Posts Tagged ‘canadian cinema’

Ava (2019) ****

Dir.: Sadaf Foroughi; Cast: Mahour Jabhari, Shayesteh Sajadi, Bahaar Noohiaw, Sarah Alimoradi, Vahid Aghapoor, Leili Rashidi, Houman Hoursan, Mona Ghiasi; Iran/Qatar/Canada 2017, 103 min.

Born in Teheran in 1976, writer/director Sadaf Foroughi later went on to study in France and now lives in Canada. Her first feature Ava, is a coming of age story that won the FIPRESCI Discovery Prize at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival for its depiction of teenage life in today’s Tehran.

Brilliant newcomer Jabhari plays the main character Ava, a girl from a comfortable background who rebels against her professional parents and her all girls school, where she is encouraged towards Science rather than the Arts, ironic as her father (Aghapoor) is an architect. She is keen on music and is competing for a place at the capital’s Conservatoire.

School days are never easy for teenagers and particularly in Iran’s restrictive society where young women are scrutinised at every turn. This provides plenty of dramatic potential for Foroughi to make the most innocent behaviour seemingly outlandish. Ava and her friends Melody (Sajadi) and Shirin (Alimoradi)  are no different from Western teenagers, and her parents’ marriage is clearly coming under strain like any modern marriage with today’s pressures.  The school’s supervisor Ms. Dehkhoda (Rashidi) is a bit of a martinet, who makes Ava’s life particularly difficult.  Her father is the more liberal of the parents, but he too claims not to understand his daughter and there is no physical contact between them, not even as basic as holding hands.

Ava has much in common with the features of Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015): Sina Kermanizadeh keeps his camera static, the protagonists moving slowly around the frame, sometimes even leaving. Ava, is stubborn and wilful, very much like Ema in de Oliveira’s Vale Abraäo, based on the Portuguese version of Flaubert’s Emma. Foroughi is clearly influenced by de Oliveira, her heroine subject to the paternalistic constraints of Iranian society where women will always be under the control of their parents. In one scene, her parents discuss Ava’s failings – and their own marital conflicts, Ava meanwhile is packing her rucksack for school – only a thin wall separating them, but the teenager may as well not exist. Many of the authoritative admonishments are made in the third person: teacher and parents making announcement indirectly. A case in point is Dekhoda’s insinuation to the whole class, that “over-eating” is taking place in her school: “girls getting up at night, while everyone is sleeping and sneaking over to the fridge”.  

Passionate but aesthetically restrained, Ava is a mature debut from a talented and assured newcomer. AS


Canada Now Week 2019

CANADA NOW festival brings a selection of new Canadian films to the United KingdomLaunching on the 24th April 2019, nine films will play across five days at the Curzon Soho and Phoenix East Finchley cinemas, followed by a nationwide tour

As always, the 2019 CANADA NOW celebrates the independent spirit that has always been a hallmark of Canadian cinema along with its cultural diversity and twist of French heritage.

The festival opens with the London premiere of Keith Behrman’s LBGTQ+ drama GIANT LITTLE ONES, a refreshingly original and emotionally powerful coming-of-age drama. And the festival closes with Barry Avrich’s PROSECUTING EVIL, a feature biopic of Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor and life-long human rights activist. CANADA NOW expects many of the filmmakers and cast to be in attendance.

Alongside eight U.K. premieres, CANADA NOW also includes a performance from Canadian filmmaker Daniel Cockburn of his surreal, autobiographical show HOW NOT TO WATCH A MOVIE.

The full programme is listed below, and tickets are now on sale:

Prosecuting Evil (2018) **** Canada Now 2019

Dir/Wri.: Barry Avrich; Documentary with Ben Ferencz; Canada 2018, 83 min.

Best known for his Shakespeare adaptations, Barry Avrich turns his camera to his Jewish heritage with this moving portrait of international lawyer Ben Ferencz, who worked tirelessly to bring justice to those who had suffered because of their faith. As prosecutor for the first Nuremberg Trials, and Chief Prosecutor for the Einsatzgruppen Trials after WWII in Germany, Ferencz later worked on the establishment of The International Court of Justice in De Haag in 2007.

Ferencz was born in 1920 in Transylvania, which changed hands between Romania and Hungary during the post-war period. Because of rising Anti-Semitism, his parents emigrated to the USA where he grew up in Hells Kitchen, a poor district of New York. His school grades enabled him to gain scholarships at High School and later Harvard, where he studied law. He was recruited very late into the Army, and was sent to General Patton’s HQ, and later the War Crimes Department. Returning to the USA in his late twenties, he found himself being recruited by Telford Taylor as one of prosecutors for the Nuremberg Trials. Afterwards, Taylor appointed him as a successor to Robert H. Jackson, as Chief Prosecutor for the Einsatzgruppen Trial in 1947/48. 

The Einsatzgruppen were a special SS unit who often worked with the regular German Army to murdering Jews, Roma, and communists – they were basically a group of killers and never encountered armed resistance, murdering only civilians. Otto Ohlendorf, leader of Einsatzgruppe D, which operated in Ukraine and the Crimea, was one of 24 defendants, of whom 13 were sentenced to death.

The defendants were highly educated. One of them, Otto Rasch, leader of Einsatzgruppe C, had a double doctorate. Ohlendorf was an economist and worked with Ludwig Erhardt (later ‘Father of the West German Economic miracle’ and Chancellor in the 1960s) in the SS economic department, planning for the future of National Socialism after the war.

During the trial, he claimed self-defence stating his prosecutors knew nothing about the threat the Soviet Union and Jews posed for Germany. He vowed that Jews would suffer in the US if he and his co-defendants were convicted. Ohlendorf also insisted, “that he would do it all over again, even killing my sister, if I had to.” Ohlendorf, like his boss Heinrich Himmler, saw himself as decent and humanitarian. He told the court about his advice to the Einsatzgruppen when dealing with a mother holding her baby: “Do shoot the baby, this way the mother will also be killed, this is much more human”. Ferencz had to admit that Ohlendorf was quiet a gentleman – apart from being a mass murderer.

Ferencz stayed on in Germany after the Nuremberg Trials and with Kurt May he set up a reparation and rehabilitation programme for victims of the Nazis, later helping to establish the reparation agreement between Israel and Germany, and the German restitution law in 1953. He returned to the USA in 1956, and worked in partnership with Telford Taylor.

But the fight to help and set up an International Court of Justice took him until 2002. Unfortunately, neither the USA, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and most of the Arab countries, are not part of the 120 nations, who have signed up to the genocide laws. Therefore, so Ferencz, at the age of 99 still as busy as ever, fights to convince the international community to sign up, because “War makes mass murderers out of otherwise decent people. And I have seen it again and again.” 

This documentary is the portrait of one of the giants in the history of law, a true humanitarian who helped to pave the way for an international law, which needs more signatories at a time when wars seem to multiply. AS



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