« April 2005 | Main | June 2005 »

May 30, 2005

All You Can Eat Ayurveda?

A good friend of ours, Lalitha Vaidyanathan, has been hard at work trying to bring the concept of Ayurvedic food to San Francisco. Specifically, she's focusing on franchising Annalakshmi, a chain of vegetarian restaurants with a twist. From The Karmic Kitchen in the San Francisco Weekly:

Imagine walking into an upscale Indian restaurant, its menu filled with delectable-sounding choices like Malabar avocado and coconut soup (made with plain yogurt, cumin, and lemon juice and served with fresh cilantro chutney and whole wheat chapatis) and drinks like the Saffron Sandalwood Fizz (lime juice and pure water, cooled overnight by the light of the moon). You sit down with friends and enjoy a delicious, ayurvedic vegetarian meal, served with a smile. Then you finish, feeling satisfied, and signal for the bill -- but none comes. This scenario is not merely a fantasy: At Annalakshmi, you decide what to order and how much to pay.

Inspired by Swami Shantanand -- a Hindu monk from Rishikesh, India, who came to Southeast Asia in the early 1970s -- the small international restaurant chain operates with an uncommon trust in humanity: that people will pay what is fair because we are inherently good and because it is in our own best karmic interests to give. Although its concept may sound too idealistic to stand a chance, Annalakshmi has been in business for 19 years, and has thriving outposts in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and India. And now it's geared up to open its first eatery in the United States -- in an as-yet-undetermined spot in San Francisco.

Behind the scenes is a 35-year-old Marina District woman named Lalitha Vaidyanathan, who, late last year, quit her job as a co-founder and vice president at SquareTrade, a company that facilitates fair online sales, to pursue the restaurant's local development full time. "I always felt like Annalakshmi has so much to offer people beyond just food," she explains. "It really provides a whole new way of seeing the world and its possibilities. I felt that San Francisco would be a perfect place to open one. Why not? I figure if it's meant to happen it will. I have complete trust in whatever's meant to be."

Hear hear! For those of us fortunate enough to taste the teasers Lalitha prepares in her kitchen, all I can say is she may well make permanent vegetarians out of us yet! Until then, here's to Annalakshmi, a place where you can balance your doshas (not dosas) as well as your pocketbook.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 30, 2005 11:13 PM // Food

May 22, 2005

Soam's Sattwik Mix: A Yoga Playlist

We've been taking yoga classes from our local community college for a while and one of the big benefits has been the music that our instructor, Diane, plays during the sessions. She's always looking for new material, so I created a mix CD for her a little while back. It seemed to go down pretty well. Here's the tracklist:

  1. Kelsang Chukie Tethong - Om Ma Nye Bhe Mae Hum. Album: Voice From Tara. This is a solo vocal track and showcases her amazing voice. A quiet start to the proceedings.
  2. Kelsang Chukie Tethong - Avalokitesvara. Album: Voice From Tara. This time with a piano accompaniment. Very haunting.
  3. DJ Real Eyez & Dishum Dishum - Down These (Cross) Rhodes. Nepotism! No seriously, I wanted to pick up things a notch while still maintaining a dreamy ambience. This seemed to fit the bill.
  4. Kruder and Dorfmeister - Deep Shit Parts 1 and 2. Album: G Stone Book. This is the last track from the G-Stone album, a worthy introduction for you Kruder and Dorfmeister fans to the rest of their projects. The track itself combines a heavy electric piano riff with African chants. I wish they'd thought of a better title for the track though.
  5. U. Srinivas and Michael Brooks - Dance. Album: Back To Mine (mixed by Talvin Singh). A mesmerizing track that starts off with a sinuous guitar line by Michael Brooks and builds to a fantastic percussive climax. This was used really well last year in a short play excerpt ("Maya") from a NAATA showcase of young Asian playwrights.
  6. Bikram Ghosh - Little Krishna. Album: Rhythmscape: The New Sound of Melody and Rhythm. I wanted to continue the Indian percussion theme from the last track. Bikram Ghosh is big in Kolkata and he seemed to be partying all over town last time I was there. Good album, especially for Indian fusion lovers.
  7. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Mustt Mustt (Massive Attack remix). Album: Back To Mine (mixed by Talvin Singh). The original. This is one of the remix classics. It's hard to believe this track was created so long ago (1990), it still sounds so utterly contemporary.
  8. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Tracery (Nitin Sawhney remix). Album: Star Rise: Remixes. Several songs on the Star Rise album are out of this world but this is a personal favorite. Nitin Sawhney is never less than intense and the way he chooses to start the song with Urdu poetry and then segue into drum and bass with Nusrat's vocals on top is sheer heaven.
  9. State of Bengal & Paban Das Baul - Kali. Album: Tana tani. Bengali jungle. The first time I heard this track (on KCRW), my jaw dropped. Here was someone doing Ramprasadi style devotional music over hard beats. Someone had reached into my head and stolen the sound I wanted to create!
  10. State of Bengal & Paban Das Baul - Radha Krishna. Album: Tana tani. More on the devotional tip but slowing the pace down a little.
  11. Wax Poetic - Flight In Dub (feat. U-Roy). Album: Nublu Sessions. Superbly produced, this is a standout track on a very good album by a band more famous for being Norah Jones' slumming outlet. They deserve more publicity in their own right.
  12. Roots Manuva - Next Type of Motion. Album: Back to Mine (mixed by Groove Armada). A quiet, meditative hip hop track (there aren't very many of those!) to close out the set, this was the surprise hit of the playlist. A stripped down production, the standout here is the killer organ bass groove.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 22, 2005 8:27 PM // Music , Select

