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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch

In this issue:

These Movies Matter:
August DVD Reviews

by Angela Pressburger

Foreign Drama: Le Grand Voyage, Eternity and A Day, Intimate Stories and Simon

Documentaries worth watching: Aristide and The Endless Revolution, Kings of The Sky, Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wassermann

Classics: A Canterbury Tale and Sybil

Le Grand Voyage
2003, France/Morocco, 108 min., subtitles
Director: Ismaël Ferroukhi

Recognitions: Luigi de Laurentis Award, Venice, 2004; Jury Award for Best Actor, Newport, 2005; Best Film and Best Actor, Mare del Plata, 2005

A tribute to the 97% of Muslims we never hear about in the Western world

The tale of a devout Moroccan patriarch who, after 30 years of living in France, wants to undertake the hadj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. The first of many obstacles presents itself when his traditionalist elder son, loses his driver’s license and 18- year-old, thoroughly westernized, Réda must take his place. And so, in the name of spirituality, tyrannical father and furious son find themselves confined, for many days, to the cramped space of a mechanically dubious car, as they travel the 3,000 mile road, across seven countries, from Paris to Mecca.

Told with a light touch and gentle humour, the quirks and hazards of the road unfold as the pair get to know each other.

Why It Matters: Filmed during an actual hadj, this film provides rare access to Muslim pilgrimage and the city of Mecca, as well as a metaphorical journey from West to East. As father and son draw closer to Mecca and join up with others who are also making the "effort" — the literal meaning of "hadj" — Réda finds himself in a world where his experience as a smart French teenager is no longer of value, and gains some insight into how his father must have felt in France.

Having learned a few things in the course of the journey, he is beginning to respect his father's traditions and feeling inspired to explore a new role of binding the modern and the traditional into a smoother path for both generations.

Eternity and A Day
1998, Greece/France/Italy, 132 min., subtitles
Director: Theo Angelopoulos

Recognitions: Golden Palm and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Cannes, 1998; Audience Award, São Paolo, 1998; Best Greek Film, Thessaloniki, 1998

A haunting and spiritual reverie that draws the viewer into the last day in the life of Alexandre, a famous Greek writer and poet.  As he prepares to go to the hospital, Alex finds himself travelling in and out of his past, reviewing his life in the light of his impending death. He is filled with regret at not having finished his latest literary project and wonders why he spent so much of his life aloof and apart from those who loved him most: his elegant mother, now in a nursing home; his charming and loving wife, who died young; and their daughter who is about to sell the ancestral home.

As his mind moves between fantasy and reality he finds himself musing on why nothing in his life seems to have worked out as he anticipated. On the last night of his life, he and a refugee Albanian boy, whom Alex previously rescued from a life on the streets, take a magical bus ride. Each of them, in his own way, moves beyond their feelings of disconnection and fear to experience the keen sweetness of being alive and the rewards of connecting with others. An eloquent on-screen exploration of an interior journey into the meaning of life that transcends temporal and spatial boundaries.

Intimate Stories, (Historias Minimas)
2002, Argentina/Spain, 92 min., subtitles
Director: Carlos Sorin

Recognitions: In all, this film won 22 awards and 7 nominations in the Latin world, from Argentina to Spain; an official selection at Sundance 2003, and a favourite with audiences everywhere

A road movie that interweaves the stories of three ordinary people who are attempting to travel the 200 miles from their rural village of Fitz Roy to the provincial capital of San Julian through the magical and mysterious landscape of Patagonia, at the southern tip of Argentina.

Each has a different impetus for going and different hopes for the outcome. In the end, the three will get more or less what they set out for, although it comes to them in ways that they never expected.

Why It Matters: A tale told with a stark minimalism that matches the vast, barren, breathtaking landscape, so that the viewer really feels what it's like to live in a wilderness with next to nothing.

Genuine and unpretentious, the characters introduce us to the importance of small events in lives far removed from our own. The three bravely set out on risky journeys with the confidence that happiness, contentment and salvation await them at the end of the road. Along the way, each meets with a variety of strangers who help them to discover that, though dreams can be fragile and illusory, ordinary human kindness is available to those open to receiving it. This vision of simple people helping one another beautifully expresses the essential genuineness of human beings that is at the heart of this film, which won 22 awards and became an audience favourite at many festivals.

Page Two of Angela Pressburger's August DVD Reviews>>

Angela Pressburger grew up in the film industry (father Emeric Pressburger made The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and Stairway to Heaven). She has been been an international program consultant at the Vancouver International Film Festival for the past ten years, and has spoken about film and sat on festival juries in both Europe and North America.  She has recently written Show It in Public! — a grassroots guide to showing film in public ( and keeps busy writing reviews for her home video for discerning viewers website,

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