Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

A COMPASSIONATE SPY

 By Miv Evans

This documentary isn’t the gripping spy thriller the filmmakers claim. Reenactments replace history and the narrator is the giggly 90-year-old widow of the film’s subject. It all seems pretty mundane until, unexpectedly, the little old lady’s facade is stripped away. Then it gets fascinating.

Ted Hall was an 18-year-old Harvard graduate when he was recruited to work on what was to become the world’s first atomic bomb. A year later, the fruits of US science were dropped onto Japan’s homeland and Hall did not approve. He claimed he secretly believed that a U.S. post-war monopoly of such a powerful weapon could lead to nuclear catastrophe. Two months later, he started passing key information about the bomb to the Soviet Union. In other words, a rich kid decided to save the world.

At the time, the president of the Soviet Union was Stalin. Hall had a world of rulers to choose from but decided to get into bed with a dictator who had famously executed a million of his own people. Why didn’t he head for a democratic country, such as the UK? They had just led the charge to eradicate that other well-known psychopath and their total execution of nationals was zero.

Not satisfied with having established himself as a traitor, Hall then went on to claim, in an old video recording, that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were innocent of the crime they were executed for. He and a friend acted alone. His excuse for not coming forward was that his wife talked him out of it. She told him that it wouldn’t help the Rosenbergs and would make their own lives ‘difficult.’ Perhaps that’s something she’d like to repeat to the Rosenberg’s sons who were orphaned when those switches got flicked. Having established herself and her husband as reprehensible, she then goes on to voice her disgust at the American people for celebrating the executions. She thought it was in very poor taste.

Joan Hall assassinates what’s left of her character by admitting she didn’t ever take her membership of the Communist Party seriously. The only thing she enjoyed was the social side. Apparently, the happy couple drove past the Rosenberg’s prison on their way to one of their parties on the night of the execution. That might seem bizarre but, as the self-proclaimed ‘compassionate spy’ said, it would have been tricky to explain their absence. Spoken like a true hero.

A Compassionate Spy – Official Trailer (2023) – YouTube

Directed by Steve James
Produced by Steve James, David Lindorff, Mark Mitten

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

DEATH OF A WHISTLEBLOWER – Getting on the Short List

By Miv Evans

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In this thriller, subterfuge is played out against an ancient backdrop of political struggle.  Every aspect is compelling but, at times, the narrative gets bogged down and lacks clarity.  But even at its foggiest, the story whispers, ‘It’s the truth.’  The writing may not be the best but Death of a Whistleblower isn’t just a film.  It’s a whistleblower in and of itself. 

Luyanda Masinda’s (Noxolo Dlamini’s) is a South African investigative journalist.  One night she ends up in a Johannesberg bar with a fellow wordsmith, Stanley Galloway (Rob van Vuuren). Galloway is the editor of a high-profile political outlet and attractive enough for Luyanda to accept his invitation to go home with him.  The following morning, just after they leave Galloway’s apartment, their car is rammed, The two are surrounded and Galloway is  assassinated.  Luyanda escapes relatively unscathed but becomes consumed with her quest to track down the people who orchestrated her lover’s death.

The deeper Luyanda digs, the more dangerous her quest becomes.  Within days, she discovers that South Africa may be a victim of state capture.  Evidence points to a corrupt group of politicians who are covertly hiring out government troops, military equipment and chemical weapons to rogue African countries.  There is a moment of story clarity when the intrepid Luyanda confronts a military elite about what she has discovered.  It’s a long journey to get to this point, but perhaps the filmmaker wanted to make sure no one gets left out when the lid is finally blown open.

There is more than one person to whom the title of this film could be referring.  The obvious choice is Stanley Galloway who was planning to whistleblow on a global scale.  Then there is Albert Loots (Irshaad Allywho), a military employee who dices with death by smuggling  top secret data on a daily basis.  The third contender is Luyanda herself, who pokes the bear with no thought for personal safety.  Sadly, these three are not alone.  The remaining contenders are listed at the end of the film.  They’re amongst the many who, like Galloway, paid the ultimate price for loving their country.