May 18, 2005

Retrospective: Khakee

khakee.jpgA surprisingly entertaining production from industry veteran Raj Kumar Santoshi, Khakee (translated as Khaki, a reference to the color of the uniform worn by Indian police) stars Amitabh Bachchan as an aging police instructor Anant Kumar Shrivastav who is suddenly entrusted with leading a convoy to transport some criminals from Chandangarh to Mumbai for a court case. He's helped in this by a casanova young inspector (Akshay Kumar). The convoy soon runs into trouble on the return journey when a gang led by Ajay Devgan tries, by any means necessary, to stop them from reaching their destination. Aishwarya Rai also makes an appearance as a stranded motorist.

Several factors separate Khakee from a dance-by-numbers Bollywood production. First is the plot and character development: they exist! In particular, the film takes time to add detail to the lives of even the supporting characters and this helps greatly in building the tension that follows. Because there is a coherent narrative, we are better able to appreciate some of the subsequent twists and they do occur. Secondly, Amitabh Bachchan deftly combines both gravitas and levitas in his role, using his age to lend vulnerability to his character, but not afraid to poke fun at it. This is not the first time he's acknowledging his age (Baghban) but rarely has he done it with such elan (think Sean Connery in The Untouchables). Akshay Khanna too fits into his role with an easy charm. Ajay Devgan, venturing to the other side of the fence, does just fine as a scenery chewing villain as does Ms. Rai, as love interest/vamp. Finally, as this is old school Bollywood, we have to have songs and dances, but, as a measure of how times have changed, they are kept to a minimum and when they do occur, they play in abbreviated form. I particularly liked the shifting of the color palettes for "Dil Dooba." In addition, the songs are actually very catchy indeed - the heavily techno-ized "Aisa Jadoo" was a huge hit in India. So, overall, great entertainment, though things slow a little in the second half.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 18, 2005 11:42 PM // Bollywood , Film , Review

Riffing Further on Phoren Heroines

While writing a previous entry on phoren heroines in Bollywood and their long term prospects, I kept wondering about the cinema industries in Far East Asia. Did they face a similar situation - an influx of white artistes interested in getting into the business? Consider Hong Kong. This is about as cosmopolitan a place as you can get but I don't remember seeing any Western actors in any of the Wong Kar Wai or John Woo films that I've seen. Now, there's a very famous Aussie cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, who works in that part of the world, although not exclusively, but then foreign cinematographers have also worked in Bollywood. I had to go back as far as Bruce Lee films to remember foreign actors. So, I did a bit of digging and found this, an interview with the actor Ricardo Mamood, who apparently is based over there:

2. What do you think of the use of foreign actor in the Hong Kong cinema ?

Foreign actors are not used enough, or misused. For several reasons. The first one is the fact that stories, scripts do not contemplated a significant presence of foreign looking characters. There is still a very closed-up approach when it comes down to storytelling in Hong Kong. Their presence ranges from extras to small supporting roles. I wish the local industry would contemplate this a bit more and the fact that this town is very cosmopolitan, just take a look at it. So, you have a few talented and trained foreign actors in town but not many.

