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2013
Written and Directed by Eric Trenkamp
Produced by Michael C. Freeland, Eric Trenkamp
Associate Producer: Sean Donnelly
Music by Zach Abramson
Cinematography by Eric Trenkamp
Edited by Eric Trenkamp
Michael C. Freeland as John Hidell
Rebekah Nelson as Amy Rile
Brian Floyd as David Miles
Pamela Tate as Lee Hidell
Kenny Wade Marshall as Barry Aaron Speller
John Hidell, a disgraced ex-soldier, travels to New York City to become the first American born and raised suicide bomber. As he prepares for his bombing, he finds himself in an unexpected relationship with Amy, a divorced bartender. As his infatuation with her and New York grows, Hidell neglects his role in the bombing plot and begins to hope for the future. A hope that shatters when his co-conspirators and the FBI come hunting for him. With time running out, he must choose between a life on the run or a death in the history books.
In September 2011, John William Hidell, a former soldier from Kentucky, killed 114 people including himself, becoming the first American born suicide bomber.
This is the subject of filmmaker Eric Trenkamp’s indie film “American Bomber”, a film about how an American born soldier can become a domestic terrorist and the dangerous possibilities that people can do this on American soil.
The film was released on DVD in Nov. 2013 courtesy IndiePix Films and created on a small budget in a period of a little over two years, the film was screened not long after the Boston Marathon bombings and if anything, as we learn more details from heinous acts created by the individuals responsible for the bombings, people that knew those individuals in the past, were in disbelief how someone can change drastically over the years.
In “American Bomber”, the same can be said of the film’s main character, John Hidell. A former soldier who joined the military after 9/11 to fight for America but instead, due to a fight against his superior officer, he was put into the brig and whoever he was in the brig with, has changed his perception (as well as others) of life and society.
Originally created as a short film and a documentary on John William Hidell’s act of targeting a building where Saudi Officials were staying and killing over a hundred people, the film would include scenes from Trenkamp’s 2011 short, but focus on Hidell’s bombing mission and not acting alone and working with possibly other soldiers who want revenge on political officials from the Middle East, “American Bomber” tries to show how Hidell was a normal person.
Back in school, he was bullied, while his mother looked at him as an angel despite not having a fatherly figure in his life. His fellow soldiers who served time with him talk about the memories they have of Hidell, but also interview those who stayed in the brig with Hidell and one man’s perspective towards humanity.
Aside from the documentary interviews post-bombing, the film features John William Hidell (portrayed by Michael C. Freeland) as a man knowing he has a mission and doing his rounds of observing various areas to detonate a bomb but also working with others who also want the privilege of becoming a martyr.
And as Hidell ventures around the New York area, he meets Amy Rile (portrayed by Rebekah Nelson), a bartender that he has eventually becomes romantic with. But John must choose, a life of happiness to be with the woman he just fell in love with but knowing he’s the most wanted man in America for the murder of a soldier or to continue his mission and detonate a bomb on American soil.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“American Bomber” is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio and in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
I’m not going to be too critical with the film as it is an indie film shot with a small budget, a film that was shot in a period of over two years and took volunteers who came into lend their skills to the film for a short amount of time but not were available on certain scenes. But for how this skeleton crew were able to utilize with whatever crew and equipment they had at that given time, I feel that Eric Trenkamp and crew were able to do a good job.
This is guerrilla filmmaking and trying to record footage in areas that were probably restricted and just doing all you can. And for the most part, the crew did a good job with most of their shots, intentional and unintentional and I respect that!
Picture quality is good as what one can expect on DVD, dialogue and music is clear through the front channels.
“American Bomber” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by writer/director Eric Trenkamp, actors Rebekah Nelson and Michael C. Freeland and cinematographer Sean Donnelly
- Short Film: “American Bomber – The John William Hidell Story” – (22:13) Featuring the documentary-only portion that was featured in the film.
- Q&A– (10:31) Post-screening Q&A at St. Francis College in New York City on May, 17, 2013 with writer/director Eric Trenkamp, actors Rebekah Nelson, Michael C. Freeland and Kenny Wade Marshall and domestic terrorism expert Dr. Michael Kaune.
- Outtakes Reel – (2:32) “American Bomber” Outtakes
- Teaser Trailer – (:48) Teaser trailer for “American Bomber”.
- Trailer – (1:26) Theatrical trailer for “American Bomber”.
“American Bomber” is a film that is relevant and a topic that is often discussed in society.
From the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, the Twin Tower attacks of 2001 and the Boston Marathon attacks of 2013, plus the growing number of gun-related tragedies at schools, it’s not something that people can escape from. It’s part of society as we hear it on the news and we see these things now commonplace on the news.
In the past, we have seen bombings used by terrorists as a way to further their mission or to send out a message to America but as we are seeing more and more tragedies caused by Americans, what would happen if America were to produce a suicide bomber and how would a normal individual become that way.
From the Oklahoma City Bombings to Boston Marathon bombings, those who were responsible for their crimes have been depicted by old family and friends as kind individuals. People who were somewhat brainwashed or something must have clicked in their head to make them so evil.
With “American Bomber”, we have a former soldier named John Hidell who is on his final mission, working with former soldiers to accomplish what they haven’t done before and that is to send out a message to those of the Middle East and also America that they are in society. Wanting to become a martyr for his cause and is prepared to kill a lot of people with his bomb.
