TANGERINES-‘Mandariinid’ (2013)

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Set in Georgia in 1990 during the war, this quiet, powerful film tells the story of Iwo (Lembit Ulfsak), an Estonian man who has stayed behind in the region to harvest his crop of tangerines, and his neighbor, Juhan (Raivo Trass), also a tangerine farmer. The Georgian civil war has forced the rest of the locals to flee back to Estonia for safety in this tumultuous time.

After a bloody battle ensues nearby, Iwo takes in a Chechen soldier, Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze), a Muslim, and a Georgian soldier, Niko (Misha Meskhi), a Christian, who were both injured in the battle. These two sworn enemies promise not to kill each other as long as they are in Iwo’s house. Their performances are rooted in a palpable history.

This anti-war film leans towards the things that connect us as opposed to the those that separate us. What it has to say about current conditions between various religious factions all over the world is incredibly pertinent. Sit two humans next to each other and have them discover their commonalities and before long a bond can be formed.

Zara Urushadze directs this film with a quiet intimacy and humanity that is rarely seen in a war film. This is not strictly a war movie, merely a story set during a violent time in Georgia’s recent history. The quietness is its greatest strength, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars (2015) and losing out to Pawel Pawlikowski’s ‘Ida’, it is well deserving of acclaim and worth seeking out.

The acting is brilliant, quiet and grounded; the cinematography by Rein Kotov is beautiful, capturing the village and the surrounding mountainous areas with simplicity and is more powerful because of it. The music is both haunting and filled with memories composed by Niaz Diasamidze. The motif theme for the film is below:

 

This is a film that many will not see and more’s the shame; it’s Georgian, subtitled, has very little in the way of action but is more powerful and important than a hundred studio movies put together; it is a deep, moving, anti-war film underpins the drama with the unsettling threat of battle always round the corner.

I want to see more of these; well-made, intelligent films that tackle serious subjects with subtlety and sensitivity.

4/5

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WATTSTAX (1973)

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In 1972, seven years after the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Stax records from Memphis held a concert for the good folks in Watts to commemorate the anniversary of said event.

Tickets cost $1 so as many people from the community could attend. Interestingly when Glastonbury had it’s first festival in 1970, tickets cost only £1.

I love these kind of documentary films; Woodstock, Monterey Pop and Festival Express all cut from the same cloth and from the same time and not trying to form any kind of narrative, simply showing the concert interspersed with talking heads from the time. It washes over you and allows deeper access into the time and world in a way that conventional narratives don’t. You get to imbibe it with less guidance and that can e a good thing. Here, it is great.

Starting with a statement from the great Richard Pryor:

“All of us have something to say, but some are never heard. Over 7 years ago, the people of Watts stood together and demanded to be heard. On a Sunday, this past August, in the Los Angeles coliseum, over 100,000 black people came together to commemorate that moment in American history.”

The film contains several sequences throughout the film with Richard Pryor, holding court and speaking on the black experience. Also throughout are scenes of African-American men and women speaking on this same subject.

What it’s like to be black in America in 1972. These are very entertaining and contain an insight into the struggle, real people with real talk. They are the glue with which the film is joined together.

And then there’s the music, some of the greatest musicians of the time on the Stax label come together for this unique concert. Talking of Coming Together, hearing Jesse Jackson’s stirring opening speech, I immediately recognized the sample that Primal Scream had used for their seminal single Come Together.

“This is a beautiful day….”

From Kim Weston’s Star Spangled Banner through to the Bar-Kays, to the blues from Albert King and ending with the mighty Isaac Hayes, this is a film for music lovers everywhere. Like with the other musical docs I mentioned earlier, Wattstax gets to the core of the time, the concert, the people and the mood of the country.

Here are The Emotions singing Peace Be Still in a local church taken from the film:

 

Directed by Mel Stuart, who also directed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory and was the first cousin of Marvel’s Stan Lee, here he does a tremendous job bringing all the elements together to create a feeling of what it must have been like to be there. One of the four cinematographers on the film was a certain Larry Clark, who went on to direct Kids.

This is highly recommended to anyone who loves the music, the time, the history and the attitude.

Brilliant.

4/5

BUY THE BLU RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE