In the quest for love

Everyone feels the need for intimacy, love and companionship. It can be a lifelong quest to obtain these ideals, and perhaps even harder to keep them. But what happens if you are not successful in your quest – or at least not in any conventional way? And what if the answer to these longings is so peculiar that understanding it requires an exercise in imagination and empathy most people find hard to bear?

«Watching Silicone Soul might make you feel uncomfortable at times.»

In her latest film Silicon Soul, director Melody Gilbert explores the lives and experiences of people who find love and comfort in human-size silicone dolls. But instead of characterising these people as weird and deviant (as perhaps many would), the film casts a non-judgmental eye on the lives of people who find it hard to be accepted by others. The result is a glimpse into a hidden world that is vulnerable and all about loneliness as well as the very primal human need to bond with others and to feel loved.

An exercise in human empathy

Silicone Soul is a mix of interviews, scenes from daily life and animated sequences that pose one single question: what meaning can a doll bring into someone’s life?

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From protégée to dictator

Putin's Witnesses

Vitaly Mansky

Latvia,Switzerland,Czech

What we tend to forget now that so much time has passed since an ailing Boris Yeltsin personally anointed Vladimir Putin as his successor and president-elect on New Year’s Eve in 1999, is that Putin once espoused certain democratic ideals.

The finely-tuned, well-honed image as a statesman and strongman that are now set to carrying him through a fourth term as Russian president until 2024, only came later.

Nevertheless, the exclusive fly-on-the-wall footage that Vitaly Mansky shot during 1999 and 2000, reveals in hindsight much of the threatening, insidious and belligerent persona that was to come.

«State decisions should be taken regardless of whether they generate a positive or negative reaction,»  – Putin

Mansky’s documentary – which won the Crystal Globe for best documentary film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic early July – is a frank and disturbing glimpse into the earliest days of Putin’s presidency. The film goes a long way in explaining the autocratic state that has developed following the wild optimism and liberalism – but also the criminal chaos of the Yeltsin years.

The Putin we see here, thrust into the limelight a few months after being appointed the sixth prime minister to serve under Yeltsin, is still a largely unknown quantity. He is slightly earnest, keen to please and not entirely sure of himself.

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Imperfect spies

Spies and secret agents may appear to lead adventurous and extraordinary lives, but they are just like everybody else in at least one way: they have a deep desire to discuss their accomplishments and to share some form of common understanding. This is at least one of my conclusions after watching : The Mossad: Imperfect Spies, Duki Dror’s fascinating yet troubling film about Mossad – the National Intelligence Agency of Israel – responsible for clandestine operations overseas, including assassinations.

«Zamir seems particularly eager to vindicate blame for failing to alert the Israeli government about Egyptian and Syrian plans to attack Israel in 1973.»

Mossad first fell under the international spotlight in 1960 when an agency team led by politician and former intelligence officer Rafi Eitan successfully kidnapped Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of Nazi Germany’s Holocaust which saw the extermination of six million Jews. Eiten ensured he was brought back to Israel and to be put on trial. That daring feat was significant not only because of its operational success but also because few questioned its moral justification as Eichmann was given a chance to defend himself in a court of law.

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Saying goodbye to analog film

Cinema Futures

Michael Palm

Austria | India | Norway | USA

Austrian director Michael Palm talks to various film experts includingcinema superstars Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan and Apichatpong Weerasethakul trying to grasp what technological change means for the art of film and our society.

Profitable digitalisation

Film industry should be looked at in the context of today’s technological boom. Everything gets smaller, more effective and less personal. Thousands of people working in analogue film manufacturing and processing have lost their jobs. The same is predicted to happen not only to drivers, cashiers and farmers but also to doctors, accountants, lawyers, journalists, teachers and hundreds of other professionals.

The driving force behind digital revolution is profit. Film is expensive not only to shoot on but also to distribute in the multiplex cinema environment.

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From a war reporter’s point of view

Fresh from a screening at the 58th Krakow Film Festival in Poland, Hernan Zin’s film brings powerful, thought-provoking documentary filmmaking to cineastes worldwide.

Zin pulls no punches: for many young men (and not so young) war is one great adrenaline rush. The extreme youth of the American soldiers (18, 20, 23 years old) manning a mortar position in Afghanistan in the film’s opening sequences, as well as the laconic, droll way in which they revel in their unit’s record-scoring use of mortar rounds (2,180 in four months), is immediately arresting.

The setting resembles more a nocturnal summer camp than lethal warfare: wearing shorts and T-shirts and lounging on camp beds, they smoke and joke and occasionally lob a slender bomb designed to kill and main into the night sky.

The film is viewed and framed from the perspective of war correspondents – many of which share that same enthusiasm for combat of the young soldiers.

