After walking away with the Oscar For Best Picture for Argo, George Clooney‘s Smokehouse Productions has just sent out a press release announcing their latest film The Monuments Men is beginning production.
At the end of WWII, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Within a week, the Japanese forces surrendered unconditionally and the Americans began occupation of the Island Nation. 64 years later, 2 former high school friends, filmmaker Shinpei Takeda and producer Eiji Wakamatsu set out on a journey from Vancouver in Canada to Mexico with Takeda collecting video of the survivors stories. Along the way, they also try and come to terms with what happened and find their identities as Japanese. And thus Hiroshima Nagaski Download was born.
The hibakusha, or “explosion-affected people”, living in the United States not only had the difficulty of having survived the bombing, but also having to live in the nation that was there enemy. While some immigrated to the United States at the end of the war, some were already Americans sent to Japan to study. One can imagine the hardship of being thrust into a culture, not knowing the language well and having the double burden of coming from a country that is at war with the one you find yourself in.
Takeda’s story is twofold. He is trying to relate his personal journey of not only finding the hibakusha, but also trying to get them to speak about their experiences. In trying to relate to the audience just what he has encountered along the way, part of the interviews with the hibakusha are shown periodically throughout the film. As the two travel down the west coast, both are deeply and profoundly disturbed by the experience, but feel very strongly that to have these stories recorded is the most important thing they can do. The aging population of hibakusha, coupled with the associated health issues from radiation exposure means there is a limited amount of time with which this can be done.
The problem with the film, though, is because Takeda is trying to tell the story of the hibakusha and his personal one, he must carefully balance these two and doesn’t quite do it. Without a clear explanation of his motivation, (which is not the recording, but to tell the tale of the trip itself), in parts he ends up having meandering conversations that go nowhere. Conversely, the clarity and force with which the hibakusha speak make the conversations between Takeda and Wakamatsu seem a wasted opportunity. He wisely chooses to avoid the issue of how the war started, or condemn the US for the dropping of the bombs, but rather lets the stories of the misery and torment of what was experienced speak for itself.
The film would have been better served focusing completely on the hibakusha with as much background information as possible giving the context of the stories. While there is some information online, there seems not to be the type and scope of information one would find around holocaust survivors of Nazi Germany. One wonders what happened to the videos shot by Takeda, as they are a valuable recourse. While emotionally difficult for both viewer and hibakusha, these stories should be seen and heard.
With the brilliant success of The Avengers and all of the lead-up movies to it, during its panel for Iron Man 3 at Comic-Con Marvel released details and logos for the next phase movies that will inevitably lead up to The Avengers 2 and a possible battle with Thanos (or the beginnings of one because that is a pretty epic story.
So the next phase will obviously include Iron Man 3 as that is the next Marvel movie coming out with Ben Kingsley being the ultimate Iron Man baddie, the Mandarin and Guy Pearce as the scientist Aldrich Killian responsible for creating the nanobots that will be at the centre of the Extremis storyline (which is the basis of this big screen chapter of Iron Man).
While we are not sure of the order of the other movies, we now know the titles of them. The Guardians of the Galaxy movie has been announced. I would imagine this atypical storyline is being greenlit as it fits with the Thanos storyline and will be part of the puzzle leading to The Avengers 2 and will be released August 1 2014. We also have confirmation on the title of the Captain America sequel being Captain America : The Winter Soldier and the Thor sequel being Thor : The Dark World.
While the Thor sequel has very little details as to which way the story will go, the Cap sequel title should make a lot of the fanboys and comic-nerds happy as it pretty sums up where the story will go We should see the story had back to World War II where we will learn the truth about Cap’s sidekick Bucky. I would imagine that we then end up back to the present day in which the seemingly dead soldier is revived as a personality that isn’t exactly friendly to Cap. It is a very famous storyline and one that is integral to the Captain America canon so it’s great to see that is the direction that the studio is heading.
