Saturday, July 29, 2023

How To Stand up to a Dictator

Maria Ressa won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Peace alongside of Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov 

A little speculation on why Filipinos have elected what might be called despots.  Law and order is sought when poverty breeds crime.  Ferdinand Marcos developed a good idea to develop the Philippine's economy and that was to send Filipinos to work on contract to other nations.  That assured a steady stream of income to families back home.  This led to a common practice of many Filipinos getting educated for jobs outside.  This benefited the rest of the world and me personally.  Check

Marcos was able to take advantage and managed to drain a lot of the new wealth to his family.  Freedom for the average Filipino was restricted, but eventually after many years they were forced from office.  A few elections later Rodrigo Duterte got elected on a very strong anti crime agenda that involved very strong action against drug dealers and also drug addicts.  This met with a lot of general approval.  Surprisingly he decided to retire from seeking political office, but advocating for his daughter  Sarah and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  The Marcos family history was somehow overlooked and their son got elected.  

How does Maria Ressa fit into all this?  At a young age her parents had split, but her mother kidnapped her to the United States where she was adopted by her mother's new husband which led to gaining an American citizenship.  She was educated in the United States and did very well in school.  A visit to the Philippines led to a love of her native country.  Maria got involved with journalism and aligned herself with democratic forces.  Her talent helped her rise to having editorial power.  

She wrote about corruption and restrictions on freedom and naturally attracted opposition. She spent a lot of time in courts and had travel restrictions imposed on her.  Other newspapers were hampered even more, but Maria had achieved some international fame and perhaps more important gained the support to Amal Clooney who gave her legal advice.

Another force democratic movements have to deal with is social media.  Facebook has been a very useful tool, but it is one example of how our "freedom" is being steered. Maria at one time admired Mark Zukerberg, but came to realize the profit motive propelled Facebook to work with right wing groups, although trying to present a democratic conscience.  Maria sees social media as key component for political attitudes. 

With American citizenship Maria always had the option of moving back to America, but she decided she was more needed in the Philippines.  Even after sharing the Nobel Peace Prize she finds herself living under restricted circumstances, but still able to voice her opinions.  Her advice on standing up to dictators is to embrace democratic values and to develop a team for support.

I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to Maria Ressa, but I am glad the Nobel Prize Committee in Norway did the world a favor by bringing increased awareness to those who are fighting for democracy.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

"Champions" is a gem.

By "gem" it is not meant a blockbuster, but an enjoyable couple of hours with a message or two.  "Champions" (2023) shares a few sport movies cliches, but definitely has a few twists and a definite angle of human relations.

 Marcus is an assistant coach in minor league basketball, but likes to force his ideas on the head coach.  He gets fired.  Very soon after he gets a drunk driving charge and to form he tries to speak over his lawyer and argue with the judge.  The result is he is offered community service as a basketball coach for a group of intellectually disabled people.  Reluctant, but accepts the option as it is better than prison time.  At first it seems like a hopeless cause as we view very sloppy shooting including one who shoots backwards.  One player who seems to have adequate skill will not play for the coach.  Apparently he had once been a talented athlete who was struck down in a car accident by a drunk driver and suffered brain damage.

A complication is from a woman, Alex whose brother is on the team.  We learn her brother will not shower and later we learn there had been a drowning.  This woman provides a romantic interest, but she explains she is only interested in sex and is not wanting a relationship with a man whose ambition is to leave for a pro coaching opportunity.

There are more complications that test relationships.  The brother who lives with Alex and their mom has a group of intellectually disabled friends who are also on the team want him to move in with them.  This is frightening for the sister and the mother.  Marcus does get offered a coaching position in the NBA which shouldn't cause any stress with the sister, but it does.  His team qualifies for a championship, but has their money cut off for the trip to Winnipeg.  One of his players is fired from his job as he wants to take time off to play a game. 

