Mountain

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Directed by: Jennifer PeedomMOUNTAIN

Music by: Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Words by: Robert Macfarlane

Narration by: Willem Dafoe

Principal Cinematography by: Renan Ozturk

Sound design by: David White

Edited by: Christian Gazal and Scott Gray

Produced by: Jennifer Peedom and Jo-anne McGowan

Filmed in: Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, France, Greenland, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, Tibet, USA.

This is a film about mountains, from the need of humans to dominate, to the terrible beauty, destruction and indifference of creation: Mountain is a reminder of how small we truly are.

I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from: a state of relaxation, my eyes drinking up the beauty of the slow evolution of story, the film opening on breathtaking panoramas of mountain peaks; to my heart pounding as I watched the madness of people leaping and skiing and bike riding and base jumping from awesome, vertigo inducing heights while the climber smiles as he hangs from the tips of his fingers, the expression both beautific and insane.

Arrogance crumbles when confronted with the immovable yet breathing life of the earth.  We’re just a speck in comparison, to the timelessness of the mountain, just a tiny speak. MOUNTAIN

Sometimes it’s just so good to take humans out of the equation – yet, Mountain is about the fascination humans have of the serene, cold, majestic indifference of nature.

Living in a world of increasing, mad-made controlled comfort, some crave the risk that’s been taken from our everyday lives – to go seeking for that feeling of being alive because at any moment the earth may fall, the vertigo may win, the avalanche may swallow and the oxygen might run out.

How do you make a documentary about mountains?

How do you show the phenomenon of nature?

Mountain is a symphony of poetry, imagery and sound.

Richard Toretti, the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra collaborated with director, Jennifer Peedom to put together this memorable documentary.

And I use the word collaboration as Mountain is equally weighted between the senses with the soundtrack given as much weight as the words and cinematography.  A concept called synaesthesia that fascinated Richard, where the stimulation of the sense leads to another becoming more acutely attuned.

The soundtrack consists mostly of classical, a point of difference as most of the adrenaline-fuelled high stakes mountain sports are usually backed by punk rock.  Yet, the classical really highlights the majesty of the mountains.MOUNTAIN

And the combination of sound and stomach clenching cinematography creates a thrill as people fly down slopes or jump into the air 1000s of feet above the earth, death defying leaps, where there really must be an element of insanity, to even think, yet, it’s not about thinking, it’s about feeling alive.

Yet, there’s more to this film then just the stimulation of the senses.

Director, Jennifer Peedom who previously won world recognition after the release of the documentary, Sherpa (2015), also touches the idea of the change in the challenge of mountain climbing: the climb becoming a wait-in-line scenario rather than an adventure, where the real risk is taken by others like the Sherpas.  Yet, the controlled destruction sometimes slips from mans’ grip.

Hence the fascination.

‘Danger can hold terrible joys,’ says narrator, Willem Dafoe, quoted from a book written by Robert Macfarlane.MOUNTAIN

This is a beautiful moment in the film, one of many, with skiers drifting through powdery snow, weaving between the pines to the sound of a Beethoven symphony.

The thread that binds the film is poetics from Robert’s book, ‘Mountain of the Mind’: an exploration into the concept of the sublime.

‘In the branch of philosophy know as aesthetics the sublime is a quality of almost overwhelming greatness and magnitude’.

And in this modern world it is just so refreshing to be reminded of this greatness of nature.

A wonderful escape and reminder that the earth breaths, Mountain is both inspiring and thought-provoking = Food for the soul.

All For One

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Produced by: Nick Batzias – Virginia Whitwell.All For One

Director: Dan Jones – Marcus Cobbledick

Writers: Marcus Cobbledick – Dan Jones

ALL FOR ONE follows the first five years of the GREENEDGE cycling journey.

A pack of men united by a spirit to excel and a shared aussie larrikinism– think lycra and rock and roll montages – who succeed spurred on by unquestionable matemanship in their quest to exceed as a team at the Tour de France.

This film doco is a must see as you are swept into their world descending the French Alps as adrenaline junkies on some of the world’s steepest roads.

We are swept in for one hell of ride, super charged with scenes giving us front row seats to impossibly steep and impossibly fast and fearless downhill descents. Unlike downhill skiers who perhaps have the imagery of landing in powder snow there are no such illusions for cyclists as they speed down tracks of metal, rock and tar.

The team’s joy and comradery on tour is infectious with the rousing musical songs of ACDC, Jet and Prodigy in the background. But unlike a rock and roll tour bus there is no excess on a cycling tour just marathon stretches of training, rehydrating and cycling.

In my favourite scene, the cyclists – armed with gladiator strength – face the infamous Paris Roubaix Cycling race.