The thing is, Hidell meets a woman that he falls in love with and he wants to spend time with her that it eventually makes him neglect his role in the bombing plot.
While the film is already predictable as we know that Hidell’s character was the suicide bomber who died at the beginning of the film, “American Bomber” is more of a journey of how a normal man can create a heinous act. Was he a man full of hate? Was he a man born of evil? Or was he born evil and eventually ended up with a group that brainwashed him?
While there are certain areas of his life can make him a hateful man, interviews with family or those who knew him point to a man who would do anything to fight for his country. And this is where this film becomes rather fascinating, because did Hidell go down as one of the most heinous man in history for his suicide bombing? Or is he considered a hero?
And why would he be a hero? As there are people who see those who were involved in the Columbine shootings hailed as a hero by certain individuals who committed similar copycat crimes, we have seen stories for example in the big budget film “White House Down”, where the terrorists were American soldiers and people of the government who were unhappy of America’s pull-out from the Middle East. In that film, there are people who try to justify taking over the White House as a form of revenge against the government, and there were obvious supporters who believed in that cause as seen in that film.
And that is the frightful notion of this film that anyone normal can end up becoming a murderer and like suicide bombers in other countries, they are fighting for their own agenda, their own ideological belief.
While in cinema, we have seen epic films based on those who fight for their ideology and beliefs, may it be on films based on actual events such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film “The Battle of Algiers” as Algerians in North Africa took part in bombing campaigns against civilians in order to drive out the French from their homeland. Or Koji Wakamatsu’s “United Red Army” that is based on the true story of college students in Japan who orchestrated kidnappings and hijackings in Japan during the ’70s, normal college students who became terrorists.
“American Bomber” is a film like in real life does not present a clear cut solution or reason of why a person can commit a heinous crime. And in the case of the fictional character John Hidell, it is no doubt a combination of situations that made him do what he did but in the end, he and other soldiers had an ideology that looked down towards society or created a warped belief that these people will become infamous or legendary for their act of terrorism.
While a film about terrorism is the last film you want to see a romantic love story, what works for “American Bomber” is that the character of Amy Rile (portrayed by Rebeka Nelson) is somewhat of a bad ass. She talks with a chip on her shoulder and she says whatever comes out of her mouth. These two are attracted to each other and it’s enough for Hidell to pause and reconsider his mission.
So, “American Bomber” is an interesting film and if given a much larger budget, it would have been interesting to see how far Eric Trenkamp would have taken this film?
But the fact is that this is a small budget film that depended on guerrilla filmmaking and that is to film in locations whether or not they receive approval or not.
And what I did enjoy about this film after learning more about the creation of the film is how it was a labor of love for over two years. People who tried to lend their skills to help benefit the film, those who used their own homes to shoot and just shooting with the simplest budget but getting the job done as best they can.
The crew faced a wide variety of challenges during the making of this film but in the end, the crew did a good job of making this film come to life. Sure, acting may be spotty for some individuals at times. And with a bigger budget, I’m sure it would have improved a variety of scenes in the film. But Eric Trenkamp, cast and crew did a good job with their film.
The audio commentary was enjoyable to listen to and hear the challenges that they faced in filming various scenes and how people contributed to the making of the film, which was inspiring! The Q&A was also interesting to watch and the complete short film “American Bomber: The John William Hidell Story” is also included on the DVD.
Overall, Eric Trenkamp’s “American Bomber” is a fascinating, fictional indie film that explores domestic terrorism and how a normal person would could be responsible for a heinous act on American soil. A film worth watching!
If you are into crazy sexual comedies and are open to low-budget indie films, I definitely recommend giving Quinton Lavery’s “Casting Me…” a shot!
© 2011 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: Casting Me…
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 97 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1, Black and White, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2013
Directed by Quinton Lavery
Written by Quinton Lavery
Produced by Jorg Mika
Co-Producer: Quinton Lavery, Darren Wertheim
Cinematography by Darren Wertheim
Edited by Danielle Nel
Paul Snodgrass as Paul Johnson
Roxanne Prentice as Chloe Willow
Jonathan Hearns as Nic
Raph Kossew as Rueben
Colin Moss as Phillip
Simone Cagnazzo as Janet
Paul is a frustrated but likeable Casting Director who has dreams of finally making his own feature film. His girlfriend Chloe has broken up with him and he is frustrated by his job, although he has great colleagues at the agency in Rueben and Janet. He lives in a flat with his friend, the computer nerd Nic. To get his life on track again and win back his girlfriend he decides to make a film about his job, love life and all the funny things that happen behind the scenes at the casting agency!
There are Indie films that are made with a very small budget and yet managed to captivate you by its humor.
American movies such as Kevin Smith’s 1994 film “Clerks” made for $25,000 and “The Blair Witch Project” which was made for $22,500 would go on to be major cult films with a following.
And there is no doubt that these independent films have inspired filmmakers all over the globe.
And in South Africa, filmmaker Quinton Lavery who graduated from The South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance, with $5,000 and utilizing Canon 7D’s, went on to create a low-budget sexual comedy titled “Casting Me…” which was shot in 21 days. And now, the film will be released on DVD courtesy of IndiePix.
“Casting Me…” first introduces us to Paul Johnson (portrayed by Paul Snodgrass), a man who is a casting director by day and filmmaker by night. He is still reeling over his breakup with actress Chloe Willow (portrayed by Roxanne Prentice, “Zulu”, “Dead Weight”) and for now, gets his thrills using a rubber vagina device.