Perhaps this film explains South African’s perpetual absence on the global stage.  Israel, with a population of nine million, is never out of the news.  South Africa, with a population of 60 million, is never in it.  It could be that that’s how the government has engineered it, or it  could be that the the world isn’t yet ready to let go of the Mandela Fairy Tale.  Surely Apartheid didn’t get replaced by something that can’t even pass the smell test?

Death Of A Whistleblower TRAILER – YouTube

RELEASE DETAILS 

Toronto International Film Festival

World Premiere:
*Saturday, September 9th at 2:45pm EST
TIFF Bell Lightbox (Cinema 1)

Additional Public Screenings:
*Sunday, September 10th at 9:40pm EST
ScotiaBank (Cinema 7)

*Sunday, September 17th at 10pm EST
ScotiaBank (Cinema 10)

Categories
Film Miv Evans

North Circular

By Miv Evans

The subject of most musical documentaries is usually a musician, but North Circular is different, and not in a good way.  This time we meet a random group of Dubliners who wax lyrical about the past but the inter cutting music, as beautiful as it is, has no bearing on their tales.  This takes the genre into no-man’s-land and ends up playing like a series of local TV broadcasts that could have been set anywhere.  If it’s not about the music and it’s not uniquely Irish, what’s the point?   

This film begins in a pub where a young maiden sits alone and delivers a lament in a hauntingly beautiful voice.  It’s compelling.  But then she is gone and we never learn how someone so young could sing with such soul.   The next disappointment is that it’s not just the intro that’s in black and white; it’s the whole film.  Life is never in black and white, so why present it as such?  But no sooner has this question been asked than endless stunning but irrelevant shots drift across the screen.  By the end of the first 10 minutes, it’s clear that this film is a masterpiece in self indulgence. 

Along the way we meet many people but they never stay long enough for us to get to know them.  One of them is a middle-aged woman who grieves the loss of the community where she was brought up.  As nostalgic as she is, her personal story is never shared so empathy is limited.  There’s another story about a soon-to-be-demolished pub, which motivates an entire neighborhood to stage a protest.  These two accounts have a similar theme, but that’s where connectivity ends.  

We meet a street musician who tells a sorry tale of past hardships but who now seems content with his lot.  A much younger man relates a tragedy that paints a picture of an uncaring community, which is at odds with what has gone before.  To add to the confusion, a young girl suddenly appears and dives headlong into a narration about her Celtic roots.  The transition jars but what this Colleen has to say is fascinating.  In fact, she probably  had enough material to fill the entire film.  

There can be no country richer in music and folk lore and tragedy and conflict than Ireland.  So perhaps the filmmakers decided that, with such a powerful backdrop, they didn’t have to try that hard.  So they threw in a few hornpipes, got their interviewees to kiss the Blarney Stone and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately for them, however, the luck of the Irish didn’t stretch that far.             

RELEASE DETAILS 

Lightbox

+44 (0) 20 3750 0922 phone

[email protected]

www.lightboxent.com

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

IMAGINING THE INDIAN   –  Promoting the ‘R’ Word

By Miv Evans

This emotionally charged documentary tells a tale that started 800 years ago.  At this time, the citizens of 500 Indian nations were the only ones who called the US home.  When their sovereignty was stolen, so their fight began.  And they have been fighting ever since.     

One of the many organizations doing battle is The Fight Against American Mascoting Their goal is to stop sports clubs using the names and mascots of tribes to which they have no affiliation.  Not only is this exploitation, but their derisory presentations cast a slur on indigenous culture.  But when wealthy organizations were informed that they were insulting their countrymen, they made it clear they didn’t care.  

An appalling example of this is when, in 2000, the Cleveland baseball team was asked to cease use of their cartoonish ‘chief’ logo.  Despite widespread racial justice protests, they kept it until 2018.  An even more contentious battle was fought with the Washington ‘Redskins.’  They would undoubtedly still be using the ‘R’ word had Fedex not threatened to remove their sponsorship if they didn’t comply.     