The race ‘everybody hates to ride and everybody wants to win’, the race where spectators the world over line up to see firsthand the human sacrifice.

The Paris Roubaix is mythical and ancient – Napoleon is said to have advanced his troops over the patchwork track of cobblestones – cyclists carry names such as Spartacus and spectators line the edges thrilled by the prospect of blood sport.

The carnage is real – cyclists ride on with broken collar bones, blood streaming from face plants, bikes and bones litter the race track and the cyclists push on, their determination to finish and succeed is primal.

Of the 200 cyclists that enter the Paris Roubaix only 50 to 100 are expected to finish.All For One

This movie excels through the lens of documentary by revealing the intimacy of real people in their own real stories. Character biographies of cyclists such as Esteban Chaves, Mathew Hayman, Neil Stephens and Simon Gerrans unearth the message of the movie and the secret of their individual success.

The secret they each share is a willingness to get up each day regardless of their fears and circumstances and believing that each step they take in pursuing their dream will only bring that dream closer.

The message will reverberate with you as you depart the cinema. For 100 minutes, you have been swept into the raw pulse of hearts burning on fire with sheer adrenalin and unedited pure joy.

The effect is intoxicating and as a spectator sitting in a blacked-out cinema you soar vicariously through the pumping music rhythms and sinew of muscles and sheer will determined to not give up and win!

I left the cinema breathless, my heart racing, my spirit filled with adrenaline. Inspired by the driving spirit of humanity to overcome incredible odds in pursuit of our passions, I felt that spirit whisper, ‘yes you can, you know you can do this’.

Kedi

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Directed by: Ceyda TorunKedi

Produced by: Ceyda Torun, Charlie Wuppermann

Starring: Bülent Üstün

Music by: Kira Fontana

Cinematography: Alp Korfali, Charlie Wuppermann.

Dedicated to the street cats and the people of Istanbul who look after them, Kedi is a surprisingly philosophical film.

I’m a cat lover, always have been.  From catching wild kittens out on the farm to forever walking around with cat fluff on my clothes, no matter how much time I spend de-fluffing, there’s always my cat, Cloud’s (AKA Ching, Chong, Chunk’s) signature silver fluff adorning my outfit.

So, I went into Kedi thinking I was walking into a documentary about the culture of Istanbul and the history/relationship of the people with the wild cats who have roamed the streets for over 1000 years: Kedi is so much more and runs far deeper than a history lesson.

What really absorbed me into this film was not the cats but the people who have a relationship with one or many of them.

These are street cats who roam freely around the city but for some reason, they decide to adopt a particular human for food, affection and love.  To then become part of the family.  It’s not the people who are helping the cats, it’s the cats who are helping the people.

Kedi

One man shared he had a nervous breakdown where no medication could help.  But when he started feeding the street cats he began to talk and laugh again.

There’s a real depth to the relationships between the people and these wild cats.  Leading to discussion about the personality of the cat to statements about the meaning of life.

And how cats are so different to us that they’re like aliens or even superheros with amazing powers, to climb and jump up seemingly impossible places and to always land on their feet.  Yet, we are still able to build a relationship with these bizarre creatures.

The cinematography allows the audience to get up close to the cats, to show the wild nature of their eyes, to follow them around to see their independence and freedom while lounging on the edge of a terrace five stories up, to the street level to see the demand for attention, for love or food or a passer-by wanting to touch their fur and giving them a pat.

It’s fascinating to see this indulgence and to see how tame the street cats really are, which leads to the contemplation of the people and how they reflect about their own lives when relating to their adopted pets.

I always thought of cats particularly when travelling overseas solo, as friends, and finding comfort when one decides to hang out on a chair next to me, keeping me company on my journey.

Kedi opens another layer, allowing the people of Istanbul to talk about their world view and the impact these roaming cats have had on their lives.  I could see the warmth of the people and their indulgence, the cats allowing their sense of adventure and humour to shine through, because these cats wouldn’t be adopting them otherwise.

A beautiful film about humanity and a realistic portrait of the day-to-day lives of the residents of Istanbul.  All captured with some crafty camera work.

A surprisingly thought-provoking film.

LIFE, ANIMATED

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A documentary by: Roger Ross Williams

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Editor: David Teague

Cinematographer: Tom Bergmann

Composer: Dylan Stark, T. Griffin

Original Animation: Mac Guff

Based on a book by: Ron Suskind

Starring: The Suskind Family: Owen, Cornelia, Walter and Ron.

LIFE, ANIMATION is a documentary based on a book written by Ron Suskind, father of Owen who at age 3 was diagnosed with autism.