Then you have a lot of people that is scouted on the streets but with no training whatsoever and unfortunately then you see the final product on the screen and it sucks. It's a waste. This doesn't encourage talented or trained foreign actors to stay or come to work here but hopefully it will change in the future.

Sound familiar? I investigated further and it turns out there is a page further detailing the foreign presence (or the lack thereof) in Hong Kong:

Westerners have appeared in Hong Kong films for decades- as extras, supporting actors, co-stars and very rarely, as the star.

The first foreigner to headline HK films was Ron Van Clief. Jim Kelly, Brandon Lee and Shannon Lee have all starred in one HK movie respectively, yet the best known round-eyed star to make it in Hong Kong was blonde American martial artist Cynthia Rothrock.

Who would've thought that? Sounds like the combination of blonde and martial arts expert did the trick! Just ask Quentin Tarantino.

As for China, if anything, it's a lot more insular than Hong Kong, although that's changing fast of late. Hence you'd be expecting zero penetration in the film industry there. But I was still surprised to see this article in Salon which talks about Rachel DeWoskin who moved to Beijing in 1994 to work at a PR firm but ended up in a very popular Chinese soap:

Shortly after arriving and settling into the grind at an American P.R. firm, she met a man who decided her white skin was all the qualification she needed to act in a soap opera about American girls in Beijing...

The show's title, "Foreign Babes in Beijing," says it all. Two American exchange students (one played by a German) come to China and pursue romances with Chinese men. There's the predictable good girl-bad girl split: the blond Louisa, who loves Chinese culture almost as much as she loves her Chinese boyfriend, and the lusty, slutty, brunet Jiexi, the "dishanze" (mistress, or "third") who steals the honorable Tianming away from his hardworking wife and homeland.

Apparently, her exotic value (and the cliches she represented) were enough for Rachel to play the Jiexi role. I suspect if Bollywood were to delve into the phoren heroine thang further, it'd follow the same template i.e. noble Amit (Ajay Devgan), a man who doesn't start his day without prostrating at his mother's feet, is seduced at work (his own highly successful company of course) by his lusty, slutty, blonde secretary Nicole (insert fantasy here) and strays from his wife Priya (played by Rani Mukherjee of course). All Priya can do is pine away, wearing designer salwar suits and doing many, many karwa chauths. It all ends happily, but not before the seats at the local multiplex have been thoroughly doused by tears. A Yash Raj production, naturally. You heard it here first!

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 18, 2005 7:57 PM // Film , Select

May 15, 2005

Retrospective: Ab Tak Chappan

atc.jpgThis is the debut film of Shimit Amin, the LA based editor who went back to India after Ram Gopal Verma offered him an opportunity at his production arm, The Factory. The title of the film can be roughly translated as "56 And Counting" and it refers to the number of kills that lead Police Inspector Sadhu Agashe (Nana Patekar) has notched up in his pursuit of terrorists and criminals in Mumbai. The film is a bleak look at the phenomenon of "encounter killings" - a convenient way of disposing off criminals for the police unwilling to entrust them to the vagaries of the Indian judicial system. The fireworks really start when Sashu Agashe, hitherto accustomed to meting out rough justice, starts finding himself at the receiving end. The ensuing cat and mouse game is riveting and the subsequent denouement is both shocking and cathartic. It's made all the more remarkable by Nana Patekar's searing performance. Present in nearly every frame of the film, he's as magnetic as he was in his breakthrough roles in Parinda and Prahaar, yet he never resorts to cheap histrionics. Special mention must also be made for the background score consisting mainly of stark, analog soundscapes, very unlike Bollywood, yet very fitting. A tough police thriller in the tradition of Heatand Internal Affairs, Ab Tak Chappan is one of the best films of 2004.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 15, 2005 11:54 PM // Bollywood , Film , Review

May 12, 2005

DeNiro Watch Out!

Here's something you film aficienados will truly appreciate. Not content pumping up their bods, our young thesps have decided there's more to acting than just pouting and yelling. Just like their western counterparts, Bollywood actors now go all out to prepare themselves for a role. Rediff reveals the grueling research undertaken by Dino Morea for Chehra (Appearance):

"I've just finished Rakht and played a negative role. It was a volatile aggressive character. And in this film I play a well-off doctor. If people see Rakht and this film, they will get to know my versatility as an actor," claims Dino Morea...