The ending is close to what you might expect, but actually it is a little different.  You will also appreciate that intellectually disabled people are people.  If you like basketball there is slim pickings, but you can tell Woody Harrelson loves basketball.  After the end if you are watching on a streaming service I hope you are able to see a bonus that shows a few deleted scenes and more importantly some shots of the cast and crew.  I saw these features on a DVD.

Such an engaging film has a history and a lot of talented people.  "Campeones" (2018) was the original story filmed in Spanish.  Somehow Woody Harrelson learned of it (he does love basketball) and brought it to the attention of director friend, Bobby Farrelly and the two rounded up some others.  Woody agreed to be an executive producer once he read the script.

Woody Harrelson plays Marcus who has trouble refraining from giving advice.  He got off to a good career when he became a regular on "Cheers"(1985 to 1993) for 200 episodes.  He has 107 film credits including  "White Men Can't Jump" (1992), "The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996),  "No Country for Old Men" (2007)"Seven Psychopaths" (2012),  "The Messenger" (2009), "LBJ" (2016),  "Shock and Awe" (2017) and "The Highwayman" (2019).  He has also been a producer 7 times.

Bobby Farrelly, director has been director, producer and writer for mostly comic films of questionable taste.  This film elevates his status.

Mark Rizzo adapted the script and has 4 film credits.

 Javier Fesser and David Marquest wrote the original Spanish script for "Campeones" and both have been directors.  Javier is also listed as an executive producer for "Champions".  Another carry over from Spain is Alvaro Longoria as an executive producer who once produced "Everybody Knows" (2018).

Michael Franti composed the music.  He has been a versatile musician covering reggae, rap, jazz, folk, rock etc.  He has also been a political activist.

C. Kim Miles was the cinematographer.  He has 91 film credits.

Julie Garces was the editor.  She has over 20 credits including "Inglorious Basterds" (2005), "Life of a King" (2013), "The Homesman" (2014) and "A Walk in the Woods" (2015).

Kaitliln Olson played Alex, the sister and romantic interest.  She has 45 credits including "Leap Year" (2010) and "The Heat" (2013).

Ernie Hudson plays a basketball coach.  He has 283 film credits including "Grace & Frankie"  He set up to be a writer actually writing plays for the oldest black theatre in America, Concept East.

Cheech Marin plays a sort of supervisor to Marcus in his court ordered job.  He was a draft dodger to Canada and famous as part of Cheech and Chong with a heavy emphasis on marijuana.  He has had a variety of entertainment positions including in a band, voice for cartoon and film characters, and small roles in films such as ""Seven Psychopaths" (2012).

Madison Tevlin is one of the basketball players that are intellectually disabled.  She says that is the most uninteresting fact about her.  Woody is quoted saying "She is not a great basketball player, but she is a movie star."  She has four film credits.

Jalen Rose was an actual star NBA player who transitioned to sports casting and plays himself.

Sean Cullen is mostly known for comic roles including his own tv. show.  In this film he plays a heavy, the restaurant owner who refuses to allow an intellectually disabled employee to play a basketball game. 

This is a sports movie, but not really.  A man with an ego makes a mistake and is forced to deal with unfamiliar people.  They benefit from the contact, but so does he.  And you will too.

As is my habit the first mention of films I have watched are bolded.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Donald Trump is complaining that he feels all these witch hunting legal trials should be scheduled after the election as it might unfairly influence the election.  They might well influence the election, but I am disappointed that an innocent man is not anxious to clear his name.  Perhaps he realizes he is guilty and might be found out.

We of course realize Trump has found that delaying trials has always worked to his advantage.  Sometimes the plaintiff runs out of money or time.  On a few occasions he has had to pay, but his lawyers are able to find some strategy to avoid jail time.  This time he might be able to pardon himself if can hold out long enough.  Putin is rooting for him.

 This time seems different.  He is no longer the president.  Many incriminating facts have become public.  It may seem a lot of facts are slanted, but a trial is supposed to deal with that.