There are a lot more confounding stories like this, many with less successful endings.  And as disappointing as these disclosures are, is it really a surprise?  With America so unashamedly entrenched in capitalism, an extra kick at morality’s soul is par for the course.  But what is truly shocking is that thousands of schools swim in the same pool as Big Sport.  Like the clubs, they’re fully aware they’re causing offense, but they carry on regardless.  Are these really the kind of people who should be guiding  young Americans  into adulthood?     

Fortunately, however, not all hope is lost.  There’s a heartwarming interview with a young schoolgirl who didn’t find out until she was a teenager that the name of her school was ‘politically incorrect.’   And when she discovered it was causing distress to millions, she was horrified.  She lobbied her school board and succeeded where some very expensive lawyers failed.  She got the name of her school changed.  Perhaps this budding activist should spend less time in the classroom and more time on the road, explaining to unenlightened educators that all lives matter.    

The fact that so many people have been fighting their cause for so long opens the door to a very big question.  Why hasn’t the ‘greatest nation in the world’ made the abuse of Indigenous Culture a form of hate crime?   It’s a dramatic step but if millions of Americans really think the name of their sports team is more important than the dignity of an entire race, the law has to explain that it’s not. 

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE  

RELEASE INFORMATION AND MEDIA:
Adam J. Segal • The 2050 Group – Publicity
212-642-4317 (Office) • 202-422-4673 (Cell)
[email protected] • www.the2050group.com

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

THE JEWEL THIEF – The unfathomable Mastermind

By Miv Evans

Our fascination with the criminal world has prompted filmmakers to keep churning out anything that shines a spotlight on the bottomless underworld. So there is plenty of room for a tale about a Canadian criminal who claims new lands as his own, and preferably those that are laced with landmines.  The Canadian is called Gerald Blanchard and he narrates a most fascinating tale.

Gerald was adopted as a baby.  His parents divorced when he was young and his mother uprooted him from a city he loved and took him to Omaha, Nebraska.   He was skinny and wore spectacles and his ‘nerdiness’ got him the wrong kind of attention.  Bullied and friendlesa, he buried himself in the art of electronics but, after a while, he became restless.  His life was boring and meaningless and he started thinking of ways to make it more interesting.  And just like that, his pre-teen criminal career was launched. 

Instead of following in the footsteps of everyday shoplifters, Gerald creates something a lot more sophisticated.  He becomes a thief, of course, but around the thieving he builds a sophisticated system that enables him to achieve full retail price for everything he steals  And he steals a lot.  But when he gets stopped by the police with a car full of stolen goods, he gets clean away with it. Emboldened by his success, he progresses from car loads to trucks.   Within weeks of launching his new career, he is, without doubt, the highest earning schoolboy in the entire Americas.

There is much in this documentary that seems far-fetched, but facts are backed by the many witnesses who share first-hand accounts of Gerald’s daring.  These include the two boys he enlists to accompany him on his shoplifting sprees.  Their young lives are forever changed by the skinny kid who is fearless, ingenious and who treats his interactions with the police as some kind of game.  He just doesn’t take the law seriously.  And when he eventually gets arrested and deported to Canada, instead of regretting the folly of his ways, his activities escalate.  But this renewed boldness attracts the attention of two Winnipeg detectives who spend the rest of their working lives in pursuit of the unfathomable criminal who’s causing global mayhem.

There are many intriguing aspects to this story, but the most fascinating of all is Gerald’s pervasive desire to dance with fate.  There are times when, even though he can easily escape, he puts himself in harm’s way.  And instead of enjoying his new jet-set life, he goads the very people who want to take away his freedom.  Gerald has a lot to say about his escapades, but makes no comment on his compulsion to stare down the barrel of a gun.  Perhaps that’s because it’s a flaw he doesn’t celebrate, or perhaps even the mastermind himself doesn’t know what keeps dragging him to the edge of the precipice.      

