"On the day Mubarak fell, and a larger crowd moved into the square to celebrate, the CBS correspondent Lara Logan suffered a 'brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating' while reporting on the jubilation, and several Egyptian women also said that they were sexually harassed," writes Nana Asfour, blogging for the New Yorker. "But at least they were speaking out. Shame and community pressure has kept attacks hush-hush. It was only in 2008 that a young woman, Noha Roushdy, sued her groper — Egypt's first sexual-harassment case, and the inspiration for new laws that criminalize such behavior. Roushdy's story is the basis of a gripping feature film, Cairo 6,7,8, which has been selected for this year's New Directors/New Films series." And she interviews director Mohamed Diab, who "decided to forgo the European première of his début film at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in order to help lead the revolt in Tahrir Square. He continues to stand at the political front lines but he is taking a break from activism to attend the festival in New York, where he studied screenwriting."
"In his exploration of the entrenched Egyptian culture of casual sexism and its inevitable corollary of sexual harassment and abuse, Diab seems caught between a desire to explore the complexities of female psychology and response to victimization and to craft a more simplistic crowd pleaser about women fighting male oppression," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "If it's the latter narrative that ultimately wins out, though, it's not before Diab's had a chance to articulate the positions of three women of differing social classes and viewpoints and to dramatize a range of potential remedies to a culture that treats sexual harassment as a nonexistent phenomenon (or one that shames the victim rather than the perpetrator) even as it emerges as a daily threat for all Egyptian woman."
This is "an angry, bracing film," writes Joe Bendel, "a tightly crafted drama grounded in its human elements." At Filmmaker, Howard Feinstein recommends it as well: "A real find and eye-opener in every way." Cairo 6,7,8 screens this afternoon at MoMA and again on Monday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Update, 3/27: Frank Scheck in the Hollywood Reporter: "The three central characters are working-class Fayza (Bushra), upper-class Seba (Nelly Karim), and aspiring stand-up comedian Nelly (Nahed El Sebai). All have experienced sexual harassment in varying forms… Superbly acted by the leads — Bushra and [Maged] El Dedwany shared the Best Actress Award at the recent Dubai Film Festival — Cairo 678 eventually reaches a rather too tidy conclusion. But despite its flaws, it's to be hoped that the film has the social impact to which it so obviously aspires."
Update, 4/1: For the New York Times, Mekado Murphy gets a couple of minutes with Diab.
"New Brunswick-born, Quebec-based director Denis Côté has become a force in Canadian independent cinema, garnering awards at international film festivals and being selected as the first subject of Toronto's Bell Lightbox's ambitious New Auteurs series." Adam Nayman presents "five reasons that you should be watching out for Denis Côté (and you can start by watching his best film, Carcasses, on Fandor)." Or watch the film he made directly prior to Carcasses, All That She Wants, here on MUBI and then head to Fandor. Or skip both for now and, if you're in New York, head straight to MoMA where Curling screens tonight before a second screening tomorrow afternoon at the FSLC.
"The last several years have seen the influx of a number of films about characters shielding either themselves or their families from the alleged dangers of the world, confining their lives to a greater or lesser degree to the relative safety of the domestic fortress," writes Andrew Schenker, this time at the House Next Door. "Call it Shut-In Cinema. To Ursula Meier's Home, Anders Edström and CW Winter's The Anchorage, Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth, and Bong Joon-ho's segment in the anthology film Tokyo!, we can now add Denis Côté's Curling… Rivaling The Anchorage, the best of the above listed works, in its combination of utter precision of detail and overwhelming sense of mystery, Côté's film makes for instructive comparison with the movie it most superficially resembles, Lanthimos's celebrated tale of overprotective parenting gone bonkers… Like the parents in Dogtooth, single father Jean-François Sauvageau (Emmanuel Bilodeau) keeps his daughter [Philomène Bilodeau] in a state of overweening isolation and, like the sinister pair in Lanthimos's film, his reasons are never explicitly made clear, though they're continually hinted at… Curling is a psychological study that refuses to go deeper than what the naked eye can detect."
"[I]t's assumed that his ex-wife's (Johanne Haberlin) incarceration (for an undisclosed crime) only compounded whatever radically isolationist tendencies Jean-Francois had from the outset," writes Chris Cabin in Slant. "It's the agonizingly slow rupture of these tendencies in Jean-Francois and the deep yearning for socializing that begins to swell in Julyvonne that maps the course of Curling, but the ways Mr Côté physically manifests these insular forges lend the film a distinct outlook and a consistently odd tone. Living on a rural, snow-swept patch of Quebec that could double as the length of North Dakota road Fargo was filmed on, Jean-Francois and Julyvonne continue to go among their quotidian tasks even as they encounter a bloody motel room, fenced-in tigers, and a handful of corpses in the surrounding woods, but their hold on their shared reality becomes increasingly unstable, often by their very own hands."
"What I enjoyed so much about Curling is that it doesn't give up its mysteries," writes Ed Champion. Interviews with Côté: Jason Anderson (Cinema Scope), Nicolas Rapold (Voice) and Neil Young (Filmkrant).
Update, 3/30: James Clark at Wonders in the Dark: "When Things Go Wrong: The Films of Denis Côté."
