Pras on WorldFilms: THE GREAT MATCH (“La Gran Final” / Various)

A visually breathtaking, gently comic homage to the indigenous communities that are its subject and to soccer’s power to penetrate lives, THE GREAT MATCH  is set in Mongolia, Niger and the Amazon. The film is cast with non-pros, and is an attempt to explore the relationship between the most global of sports and the most isolated of communities.

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Veteran Spanish documentary filmmaker Gerardo Olivares raises crucial questions concerning globalization and the information age with this lighthearted tale of three groups inhabiting isolated corners of the globe, yet all sharing the common goal of watching the 2002 World Cup finals no matter how far they must travel to do so. Germany and Brazil are about to go toe-to-toe in the biggest game on the planet, and despite the fact that they’re hundreds of miles from the Great Matchnearest television, these three soccer-loving groups are determined to witness every breathtaking goal.

The Great Match (or “La Gran Final” as it is known in Spain where it was produced) is a 2006 movie that tells the adventurous story of three devoted soccer fans, about three groups of people scattered around the globe who are all trying to achieve the same difficult project: getting TV reception of the classic 2002 World Cup Final between Germany and Brazil. The protagonists in this epic adventure are a family of Mongolian nomads, a camel caravan of Tuareg in the Sahara, and a group of Indios in the Amazon. These groups, none of whom have ever met each other, but who nevertheless have two things in common: firstly, they all live in the farthest-flung corners of the planet and, secondly, they are all determined to watch the final.  All living about 500 kilometers away from the next town, and the next television, their task remains a particularly daunting one.

Great Match1Getting the World Cup Final on the television doesn’t sound so tough to Americans, but these people live in remote areas of the world where technology is decades behind the US. The film is really less about soccer than it is about the common threads that unite the global community.

Things open in the vast spaces of Mongolia’s Altai mountains, with a group of riders, Great Match3including Dalai Khan (Shag Humar Khan) and Aldanish (Abu Aldanish), using eagles to catch a fox. After the day’s hunting, they head back to the family tent, presided over by a proverb-spouting grandmother (Zeinolda Igaza). Her words of wisdom are faithfully transcribed by Kumar Khan (Kenshleg Alen Khan).
In Niger’s Tenere desert, a caravan of camels, led by Tuareg Hassan (Attibou Aboubacar), comes across a truckload of people on their way to see the game in a nearby town. Since Hassan has a TV set, the camel drivers suggest the truck reroutes to an “iron tree” — an abandoned military installation — which will serve as an aerial. To his frustration, Mohamed (Mohamed Hassan Dit Blinde) is left alone to look after the camels.
The third, most explicitly farcical yarn, set in the relatively claustrophobic jungle, has soccer-shirt wearing tribal hunter Xama (Jenesco Kaapor) trying — and repeatedly failing, like an Amazonian Buster Keaton — to set up a TV set and an ancient dynamo in his compound to watch the game.

Great Match2The “Great Match” is not only a spectacularly photographed film, but it offers fascinating glimpses of otherwise invisible cultures in a charmingly offbeat and engaging way.

Great Match4The scenes from the Mongolian steppes are my favorite, but overall the film serves to demonstrate once again that regardless of culture, physical location or language, guys around the world are all “wired” the same!

Great Match6What made the film fantastic was the dialogue. The cultural nuances and references woven seamlessly throughout the movie kept the film incredibly fast paced. By the end, it seemed as if the viewer (me) had known the individuals and their quirks for years.

Olivares’ cinematography is brilliant. He honed his craft making documentaries for National Geographic, so it’s fair to say the best thing about The Great Match is the stunning camerawork. The film itself is surprisingly humorous, as many of the characters approach their rural existence with good-natured warmth.

The movie itself is not an original idea. The Cup earlier in 1999 had also portrayed the the same motivation among a group of Tibetan monks to watch France 1998 Final Match.

The Great Match

 

Pras on WorldFilms: Michael Moore’s WHERE TO INVADE NEXT

Sarcastic, Hilarious, Educational  And As Always, (Almost) Guaranteed To Make You Feel Shitty About The System That Exists In United States. “WHERE TO INVADE NEXT” finds Moore traveling to foreign countries, mainly in Europe, to claim their best civic ideas for America.