RELEASE

BrazilO ladrão de joiasJul 13, 2023(internet)
United StatesThe Jewel ThiefJul 13, 2023(Hulu and Disney+)Jul 13, 2023(internet)
SpainThe Jewel ThiefJul 13, 2023(internet)
Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

HUDSON, AMERICA

By Miv Evans

The stories of the teenagers featured in this documentary are all compelling but, unfortunately, the power of their material is never fully ignited. What could have been a ‘docbuster’ is instead an interesting ride, but interesting enough to pique audience curiosity to make them want more. As this is more than most films achieve, it makes HUDSON, AMERICA a movie to watch.

The filmmakers follow six first-generation Gen-Z Bangladeshi immigrant students over a six-year period. The first interviews take place in 2016, just after the teenagers have graduated from high school and before they leave the safety of their insular Muslim community.

The filmmakers continue interviewing the students until 2022, but it seems however far these youngsters travel, they can never escape from the constraints of their heritage.

One of the first people we meet is a teenager who’s in a serious relationship with an all- American girl. In his 2016 interview, he has no doubts as to where his life is heading, so it’s possibly as much of a surprise to him as it is to us that he U-turned of his own volition.

It’s an intriguing switch but, unfortunately, the details of his metamorphosis are never shared. This is not only a loss for the film, but also a lost opportunity for this charismatic young man to open a million pairs of eyes.

Another fascinating character is a self-appointed mentor who presents herself as mundane but, behind that silky hijab, loiters America’s very own Joan of Arc. We meet her briefly and then the story fast forwards to a societal tsunami of this young lady’s making.

Unfortunately, the audience never learns how this quiet revolutionary caused the furor that turned her into a persona non grata. If she’d been encouraged to share her story, a layer of her mysterious culture would have undoubted been laid bare.

A lot of themes are covered in this film. Religion and family pressures have clear connections to the subjects’ ethnicity, but when the story strays into #MeToo territory, politics and even 9/11, it becomes confusing.

Perhaps if Joan of Arc had been our narrator, she could have stitched all those threads together and given us a tantalizing look into a world to which she is inextricably bound.

Fortunately, the subjects of this film are on the cusp of their lives, so there’s time for more interviews that will hopefully include the fallout from Hudson, America – Part 1.

Watch the trailer here –

Produced by 18 Street Productions

Directors

Geoffrey Hug | Zuzka Kurtz


Producer

Geoffrey Hug

Composers

Geoffrey Hug | Ramisa Tasnim

Cinematographer

Geoffrey Hug

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

DOWNFALL: THE CASE AGAINST BOEING – So Far

By Miv Evans

Downfall is a documentary about the two Boeing airplanes that crashed out of the sky four months apart. There was an investigation, but Big Air has Big Pockets and the cover-up was slick, or so they thought. Enter Rory Kennedy, veteran documentarian, looking for human injustice. Enter any US corporation. This time it’s Boeing.

Downfall.JPG
DOWNFALL: THE CASE AGAINST BOEING movie poster

The airline giant began life in 1916 Seattle. Over the next five decades, it became the gold standard for flying. Its unerring commitment to passengers’ safety paid off. A spectacular success story. That is, until 1997, when the airline was purchased by McDonnel Douglas. They decided to take their new acquisition in a different direction, promptly transferring Boeing’s commitment to the shareholders. Everyone and everything got swept up in the change.

Prototypes are expensive, so innovation no longer featured on Boeing’s To Do List. Execs preferred to spend their days in the Board Room, finding ways to cut staff benefits. Whilst they were preoccupied, Europe’s Airbus quietly doubled its order book, supplying the world with bigger, better and faster, at Boeing’s expense. Open-mouthed execs looked on in disbelief. But far from realizing the error of their ways, they doubled down.

THE DO-OVER

Try to imagine installing the engine from a 12-carriage train into a Honda hatchback. Adjustments would have to be made to, well, everything, including the actual body size, but it would still be a Honda hatchback. This means its launch wouldn’t be delayed by expensive testing and, God forbid, teaching people how to drive it. Boeing’s hatchback was the same model that made its debut in the 60s. They ‘redesigned’ it and called it the 737 Max.