Despite interviewing many beautiful actresses who he captures on camera and try to flirt with him in order to get a part, the fact is that the decision maker at his work is his boss Janet (portrayed by Simone Cagnazzo). He works with another casting director named Rueben (portrayed by Raph Kossew), a burly gay man that Paul refers to as a “gay bear”.
Paul lives with Nic (portrayed by Jonathan Hearns) who is a feminine man who is not quite sure he is gay and an amusing cat.
And for two years, Paul has been trying to write a script but has scrapped things and in the process, put himself in a stressful situation that it was one of the contributing factors to his relationship ending with Chloe.
Paul decides that he realizes that his time with Chloe was his most important and so he wants to write a script about his sex life and relationship with Chloe and wants his friends and co-workers to star in his upcoming film. But what happens when he tries to get Chloe to read his script? And will Paul be able to forget Chloe or will his memories with her, make him want to be with her more and more?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Casting Me” is presented in 1:78:1 black and white (with possibly a scene that does show up in color). The film was shot with Canon 7D DSLR cameras and it was rather smart to have the film in black and white to avoid any expense of color correcting. But considering the film was shot with a budget of $5,000, because the film was shot in black and white and digitally, picture quality looks very good on DVD. Grays and whites are well contrast and the film looks very good.
As for audio, this is always something that I am concerned with when I watch a film that was shot via DSLR and for the most part, dialogue is clear.
“Casting Me…” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – To access commentary, you must click play film and select commentary on or off. Audio commentary is with writer/director Quinton Lavery, actors Paul Snodgrass, Raph Kossew and cinematographer Darren Wertheim. A hilarious and crazy audio commentary.
- Making of “Casting Me…” – (12:07) Featuring the behind-the-scene shots recorded by several crew members behind-the-scenes.
- Official Trailer – (1:38) Theatrical trailer for “Casting Me…”.
- A Day in the Life – (25:32) Featuring a “Day in the Life” of director Quinton Lavery and cinematographer Darren Wertheim.
- Pre-Production Diaries – (11:07) Featuring ten pre-production diaries.
- Production Video – (2:11) A two-part production video.
- Teasers – (4:51) Featuring four teasers for “Casting Me…”.
Once in awhile, I watch a film that literally comes from nowhere and surprises you because it makes you laugh and it features humor and situations that you can relate to.
That’s how I felt after I watched Quinton Lavery’s “Casting Me…”.
In the U.S., we have had our fair share of sexual comedies such as the “American Pie” films, “Knocked Up”, “40-Year-Old Virgin”, “The Hangover” films, “Something About Mary” to name a few, films known for having fun with a care-free attitude of how much profanity or discussions of sex are discussed and just situations that are so stupid, yet so funny.
Granted, these are not films that are considered as cinematic masterpieces but sex is a topic that is often joked and discussed about with my friends (men and women) and it’s just a topic that we all have fun with. And thus, watching “Casting Me…”, from it’s opening seen of Paul getting down with his rubber vagina contraption and the filmmaker pausing at Paul’s face after having an orgasm, no doubt sets the tone of the film.
I think the reason why I was so drawn to this film (and yes, I have watched it several times now) is because it’s so unusual and embarrassing. From Ruben, the hairy bear, the big gay man who probably likes the most disgusting type of sex to Nic, the roommate who is so gay but doesn’t know it or even situations where the protagonist Paul is remembering his times with his ex-girlfriend Chloe and in retaliation for him tickling her, she tries to put a finger up his rear (granted he’s wearing boxers) or the two discovering someone’s used condom on the floor and the cat playing with it. It’s so wrong but you can’t help but laugh at the fun the cast is having.
While the most prudish audiences will probably have a disdain for these type of films, those who are open to sex jokes and of course nasty adult discussions, will enjoy “Casting Me…”, it’s so crazy and a lot of fun!
Only in “Casting Me…” would you ever hear a “Mortal Kombat” reference used in a joke during two having sex and Paul yelling “Finish Him!”.
And sometimes I felt that director Quinton Lavery, put his cast in unexpected situations and seeing how it adds to the film due to certain spontaneous responses.
And when you are all done, if you enjoyed the film, you should also listen to the audio commentary. As director and actors have fun discussing the film and dissing each other, it’s quite a refreshing pace from other film audio commentaries. And the DVD also features pre-production, behind-the-scenes filming and other special features included.
Picture quality is good as the film was shot digitally, even using a Canon 7D DSLR to shoot the film, the decision to feature the film in black and white definitely made a difference for this film.
But I find it quite awesome that these Indie films from other countries are given a chance, especially by IndiePix to reach a larger audience.
While I know there will be people who will look at “Casting Me…” as potty humor or stupid humor, whatever you want to call it, it’s comedy that has a following and people can just sit down, watch and have a fun time watching it and laughing to the film.
Also, for budding indie filmmakers who have shot with the tiniest budget, it’s inspiring to see filmmakers such as Quinton Lavery, create a film for a few thousand bucks and despite the low budget, doing something that you love and just knowing that people all over the world are enjoying your film.
And after watching “Casting Me…”, I hope Lavery, Snodgrass, Prentice and the others consider doing a sequel because this film was quite fun and crazy!
Overall, if you are into crazy sexual comedies and are open to low-budget indie films, I definitely recommend giving Quinton Lavery’s “Casting Me…” a shot!
Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari’s “Women Without Men” is an eye-opening film to Iran (1953) but also a film that tries to show viewers how Iran used to have a democracy at one point in time and how much freedom women also had long ago. Thanks to the artistic influence of photographer and visual artist turned director, Shirin Neshat and co-director Shoja Azari, they were able to bring in a good balance of politics and art which work harmoniously together and in essence, a film that is moving and also visually captivating. “Women Without Men” is recommended!
© 2011 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: Women Without Men
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2009
DURATION: 95 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 2:35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Farsi with English Subtitles
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2012
Directed by Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari
Written by Shoja Azari
Screenplay by Shirin Neshat
Based on the Novel by Shahrnoush Parsipour
Produced by Philippe Bober, Martin Gschlacht, Susanne Marian
Exective Producer: Jerome de Noirmont, Barbara Gladstone
Associate Producer: Shoja Azari, Oleg Kokhan
Line Producer: Peter Hermann, Erwin M. Schmidt
Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto
Cinematography by Martin Gschlacht
Edited by George Cragg, Patrick Lambertz, Jay Rabinowitz, Christof Schertenleib, Julia Wiedwald
Casting by Lisa Olah, Markus Schleinzer
Production Design by Shahram Karimi, Katharina Woppermann
Costume Design by Thomas Olah
Shabnam Toloui as Munis
Pegah Ferydoni as Faezeh
Arita Shahrzad as Farrokhlagha
Orsola Toth as Zarin
Mehdi Moinzadeh as Sarhang
Essa Zahir as Amir Khan
WOMEN WITHOUT MEN is Shirin Neshat’s independent film adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s magic realist novel. The story chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953; a cataclysmic moment in Iranian history when an American led, British backed coup d’état brought down the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and reinstalled the Shah to power.
For many Americans, especially today, we often don’t understand why certain countries have strained relations. Some look at cultural differences, religious differences but when it comes to the United States and Iran, many will look towards history and see 1953 as a year that the relationship between Iran and the United States to change and 50-years-later, tension between the countries continue.
For those who grew up during that time, after the United States and Britain assisted Mohammad-Reza Shah in the overthrow of Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh and to allow the country to be under a military government led by General Fazlollah Zahedi.
For many, it was the end of democracy. Many will engage in debates about foreign involvement with the 1953 Iranian coup d’etat but many would feel that the interest for foreign powers was over oil, which at the time, the United States depended on 60% of oil coming from Iran.
The Prime Minister who felt that the oil was Iranian property wanted to protect the country’s oil and Britain retaliated by preventing oil to be exported from Iran to other countries which led to CIA carrying out a coup as an “act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest level of government”.
Because of this, there was an exodus of Iranians and those who were not in the country were exiled.
For famous photographer and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, she was studying at a university in California during the revolution and was unable to return to visit her family. But as an Iranian and also now an American, she has a perspective from both countries along with co-writer/co-director Shoja Azari (“Logic of the Birds”, “Windows”).
Both worked on a loose adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s 1990 novel “Women Without Men”, a novel that was banned by the Iranian government and because of her literary work, she was imprisoned four different times (which she would write about in 1994 in her memoir, “Prison Memoire”).
For the film adaptation, the goal for both filmmakers was not to polemicize the coup but to show how Iran looked when it was under a democracy. How people lived differently than people of today pre-193, some who pursued the arts and culture, music and decor but a lot has changed since then. Also, because Shirin Neshat is an artist, to bring some of her influence to the film, especially with the various shots that are featured in the film.
The film would follow the lives of four women and feature their lives during the Iranian Revolution of 1953. Because the film could not be shot in Iran, it was shot in Turkey and actors were cast in Europe. The film was banned from Iran but was a winner of a Silver Lion at the 2009 “Venice Film Festival” for “Best Director” and also the winner of the “UNICEF Award”, also receiving a nomination for a “Golden Lion” award.
“Women Without Men” was screened at film festivals all around the world and now, the film will be released on DVD courtesy of IndiePix.
“Women Without Men” would begin with a young woman in her late twenties named Munis (portrayed by Shabnam Toloui), a woman that is being arranged by her brother Amir to meet with a suitor. But she has no interest in marriage. She is more interested in listening to the news on the radio in regards to current events and what Britain and America are doing to their country.
But it leads to tension because Amir feels his sister is not interested in getting married and wanting to become single (which is an an embarrassment for him as her older brother). And in anger, he rips apart the television cord, and threatens her that he will beat her if she doesn’t meet with the man.
Meanwhile her good friend Faezeh (portrayed by Pegah Ferydoni) wonders why Munis is so interested in what is happening with the politics, especially those who are involved in outdoor strikes against the Shah.
Faezeh is also there to visit Munis because she is in love with Amir, who happens to be engaged to marry another woman.
Upset by Amir forcing her to marry, Munis goes up the top of their building and jumps off to kill herself. She is found by both Faezeh and her brother Amir and is buried.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to Zarin (portrayed by Orsolya Toth), a person who does not speak and is a prostitute who looks emotionless and severely depressed of her current lifestyle. She is different from the others and is often alone. One day, she heads off to a nearby orchard and goes to a lake where she tries to drown herself.
We are then introduced to Farrokhlagha (portrayed by Aria Shahrzad), a singer and a disenchanted wife of a general who is sickened by her marriage to the man, who took another wife because his wife no longer pleasures him. She makes the decision of leaving her husband and her old lifestyle to live in the quite orchard, where she and the orchard worker discover Zarin unconscious in the lake.
