There are worse problems to have than being faced with a veritable smorgasbord of good films – no, excellent films – to go and see, in a cinema. This weekend in the US, 12 Years a Slave from British director Steve McQueen goes on limited release, and it’ll slowly start opening around the rest of the world in the months to come (and in South Africa in January). New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis articulates the film’s strength so well –
What matters is what has often been missing among the economic, social and cultural explanations of American slavery and in many of its representations: human suffering.
This strength, in part, comes from the detailed account Solomon Northup himself wrote in the book upon which the film is based. It’s still a striking read, that is surprisingly poetic at times, even today. The performances are incredible, but so too is McQueen’s directing. It’s one of those films that made me feel like something inside shifted. I defy anyone watching it not to walk away with a greater understanding of how cruel we can be to one another, and the desire to want to fend that off with more kindness.
Another excellent must-see is Robert Redford in All is Lost (heading to South Africa at the end of January). Like 12 Years, this film has a whole lot of Oscar buzz circling around it – and justifiably so.
Even though Mr Redford stood me up for a one-on-one interview earlier this week (never thought I’d be writing those words!), I will still continue to urge friends to go see this one too. Director JC Chandor has taken a 31-page script, which he wrote, and imagined it out at sea. Mr Redford is sterling in what has been called the performance of his career, as a man alone in a boat who shows us how oh-so hard it can be to hold onto life. I left the premiere in Cannes with a very real feeling of gratitude for life.
But the biggest reaction I’ve had so far was from watching Gravity (which releases in South Africa this weekend). I say ‘big’ because it left me with a boundless, “let’s-go-skydiving” kind of zest and joy for life, after seeing it in Toronto. I was crying tears of happiness, sadness, relief, amazement – all sorts of emotions flooding into one another, grounded within a very definite thankfulness for being alive.
While all these films are guaranteed to get the audience they deserve, there’s one more film I feel I must do what I can do draw attention to. It’s called Blood Brother. I walked into this one at Sundance unsure as to whether it would be anything more than a different take on the subject of HIV/Aids, as director Steven Hoover tells the story of his friend Rocky Braat’s move to India to look after children at an HIV/Aids home. I was absolutely blown away by how personal both men get in the film, and there’s one scene about what love really means that alone deserved the standing ovation and awards the film received.
As if the film itself isn’t incentive enough, proceeds from ticket sales will go directly back to the children and the orphanage featured in the film and to other HIV/AIDS organizations. International release dates for the film are still being worked out, but it heads to the big screen in the US this weekend – limited release too. Don’t hesitate for one second – go see Blood Brother!