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Editor's Cut: Film Reviews

This week's best upcoming screenings

Published on August 12th 2011.

Editor's Cut: Film Reviews

The Green Wave – Ali Samadi Ahadi
As The Green Wave begins, a comic book style Iranian skyline fills the screen, awash in purple. But as the film goes on, it turns out that green, not purple, is the colour of the day. Green is the colour of Islam, but you may also know it as the colour of hope. In 2009, the two connotations merged as symbols of support for presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, forming The Green Wave of the feature’s title. Iranian youth came out in droves as never before, fully engaged in the future of their country to form the Green Movement, a movement less to do with recycling and more to do with restoring the ideals of the Islamic Republic to a country submerged in corruption, poverty, and greed.  And, like so many times before, their peaceful rallies and political enthusiasm were quashed by violent attacks, ballot fraud, and imprisonment.

The Green Wave tells the Green movement’s relatively recent story in an innovative collage format, splicing an illustrated fictional narrative of two students amidst the crisis as a frame for blog entries, real-life interviews with journalist and activists (who are mostly speaking from exile), and grainy footage taken from YouTube and twitter. It’s arguably the first revolution to be broadcast via social media. London rioters take note: these kids had something worth fighting for.

However, the animated sequences often don't sit right, and, when used for plain conversation, seemed to devalue what the characters are discussing. This could very well be the decidedly American voices used over the images, which are most likely not in the original version. Nonetheless, the sequences are useful devices to illustrate some of the particularly brutal moments during the movement that had only been written about before. The blood filling the screen from an animated figure is not so much a desensitizing tool in this film as a poetic rendering of something someone outside of the Iranian borders could barely comprehend. Juxtaposed with the tearful (live-action) remembrances of those who were there, as well as footage of protests and shows of brute force from the military, they turn out to be some of the most poignant moments in the eighty-minute documentary. 

Like any good documentary, The Green Wave evokes sympathy and outrage all at once: how could this happen? What is happening in Iran right now? What can I do? What did my government do for them? We’ve seen and read about coups and corruption and violence before, but this is right now, in our lifetimes. Of course, the minute the documentary is made it’s out of date: there is more to add, because it’s the document of a living history. Still, the fact that the story is told, giving voice to people who were silenced in those summer months of 2009, is a step forward and a chance to look at our social media as something more than just a frivolous time drain. 

All in all, The Green Wave is a raw and powerful look at a moment in time that has yet to be resolved. What it lacks in panache it makes up for in heart, and, like its subjects, it demands to be heard. As the economy plummets and people get increasingly tired of the status quo, The Green Wave is an excellent document of peaceful resistance, and a blueprint for social media’s potential capacity for good.

Out September 30th

The Troll Hunter

The Troll Hunter – Andre Ovredal
Who would’ve thought we’d ever see a horror film about murderous trolls in the mountains of Norway who eat Christians. Well, it’s true, and whoever has the unfortunate luck of having to sit through the one hour and forty-three minutes of this feature may just end up feeling severely short-changed. The film is presented as a collection found footage with a resulting sequence of shaky and dodgy night-vision camera work.

Andre Ovredal’s Blair Witch Project style mock documentary follows a group of film students who find themselves trying to unravel a so-called spooky mystery – the existence of trolls. They meet a mysterious man dressed in a raincoat called Hans (Otto Jespersen) after a spate of bear killings. They follow him and soon realise he works as a troll hunter under employment from the Troll Security Service (TSS), a government department set-up to cover up the existence of trolls. Hans spends his average day hunting down trolls – or rather overgrown looking toys made out of play-doh, turning them to stone by using a UV-light.

Hans reluctantly lets the film crew follow him on the condition that they do as he says and the assurances of no one being a Christian. Not something the poor old cameraman adhered to, as it is later revealed that he does, indeed, dig the divine forces paying the price by getting munched by a Ringlefinch troll. A good thing it wasn’t a Tosserlad troll because they have three heads and all.

The thing I couldn’t get my head round was whether the film was trying to be really funny or really scary, neither of which it came even vaguely close to, aside from the odd bit of winking humour from the film students Thomas (Glenn Erland Trosterud), Finn Haugen (Hans Morten Hansen) and Johanna (Johanna Morch). And in terms of being scary, the rest of the cinema and I couldn’t help but giggle at the absurdity of the film’s attempts at being original in its more frantic moments. Especially the scene when Hans and the film crew are being chased by a Tosserlad troll – all seems to be going badly until Hans gets in his jeep and switches on this high-powered flashlight turning the Tosserlad (sorry to keep repeating this name but it’s too ridiculous not to include) to stone, an almighty anti-climax, followed by Hans remarking, “anyone need any granite?” Oh how we laughed.

To give the film a little bit of credit I enjoyed looking at the Norwegian landscape but unfortunately the film fell well short of leaving any lasting impression through it’s failure to convince on a scary and humorous level – or whatever one of these the film was intending to achieve. I don’t think the even the film knows to be honest.

Out 9th September

Elite Squad

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within – José Padilha
Said to be the biggest film in South American cinema history, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within sees revered Colonel Roberto Nascimento and his second in command, Andre Matias, struggle to tackle criminals on the streets. However, the biggest threat that faces them comes from within Rio's own corrupt political system.

The action-packed minutes follow Nascimento as he struggles to maintain his role as a father whilst to discovering the strength of the connections between gang leaders, militias and the state.

Featuring scenes of breathtaking action and compelling drama, director José Padilha and scriptwriter Bráulio Mantovani depict a truly contemporary story inspired by research and real life events such as BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) raids on prison riots, to present a devastating vision of modern Rio and one man's fight against the system.

A fast-paced, hard-hitting political thriller hailed as a cross between The Godfather and The Departed paints a rich picture of Rio's cycle of violence. It was hugely popular in Brazil and has had audiences of ten million in its first nine weeks; this is definitely not one to be missed.

Out August 12th

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