As both try to bring Zarin back to life, back at the home of Faezeh, she is preparing to attend Amir’s wedding.
While there and walking outside, she hears Munis calling out her name from the ground. Faezeh digs her out and frees Munis from her burial, but instead of going home, Munis rather hang out at the coffee shop to listen to the news on the radio about what is happening in their country. Faezeh not wanting to be near the people who go onstrike, leaves by herself, not knowing that two men have left the coffee shop to pursue her.
When Munis goes outside to look for her friend, she sees Faezeh crying and finds out that she was raped. Feeling shamed and not wanting to return back home, Munis taks Faezeh to the orchard and tells her to stay there, as the people there will help her. But for now, she must go to Tehran.
As Faezeh goes into the orchard, she meets Farrokhlagha and Zarin and eventually befriends them and heals overtime.
Meanwhile, Munis ends up becoming an activist and sides with the communist who are protesting against the Shah.
But as even are nearing mid-August of the successful coup d’etat against Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh, how will life affect these four women?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Women Without Men” is presented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio and in Farsi Dolby Digital 2.0 with English subtitles. Thanks to Shirin Neshat, famed photographer and visual artist turned director who brings her style and creativity as director by working with cinematographer Martin Gschlacht (“Revanche”, “Lourdes”, “Breathing”) and getting the shot that she wanted in the film.
The cinematography is beautiful, the composition of the film is creative and artistic and I was captivated by the overall look of the film. While the film looks good on DVD, if IndiePix ever releases titles on Blu-ray, I do hope they consider releasing “Women Without Men” on Blu-ray in the future.
“Women Without Men” comes with the following special features:
- Behind the Scenes – (21:44) The behind-the-scenes making of “Women Without Men” narrated by Shirin Neshat.
- Walker Art Center Q&A – (48:08) Post-screening Q&A with Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari.
- Theatrical Trailer – (1:51) Theatrical trailer for “Women Without Men”.
- Shirin Neshat Video Compilation – (3:28) A video compilation of Shirn Neshat’s work.
- Slideshows: Production of Women Without Men – Photos from “Women Without Men”
- Slideshows: The Art of Shirin Neshat – Slideshow of Shirin Neshat’s photography work.
- Trailers for Other IndiePix Titles
“Women Without Men” comes with a 12-page booklet which features an interview with Shirin Neshat and a political and historical background of what happened in Iran back in 1953. The film also comes with a slipcover.
“Women Without Men” is an eye-opener and a film that works on a variety of levels.
For one, any American not familiar with the US and Iran conflict will probably be surprised about what happened in Iran in 1953. How Iran pre-1953 was a country that believed in democracy, people could live freely and women had a choice to dress what they want, leave their husbands if they want. People embraced culture, art, music, etc.
But because of the coup d’etat led by Britain and the United States for the sake of oil production, the United States partook in a propaganda campaign to have Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh removed and bringing in the Shah and new leader General Fazlollah Zahedi, to rule Iran with an iron fist and for the most part, it was the end of democracy for many Iranians.
While the film doesn’t delve too much into the politics or conflict, it does try to showcase an Iran pre-1953 and how people were free. Not knowing that their country would soon change with a military government and it would be the end of democracy for the country.
The four characters are from different parts of the society, showing women as independent.
Munis is a woman who is not as traditional as her religious brother who wants and is forcing her to get married, while she wants to remain independent and become an activist.
Faezeh was very traditional but when she is raped, knowing that her life will never be the same, she gets a taste of freedom away from her traditional life with singer Farrokhlagha.
Farrokhlagha is a talented singer and wife to a general, who is disenchanted with her marriage, her husband having another wife for sexual needs and disgusted by her husband, chooses to leave her life and her husband to live at an orchard.
While Zarin is a woman who is a prostitute and disenchanted with her own life because of the life she is living.
And I would imagine the title of the film would related to each of these women who are without men and have been used, abused or mistreated by men in someway.
But it’s how their lives change in 1953, as we see these women with and without their chador. A time where women had more freedom and the lifestyle enjoyed by people that we don’t see today. And that was one of the primary focuses by the filmmakers and that is to show how Iran once was for society but also women.
The other example of how this film works on another level is thanks to Shirin Neshat, famed photographer and visual artist who brings her style and creativity as director, working alongside cinematographer Martin Gschlacht (“Revanche”, “Lourdes”, “Breathing”) and getting the shot that she had wanted in the film. The cinematography is beautiful, the composition of the film is artistic and I was captivated by the overall look of the film.
The film also featured legendary Japanese musician/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto composing a few tracks on the film, but instead of an ongoing musical score throughout the film, Shirin Neshat wanted more use of natural sounds.
All this was done with a shoestring budget and for the most part, Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari were able to craft a wonderful film that balances politics and art without being too pretentious nor does the film preach about which side is right or who is wrong.
There is no doubt that Shirin Neshat and working with writer Shahrnoush Parsipour, that with both living in the United States, there are freedoms that they have in America, but being Iranian, there is a side (especially for Shirin) that is somewhat bittersweet because it is a film about Iran, but yet the film is banned from being shown in Iran, because the film features a freedom of Iran’s past, how women were treated in Iran 1953 and how certain liberties and freedom died when democracy was replaced.