This is a story about Owen’s journey from childhood, to his devastating withdrawal at age 3, to his diagnosis of the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, through to miraculously living on his own in assisted residential care. All due to the Suskind family’s persistence and recognition of Owen’s ability to communicate through his understanding of the exaggerated emotional cues shown in Disney films.

Owen’s father, Ron, has used his journalistic skill in portraying the difficulties of autism: the constant overstimulation (due to lack of filtering of the external environment), the loss of understanding of words and the determination to release him from his autism prison.

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

Not only a remarkable insight into autism, I found myself constantly smiling.

The Suskinds are just such a loving, supportive family, that every triumph is experienced right there with them. And Owen himself is a genuinely lovely guy. It’s such a pleasure to see him open up and become a young man.

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Yes, there are difficulties, and I shed a few tears through-out the film, because that’s life.

I could relate to Owen’s difficulties, the falls we all take. And I could admire his tenacity to keep getting up and keep fighting the good fight: the losing of his voice and then finding it again.

This is a heart-felt story that is shown so well by the directing. And the soundtrack is perfect: there to amplify the moments without becoming intrusive. What amazed me the most was the original animation created by Mac Guff to depict Owen’s own imagined stories.

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

I could sense the amount of time and care put into this film and I have to say, it has really paid off. The film is a seamless journey, shown with emotion that is real and made relatable to everyone.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie

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My Scientology Movie
© British Broadcasting Corporation/BBC Worldwide 2015

 

Writer and Director: John Dower

Writer and Presenter: Louis Theroux

Featuring: Marty Rathbun, Steve Mango, Marc Headley, Tom De Vocht, Jeff Hawkins, Andrew Perez (as David Miscavige) and Rob Alter (as Tom Cruise).

After 25 TV specials focusing on some of the most intimate and angst-ridden aspects of the human condition: religion, racism, sexuality, criminal justice and mental health, Louis Theroux has returned with a feature film about Scientology.

Using actors mixed with candid interviews between Louis and the ex-members, the film shows an amusing determination to make the documentary with increasingly bizarre interactions with the current members of the organisation where the crew are followed, filmed and confronted. All the while Louis Theroux continues to attempt a balanced perspective of the church, but the strange behaviour and constant re-buffing of the Scientologists reveals a disturbing reality.

My Scientology Movie
© British Broadcasting Corporation/BBC Worldwide 2015

Marty Rathbun, an ex-member and at one time the ‘Inspector General’ (the most senior executives in Scientology), responded to Louis Theroux’s call to partake in the documentary. While re-enacting an abuse scene, Marty says to Theroux, ‘I thought you liked the idea of having your face ripped off.’

‘But that was only play acting.’

Where Marty responds, ‘Exactly.’

When Marty makes this statement, it really brought home the devious nature of the religion.

Marty goes on to explain how the counselling is conducted by the Trainers, and how anxiety is cleared through the use of the e-meter. If the machine registers a response while the subject is holding the paddles, then the thought causing the anxiety will be revealed and discussed with the counsellor until the machine no longer registers a response. That means the anxiety has been cleared.

An effective counselling technique that is no doubt very helpful to the person discussing and dealing with negative thoughts.

Marty then explains how the church plants the idea that every good thing that happens in your life is because you have cleared these anxieties and is therefore to be attributed to the church and to Elbert Hubbard. And then to go on and to also contribute every bad thing that happens to the fact you’re not practicing the principles of the organisation correctly and therefore everything bad thing in your life is your fault.

This is how the church of Scientology creates a psychological trap and therefore exerts mind control over its members.

My Scientology Movie
© British Broadcasting Corporation/BBC Worldwide 2015

I’d recently seen another documentary on Scientology, ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief‘, also featuring Marty. Going Clear shows a negative account of the church’s practices with more focus on the tax exemption of the church as a registered religion.

Louis takes a more personal interest in Scientology with a genuine motivation to get the organisation’s side of the matter; which is continually rejected.

You can see that Louis is concerned that his advances towards the Scientologists are rejected because he’s brought Marty on board. And through-out the documentary there is tension between Marty and Theroux: an interesting personality clash where each man attempts to stare the other down.

I can understand Louis holding a negative view towards Marty, always wondering what this man has done as the ‘Inspector General’, and if he’s speaking against the church out of rejection and spite.

And here we can see the continued drive from Theroux, to be open and see the church in a positive light. But the church in its harassment and complete inability to even acknowledge Louise’s attempt at conversation only reinforce what Marty is sharing.

The success of My Scientology Movie is the revealing insight into the psychological damage that can be caused by just trying to the do the right thing, and showing the depth of control of the organisation, I mean church, that can, understandably, make you paranoid.