It has so far been a case of when indicted Trump is able to turn to his supporters and get donations and rises in the polls.  This may well be illusionary.  Their support is partly they are entertained and love someone kicking back.  As one cartoon put it "I know he lies, but he hates the same people I do."  Of course big money comes from those who hate paying taxes and feel their money goes to undeserving people.  There are social issues that override economic concerns with a prejudicial base.

Did he spread misinformation?  Did he stir up the crowd?   Did he steer money for his own benefit?  Did he follow Russian preferences?  Did he actually try to influence other politicians?  Does he enjoy power so much and feels he deserves it?

The Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court has officially banned Jair Bolsonaro from running for electoral office until 2030.  It seems pretty mild for a man who encouraged an insurrection, but also fair.  In the meantime Trump is still spouting lies that millions accept or in many cases pretend to accept because it suits their interests.

It is agreed that justice should not be subject to emotionalism.  Facts need to be examined carefully and jurors need to be selected carefully.  All intrusions of prejudice have to be avoided.  We don't want any doubts of fairness.  Don't the voters deserve to know the truth?  

After all in said and done, the voters have a stake in the timing of the trial.  Some prefer to believe the lies, others aren't sure and many don't care.  Justice can be elusive, but unless the truth is available justice is not available and good decisions are difficult.

If when the truth is offered it is rejected by voters who have other priorities then they deserve what they are going to get and it won't entirely be what they think.  But the facts have to come out in time for the voters to have their own judgment.

Friday, July 21, 2023

The Oppenheimer Alternative

Oppenheimer has become a person of interest.  We are more familiar with the name and realize that our present world evolved from some of the critical decisions made by and around Oppenheimer. 

 For most of the world the movie Oppenheimer has captured attention.  I have read many of Robert J. Sawyer's books and realized there had not any new versions for awhile.  Investigating I learned about "The Oppenheimer Alternative" was published in 2020.  The title made one think he had decided to forgo his usual science fiction in favor of history.

One needs to realize that Sawyer uses science fiction to make people think about things that matter.  The term alternative history made me realize the Sawyer magic would make one view life a little differently.

For the first part of the book the history seems accurate, in fact including many details that were not noticed or remembered.  There is also a perspective on life and war not usually discussed.  The author said that all of the characters in the book are dead, except one, Oppenheimer's son, Peter who must be around 80, but his coverage might be considered embarrassing.  In an interview (below) he deliberately decided not to interview Peter as he felt it would inhibit his writing which he claims is accurate regarding his birth.

During this first part of the book several events were viewed from different angles.  President Roosevelt was slow to respond to suggestion from Albert Einstein, but soon he delegated General Leslie Groves to organize the development of the most powerful bomb known to man.  Groves selected many scientists who could pass a loyalty test and named Robert Oppenheimer as the chief administrator to make the key decisions.  The FBI was used to check loyalty. At one point Oppenheimer was coerced to betray a friend and it resulted in his friend being very restricted in employment opportunities.

We probably should realize the goal of the bomb was to defeat Germany, but in fact it was not needed for that.  Most of the scientists involved were Jewish and had been partially motivated by what they knew of the Holocaust.  They had been defeated with the goal to bomb Berlin, not so much by the American military, but by the Russians.  Then it was rationalized that Japan was very resistant and it would require thousands of more killings.  It had been proposed that a demonstration of the bomb would force a surrender.  That idea was rejected and Hiroshima was selected as the target with no warning.  From one interview it is known Oppenheimer took part in target discussion which rejected Kyoto for its artistic/spiritual significance and Tokyo as it had been firebombed too much to be useful as a scientific analysis on bomb's impact.  After its impact the Americans were able to force a surrender, but not accepted as it was not unconditional.  The Japanese wanted to retain their emperor.  A second bombing, this time on Nagasaki which wasn't the target.  After this the Americans decided to let the Japanese keep their emperor and accepted their surrender.