Where to Invade NextMichael Moore spent the first decade of the twenty-first century chronicling modern America at its worst: School shootings; a broken healthcare system; a berserk economy built on unregulated greed; and, most controversially, the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. It has been six years since Moore’s last big-screen documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” and violence, injustice, and political cowardice are still everyday staples of American life.

As I walked in at this evening’s screening, I wondered if the new Michael Moore film was an anti-war message, or whether it was an indictment of America’s defense policies.   Michael Moore had taken them on already in the Cannes Palme d’Or winning Fahrenheit 9/11 back in 2004. He also took on the American healthcare system with his Oscar nominated film Sicko in 2007. He even took on gun violence and America’s obsession with guns back in 2002 with the Oscar & Cannes Palme d’Or winning film Bowling For Columbine.

His groundbreaking film ofcourse was the 1990 film  Roger & Me, a statement on corporate greed targeting General Motors  and how it bankrupted and destroyed his beloved home town of Flint, Michigan, a town in the news again about its suffering a massive drinking water contamination crisis  (the film was now used as subject material for many business school courses, including mine).

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This time around in the new film WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, Michael Moore trains his inimitable style of sarcasm and hilarious storytelling on the American education system, the American penal system, the deep social inequality and how America created a system built on white-washing our past history to showcase itself as the model system of national governance and economic management to the world, all at once. Now in his 60s, Moore has, in fact, transformed into a self-described “crazy optimist.”

To learn what the USA can learn from other nations, this time Michael Moore assumes the role of a self-appointed globetrotting “invader” on behalf of a much-troubled America to see what they have to offer. All that was missing was a cameo appearance by Bernie Sanders.

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Moore visits Italy to learn about how Italian companies allow their workers enjoys vacation days and worker pay that would unimaginable here, yet enjoys higher worker morale, productivity and prosperity that their American counterparts. Interesting visits to Ducati’s factory and interviews assembly line workers, and those at a high-fashion apparel house.

This image provided by Dog Eat Dog Films shows director Michael Moore, left, and Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati, in a scene from his documentary, "Where to Invade Next." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Feb. 12, 2016. (Dog Eat Dog Films via AP)

This image provided by Dog Eat Dog Films shows director Michael Moore, left, and Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati, in a scene from his documentary, “Where to Invade Next.” The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Feb. 12, 2016. (Dog Eat Dog Films via AP)

In France Moore takes us on a visit to the public school system, the teaching system, the healthier school lunches served in French schools and  best of their no-homework policy.

In Slovenia, where a college education is free, he talks with American students and teachers who left America and moved here. They highlight why this system works better than America’s college system designed to load students with a lifelong burden of debt. He even gets a 45-minute private meeting with Borut Pahor, the sitting President of Slovenia.

In Germany we visit Faber-Castell, the famed maker of specialized pencils and drawing tools for schools and design work. In a digital age where use of paper is fast being replaced by the computer screen, Faber Castell has had its best year ever in productivity and worker morale.

Next we visit Portugal and meet with their head of drugs enforcement agency to understand why the country has the lowest incidence of drug-related offenses in a society that has decriminalized every kind of drug well beyond marijuana.

It’s the prison part of the film that proves to be especially insightful, with Moore learning that most developed countries outside of North America view prison as a means of rehabilitation rather than pure punishment.  Norway becomes his argument about a model penal system works and how its humane treatment of prisoners focus on human dignity and reformation and brings social benefits. He takes us inside two different prisons and chats with prisoners who live like free people, and administrative staff carries no weapons. Dehumanization is something that’s simply not acceptable in places like a Norweigian super-max prison where inmates start their sentence by watching a pop sing-along music video cover of “We Are the World” made by the guards

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As for Tunisia, the country that touched off the Arab Spring, Moore finds democratic passion not only still thriving there but actually achieving worthwhile results. On his only non-European stopover, Moore also takes time to interview a Tunisian activist who cannot understand why Americans know so little about the rest of the world, when the rest of the world knows so much about them. Tunisia where government funded healthcare services for women works better than most advanced countries. It was amazing to observe how women power and public opinion brought down a dictatorship and replaced with a deeply conservative Islamic government which also was forced to give in to changes in its anti-women policies.2where_to_invade_next__2015_1974

