The House


Among the Believers

Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi's Among the Believers takes viewers to the frontlines of an ideological battle playing out in the Islamic world that receives little coverage in the Western media. Capturing both the desperate poverty of rural Pakistan and the claustrophobic urban sprawl of Islamabad, the film portrays the ongoing struggle between Islamic fundamentalism and moderate secularism in the Pakistani educational system. While several key figures in this conflict are touched on, it's Abdul Aziz Ghazi, a radical Muslim cleric who runs a network of madrassas collectively titled the Red Mosque, who emerges both as the documentary's most compelling character and its terrifying antagonist. Located throughout Pakistan, these religious schools boast approximately 10,000 students, whom the Red Mosque trains to spread Islam by jihad or proselytization in an effort to fulfill Ghazi's vision of a revolution that would bring the entire country under sharia law. Affiliated both with ISIL and the Taliban, Ghazi openly declares that the purpose of the Red Mosque is to turn its child jihadists into mujahedeen to fight what he sees are Islam's two greatest enemies: the Pakistani government, and secularism (in all of its guises) both within and beyond the nation's borders.

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TAGS: abdul aziz ghazi, among the believers, hemal trivedi, mohammed ali naqvi, pervez hoodbhoy, tribeca film festival


Trevor Noah

1. "Necessarily the News." Understanding the explosion of outrage around the announcement of Trevor Noah as the new Daily Show host, says Grantland's Wesley Morris, requires looking at everything from the state of political satire to the Brian Williams mess to the racial politics of South African popular culture. In other words: It gets really complicated, really quickly.

"If The Daily Show were a sitcom, four-year-old derogatory tweets about women and one's penis wouldn't matter. Neither would the fact that Noah's comedy's extensive forays into race are humorously unimaginative at best and appalling at worst. But Noah is being handed a now-venerable news program to which there are standards of taste, respect, and propriety, none of which a comedian should be expected to uphold, but which are certainly desired in a newsman. In Noah's work as the former, he's run afoul of the latter. Now the questions are, do we move on and wait to see him on the show (which will take months to evaluate)? And what does it mean to do so? Noah not being American (or British) could be bracing. So, too, should his being biracial. Larry Wilmore's show, primarily about race, frees a Trevor Noah Daily Show from the bedeviling limitations of race without keeping the subject off-limits—and Comedy Central's new late-night lineup would also put television of any kind in a potentially exciting new place."

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TAGS: audrey hepburn, clouds of sils maria, dave kehr, grantland, jon stewart, justified, madonna, matthew sweet, museum of modern art, olivier assayas, richard brody, star wars: episode vii, the daily show, timothy olyphant, trevor noah, walton goggins, wesley morris


In Transit

In Transit's first scene features a young man telling a fellow passenger about a major life change toward which he's heading on the train they're both riding: He found himself unhappy with his current lifestyle and decided to take an opportunity offered by a relative to start afresh elsewhere. When he ecstatically rhapsodizes about how he's seizing this "opportunity to change," one might initially assume that the film is essentially offering its statement of intent; certainly, a subsequent anecdote from a Chinese woman who recently fled her home country to come see the U.S. buttresses an impression that this film will be a paean to the freedom and possibility of human connection that train travel represents. But as ever with the late documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, who co-directs here with Lynn True, Nelson Walker, David Usui, and Benjamin Wu, things aren't quite so simple.

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TAGS: albert maysles, benjamin wu, david usui, in transit, Lynn True, Nelson Walker, tribeca film festival


Gored

Ido Mizrahy's Gored is a survey of hard knocks and the terror of dying dreams. Its subject is the death-defying, dogged, and spirited Antonio Barrera, the most gored bullfighter in modern matador history. After years of battles and heartbreak, he prepares for his final performance in the bullring, and Mizrahy's camera is there, ready to capture the last throes of a legacy built through blood. Even for those who consider bullfighting a nasty, anachronistic sport (something for the Hemingways of old), Mizrahy's account of Barrera may still surprise and move, focused as it is so narrowly on a man as vulnerable and endangered, it seems, as the bulls he goes to fight.