About his preparation for Chehra, Dino revealed, "I have met up with psychiatrists and found out that they don't wear white overcoats like doctors do. I met them to get a feel of the character. A psychiatrist's job is only to talk to the patients."

No lab coat? Wonder how many notepads Mr. Morea had to fill before he gained that priceless insight.

PS - Link courtesy Amar Parikh.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 12, 2005 8:49 PM // Bollywood , Select

May 10, 2005

Hip Hop Theater Festival

Hip Hop Theater FestivalHonestly, I hadn't realized the degree to which I'd grown disinterested in hip hop until I attended the Jack Ya Body dance program - part of the Hip Hop Theater event going on at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. It was there I realized there still was much more to hip hop than beats, rhymes and braggadocio. Of course there always has been - tagging, cypher, and, of course, dancing. The festival showed that were folks who are still dedicated to keeping the spirit alive.

First up were Traci Bartlow and Dancers and they tore up the place. A lovely commentary on black dance through the ages - at least that's what it seemed to me and I am no dance expert. Hell, I can barely shake a leg! What I found most impressive with that piece was the out of sync nature of their steps. None off the dancers copied each other, yet all their postures fit into a coherent whole. Rashad Prigden followed with an energetic sequence which had real power, particularly towards the end, when accompanied by a mix of "Strange Fruit". Next up were the Black Messengers, the originators of the Electric Boogaloo, and "Boogaloo Resurrection." They literally vibrated themselves out of coffins and across the stage, playing tag team and reminding us of the other side of the funk. Traci Bartlow then introduced us to a number of Bay Area freestyle dancers including The Funky Asiatic. Good as they were, the next dancer must have been built with steel springs. Just watching him was enough to induce hernia! The final piece of the evening was by the Rubberdance Group. Victor Quijada spoke movingly about growing up with hip hop, becoming disillusioned with it and moving to classical music, and then, finally realizing it was all good. In between, he and his partner, Anne Plamondon, went through a sequence of jawdropping pieces, moving from pure b-boy stuff to ballet and ending with a fusion of the two. A fitting way to end a memorable evening. Plus we had a slew of good music on the soundtrack, some of which I actually recognized. You know your getting old when you know the samples but not necessarily the songs themselves!

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 10, 2005 9:09 PM // Theater

May 7, 2005

Phoren Heroines In Bollywood

How easy is it to get a bit part in a Bollywood flick if you are white? A Salon article, I Was A Bollywood Stuntwoman, provides details:

What unfolds daily, especially now, at the height of the shooting season, is an odd scene where Westerners resemble certain Mexican laborers –- picked up from street corners, without the proper work papers, by shady middlemen who keep a generous dose of a long day's pay for themselves. And yet, being a Bollywood extra is a growing tourist attraction. For most travelers it's a one-time playground, a future freak story to tell over beer. For others, it's the entry to a possible job.

Already, young foreigners -- from film-school graduates to short-skirted women waiting in the lobbies of high-class hotels -- are nibbling at Mumbai's entertainment industry.

Given how desis worship all things fair, I suppose it was inevitable Bollywood would take matters to its logical outcome and try non-desis as heroines proper. From the same article:

The pinnacle of my short but glorious career came a few weeks ago, when the Indian epic "Kisna" opened at theaters around the world, including in the U.S. It was Bollywood's biggest release so far this year, by India's showiest director, Subhash Ghai, and marked a significant step in international relations: The lead actress isn't local, but British and blond. I was her stunt double. On holiday in India, and with no acting experience, I found that the fastest road to filmdom may begin in Mumbai.

Yes, aspiring starlets. Get there now, before the small but savvy number of booby Russian and Bolivian girls, already clutching portfolios, takes over. The average Indian film is a challenge of taste -- "Our biggest problem today is that 90 percent of the films are flopping," Ghai has said -- but it's a mistake to ignore the colorful job market behind them. The Mumbai film industry makes more movies a year than anyone in the world, and the need for non-Indians is growing, especially now: As Bollywood producers see larger chunks of their box office from overseas, they're making more films with foreign faces.