Perhaps the most incisive and insightful segment was his visit Iceland where he shows how a country that was almost destroyed by the economic fallout from the 2008 mortgage crisis clawed its way back to health and became prosperous again.We also discover an educational system that not only turned itself around from being one of the worst in the world to being quite possibly the best, but also one that includes such foreign-to-the-U.S. novelties as shorter school days, minimal homework, and no private schools, thus forcing rich and poor to inhabit the same spaces. Its also a country that has served a s a model for women-led politics and business. In feminist Iceland, even more fascinating than the fact that the nation elected one of the world’s first female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, in 1980, is that the one bank that didn’t fall during their recent financial crisis had three women as part of its board of directors, thus leading to a discussion on how having more women in power led to diversity in views and leading to less risky business behaviour.

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Whether it’s serving tasty and nutritious school lunches or offering quality college education for free, these countries have found a way to do something meaningful. There are hilarious shot of the Italian couple’s astonishment when they’re told that Americans have no legally required paid vacation, or a quote from the French chef about how he’s never eaten a hamburger. The results might seem Utopian but in fact are based on practical realities.

Many of the ideas on display here seem relatively easy for the U.S. to implement, as Moore states earlier on, with the catch being that income taxes would have to increase for the wealthy. However, he makes the point that with things like medicare, free tuition, more vacation-time and more, citizens would actually wind-up wasting far less of their income on things that are considered a human right in places like Italy, Norway, France and more.

The final message of the film highlights the irony that most of the ideas he had been searching for Moore’s films have originally been American ideas. All the game-changing notions of other nations, the film notes in a wry postscript, began in the U.S. His big reveal is that Americans used to be much more caring toward one another, and that was reflected in the values we championed and the politics we practiced. How Did We Lose Ourselves? How Do We Get The Magic Back?

Michael Moore’s been among the most lucrative documentaries at the box office. His “Fahrenheit 9/11” earned $119.2 million in 2004; his last film, 2009’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” made $14.4 million.

Pras on WorldFilms: HANNAH ARENDT

imageA look at the life of philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, who reported for The New Yorker on the war crimes trial of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

 
In the award-winning HANNAH ARENDT, the sublime Barbara Sukowa reteams with director Margarethe von Trotta (Vision, Rosa Luxemburg) for a brilliant new biopic of the influential German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist.
The film is centred on her coverage of the 1961 trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann in Israel for The New Yorker, which she also published as a book. In her writings, she proposes that Eichmann is not an evil man, but an ignorant and stupid one instead, coining the phrase “the banality of evil”. The concept stirred controversy throughout the world upon its publication in 1963. She also implies that Jewish councils outside of Germany may be implicated in the extermination of Europe’s Jews, for not providing a stronger resistance to the Nazis. The film, by covering this small time in Arendt’s life, manages to capture her distinct characteristics, and provide an introduction to her philosophies.
hannah-arendtArendt’s reporting on the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann in The New Yorker—controversial both for her portrayal of Eichmann and the Jewish councils—introduced her now-famous concept of the “Banality of Evil.” Using footage from the actual Eichmann trial and weaving a narrative that spans three countries, von Trotta beautifully turns the often invisible passion for thought into immersive, dramatic cinema.
An Official Selection at the Toronto International and New York Jewish Film Festivals, Hannah Arendt also co-stars Klaus Pohl as philosopher Martin Heidegger, Nicolas Woodeson as New Yorker editor William Shawn, and two-time Oscar Nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) as novelist Mary McCarthy.
 

The banality of evil is examined in this solid and intelligent account of Arendt’s controversial conclusions on the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Deftly blending low-key drama with archival black-and-white footage of the Nazi’s cross-examination, director Margarethe von Trotta raises thorny questions about complicity and guilt, conclusions which caused outrage when first aired in the pages of the New Yorker. Award-winner Barbara Sukowa is excellently measured in the title role.
 
  “Hannah Arendt,”  has unleashed emotional commentary that mirrors the fierce debate Arendt herself ignited over half a century ago, when she covered the trial of the notorious war criminal Adolf Eichmann. One of the pre-eminent political thinkers of the 20th century, Arendt, who died in 1975 at the age of 69, was a Jew arrested by the German police in 1933, forced into exile and later imprisoned in an internment camp. She escaped and fled to the United States in 1941, where she wrote the seminal books “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.”
 
