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The Cove: Thought-Provoking, Award-winning Documentary
Winner of Best Documentary at the 2009 Academy Awards, The Cove is the latest in a growing series of environmentally conscious documentaries using state-of the-art equipment to create a thriller framework.
The film exposes Japan’s gruesome slaughter of dolphins and its government’s policies of aquatic horror. It features the efforts of one team of activists in the Japanese town of Taiji where this cove exists. The cove is a beautiful sea shore where the marine horrors take place.
Fishermen use loud noises to corner the dolphins into nets close to the shore – dolphins’s primary sense is hearing (sonar) and loud noises scare them – where they would be caught in nets and killed shortly afterwards.
Meanwhile, it is prohibited to record these ghastly and cruel killings; photographers and cameramen are harassed by the fishermen and the police; so the horror cannot be recorded.
The team includes activist Richard O'Barry the dolphin trainer who was behind the hit show Flipper . O’Barry became a dolphin activist after Kathy, the dolphin that played Flipper in the show, allegedly died in his arms because she refused to be in captivity.
The team uses high-tech cameras and microphones, in addition to military and industrial light and camera equipment to record the never-before-seen graphic abuse of the smart and majestic animals. What follows is a series of thrilling, heart-racing action that you certainly don’t expect from a documentary, proving that real men’s atrocities exceed all fiction.
The result is bone-chilling footage of cruelty that may be tough to watch at some points. The film is not only an open call for activism, but a great manifestation of the new wave of conscious eco-documentary series.
The Cove is visually compelling, and doesn’t deliver its message in a dry documentary tone; it tells a story in a gripping manner that forces the viewer to acknowledge that these acts of cruelty are being committed every day. It is a moving and well-constructed documentary that will force you to reconsider human cruelty and value the importance of activism.
The new HBO TV show Boardwalk Empire comes with a prestigious pedigree. Its creator Terence Winter was a prolific writer for the gangster classic The Sopranos. Martin Scorsese produced the TV series with full control over the show’s look and tone. He also handpicked the cast and directed the bombastic pilot episode. Add character actor Steve Buscemi to the mix; and you have a perfect formula for excellence.
The TV series is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the roaring twenties, just as prohibition laws are about to take effect. Nucky Thompson (Buscemi) is a leading political figure that also runs the seedy underbelly of the city. As prohibition laws are implemented, he takes advantage of his strategic proximity to Canada and starts illegally importing booze to nearby areas in order to prevent them from running dry.
Nucky is cut from the same anti-hero cloth as Tony Soprano; his character operates under an umbrella of moral ambiguity, but he also adheres to a strict code of honour. Nucky’s demeanour may not be as theatrical as that of Soprano’s– not to say that he’s not equally compelling– but his appeal is rooted in rich complexity rather than charisma.
As the show moves forward, the plot is unveiled to reveala love story at its centre. At one end sits Nucky, whose one and only weapon is his composure; and at the other is Margaret Schroeder (Macdonald), a town resident with a deadbeat husband and two children. The two secretly yearn for each other in ways that they can’t understand, compelling them to commit actions that compromise their lives.
Boardwalk Empire hails from a long history of crowd-pleasing mobster drama. The only criticism is that it’s giving people exactly what they want; it’s too tightly constructed for its own good. However, dwelling on Boardwalk’s lack of ingenuity would be missing out on everything else that the show has to offer.
Boardwalk Empire doesn’t break any new ground but it perfects the art form. Characters are all well-developed; unveiling a new layer with each episode. With every instalment, there is an engaging drama at the core; both on a dramatic and an emotional level.
Given the nature of the TV format, Boardwalk Empire gets to explore its world with both the lushness of cinema, and the reflective keenness of episodic television.
The Scorsese-directed pilot is a great gateway into the world of Nucky and it does an exceptional job of keeping tabs on all the players, while giving a good sense of who they are. With glimpses of familiar mobster faces such as Al Capone as a low-level Chicago gangster with unbridled ambition, characters come into focus.
The mobster world has always served as a ripe backdrop for human drama.
Think Godfather, The Man With No Name
trilogy, and the many films that Scorsese made. The attraction to these films is not the blood or
violence– of which there is plenty in Boardwalk– it’s how these film project characters stripped from everything but their
strongest and most urgent desires.
The interplay of power and humanity becomes paramount, and Boardwalk takes a closer look at the foggy world where everything comes at an often ugly price.
He could have been the next Bob Dylan; in South Africa, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Australia, he was even bigger than Elvis. His music was loved by the critics but ignored by audiences, and after two albums – titled Cold Fact and Coming From Reality – fell on deaf ears in the US, and his efforts proved commercially fruitless, the Detroit street-poet instantaneously fell from the face of the earth, vanishing into complete obscurity.
So, whatever happened to the talented and disturbingly underrated Detroit-born 70's soul-folk musician, Sixto Diaz Rodriguez? That's a question first-time Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, seeks answers to in one of the most compelling and touching music documentaries of the past decade.
Ingeniously titled, Searching for Sugar Man, the story takes us to South Africa where we learn that while Rodriguez never managed to find the artistic and marketable success in the US, his music – thanks to the bootlegging of his first album, Cold Fact – ended up playing a significant role in the apartheid-era. Rodriguez became the voice of the people despite governmental efforts to censor his record's 'offending' tracks; and for many years, he never even knew it.
With only a few pictures of Rodriguez available as proof that he really does exist, his devoted fans never really knew much about their beloved idol. Bizarre rumours surfaced alleging that he had committed suicide onstage during one of his failed performances, either by shooting himself or by setting himself on fire.
Rodriguez's legacy never died, even after the struggling apartheid years were long over. Often referred to as the 'prophet of the people', devoted fans, Segerman and Strydom, set out to undertake research, only to discover that their search only marked the beginning of something greater than initially imagined.
Well paced and cinematically striking, the film doesn’t fall back on simple on-camera interviews and narration, but rather, Bendjelloul adds a sense of intrigue and beauty using an evidently thought-out structure to his storytelling. Dazzling shots of Cape Town's skyline and striking animatics of Rodriguez walking the streets of his hometown play a big part in the story development; as a result there isn't one dull moment.
Rodriguez's songs play throughout the entire film and there is no denying the fact that this man – who was constantly compared to the likes of Dylan and Donovan – was unjustly disregarded. His soulful tracks and profound lyrics score the film and even though there is a sense of melancholy, the story still manages to find room for the positive, ultimately proving that it's never too late to fulfil your dreams.
Searching for Sugar Man is a truly fine documentary and a significant work of art. Although we would have liked to see a little bit more of the live-concert footage, and perhaps gotten to know a little bit more about what's hiding beneath the dark mysterious exterior, Searching for Sugar Man is still highly insightful and thoroughly entertaining.