THE TRAGEDY

A total of 346 people died in the Indonesian and Ethiopian crashes. With such a horrific body count, not even the lobbyists could bribe their way out of an inquiry. When the time came, some of the ‘crash families’ travelled to Washington, seeking answers. But when they got there, not only were answers sparse, but they got told they couldn’t bring their placards into the Hearing. The placards were photographs of their dead loved ones.

THE TABLEAUX

Clearly, Washington has no respect for the bereaved and doesn’t care who knows it. Why would they? People turning up in droves might have an effect in Europe, where governments fear the people, but in the US, the people fear the government. And that’s why the stench emanating from the Boeing execs drifted over to the Federal Aviation Administration staff, who certified the plane. Big Government and Big Air make quite a team.

Don’t get on a Boeing without watching this film!

Streaming on Netflix Feb. 18, 2022
Watch the trailer
Directed by Rory Kennedy
Produced by Moxie Films
Premiered at Sundance Film Festival Jan. 2022   

Posted by Entertainment Magazine

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

Free Chol Soo Lee

By Miv Evans

This documentary tells the story of a young Korean immigrant who is plucked off the lawless streets of Chinatown by a justice system that shows no justice.  It’s a David and Goliath tale but this time, David has no sling until the battle is over.  As well as shining a painful spotlight on the plight of child immigrants, it also highlights the searing inequities of life in America in general.  It’s definitely not pretty.

Free Chol Soo Lee.JPG

Chol Soo is born in the crossfire of the Korean war to a single mother.  When she marries an American, she abandons both her land and her child.  12 years later, and newly divorced, she swoops back in and takes Chol Soo to live in a country he’s never even heard of.   He’s isolated both in school and in his neighborhood.  His mother beats him daily, simply because she can.  Chol Soo often runs away and, as time goes by, he stops going back home at all, and drifts onto the streets that are ruled by violent gangs.

By association and a minor rap sheet, he comes to the attention of the local police.  And when they need a fall guy for a major crime, he’s their victim of choice.  Despite evidence to the contrary, 20 year-old Chol Soo is convicted of murder and handed a life sentence.  He undoubtedly would have stayed there had it not been for the fortitude of an intrepid investigate journalist.

K.W. Lee was a Korean reporter when he came across Chol Soo’s case.   He realized a grave injustice had been done, and in an attempt to highlight the young man’s plight, Lee turned to the Korean community for support.  And support him they did.  Not only did they fight for justice, but they inspired a whole generation of Pan Asian American activists.  They even wrote a song, ‘The Ballad of Chol Soo Lee’ that filled the airwaves for months.  The charismatic young Korean became the symbol of their cause.      

With so much publicity, Chol Soo’s murder conviction was eventually revisited.  It could be assumed that the result of this retrial is where the story ends but, in fact, this is not the case.  

Chol Soo’s saviors had done such a great job of alerting Chicago to his plight, by the time he returned to court, he had reached the status of an icon.  That’s a high bar for anyone to balance on, but if you’re a street urchin who’s only known hardship, it’s difficult to know where to start. In other words, when Chol Soo finally got handed a sling, he had absolutely no idea what to do with it.  

Premiered at Sundance 2022.

Released August 19, 2022 in UK and Ireland.

DIRECTED BY
Julie Ha & Eugene Yi

PRODUCED BY 
XTR
[email protected]
www.xtr.com

DISTRIBUTED BY
MUBI
546 Bryant St
San Francisco
CA 94107
[email protected]
www.mubi.com

Posted by Entertainment Magazine

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

Americanish

By Miv Evans

Americanish is about three Muslim women negotiating the dating scene.  This is a rich vein to tap but, unfortunately, the film is so packed with clichés, and so bereft of conflict, predictability lurks on every corner.   The acting is superb but that’s never enough.  

Two sisters, Sameen (Aizzah Fatima) and Maryam (Salena Qureshi) live with their mother, Khala (Lillete Dubey) in Queens, New York.  Maryam is still in high school and has a crush on one of the other students.   Sameen works for a marketing company and is planning to get her own place to live.  Their cousin, Ameera (Shenaz Treasury), arrives from Pakistan in pursuit of a rich husband and Khala assists her niece with her quest.  She makes it clear to her two daughters that it’s time for them to start similar endeavors of their own.  