Adolf Eichmann was living among a fraternity of former Nazis in Argentina, before Israeli agents captured him and spirited him out of the country and to Israel for trial. 
 
When Arendt heard that Eichmann was to be put on trial, she knew she had to attend. It would be, she wrote, her last opportunity to see a major Nazi “in the flesh.” 
 
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Adolf Eichmann in the Jerusalem courtroom where he was tried in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II.
Eichmann’s writings include an unpublished memoir, “The Others Spoke, Now Will I Speak,” and an interview conducted over many months with a Nazi journalist and war criminal, Willem Sassen, which were not released until long after the trial. Eichmann’s justification of his actions to Sassen is considered more genuine than his testimony before judges in Jerusalem.
Writing in The New Yorker, she expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Her reports for the magazine were compiled into a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” published in 1963.
Arendt famously insisted that Eichmann “had no motives at all” and that he “never realized what he was doing.” That evil, Arendt argued, originates in the neediness of lonely, alienated bourgeois people who live lives so devoid of higher meaning that they give themselves fully to movements. It is the meaning Eichmann finds as part of the Nazi movement that leads him to do anything and sacrifice everything. Such joiners are not stupid; they are not robots. But they are thoughtless in the sense that they abandon their independence, their capacity to think for themselves, and instead commit themselves absolutely to the fictional truth of the movement.
 
Arendt’s insisted we see Eichmann as a terrifyingly normal “déclassé son of a solid middle-class family” who was radicalized by an idealistic anti-state movement.
 
But she did not mean that he wasn’t aware of the Holocaust or the Final Solution. She knew that once the Führer decided on physical liquidation, Eichmann embraced that decision. What she meant was that he acted thoughtlessly and dutifully, not as a robotic bureaucrat, but as part of a movement, as someone convinced that he was sacrificing an easy morality for a higher good.
 
Margaretha von Trotta’s film is not a documentary, but it incorporates archival footage of the trial. The director felt the footage was essential because it let the viewer encounter Eichmann directly.
 
Nearly every major literary and philosophical figure in New York chose sides in what the writer Irving Howe called a “civil war” among New York intellectuals — a war, he later predicted, that might “die down, simmer,” but will perennially “erupt again.”
 

This time, a new critical consensus is emerging, one that at first glimpse might seem to resolve the debates of a half century ago. This new consensus holds that Arendt was right in her general claim that many evildoers are normal people but was wrong about Eichmann in particular. 

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Hannah Arendt in her Manhattan apartment, 1972.
 
 Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. Born into a German-Jewish family, she was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and lived in Paris for the next eight years, working for a number of Jewish refugee organisations. In 1941 she immigrated to the United States and soon became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York. She held a number of academic positions at various American universities until her death in 1975. She is best known for two works that had a major impact both within and outside the academic community. The first, The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, was a study of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes that generated a wide-ranging debate on the nature and historical antecedents of the totalitarian phenomenon. The second, The Human Condition, published in 1958, was an original philosophical study that investigated the fundamental categories of the vita activa (labor, work, action). In addition to these two important works, Arendt published a number of influential essays on topics such as the nature of revolution, freedom, authority, tradition and the modern age. At the time of her death in 1975, she had completed the first two volumes of her last major philosophical work, The Life of the Mind, which examined the three fundamental faculties of the vita contemplativa (thinking, willing, judging).

Arendt published the most controversial work of her career in 1963 with Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt covered Eichmann’s trial in Isreal as a correspondent for The New Yorker in 1960, when Isreali security forces had captured the S.S. lieutenant colonel responsible for the transportation of Jews to death camps. Eichmann in Jerusalem is the collection of revised articles from her coverage of the trial. According to her text, Eichmann had not had a sadistic will to do evil, but had been thoughtless; he had failed to think about what he was doing. Her concept of the banality of evil caused considerable friction between herself and the organized Jewish community, as her book was read by some as an elevation of Eichmann’s character and a questioning of Jewish innocence. Arendt was concerned that the ability to act according to conscience and rational thought was becoming obscured by partisanship and nationalism, combined with modernization. Most of her writing studies the sense of a shared world and the possibilities of freedom grounded therein.

Winner of Lola Award (German Oscar) for Best Actress for Barbara Sukowa and Silver Lola (2nd prize) for Best Film