And for any cineaste who loves to do their research of history, you learn that America was a big part of that change and one of the reasons why tensions between the two countries exist today.
As for the DVD, “Women Without Men” is one of the better IndiePix DVD releases I have reviewed. There are a few special features including a Q&A and making of, a booklet is included with a special case.
Overall, Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari’s “Women Without Men” is an eye-opening film to Iran (1953) but also a film that tries to show viewers how Iran used to have a democracy at one point in time and how much freedom women also had long ago. Thanks to the artistic influence of photographer and visual artist turned director, Shirin Neshat and co-director Shoja Azari, they were able to bring in a good balance of politics and art which work harmoniously together and in essence, a film that is moving and also visually captivating.
“Women Without Men” is recommended!
A fascinating and insightful film of hope in the worst situation but also featuring a long overdue reunion of two families. “The Forgetting Game” is a documentary worth recommending!
© 2012 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: The Forgetting Game
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 70 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 16×9, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, English
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2012
Directed by Russell Sheaffer
Music by Ed Cuervo, Madison Bullard, Ben Baker
Edited by Russell Sheaffer
Shot by Russell Sheafer
Additional Cameras: Jim Bittl, Pulkit Datta, Heather Kovacevich
Produced by Pulkit Datta, Jim Bittl, Russel Sheaffer
In 1963, just two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall and during the height of Cold War tensions, a 5-year-old girl became an unlikely beacon of peace and hope. After secret negotiations between the Red Cross and the East German government, Beate Kernke became the first person to be legally and peacefully transferred from East to West Germany. She was then erased from popular historical record.
The Forgetting Game tells the poignant story of a little girl torn between two families and the hostile political climate in which she came to represent peace and compromise. Through this incredibly personal story, the film questions what we remember and what we choose to forget.
In the 1960’s, as many people began to flee from East Germany (German Democratic Republic) to West Germany, in response to not losing any more of the country’s intellectuals and young people, a wall was constructed.
As many who tried to flee during and after the walls were built, many people lost their lives trying to escape and were shot to death by GDR soldiers.
But in 1963, during the height of the Cold War, secret negotiations were taking place between the Red Cross and the GDR and a 5-year-old girl named Beate Kernke became the first person to be transferred from East to West Germany.
With the help of Red Cross field director Neil Clark, Beate was transferred from her grandparents home in East Germany to staying a week with Neil and his American family for under a week, before she immigrated to the U.S. to be reunited with her mother and stepfather in San Francisco.
But the story of Beate Kernke was erased from historical record and no one knew what happened to the 5-year-old girl.
Filmmaker Russell Sheaffer wanted to find out what happened to Beate Kernke and the result is his 2011 documentary, “The Forgetting Game” which was released on DVD courtesy of Indiepix.
“The Forgetting Game” revolves around Neil Clark’s family talking about their memories of Beate coming home to stay with them for the week and their memories of Beate at five-years-old and wondering what has happened to her over 40-years later.
Meanwhile, Russell Sheaffer interviews Beate Kernke, living in Alaska and her memories of living with Neil Clark, being reunited with her family but how her life has been a challenge as a teenager, in the military and the challenges of raising her daughter’s child.
But with the Clark family having wanted to know the whereabouts of Beate, what happens when the Clark family reunites with Beate.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Forgetting Game” is a documentary using archived footage with modern footage, so as one can expect from a documentary, picture quality differs with various source material. But for the most part, the film does look good on DVD and the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack features clear dialogue and music.
“The Forgetting Game” comes with the following special features:
- Deleted Scenes – Featuring three deleted scenes: Coming to Berlin, Susan King, Neil Clark Jr.
- The Wall – (26:25) An older U.S. propaganda film about the Berlin Wall. [Note: The videos on the extras menu are accidentally switched as “The Wall” actually goes to the “The Challenge of Ideas”]
- The Challenge of Ideas – (9:18) An older U.S. Propaganda film about the Berlin Wall. [Note: The videos on the extras menu are accidentally switched as “The Challenge of Ideas” actually goes to the “Wall”]
- Photo Album – A self-playing photo album.
“The Forgetting Game” is a documentary that is among the successful Kickstarter campaigns from 2010 that tries to answer the question of “why do some elements of history get erased in favor of other, often more simplistic elements?”.
In the case of this documentary, what ever happened to the 5-year-old East German girl, Beate Kernke, after she was brought to the U.S.
This has been a big question that has resided long with the Clark family, who took in Beate in West Germany for under a week before she was taken to the U.S. to reunite with her mother and stepfather in San Francisco.
While the film showcases the now older Beate Kernke, who lives in Alaska, trying to take care of her daughter’s child and has had some rough situations in her past life growing up, on the other side, we see the Clark family wondering what happened to Beate as any record or negotiations between the Red Cross and the East German government or any record of Beate being transferred to West Germany is not on record.
While the film doesn’t try to polemicize the power struggles of Germany at the time, the documentary does introduce the viewer of how things were back in the early ’60s in the GDP before the wall was built and that people have died trying to escape East Germany afterward.
While no one was allowed to leave East Germany, somehow and for some reason, young Beate Kernke did. The questions of why was Beate able to leave East Germany and why was it never recorded will probably forever remain a mystery.
“The Forgetting Game” features Beate Kernke discussing her life as a child and her life growing up but also with the help of the Mayor and City Clerk of Douberlug-Kirchhain of meeting with Beate’s aunt in Germany in the present for public record and to find out more about how Beate ended up with her grandmother.