Other than Kisna, Rog was the other film to get on the bandwagon. Here, the filmmakers went one better - they actually tried to pass off the South African model turned actress, Ilene Hamman, as Indian!

So did the audiences buy it? No. Both films did poorly. Now, there can be any number of reasons as to why. However, regarding the foreign heroine angle, here are some thoughts:

  • The trend seems to target heroines, not heroes. In other words, sexist as it is, the gamble is on what Indian men prefer to see on screen. My brother in law had an interesting take on this - he felt Indian men prefer the girl-next-door type of looks the most. Hence, he predicted these films wouldn't succeed. He had a point.
  • Making Bollywood films for mass foreign (read Western) consumption is still a laughable concept. Rather, a big chunk of Indian films receipts come from the overseas NRI audience. One of the reasons the NRI audience is attracted to Bollywood is that it shows brown folks i.e. them on the big screen, doing cool things. It fills a need that doesn't come from the local TV station or multiplex. Having non-desi heroines breaks that arrangement.

There's the curiosity factor of course - but I don't think it's likely to be a regular occurrence. Sure, we'll continue to see phoren extras writhing in the background for the musical numbers, but the foreground is sacrosanct for the short term. How about the long term? As India becomes more cosmopolitan, as more foreigners start living in India, perhaps this will become more acceptable. Then, the "brown is beautiful" movement will no longer be confined to second generation desis, but instead will spread to disenfranchised desi Bollywood actors and actresses!

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 7, 2005 8:42 PM // Bollywood

Bold Bollywood

Consider how far love scenes in Bollywood have come. Or not. Once upon a time, we had demure Bollywood maidens looking down shyly as the face of the hero approached only to turn away in the last possible moment. Alternatively, our romantic hero, zooming in on the heroine's lips, would abort his mission in the very last second and nuzzle her throat instead, thus displaying yet another slick collision avoidance technique and saving blushes all around. rog1.jpgAlas, the introduction of satelite TV, phoren (foreign) films and other pernicious sources of corruption, put pressure on Bollywood to do more. Efforts by Raj Kapoor notwithstanding, Bollywood resisted like any good girl would. But finally, with films like Murder, Julie and others, we had the advent of "dare bare" heroines and "bold" and "sleazy" films. The main purpose of all of this was to consume acres and acres of newsprint of breathless hype and speculation over who would show what inch of flesh next. The films themselves were little more than hours and hours of heavy handed melodrama followed by a glimpse of somebody in a bikini. Whee. Rog continues this glorious trend. Consider this still from the film: how daring indeed! However, it's curious that if you stage such a steamy scene, you wouldn't turn up the AC in the room so high. Clearly, the lady is feeling the chill. But, props to Rog for the "illation". Maybe, in a couple more decades, we can get the rest of (t)it. Meanwhile, this elaborate striptease continues at its glacial pace, one tree at a time.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 7, 2005 8:19 PM // Bollywood

May 3, 2005

SFIFF 2005: Black Friday

Black Friday (2004, dir. Anurag Kashyap) is a ten ton haymaker punch into Bollywood's bloated midriff. When the film starts, you'll see the usual censor board certificate and then the legend "Jhamu Sugandh Presents." All resemblances with your usual run of the mill masala flick end thereafter. Comparisons with docudramas such as JFK and The Battle of Algiers are much more apt. Yet the film also has Indian roots, blending the worlds of the underworld dramas Satya and Company.

Based on a book by S. Hussain Zaidi, Black Friday is a reenactment of the investigation into the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993. Inspector Rakesh Maria (Kay Kay Menon) is assigned the unenviable task of tracking down the perpetrators. And to make matters worse, this is the holy month of Ramadan - a false move by the police can exacerbate the tense situation in Mumbai, already reeling from riots in 1992.

