Monday, August 22, 2011


I usually try to watch a movie on Sunday.  A good sistren of mine has had the most wonderful recommendations of late and, in fact, she gave me a list of great (mainly foreign) films that I will share.  But yesterday, I happened to just be browsing through the new Netflix play now offerings and found this movie Skin.  My eyes were drawn to it because one of my favorite actresses, Sophie Okonedo, stars in it. 

The movie, based on a true story, is quite interesting:

SKIN is one of the most moving stories to emerge from apartheid South Africa: Sandra Laing is a black child born in the 1950s to white Afrikaners, unaware of their black ancestry. Her parents are rural shopkeepers serving the local black community, who lovingly bring her up as their ‘white’ little girl. But at the age of ten, Sandra is driven out of white society. The film follows Sandra’s thirty-year journey from rejection to acceptance, betrayal to reconciliation, as she struggles to define her place in a changing world - and triumphs against all odds.
I found the story to be quite sad.  It hurt to watch some parts of it.  But I'd recommend it because it's a poignant story that really grapples with the complexities of family, race and identity.  And because Sophie is an excellent actress, she draws the viewer in.  I couldn't help but place myself in Sophie's shoes.  And I am not totally sure that Sandra triumphs at the end.  

One thing that really struck me was that at the end of the movie, as with most movies based on a true story, there's an "update" on the characters.  Turns out Sophie's brothers, all these years later, do not have contact with her.  It made me realize how strong an impact parents have on their children--whether positively or negatively.  As Sophie notes to her daughter: You never stop needing your parents.

So here's the list my sistren gave me.  I have watched Electric Shadows and boy, did I enjoy that.  The storytelling is masterful.  So I'm going to work my way through all these movies and hopefully be able to share my thoughts on them.

After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet)
2006 R 124 minutes, Danish
To save the failing orphanage he runs in India, Danish transplant Jacob Petersen (Mads Mikkelsen) returns to his homeland to meet a self-indulgent businessman named Jørgen who's offered a generous donation -- and represents everything the noble-minded Jacob abhors. Complicating matters further are the unusual strings Jørgen has attached to his so-called gift. Rolf Lassgård co-stars in this Oscar-nominated emotional powerhouse of a drama.

As It Is in Heaven (Så som i himmelen / As in Heaven)
2005 NR 126 minutes, Swedish
This Oscar-nominated Swedish drama tells the story of Daniel Dareus (Michael Nyqvist), a small-town boy who escaped his tiny village to become a famous conductor. A tragic mishap sends him back home in search of a fresh start, and he ends up leading the local choir. Frida Hallgren, Helen Sjoholm and Lennart Jahkel co-star in writer-director Kay Pollak's (Children's Island, Love Me!) heartwarming tale.

2008 UR 120 minutes, French
Awestruck by the vibrant and imaginative artwork of uneducated housekeeper Séraphine Louis (Yolande Moreau) -- who spends her days doing menial chores -- German art critic Wilhelm Unde (Ulrich Tukur) takes the promising painter under his wing. Though her neighbors and others dismiss Séraphine's work, Unde is determined to turn the obscure French artist into a star in this revelatory biopic also starring Geneviève Mnich and Nico Rogner.

Kabei: Our Mother
2008 NR 133 minutes, Japanese
When her husband is jailed for radical scholarship and accused of being a Communist, Kayo Nogami (Sayuri Yoshinaga) faces the daunting task of raising two daughters -- and enduring the biting cruelties of neighborhood gossip -- all on her own. Yoji Yamada directs this 1940s period piece set in the shadow of a rising tide of Japanese nationalism, a heartfelt family drama based on the writings of Teruyo Nogami.

The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge)
1956 NR 34 minutes, French
A young Parisian boy (Pascal Lamorisse) finds a balloon -- or does the balloon find him? Together, boy and balloon wander the streets of Montmartre and the adjacent neighborhoods, encountering adults and gangs of local kids as the balloon becomes the boy's inseparable companion. Directed by Albert Lamorisse (who won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar), the fanciful 34-minute film also won a special BAFTA Award.

Whale Rider
2003 PG-13 101 minutes, New Zealand
A Maori tribe must contend with the distinctly nontraditional concept of having a female leader when the intended heir to the throne dies during childbirth, leaving his twin sister, Paikea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), to prove herself. Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis and Grant Roa also star in this inspiring coming-of-age tale, which earned the then-13-year-old Castle-Hughes an Oscar nomination.

Electric Shadows
2005 NR 95 minutes, China
Set in modern-day Beijing and 1970s Ningxia, director Xiao Jiang's debut feature explores the power of movies in launching dreams and creating memories. After a bicycle collision leaves Mao Dabing (Xia Yu) with a lump on his head, he promises Ling Ling (Qi Zhongyang), the girl he hit, that he'll care for her fish while she's recuperating. When he stumbles across her diary, he learns the truth about her past -- which rekindles his love of cinema.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recommendations. I like discovering good films I may not necessarily have found on my own.

Anonymous said...

I saw Skin last night. It was great although I found it hard to watch sometimes. I like how it brings up questions like "what is race?" and "who gets to decide your race?"

I also find it absolutely sad how even after the official end of apartheid, Sandra's brothers still choose to reject her. And if the younger brother actually looks anything like the actor that portrayed him in the movie, how did he navigate the tricky world of race in apartheid South Africa? Or did he not really have to?

The Original Wombman said...

I wondered about the younger brothers too . . .

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