We also are getting the title treatment to Ant-Man which is now in the very capable hands of Edgar Wright. During the Marvel panel, some test footage was tested and very well received. From all indications, they are going a different route with this superhero franchise and so far all indications point to a very fun and special movie.
More as details as are announced. In the meantime, check out the titles below:
We are around the first bend being the first weekend of the 20th Toronto Jewish Film Festival. We have been in providing some reviews over the past week. Be sure to catch Part I and Part II here as well as some info on some of the free screenings the festival is mounting here. Now we bring you Part III of our coverage.
Enjoy and hope to see you at the festival.
In the Shadow of No Towers Feature
If you love the documentary “Crumb” by Terry Zwigoff about artist and cartoonist Robert Crumb, you’ll appreciate this double bill of two long shorts about cartoonist and editor Art Spiegelman. “The Art of Spiegelman” is an overview of his life, born to Polish Jews who survived WWII and made their way to America. The film weaves together interviews of Spiegelman and his wife, Francoise Mouly and is filled with a multitude of images from his work as co-editor of the magazines Raw and Arcade, and as a contributing editor to the New Yorker mag in the 90′s. You may recall some of his covers particularly at the time of the Lewinsky scandal with an image he drew of President Clinton‘s pants being hounded by the paparazzi.
In 1992, Spiegelman found fame after we won a Pulitzer Prize for “Maus”, a graphic novel culled from images over the decades from stories of his parents at the time of the Holocaust, to the heart-wrenching time in the late 60′s after Spiegelman’s mother committed suicide.
His next big work was “In the Shadow of No Towers”, where he animates the details surrounding the events of 9/11, located essentially in the cartoonist’s backyard. “The Art of Spiegelman” is an interesting documentary particularly for fans of edgier, adult-oriented comics and graphic novels.
The second short, based on the title of his work on 9/11, is a wonderful multi-media presentation that dives into his comic and is narrated with aplomb by John Turturro. It follows Art’s ruminations over 9/11, as well as the mundane details of that horrifying day as he and his wife went on a search for their daughter, who had just started going to high school, located less than a couple blocks from the World Trade Center. The images are magnificent and haunting, and throughout both films you can really feel the organic process that his final images have gone through, from life experience at first, to contemplation, to the rendering of them.
Terrific special interest doc here about a relatively happy, open-faced man who lives the artist’s life and who is fascinated by the way he can divorce his feelings from the most morbid of events through his work.
My Australia Canadian Premiere
MAY 7 – 6:00PM BLOOR MAY 9 – 8:00PM SHEPPARD buy tickets
This is a movie that finds us dropping into a time not covered so much on film: the years following World War II. Our story begins from the POV of 10 yr-old Tadek, a Polish Jew being raised to believe he is Catholic. See, his mother represents a more secret kind of Holocaust survivor, one who changed her identity entirely in order to protect herself.
But now Tadek, brought into a Neo-Nazi gang by his brother Andrzej, has gotten in trouble for beating up on Jews for sport. Halina, their mother, not afraid to use her beautiful looks to her advantage, lays down a pack of lies to the on-duty police officer, setting her boys free. Halina is beside herself at the news of what they were up to. The truth is revealed to the boys. She decides it isn’t the best environment for her sons and they briskly depart to Haifa, Israel–though Tadek is assured they’re going to Australia, a country he idealizes.
“My Australia” has you leaning forward in fascination and wonder at a most precarious time in history for this specific kind of family in a story that must have sadly been common to many survivors. The movie does a terrific job of compartmentalizing the adult world of Halina with the child’s world of Tadek, a boy now forced into a coming-of-age where his entire value system and identity come into play. The story arc belongs with him. In an early scene after Halina has gotten them out of the police station, she asks Tadek, “You were beating on Jews?!”. Tadek smiles, proudly, as though it was an achievement. But from the very next sequence he is shaken out of his own young cemented-mind and by the end of the film has journeyed hundreds of miles both physically and internally in just a few short months.
It won the Audience Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, and that comes as no surprise. This is a very thoughtful human drama.