Many, many factors contribute to Black Friday being a landmark Indian film. These include:

  • It's based on a non-fiction book. Not a frequent occurrence in the Mumbai film world.
  • The narrative flow: Kashyap opts for an episodic approach, jumping back and forth in time to focus on specific threads that converge at the explosion and then unravel again, as the perpetrators scatter across India (and outside). This technique has been tried in Bollywood before (see Yuva) but here it feels less a gimmick and more a legitimate storytelling device.
  • Mixture of TV footage and live action. The montage of stills that end the film.
  • The authenticity: this movie feels real. From the gritty interrogation scenes to the locations all over the country, this is the India the ITDC will not be displaying on their posters. The BBC film crews, on the other hand, will be busy making notes on what slums to visit the next time they get down from their planes in Mumbai. One minor quibble: the Dubai scenes don't feel like they could've been from the early '90s, largely because of the car models featured are from a later date.
  • The investigation: the crime thriller, as a genre, is moribund in Bollywood. There are many reasons for this, notably the stylistic straitjacket that most Bollywood products have to be trussed up in. There have been exceptions (like Tarquieb) but for the most part, it is an uphill battle to introduce logic in a business ruled by emotion. Here, the film poses a tantalizing question in the beginning: how do you find the culprits in a country of billions? Where do you even start? The film provides many insights as to how it is done and a lot of it is not pretty.
  • The performances, largely by a cast of unknowns, are outstanding - the remarkable part of this is the understated nature of the acting. For example, we see one of the perpetrators, tired of being continually on the run from the police, on the verge of giving himself up voluntarily. To illustrate his desire for normalcy, for marriage, the camera simply focuses on him staring at a couple of attractive girls in a Calcutta tram. Too often, the temptation in a project like this would be to resort to soul stirring speeches, scenery chewing grandstanding, and much melodrama. There are a couple of confrontational scenes but their effectiveness is underlined by the fact that there are so few of them.
  • The even handedness: Black Friday does not take sides. It goes out of its way to make the point that this cycle of violence has been continuing for centuries. And for the good of the country, it is best to find ways to break the cycle, not find blame. To drive home the point, the film opens and closes with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
  • The chase scene: there is a chase on foot that must rank as one of the best I've seen. William Friedkin (The French Connection, To Live and Die In LA) would be proud.

The one nit with Black Friday is that it drags on a little too long in the end, thus diluting its impact. But that's not to take away from its overall effect and message: violence of this type, by creating more poor and dispossessed, simply begets more of the same. Spellbinding yet resolutely uncommercial, this is the best release from India we've seen this year.

In a recent development, the film has been embroiled in legal court wrangles:

In January this year, Mushtaq Moosa Tarani and 36 other accused in the Bombay bombings case had moved court on the grounds that the film would create a bias against them at a time when the court verdict is awaited.

Last week, the Bombay High Court imposed a stay on the film's release till the designated Terrorist and Disruptive Act (TADA) court in the blast case delivered its judgement. The producers now intend to move the Supreme Court against the decision.

Let's hope these issues are resolved soon - the filmgoing public deserve no less.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 3, 2005 10:12 PM // Bollywood , Film , Review , Select

May 1, 2005

SFIFF 2005: Brothers

BrothersOne of the top Danish releases of 2004, Brothers (dir. Susanne Bier) is a gripping, unflinching look at the effects of war on the human psyche and the ensuing turmoil to both the vets that return home and their immediate families. Michael (Ulrich Thomsen) and Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are blood brothers but their paths through life could not be more dissimilar: Michael is a ranking officer in the army, an upstanding citizen, happily married to Sarah (Connie Nielsen) with two adorable daughters. Jannik has just been released from prison (the starting point of the film) where he served time for robbery and assault. He also suffers from bouts of rage - when Michael suggests he apologize to the woman he hurt, Jannik starts an argument which culminates in him pulling the parking brakes in a moving car and striding off in a huff. He later returns that night to a family dinner in celebration of his release and of Michael's imminent deployment to the NATO forces in Afganisthan. Their father's cold treatment of Jannik suggests he is very much the black sheep of the family. Subsequent events in Afganisthan, when Michael is captured by the mujahideen and ultimately rescued, completely upend this established order.

Superbly scripted and acted, this is the first film I recall that deals with the soldiers returning from the war on terror. Setting aside discussions on the morality of the war, this drama is reminiscent of the great coming-home Vietnam films of the '70s (Deer Hunter, Coming Home) yet its tone is more intimate. Greatly contributing to this is the grainy picture (the film was shot in high definition and transferred to 35mm) and the gritty, hand-held camerawork with extreme close-ups of the faces and eyes of the characters. Another difference is the emotional pace of the film - it builds and builds until the final events come as cathartic release, both for the characters and the audience.

Spread the dishum:  digg it del.icio.us reddit furl My Web

- May 1, 2005 1:49 PM // Film , Review