The first stumbling block this film crashes into is that, whenever one of the girls meet their ‘Mr. Right’, a neon light flashes This Is the One!  It really is that obvious.  It doesn’t help that all the ‘Mr. Rights’ are woefully undeveloped and they all simply go along with whatever is convenient for the plot.  This is particularly irritating when a hot American business owner agrees to marry a woman he’s never even been on a date with.  All things are possible, of course, but if the audience doesn’t get an explanation for something unlikely, it just seems silly.         

While Maryam and Ameera’s storylines stick to romance, Sameen’s goes off at a tangent.  New themes about race, careers and ethics emerge that have nothing to do with her own love interest or, in fact, anything else in the film.  This disconnect is a signature of the writing and the reason there are three separate endings.  Sitting the characters around the same table for the final scene is clunky and doesn’t solve anything.

This movie is being promoted as the ‘First Muslim RomCom Directed by an American Muslim Woman.’  With so many prolific American Muslim female directors around, this is a sweeping claim.  But what can’t be disputed is that RomComs, by definition, have to be about a romance between two main characters.  As Americanish is definitely not that, perhaps the filmmakers should redefine its genre as ‘RomCom-ish.’   

Directed by Iman Zawahry.

Written by Iman Zawahry and Aizzah Fatima. 

Produced by Roy Wol, Studio Autonomous
 http://www.autonomouspictures.com

New York, NY 10001

Posted by Entertainment Magazine

Categories
Film Miv Evans New Releases

Free Chol Soo Lee

By Miv Evans

This documentary tells the story of a young Korean immigrant who is plucked off the lawless streets of Chinatown by a justice system that shows no justice.  It’s a David and Goliath tale but this time, David has no sling until the battle is over.  As well as shining a painful spotlight on the plight of child immigrants, it also highlights the searing inequities of life in America in general.  It’s definitely not pretty.

Chol Soo is born in the crossfire of the Korean war to a single mother.  When she marries an American, she abandons both her land and her child.  12 years later, and newly divorced, she swoops back in and takes Chol Soo to live in a country he’s never even heard of.   He’s isolated both in school and in his neighborhood.  His mother beats him daily, simply because she can.  Chol Soo often runs away and, as time goes by, he stops going back home at all, and drifts onto the streets that are ruled by violent gangs.

By association and a minor rap sheet, he comes to the attention of the local police.  And when they need a fall guy for a major crime, he’s their victim of choice.  Despite evidence to the contrary, 20 year-old Chol Soo is convicted of murder and handed a life sentence.  He undoubtedly would have stayed there had it not been for the fortitude of an intrepid investigate journalist.

K.W. Lee was a Korean reporter when he came across Chol Soo’s case.   He realized a grave injustice had been done, and in an attempt to highlight the young man’s plight, Lee turned to the Korean community for support.  And support him they did.  Not only did they fight for justice, but they inspired a whole generation of Pan Asian American activists.  They even wrote a song, ‘The Ballad of Chol Soo Lee’ that filled the airwaves for months.  The charismatic young Korean became the symbol of their cause.      

With so much publicity, Chol Soo’s murder conviction was eventually revisited.  It could be assumed that the result of this retrial is where the story ends but, in fact, this is not the case.  

Chol Soo’s saviors had done such a great job of alerting Chicago to his plight, by the time he returned to court, he had reached the status of an icon.  That’s a high bar for anyone to balance on, but if you’re a street urchin who’s only known hardship, it’s difficult to know where to start. In other words, when Chol Soo finally got handed a sling, he had absolutely no idea what to do with it.  

Premiered at Sundance 2022.

Released August 19, 2022 in UK and Ireland.

DIRECTED BY
Julie Ha & Eugene Yi

PRODUCED BY 
XTR
[email protected]
www.xtr.com

DISTRIBUTED BY
MUBI
546 Bryant St
San Francisco
CA 94107
[email protected]
www.mubi.com

Read more movie reviews by Miv Evans

Posted by Entertainment Magazine