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Alt-right and the politics of transgression

The 2016 US presidential election was a culmination of longstanding institutional and political failures. Its results are unprecedented, yet not unpredictable.

In a bid to understand why the votes landed where they did and what has made Trumpism a possibility, Angela Nagle’s new book Kill All Normies braves to navigate the hinterlands of the online cultural milieu and trace back trends that aided the ascendancy of Trump and his ilk.

The alt-right

Nagle argues that what we witness today is not the upsurge of the traditionalist American right. The alternative right, more commonly known as the alt-right, is an entirely different animal. It has inherited many values of the traditionalist right but has stripped itself of Christian moral constraints, while integrating Friedrich Nietzsche’s view on «morality as anti-nature.»

The author takes this argument further, saying that the alt-right may have more in common with 1960s left-wing libertarianism than with the traditionalist right. While this claim demands an elaborated discussion, Nagle does make a convincing case, arguing that transgression, which since the 1960s has been considered a leftist aesthetic and «a virtue within Western social liberalism,» is now successfully co-opted by the alt-right.

Angela Nagle

The countercultural celebration of transgression is an apolitical tool, which is effectively exploited by today’s alt-right leaders seeking to appeal to the masses. .

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A study of Baltic poetic documentary

This year the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are celebrating 100 years of statehood, not with standing a period of Soviet domination from which they restored their independence in the ‘90s in part of a revolutionary wave that brought about the end of communist rule in the region. Realising it could not be a better time to pay tribute to the Baltic poetic documentary tradition, which arose in part as an act of defiance to the material realities of political oppression and the lies of cinema as state propaganda, Latvian director Kristine Briede made Bridges of Time.

Metaphysical reflection

The film forms a record of the pioneers of the world-renowned tradition who developed, from the ‘60s onward, a lyrical and spiritually inclined cinema. A cinema that trusts in images to access an essence of truth beyond words, and that gently restores the dignity of human beings by its validation of inner freedom and personal transcendence.

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State of repression

We know Iraq as a terrible mess. Shia Muslims are fighting Sunnis. Chaldean Christians, Turkmen and ethnic Persians are persecuted, and the Kurdish North is trying to break loose. The chaotic place is fertile ground for the Islamic State and the like. Often it is considered a result of Iraq being an artificial state, drawn on the map with a ruler by the British in 1932, without taking ethnic groups and natural borders into consideration. The usual Middle Eastern post-colonial story, you would say. On top of this, Iraq lived through the oppressive Sunni-led dictatorship of Saddam Hussein who only took the internal splits of this problematic country to new extremes and is seen as the main culprit of the present situation.

«Lisa Blaydes has gotten access to archival material that was captured by US forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.»

All this is not necessarily true. Lisa Blaydes, Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, has gotten access to thousands of documents from Saddam Hussein’s archives and lots of other archival material that was captured by US forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and only now has become accessible to researchers. This has positioned her to give an account that goes about the matter a bit differently.

Oil money

Without doubt Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a state of utter and brutal repression. But it was not as ethnically divided as is usually claimed.

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Turning trauma into strength

At film festivals, the audience favourites are rarely the films that win the jury awards. And while the jury’s criteria may vary, the public always rewards emotion, stories about the shared human experience, and heart-warming films that inspire and touch. More than crowd pleasers, these films are powerful, able to change minds and hearts, and often invite reflection and reconsideration of the preconceived ideas we have about places and people. Madeleine Gavin’s City of Joy won the Public Award at Movies That Matter this year, and is one fine illustration of all of the above.

Sisterhood

City of Joy is proof that a documentary can be upbeat, meaningful in subject, and insightful in approach while at the same time exploring a terribly heavy topic.

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When societies get militarised

Are we able to see the consequences of the authorities’ gradual introduction of stricter controls – similar to those found in countries where law enforcement agencies are increasingly militarised, and where cities are imposing zero tolerance policies for minor offenses?

Do we understand what is really taking place when our government argues in favour of arming the police? For example in Norway, where its parliament’s previous decision was against permanently arming the police, government’s champions won a victory in June this year when a motion allowing the police to carry firearms in «vulnerable areas» was passed. The Norwegian government is aware that crime rates are reduced when zero tolerance policies are introduced. But.

«What if the US – with its conservative ‘Wild West’ attitudes and the world’s most overcrowded prisons – exports this mentality to a small country like Norway?»

Such changes are indicative of a particular atmosphere in the society. What Stimmung or mood (a concept from Martin Heidegger’s philosophy) represents the mentality of our time? Which dogmas and norms are gaining currency, so that they become ideologically and morally anchored in our system of values? Responding to demands for greater security, governments resort to technology and police methods that are employed in other parts of the world – ones we do not like to compare ourselves with. This «governmentality» thus gains acceptance among the majority of the population and as a result becomes acceptable.

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