But Mizrahy doesn't dig deep enough into his subject. Composed mostly of complimentary interviews and archival footage, Gored considers Barrera from a distance. Interviews with Barrera, his wife, friends, and an old-school matador journalist, only scratch the surface. Noting Barrera's ability (or lack of) compared to the stars of old, the journalist comes closest to being the film's much needed expert voice and adversarial opinion. He doesn't say it, but it's obvious that he isn't a fan of Barrera. Moments like this feel as if they could have pushed further and granted audiences richer insight into the ritual of bullfighting and Barrera's ego, hopes, and life outside the ring.

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TAGS: antonio barrera, gored, Ido Mizrahy, tribeca film festival


Race on the QTAiming to confront "the racial frankness in [Quentin] Tarantino's films and not the man himself," Adilifu Nama's new book offers close readings of the writer-director's eight feature films (and additionally, True Romance) in order to unveil the complexities of racial interest and formation as they occur within the Tarantino oeuvre. Nama takes this charge as a corrective to critics like Armond White who view Tarantino's films as "pop sleaze without the politics," or Stanley Crouch, who's compared Tarantino's interest in race with novelist Ralph Ellison's. Nama falls somewhere in the middle, wishing to lift the "hackneyed claims that Tarantino is a racist," while stopping well short of hagiography, stating "at most [Tarantino's films] serve as catalysts for discussions around black racial formation across the public sphere." The latter assertion is well taken, since the totality of Race on the QT provides ample, perceptive examinations, but almost exclusively along narrative and character lines, with little attention paid to form or aesthetics, rendering several of these readings useful, but only up to a point.

Nama's best insights come in the book's first chapter with analyses of Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, where clever approaches to dialogue and each film's implicit critiques will make even the most ardent viewer want to revisit them. Nama is particularly on point with Reservoir Dogs, which he deems "a visual analogue of the type of hypermasculinity and extravagant violence rapped about on top of 1970s funk samples." That is, Nama meticulously mines each of the film's white characters' racist views on blackness (of which there are plenty) and positions them in relation to Holdaway (Randy Brooks), the film's sole black character, since he's "a formidable tactician and the principle architect for bringing down [the] crime organization." By recasting Reservoir Dogs as a "racial revenge narrative," Nama acutely displays the film's ties with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, films that utilize this kind of narrative far more explicitly. However, Nama's discussion of these films proves largely unsatisfactory, since here he's adamant and repetitive in his assertions that Inglourious Basterds is a "science-fiction fantasy" and Django Unchained a "Gothic horror film." These categorical imperatives detract from Nama's stated interests in reading for blackness.

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TAGS: adilifu nama, death proof, django unchained, inglourious basterds, jackie brown, kill bill, kill bill vol. 2, pulp fiction, quentin tarantino, race on the qt: blackness and the films of quentin tarantino, reservoir dogs


Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones

Everything a player needs to know about Curve Digital's literally sneaky puzzle platformer, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones, is in its title. Though the original name, Stealth Bastard, might have more accurately summed up the epithet players are most likely to hurl at the screen right before breaking their controller, the use of a pun more accurately describes the playful way in which a player's path to victory is littered with a healthy mixture of laughter and groans. As with Game of Thrones, there's a steady and sometimes surprising stream of murder; what makes this bearable, if not enjoyable, is that, because the PTi Institute is in the clone-testing business (they harvest each clone's goggles for use as a child's happy-meal toy), a death is merely a teachable moment in QA followed by a rebirth, not an end to the story. In fact, given the level construction, players will often have to die dozens of times in order to figure out how to avoid, say, a whirling sawblade that abruptly pops out of the wall, or a ceiling with a penchant for suddenly crushing those underneath.

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TAGS: curve digital, game of thrones, stealth inc. 2: a game of clones


Carol

1. "Inside Out, Carol and Macbeth Highlight the 2015 Cannes Film Festival Selections." Gus Van Sant's The Sea of Trees and Denis Villeneuve's Sicario both in competition.

"Once again, the world is coming to Cannes and with it some of the more anticipated films of the year. Festival du Cannes President Pierre Lescure and General Delgate (aka Festival Director) Thierry Fremaux revealed this year's main competition and Un Certain Regard slates during a long and rambling press conference early this morning and a number of American auteurs are once again in the mix. Todd Haynes' Carol with Cate Blancehtt, Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees with Matthew McConaughey, Woody Allen's Irrational Man with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, Pixar's Inside Out, Denis Villeneuve's Sicario with Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth with Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman's A Tale of Love and Darkness are some of the initial highlights from today's announcement that will perk the ears of American audiences."

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TAGS: andrew bujalski, barack obama, cannes film festival, carol, denis villeneuve, elizabeth warren, glaad, gus van sant, justified, kanye west, matt barone, matt zoller seitz, narendra modi, results, sicario, the den, the sea of trees, time magazine, todd haynes, unfriended, wired


Letter to a Father

"I lived in Paris for 30 years," narrates Edgardo Cozarinsky in his Letter to a Father, "but I never lived in Entre Ríos." The Argentine essay filmmaker, and prolific writer of fiction and criticism alike, specialized in ruminations on cultural history during his years as an expatriate, so his turn to a more personal narrative of the past in the form of a visit to his parents' hometown is particularly organic.

But perhaps the most compelling aspect of Cozarinsky's story, both within the film and beyond it, is how circuitous his and his parents' geographical trajectories have been. We learn in the film that his grandparents left Poland in the 1890s with the Jewish Colonization Association to found a community in Argentina. Entre Ríos was the town that resulted, and when anti-semitic fascism rose in that region, the family relocated to nearby Buenos Aires, though his father spent the WWII years stationed in Japan on a naval ship called La Argentina. Although Cozarinsky never draws a direct link between his father's travels and his own, they both appear as having anchored themselves onto reminders of Argentina. Early in the film, for instance, Cozarinsky recycles old shots he took of Rue d’Argentine in Paris as a synecdoche of his expat status. The tension between the lure of elsewhere and the comfort of home grows with archival footage of a Nazi rally that was held in Buenos Aires nine months before Cozarinsky's birth, and with an insert of an anti-semitic slogan ("Haga Patria Mate un Judio") that graced a provincial tax form.

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TAGS: art of the real, edgardo cozarinsky, letter to a father


The Americans

After weeks of preparations, including a tap on the hotel switchboard, tonight's episode of The Americans witnesses Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) intercept one of the three mujahedeen commanders brought to the United States to discuss the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Posing as CIA officers, Philip and Elizabeth propose that the man (George Georgiou) betray his compatriots to secure a more favorable agreement, but it's the freedom fighter wary of both Soviet and American motives who sets the consequences of the Cold War in starkest relief. "I am Abassin Zadran," he says, describing his brutal killing of young Soviet soldiers, probably no older than Philip's long lost son. "I am the one who cuts the throats of the communists."

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TAGS: brandon j. dirden, costa ronin, frank langella, george georgiou, Holly Taylor, i am abassin zadran, karen pittman, Keidrich Sellati, kelly aucoin, Keri Russell, Lev Gorn, margo martindale, Matthew Rhys, recap, suzy jane hunt, thaddeus daniels, the americans, vera cherny


Percy Sledge

1. "Percy Sledge Dies at 74." The R&B singer, whose soulful ballad of eternal love and rejection, "When a Man Loves a Woman," topped the charts in 1966, dies on Tuesday in Baton Rouge, LA.

"Mr. Sledge, sometimes called the King of Slow Soul, was a sentimental crooner and one of the South's first soul stars, having risen to fame from jobs picking cotton and working as a hospital orderly while performing at clubs and colleges on the weekends. 'I was singing every style of music: the Beatles, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Motown, Sam Cooke, the Platters,' he once said. 'When a Man Loves a Woman' was his first recording for Atlantic Records, after a patient at the hospital introduced him to the record producer Quin Ivy. It reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1966 and sold more than a million copies, becoming the label's first gold record. (The Recording Industry Association of America began certifying records as gold in 1958.) Raw and lovelorn, the song was a response to a woman who had left him for another man, Mr. Sledge said. He called its composition a 'miracle.'"

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TAGS: adrian martin, coachella, eric hynes, fandor, ian cohen, journey to italy, julian baggini, l'atalante, percy sledge, Peter Singer, pitchfork, reverse shot, slavoj žižek, suffragette, true false film festival, when a man loves a woman







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