Volume 28, Issue 2-4 / February–April 2024

Festivals, Political Cinema and Academy Award Best Pictures

Poor Things (photo source, Searchlight Pictures)

This is a triple issue with a wide range of subjects, including Festival reports on Sundance, the Istanbul Film Festival, and the Leeds Film Festival, an essay by George Kowalik outlining his interest in the recent wave of Nordic cinema, and separate review essays on four of the ten films nominated for Best film at the 2024 Academy Awards. Yanis Iqbal looks past all the pink to speculate on the philosophical implications of Barbie's transformation from the immortality of Barbieland to the finitude of the real world. Donato Totaro looks at the wonderful trifecta of films, The Zone of Interest, American Fiction and Poor Things. Greek director of Poor Things Yorgos Lanthimos is, along with his compatriot Athina Rachel Tsangari, part of what is referred to as the 'Greek Weird Wave' (love that name!). And they don't come any weirder than Athina Rachel Tsangari's bizarrely eccentric short The Capsule, which in parts reminded me of the great American avant-garde masterpiece, Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid, 1943). The Capsule is a visually seductive puzzle film that will leave you enchanted by its surreal imagery and hybrid of live action and animation. Using Foucault’s studies on discipline and power (and writer Judith Butler’s appropriation into gendered spaces) Giannopoulou analyzes The Capsule’s enigmatic and aesthetically beautiful formal veneer as a study in how disciplinary power can shape the body to perform in whatever way best serves society (or the controlling power in question). Daniel Garrett reviews several films in groups of three across separate multi-film pieces. The first two articles focus on The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Blindspotting and Sorry to Bother You, and in the second, The Mauritanian, Vice and The Great Muslim American Road Trip. The balance of the articles are loosely connected by a focus (to varying degrees) on film and politics. Lainey Immell takes a feminist position on Post 9/11 films that deal with surveillance. To quote author Lainey Immell, "Laura Poitras's films and installations take a democratizing, feminist approach to critiquing and subverting the patriarchal gaze within government surveillance in the United States and across the globe...." Matthew Sanders looks at the stylish satirical films of Russian director Aleksei German, which take an absurdist revisionist look at the historical past of Stalinism and socialist realism. Garrett's third piece looks at three fairly recent Palestinian films, Salt of this Sea (Annemarie Jacir, 2008), Out in the Dark (Michael Mayer, 2012), and Omar (Hany Abu-Assad, 2013), within the geo-political history of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The issue concludes with Paul Douglas Grant's fantastic interview with Lav Diaz. Lav Diaz's films often deal with contemporary social and political issues occurring in his home country the Philippines and writer-teacher Paul Douglas Grant is the right person to delve deeply into the rich cultural texts and subtexts of Diaz's films.  (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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