The films you must watch
Cartel Land Director: Matthew Heineman Cartel Land’s opening scene is spine-tingling. Against a starry desert sky somewhere in Mexico, a group of men wearing balaclavas are brewing methamphetamine in barrels. Chemical smoke rises into the night as the leader explains how an American father and son visited them, and taught them how to cook the drug.
“We come from poverty. If we were doing well, we would be like you. But if we start paying attention to our hearts, then we will get screwed over,” he says.
Director Matthew Heineman cuts to scenes of a thunderstorm and a rain-splattered van loaded with the crystal-like drug making its way to the Mexico-US border, a hard-core Spanish rap track in the background. It’s like Breaking Bad, except way more intense. Cartel Land is a harrowing look at the Mexico-US drug trade, fuelled by ruthless cartels. And when I say harrowing, I mean it. Between shots of drug traffickers and shootouts between civilians and gangsters, you can’t help but wonder how exactly they filmed that. This is a remarkable achievement. What Happened, Miss Simone? Director: Liz Garbus Surprisingly, this is the first full-length documentary made about legendary singer and activist Nina Simone. And wow, does it linger in your mind afterwards. ( See full review in sidebar.) Amy Director: Asif Kapadia The Amy Winehouse biopic is an intimate look at the cost of celebrity, but more than that, it’s an at-times heartbreaking look at a human being destroying herself. Though quite conventional in format, Amy is so compelling because it pieces together her life using interviews from two of the people who caused so much of her heartache. Here we see Winehouse’s on-again-off-again partner, Blake Sheldon, at his most candid and most atrocious, and we meet her father, Mitch Winehouse, who was absent throughout her childhood and exploited her fame for his own gain during her adulthood. Fans will be mesmerised by this candid collection of rare footage as we travel with her from the dawn of her career to the very bitter end.
Joshua Oppenheimer Texas-born director Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, nominated for a 2014 Oscar, was lauded for transcending the traditional documentary format. The Look of Silence is a companion film to that masterpiece. Both examine the aftereffects of the Indonesian Genocide of 1965/66, which saw between 500 000 and a million people killed by a government purging the country of “communist forces”. The perpetrators, some of whom individually killed up to a thousand people, are now regarded as heroes of the revolution. In The Look of Silence, Adi Rukun, a man whose brother was killed by a group of men who live down the road from him, confronts the killers. Rukun is an optometrist who gains access by offering the killers a free eye test in their homes. As he checks their vision, he slowly starts questioning them about their involvement in the genocide. Each scene brims with the unbearable legacy of the country’s vicious past, and it is so breathtaking to witness that you feel humbled. The fact that perpetrator and accuser were willing to be filmed is an ode to Oppenheimer’s skill as a documentarian, and his two films have apparently opened up new conversations in Indonesia. A subtly devastating film. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom Director: Evgeny Afineevsky In 2013, thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square to protest then president Viktor Yanukovych’s veto of a decision to allow their country to join the European Union. The protest was made up mainly of young Ukrainians and students, and was so peaceful that some said it looked more like a music festival. Without provocation, military forces were sent in and used tear gas, batons and undue force to break up the gathering. This sparked what was to become the Ukrainian revolution, which saw Yanukovych ousted and a new interim government formed in the former Soviet country. Film maker Evgeny Afineevsky unpacks the 93 days of clashes in the streets of Kiev. His on-the-ground approach is like that of a war correspondent and it makes for breathless, intimate viewing. AND THE WINNER WILL BE...
Amy will probably take the trophy, but the most deserving is The Look of Silence. All these documentaries are streaming on Netflix Catch The Oscars 2016 live on Monday,
February 29, at 3.30am on DStv channel 103. The repeat is on M-Net
(channel 101) at 7.30pm SMS the keyword OSCAR and your answers to 35697. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. SMSes cost R1.50. Please include your name and province
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?