Meanwhile, the other side of the story is about how the family that helped take Beate out of East Germany and had her live with them temporarily reminiscing of their time with Beate. For a long time, they have been trying to find Beate for over 40-years, going as far as trying to contact Oprah Winfrey for her help in reuniting them. But the Clark family give context of their arrival to Berlin and seeing the wall being built, while they share their memories of a young Beate living with them for a short while.
But eventually the documentary would culminate to whether Beate will reunite with the Clark family 47-years later.
For the most part, the documentary features a good balance of historical news footage and first hand accounts of Beate’s life in East Germany up to the week she stayed with the Clark family and how life was for Beate living in the U.S., while the Clark family had continued their search of wondering what happened to her, as she had made an impact on their lives.
While I wish there were answers to why Beate was left out of public record and interviews with possibly government officials that may still be alive, that can lend some idea to why Beate’s transfer was never recorded, I realize that this is a low-budget documentary which earned over $7,000 on Kickstarter, there is only so much one can really accomplish with that much money. But with that being said, the good thing is that Russell Sheaffer was able to get key interviews and most importantly document the reunion of Beate and the Clark family.
As for the DVD, and as I mentioned earlier, as a documentary, picture quality usually differs on the source material as modern and archived footage was used in the film. But for the most part, picture quality is good. Dialogue and music was clear through its Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There are a few deleted scenes plus two U.S. propaganda films included in the special features.
Overall, “The Forgetting Game” manages to show viewers of an unlikely situation of a 5-year-old girl being transferred to West Germany, the first person to be transferred legally. And to follow-up 47-years-later with Beate Kernke and the American family that took her in for a week.
A fascinating and insightful film of hope in the worst situation but also featuring a long overdue reunion of two families. “The Forgetting Game” is a documentary worth recommending!
“Samson & Delilah” is a film about two individuals from the Aboriginal community who try to survive among the Australian people, but learn quickly that their troubles in the community are even worse outside it. The film will no doubt strike a chord to viewers from other countries as racism, poverty and addiction can exist anywhere. But it’s how one deals with these obstacles, no matter how cruel life may seem. Warwick Thornton’s “Samson & Delilah” is recommended!
© 2010 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: Samson & Delilah
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 88 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1, Stereo, English
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2011
Written and Directed by Warwick Thornton
Produced by Kath Shelper
Assistant Producer: Peter Bartlett
Cinematography by Warwick Thornton
Edited by Roland Gallois
Production Design by Daran Fulham
Costume Design by Heather Wallace
Rowan McNamara as Samson
Marissa Gibson as Delilah
Mitjili Napanangka Gibson as Nana
Scott Thornton as Gonzo
Matthew Gibson as Samson’s Brother
Best described as a “survival love story,” Samson & Delilah depicts two indigenous 14 year-old kids living in a remote Aboriginal community who, despite tragedy and hardship, fall in love. Based on director Warwick Thornton’s personal experience of growing up in an Aboriginal community, Samson & Delilah exemplifies a very ‘real’ Australian story.
When it comes to films featuring those of Aboriginal descent, there have been a few throughout the years such as Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 classic “Walkabout” or films such as Ivan Sen’s 2002 film “Beneath Clouds”, Phillip Noyce’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence” or even Michelle Hogan’s 2006 documentary “Kanyini”.
But the truth is that a lot of films about the Aboriginal community are not made, nor are many of them well-known worldwide.
The subject matter is either confronted or at least acknowledged in Australia because the fact that racial discrimination against the Aboriginal community still exists.
But once in a while, there are films that come out of nowhere, that take on the issues that affect the Aboriginal community and this is the case of “Samson & Delilah”. A low-budget independent film from filmmaker Warwick Thornton (“The Turning”, “The Sapphires”) that has received attention for its story, for the performance of its young teen actors Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson and also winning a Camera d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
The film is currently available on DVD courtesy of Indiepix.
“Samson & Delilah” is a film that revolves around two 14-year-olds who live in an Aboriginal community in the Central Australian desert.
Samson (portrayed by Rowan McNamara) is a teenager that is addicted to sniffing petrol or magic markers and lives in a run-down shelter with his brother who has a band and keeps playing reggae music. Rowan who often loves listening to Country or rock music from the radio can’t stand his brother’s music and it drives him up the wall because the band plays next to his bedroom. But he’s seen as a troublemaker in the community. He also doesn’t talk but once in awhile is seen laughing.
Delilah (portrayed by Marissa Gibson) lives with her sick grandmother and both paint for a living. While Delilah does speak English, she is often seen taking care of her grandmother and listening to Spanish music inside a truck.
Both are poor and Samson is often without food, while Delilah gives her food from the local convenience store, despite throwing rocks at her. But the truth is that Samson likes Delilah and her grandmother tries to encourage her to go for him, despite not having any interest in him.
Meanwhile, Samson has had enough of his brother and the band’s reggae music, that he tries to move in with Delilah which she disapproves of, but the fact that he has killed a kangaroo and fed the family is a positive gesture.
But life changes for both teenagers as Delilah’s grandmother passes away the morning after and cuts off her long hair with a knife. Other elders from the village blame her for not doing enough to take care of her grandmother and beat her with a stick.
