Timbuktu: a stunning cry for freedom

Timbuktu, from the Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako is a stunning film and likely to be the best I’ll see this year. It’s a portrait of the country of the director’s childhood, and particularly of the city of Timbuktu, whose rich culture and traditional tolerance were trampled and its people terrorised when jihadi forces from outside the country swept in three … Continue reading Timbuktu: a stunning cry for freedom

Fred Wiseman in the National Gallery

The other day I caught up with Frederick Wiseman’s epic documentary about the National Gallery, shown recently on BBC 4.  In characteristic fly-on-the-wall style, Wiseman spent much of 2012 prowling the corridors, boardrooms and backrooms of the National Gallery, having been given exclusive access to film anything that took his fancy. Myself and Fred Wiseman and I … Continue reading Fred Wiseman in the National Gallery

Citizenfour documents the monitoring and curbing of dissent

I’ve come to this late, but I must salute one of the finest documentaries I’ve seen in recent years.  Filmed in real time, Citizenfour documents the tense negotiations leading up to whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the massive state surveillance of British and American citizens.  The film appeared last autumn, and I have just caught up with a recording of … Continue reading Citizenfour documents the monitoring and curbing of dissent

Leviathan: politics, religion, and vodka (lots)

Leviathan, the latest film from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, opens with waves beating upon a barren shore where rocks as old as the earth face an implacable, slate-grey sea. Tracking inland across barren wastes to an insistent Phillip Glass score, the camera encounters signs of human imprint on this unforgiving landscape: power lines, the hulks of wrecked and abandoned … Continue reading Leviathan: politics, religion, and vodka (lots)