"Last September, in response to Floyd Mayweather's homophobic rant against Manny Pacquiao, Stanley Crouch wrote an essay suggesting that African Americans 'exemplify the modern age in their contradictions as thoroughly as any other ethnic group,'" writes Ed Champion. "Yes, black voters showed up in California to vote against same sex marriage. But Crouch observed that, thanks to Amiri Baraka, homophobia had been part of black nationalism as early as the 1963 March on Washington… Since black homophobia is often too easily portrayed as a symptom of race rather than a symptom of class, it's a relief that writer-director Dee Rees has arrived to investigate the matter. Her debut narrative feature, Pariah — an extension of her 2007 short — finds its best footing when illustrating how middle-class aspirations and the desire for stability are often responsible for this lingering atavism. Late in the film, when Audrey (Kim Wayans) reacts to her 17-year-old daughter Alike (Adepero Odeuye) after she defiantly shouts, 'I'm a lesbian, I'm a dyke,' the moment's true horror comes from understanding how Audrey's materialist desires for a Fort Greene brownstone (rather than a place in Queens, an early life of struggle hinted at throughout Rees's film) and her efforts to stick with the 'right people' at church have permitted a few dormant prejudices to explode within this apparent domestic bliss."
"Bradford Young, who won a Sundance prize for his cinematography, seems to have manipulated his images in-camera and during the digital-immediate phase to give the film the same gritty-glossy, sometimes antiseptic, look of 25th Hour (Spike Lee, it should be noted, is one of the film's executive producers)." Slant's Ed Gonzalez: "Like Ballast before it, Pariah suggests and suffers from the influence of the Dardenne brothers. In both films, the post-doc, jarringly realistic tenor of the Dardennes' signature aesthetic is, with all sorts of color correction, distorted into something less casual, more canned — a borrowed-then-trumped-up style that becomes especially problematic when you consider how it's been applied to stories about present-day African American experience. In Pariah, the effect is also an easy one: Alike, a 17-year-old girl who isn't out to her parents, is often shot from a distance, through cracks in doors, or from the side, so only part of her face is visible to us at any time. It would seem that the camera, like Alike, also lives in the closet. It's important to talk at length about Pariah's aesthetic because of how it distracts from the emotional truthfulness of the sometimes heartbreaking, by and large gorgeously performed story."
"Rees displays a winning intimacy with the world she portrays, a canny feel for her characters, and an eye and ear for little things that loom large," finds Elise Nakhnikian at the House Next Door. Earlier: Reviews from Sundance. IndieWIRE interviews Rees. Pariah screens tonight at the FSLC and on Monday at MoMA.
Update, 3/31: John Wildman has "Ten Burning Questions" for Rees.
"A recent meticulous restoration of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver gives us a chance to see what the film looked like in 1976," writes Miriam Bale at the House Next Door, but: "The Taxi Driver of our memory is not from 1976, but from 1981 and afterward, after John Hinckley Jr claimed watching the film 15 times in a row was the reason he shot Ronald Reagan, as 'the greatest love offering in the history of the world' to Jodie Foster." What's more, the Taxi Driver of 1976, she argues, "has considerably less venom, and even less bite," is "not a masterpiece" and is "not about racism and sexism and violence as much as it's about burnout from too much hippie-dippie fey ineffectualness. And [Göran Hugo Olsson's The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975] ends up there, where Taxi Driver was seeded, in the agro burnout of faded ideals. This Swedish Pop depiction of black power in America is a sweet, cool compilation of the counterculture. The real revelation in this particular film is not what it shows us about race or power, but the pristine, newly rediscovered footage from Swedish documentary TV of the streets of California and New York. The footage of New York in the 70s shows it to be a fairly attractive place. Has it changed that much? Had it changed that much? The apocalyptic, hellish city streets of reputation are nowhere to be found in the imagery from either film."
Black Power Mixtape "views the American Black Power movement through the lenses of Swedish (16mm) filmmakers during its heyday while recent commentary from those who were there (including Angela Davis and Harry Belafonte) or wish they could have been (?uestlove and Erykah Badu) is heard in voiceover," writes Lauren Wissot in Slant. "Sure, seeing Stokely Carmichael being greeted as a hero in Stockholm and Paris as the Vietnam War rages on is riveting, and watching Belafonte play to the camera in a photo-op with Martin Luther King Jr, Coretta Scott King, and the King of Sweden is jarring. But like the doc's era-appropriate soundtrack and ubiquitous images of Che, the newly discovered footage starts to feel repetitive. The problem lies less with this treasure trove that was found in a basement 30 years after it was shot than with the Swedish culture's tendency toward rational, efficient documentation. Simply put, the doc is full of cool talking heads pontificating rather than taking physical action. Its dry, unemotional spirit doesn't come close to capturing the passion of the years bookending the critical juncture of 1968."
"Maybe it's because the interviewers were not American, and maybe because some of the interviews were done in Stockholm and not Chicago or New York, but this rhythmically assembled footage is strong," argues Howard Feinstein at Filmmaker. IndieWIRE interviews Olsson and the doc screens tonight at MoMA and on Monday at the FSLC.
Coverage of the coverage: ND/NF 2011 Index. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.