Meanwhile, Samson who sees Delilah in pain, goes back home and tired of his brother and his band playing the same reggae music over and over has had enough. He takes a stick and tries to attack his brother with it. But in retaliation, his brother gets a stick and beats Samson badly with it.
When he runs away to Delilah’s, he finds her beaten and he knows the older women are responsible that he goes on a rampage and starts destroying property in the community.
Sad about what has happened to Delilah, Samson steals a car and drives her (while she is unconscious) out of the Aboriginal community and the two stay in Alice Springs.
With nowhere to stay, both end up staying under a bridge and live as homeless, alongside a homeless man named Gonzo (portrayed by Scott Thornton).
While Delilah tries to make extra money by painting but no one is interested in purchasing her paintings. Meanwhile, Samson’s addiction to petrol continues to get worse.
As they try to live normally, while in a supermarket, they are followed. While in front of the public, they are stared at. The only person that is willing to talk to them is Gonzo.
But as the two realize that while as outsiders in their own community, they are moreso amongst the White people who look down at them.
But what will happen to both Samson and Delilah as they try to live their lives outside of their community?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Samson & Delilah” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital stereo. The film shows Warwick Thornton’s strength as a cinematographer as closeups are well-done. I didn’t notice any excessive compression artifacts during my viewing of the film and what little dialogue is featured and music presented, were clear and understandable.
The film is in English but also presented in the language of the Aboriginal people with English subtitles.
“Samson & Delilah” comes with the following special features:
- Short Film “The Things They Said” By Survival – (2:23) An early short film by Warwick Thornton.
- Director – Warwick Thornton – (9:38) Director Warwick Thornton talks about how the film became a reality, the cast and more.
- Producer – Kath Shelper – (6:40) Kath Shelton discusses her duties as producer and working with Warwick, Rown and Marissa.
- Samson – Rowan McNamara – (2:35) Rowan talks about his character Samson.
- Delilah – Marissa Gibson – (1:51) Marissa talks about working on the film.
- Behind the Scenes – (16:08) Warwick Thornton working with the actors during filming and behind-the-scenes of shooting different scenes.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The theatrical trailer for “Samson and Delilah”.
As I watch “Samson & Delilah”, I can’t help but feel respect towards filmmaker Warwick Thornton. For taking on something that others may consider as taboo or something that people knows that happens in Australian society but confronting those issues in his film and perhaps realize that racial insensitivity really does hurt people.
But what I enjoyed about this film is that the Warwick Thornton stuck to his guns. With a low-budget, knowing he had to utilize unknown talent and focus on using the majority of the production budget to film via 35 mm.
But it’s the patience that he had with working with Aboriginal teens, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson and having the patience and the trust in them to be his main talents and getting the best of them on camera.
What’s interesting about the film is that both characters, Samson & Delilah do not speak to each other throughout the film. We see Delilah speaking in English to her grandmother and others but most often the communication by both teenagers are by facial expressions and hand movements.
Both teenagers are seen happy earlier in the film, may it be Samson goofing around and giving off a cheeky laugh or Delilah often in conversation with her grandmother or just chilling while listening to an audio cassette to relax, it’s the unfortunate reality when both leave their community and realize that there is not much out there for them among the Australian people.
And the shocking thing about the whole situation is that while Delilah is the smarter of the two, unfortunately bad things happen to her and most of the time, Samson is too high to even notice that she is missing until it’s too late.
While the film spotlights on the problems that exist for these two Aboriginal teens, it’s important to note that I don’t live in Australia, nor do I know if what is depicted on the film happens often in Australia but here in the U.S. we know racial profiling does happen. People who are judged to be thugs or are poor may be treated badly by store owners and it’s something we read often in the U.S. and unfortunately, as we have seen in the news with successful Black entertainers or normal people who are judged by their skin color despite having the money to purchase an item.
And as Delilah tries to make money by selling her art to anyone who will at least give her a try, no difference in America as I see people who come up to me to ask if i can buy food they made for money. But I think the biggest difference is seeing the faces of people when Delilah does approach them, they look at her like a parasite and the waitresses want her out of the dining areas. Would people who were white that tried to peddle art to those eating outside a restaurant will be looked at with disdain? Or was Delilah treated differently because she was Aboriginal?
But there is much more to this story as well. About two teenagers who depend on each other because they have nothing. Nowhere to call home. Nowhere to live. Nowhere to work. They are not accepted by their own people, while the others in Australia want nothing to do with them.
And to see how Warwick Thornton is able to create an enlightening journey between both individuals, the efficacy of the film is because Warwick Thornton was able to believe in his two cast members, to work with his cast members and knowing that both his leads have no experience but also they needed his direction. Both Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson have no formal acting training but they made their characters seem believable. Also, thanks to Warwick Thornton’s belief in his actors, his crew and his story and deciding to shoot in 35mm over digital, made a big difference.
As for the DVD, “Samson & Delilah” is a film that looks and sound good on DVD and there are several special features with interviews with the filmmaker, producer and the film’s two leads plus a behind-the-scenes making of the film plus Warwick Thornton’s short film, “The Things They Said”.
Overall, “Samson & Delilah” is a film about two individuals from the Aboriginal community who try to survive among the Australian people, but learn quickly that their troubles in the community are even worse outside it. The film will no doubt strike a chord to viewers from other countries as racism, poverty and addiction can exist anywhere. But it’s how one deals with these obstacles, no matter how cruel life may seem.
Warwick Thornton’s “Samson & Delilah” is recommended!