Monday, March 21, 2011

International: Which Fandor Film Should I Watch for Free?

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the new streaming service Fandor is offering one free film for those who log in using their Facebook account.  There's also a current offer for a one-month free trial membership which I haven't tried yet.  So at this point I thought I'd share a list of possible films I might try out using my free rental, and since Mondays are international days on this blog, I'll focus on international films.


Cairo Station (Youssef Chahine, Egypt, 1958, 77 minutes)
Fandor: In this beautiful classic film from legendary director Youssef Chahine, Cairo’s main railroad station is used to represent all of Egyptian society. We see a community comprised of luggage carriers and soft-drink vendors living in abandoned train cars. A crippled newspaper dealer, Kinawi (played by Chahine himself), falls in love with the beautiful but indifferent Hanuma (Hind Rostom), a lemonade seller who only has eyes for the handsome Abu Sri’. Swept away by his obsessive desire, Kinawi kidnaps the object of his passion with terrible consequences. Chahine received international recognition when this masterpiece of sexuality, repression, madness and violence among society’s marginalized played at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was nominated for a Golden Bear in 1958. Fandor link.

Chahine is a major figure, but I don't know his films, so this could be a good starting point.  He's perhaps best known for his semi-autobiographical Alexandria quartet, Alexandria. . .Why? (1979), An Egyptian Story (1982), Alexandria, Again and Forever (1989), and Alexandria. . . New York (2004), the first of which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.  He also warned against the rise of religious extremism with Destiny (1998), and his film The Emigrant (1994) was banned in Egypt for representing a prophet in telling the biblical story of Joseph.  He is credited with giving Omar Sharif his first screen role (The Blazing Sun, 1954) and he was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. 

One nice feature of Fandor is that, like Mubi, it often features knowledgeable essays about the films in what they call their Keyframe blog.  In the case of Cairo Station, here is an essay by Simon Abrams.

The Little Girl who Sold the Sun (Djibril Diop Mambety, Senegal, 1999, 43 minutes)
Fandor: African master Djibril Diop Mambety's final film brings us the feisty Sili Lam, a twelve year old paraplegic who becomes the first girl to sell a daily newspaper in the competitive world of young male newspaper vendors. She takes on a policeman whom she accuses of shaking her down as well as the boys who taunt her. When some boys take her newspapers and crutches, and her friend asks her “What next?” she triumphantly responds, “We continue”. The scenes - moving, satiric and comic, are expertly played by non-professional actors to a score by acclaimed musician Wasis Diop (Mambety's brother). Fandor link.

Mambety is perhaps best known for his 1973 film Touki Bouki, which won the International Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Empire Magazine listed the film at #52 in their list of the top 100 films of world cinema.   Mambety is often credited with being more self-consciously adventurous in terms of narrative form and visual style than other African filmmakers of his generation. Unfortunately, he did not return to filmmaking for twenty years, and by the time of his death at the age of 53 in 1998, he had completed seven films. Fandor's Keyframe entry on Mambety can be found here.

Faat Kine (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 2001, 121 minutes)
Fandor: In FAAT KINE, Ousmane Sembene, the unquestioned father of African cinema, calls his fellow Africans to a reckoning of the post-independence era at the beginning of a new century. At 77, he sums up 40 years of path-breaking filmmaking with a penetrating analysis of the interplay of gender, economics and power in today's Africa. Sembene accomplishes all this through the deceptively light domestic drama of Faat Kine, a gas station operator born, significantly, the same year as Senegalese independence, 1960. Fandor link.

Ousmane Sembene was a major figure in African cinema, and three of his films are currently streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly: Black Girl (1966), Mandabi (1968) and the sharp political satire Xala (1975).  If you get a chance, you should also watch his last film, Moolaade (2004), which confronts the issue of female circumcision.  A good introduction to his work can be found at the California Newsreel website.  Fandor's Keyframe entry on Faat Kine can be found here.

Israel and Palestine

These last two titles can be seen as a supplement to my earlier post on Israeli and Palestinian cinema

Kadosh (Amos Gitai, Israel, 1999, 116 minutes)
Fandor: Set in the Mea Sherim quarter of Jerusalem, an enclave of the ultra-Orthodox, KADOSH explores a hermetic world almost never seen on the screen. Here, for ten years, the pious Rivka (Yael Abecassis) has devoted herself to her husband Meir (Yoram Hattab), but their marriage remains childless. Presumed barren, she is rejected by her community, which prizes children above all else. The story that follows relates the harrowing fate of Rivka, and also her beloved sister Malka (Meital Barda), in love with a young man who has fled the community to lead a secular life. Fandor link.

I mentioned Gitai and his film Free Zone in the earlier post, but Kadosh is a much stronger film and a better starting point if you are interested in his films.  Gitai is a controversial figure, and the Israel Fund for Quality Cinema initially rejected Kadosh for funding after viewing an early cut of the film.    Trevor Link provides an analysis of Kadosh on the Fandor Keyframe Blog.

Ma'loul Celebrates Its Destruction (Michel Khleifi, Israel, 1985, 31 minutes)
Fandor: Since the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, countless Palestinian villages have been erased from the map. MA'LOUL CELEBRATES ITS DESTRUCTION uses poignant images of bombardments, destroyed buildings and disfigured people to illustrate this. All that remains are ruins, bearing silent witness in the landscape. Ma'Loul, just west of Nazareth, is one such ruined village. Fandor Link.

One topic I failed to address in the earlier post was the strong tradition of documentary filmmaking within Palestinian cinema.  Khleifi is best known for his narrative feature film Wedding in Galilee (1987), but he has also made a series of documentary films, including this one.  An interesting interview with Khleifi discussing the relationship between politics and art can be found here.

If you have other suggestions from the Fandor collection, or if you want to discuss these or any other films in the Fandor collection, please do so in the comments section below.  --JLK

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