this is not a burial, it's a resurrection (lemohang jeremiah mosese, 2019)

This is the twenty-third film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 23 is called "African Movie Academy Awards Week":

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film nominated for an African Movie Academy Awards. Thank you to Adam Graff for this handy list, found here.

Another great challenge category, as I had seen none of the movies on Adam Graff's list, an empty spot in my lifetime of watching that needed to be filled. The theme is timeless, progress and its implications, as a small village is forced to resettle when a new dam will flood the land they have lived on for as long as anyone can remember.

There are several elements that raise This Is Not a Burial above the average. The soundtrack by Yu Miyashita is uncanny, sounding modern yet also connecting to the land and the past. The cinematography of Pierre De Villiers, which won an African Academy Award, is good at showing the expanses of the land, but also inventive in smaller, tighter places indoors. Director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese is always in command (he, too, won an Academy Award).

Best of all is 80-year-old Mary Twala Mhlongo as a woman near death who is more willing to accept that death than she is to accept the "progress" that will destroy her homeland. Her performance was so authentic, I thought Mosese had gotten an amateur village woman to play the part ... Twala's work isn't the least bit hesitant or amateur, but she is so believable I could barely believe she was acting. Her character is the heart of the village, and her acting is the heart of this film.

revisiting the 9s: hotel rwanda (terry george, 2004)

[This is the eleventh in a series that will probably be VERY intermittent, if I remember to post at all. I've long known that while I have given my share of 10-out-of-10 ratings for movies over the years, in almost every case, those movies are fairly old. So I got this idea to go back and revisit movies of relatively recent vintage that I gave a rating of 9, to see if time and perspective convinced me to bump that rating up to 10. Of course, it's always possible I'll drop the rating, but time will tell.]

I saw Hotel Rwanda back in 2006, liked it so much I gave it a rating of 9, but never wrote about it for some reason. Watching it again after all these years, it's clear why I was impressed. The based-on-fact heart wrenching story of the Rwandan genocide is effectively presented ... we hate the people behind the slaughter, and we root for Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who protects some thousand refugees while deflecting the efforts of those committing genocide. It's all fairly straightforward ... Rusesabagina does not ask to be a hero, but he rises to the crisis.

Cheadle's brilliant performance further embeds his character into the hearts of the audience. If that was all there was to Hotel Rwanda, it would be easy to say "9/10". But there has been controversy over the film's presentation of Rusesabagina, with some claiming he wasn't as selfless as the movie suggests. For me, this doesn't detract from the power of the film, but it does give pause when evaluating the movie after the fact.

The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Cheadle for Best Actor (he lost to Jamie Foxx for Ray). #696 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 8/10.

film fatales #100 and #101: two documentaries from 2020

Totally Under Control (Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger, 2020). Alex Gibney has dozens of credits as a director, including Enron, Going Clear, and Magic Trip. For Totally Under Control, an expose of the U.S. inadequate response to COVID-19, he called in two co-directors, because he wanted it to be finished before the 2020 election. Indeed, the film was finished just as Donald Trump tested positive for the virus, which was noted in the credits. The film makers had to deal with making a film during a pandemic, and one of their solutions was a complicated camera setup that allowed for interviews without fear of contagion. Totally Under Control is in the ripped-from-the-headlines school of documentaries, and it is impossible for it to tell the whole story, when that story isn't finished unfolding. Thus, the film, with its detailed timeline of events, will likely be more useful for historians looking to examine the period, than it is for us, who are living through it. Still, the movie is infuriating, as is intended.

Geezer Cinema: My Octopus Teacher (Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed, 2020). My Octopus Teacher tells the story of a man, Craig Foster, adrift in his own life who discovers new meaning in the waters off the coast of South Africa. It is a joy to watch, with beautiful underwater cinematography. Often I wondered how certain shots were achieved ... Foster is presented as a loner who swims alone, but clearly someone else has taken at least some of the photography. If you are like me, with limited knowledge of the world beneath the surface, just seeing the various animals is amazing. And I learned that some octopuses (most? all?) are rather small. This threw me off at times, because I assumed the star octopus was as huge as an alien monster, only to realize that it was much smaller than Foster. Foster falls in love with a particular octopus (there's no other way to put it), and in the process, learns about his life (hence, the film's title). Sometimes the film gives the impression that the octopus was only put on earth to illuminate the life of Craig Foster ... he does a lot of ruminating during the movie. But that's a bit unfair. The movie is properly titled "My Octopus Teacher" and not "Craig Foster Learns About Life", and Foster doesn't come across nearly as self-absorbed as I'm describing. In fact, he went on to co-found a project to protect marine life.

what i watched last week

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984). Kurt Cobain’s favorite movie places character actor Harry Dean Stanton in a leading role, and he makes the most of it by underplaying. There is some fine acting here, not least by 8-year-old Hunter Carson in his film debut. The movie looks lovely, and Ry Cooder’s soundtrack sounds like the best parts of his contribution to Performance. Sam Shepard’s dialogue is a perfect match for Stanton’s quiet excellence. In other words, this is a very good movie. But its virtues, which are aggressively low-key, make it both a nice antidote to the Michael Bay School of Filmmaking, and something I admired more than I loved. #313 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the Top 1000 films of all time.

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009). Clearly Neill Blomkamp is influenced by Peter Jackson. I just didn’t expect that the influence would come from Jackson’s early splatter films. As the hero’s body started falling apart, I was reminded of Braindead/Dead Alive. It’s also pretty amazing that Sharlto Copley wasn’t an actor until this movie. District 9 is ambitious without losing its sense of humor (the Jackson influence again), and it succeeds on most of the levels it tries for. I don’t think the film is racist … it’s more misanthropic, humans in general pretty much suck in this movie. I’d probably feel differently if I were Nigerian. As is often the case with sci-fi, you have to close your mind to some parts … I don’t mind that the film is vague about some aspects of the backstory, but I’d still like to know exactly why the alien spaceship came to Earth in the first place, and why, if it was stranded for 20 years, Christopher and his son were able to get it working again so easily. But what the heck.