It was thought that this bomb would end all war.  Oppenheimer felt the Russians and others would be able to build their own bomb over time.  Others thought if America (and perhaps trusted allies) had exclusivity of the bomb that would insure peace.  Steps were taken to assert international control and to keep the bomb out of military control.  The decision to drop the bomb was one that the President could veto, but could not initiate; today the President can initiate the decision.  Oppenheimer himself became considered a security risk and at one point General Groves and President Eisenhower engineered the denial of security clearance for Oppenheimer..

Before we reached this stage of actual history the science fiction narrative developed.  Noting that part of the theory used to construct the bomb borrowed knowledge of how the sun generates energy.  Several of the scientists were involved in the discussions that acknowledged that the sun would generate a major disaster for the earth sometime around 2028.  They decided informing the public would be counter productive. 

A side benefit (not science fiction) was the discovery of radio isotopes as byproduct of their research.  Ironically, but likely due to their closeness to radiation several of the scientists underwent radiation therapy.

Throughout the narrative there are references to the Bhagavad Gita as many scientists believe it deals with the relation between creation and destruction.  A brief reference to notion that alien life has not been detected because advance civilizations are self destructive.

Another plot stream regarded Wernher von Braun.  The German scientists were not in Berlin, when the Russians took over but secluded in a mountainous area and discussing what they should do when the Nazis were defeated. They decided they would surrender as a unit, rather than individually.  They rejected the Russians and most of the allies, but fixed on Americans.  The Brits wanted to execute von Braun for his role with the V2 rockets.  The Americans wanted him for their own benefit.  He did in fact play a very significant role with the American space program.  He interacts with the scientists and is even distantly involved with the impending sun disaster.

The ending is a little different than textbook histories.  Sawyer spent a lot of effort making it appropriate, but you will have to wade through the rest of his story to get to it.

The acknowledgements are interesting.  He interviewed Luis Alvarez, one of the actual participants in 1983.  One person read his story while in Hiroshima.  Surprised to see Chris Nolan listed as a contributor.

After reading about 70% of the text watched an interview between top interviewer Steve Paikin and the author.  When asked why he undertook this book without a publisher contract, Sawyer replied he hated deadlines and felt he did his best work without a deadline and no longer needed the advance money.  Other tidbits are integrated in the main text.

My interest in Robert J. Sawyer was aided by contact with Barry Finn.

Listening in on a Robert J. Sawyer presentation offered very interesting insights in writing in general and his own career.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Sleeping Dog--a Geman series

Some complained that the plot of "Sleeping Dog" (2023) was confusing, but we like complex plots and it certainly was.  Conflicted characters add to the confusion.

Borrowed from an Israeli series "The Exchange Principle" (2016) which I hope I get to see as I admire their star Lior Ashkenazi.  Germany felt a guilty conscience and has developed a strong relationship with Israel including its cinema.  For a perspective on Israeli films including Lior Ashkenzai check: 2015/05/youll-find-arabic-and-hebrew.html

Flashbacks are important to the story.  We know the protagonist has become a homeless man and we don't know why.  A murderer he helped convict commits suicide in a prison that doesn't make sense.  As in real life nothing happens without a past.  There are plenty of twists.

Luka is a former partner who seems concerned about Mike, but seems to be very close to his wife.

Perhaps because of the Israeli connection in the original, some of the bad guys are Arabic speakers.  Homophobia is a bigger concern in the Arab culture.

An important element to the story is drugs among police.  We are led to believe it in big part due to the stress on the job.

 It is an engaging story requiring a professional cast and crew.  Here are some.

Stephan Lacant with 17 credits is one director while Francis Meletzky is the other director with 27 credits.

Christoph Darnstadt was the script writer with 31 film credits.

Oded Davidoff and Noah Stollman, Israeli writers were the originators of "The Exchange" () and were involved with all 6 episodes of "Sleeping dog,"

Max Remelt plays the main character Mike Atlas, the homeless former cop with mental health concerns.  He has 72 film credits including "The Matrix Resurection" (2021).

Peri Baumeister played the wife of Mike Atlas, a difficult role.  She has 34 film credits.

Luise von Finckh plays a young prosecutor who believes there may have been an injustice in one murder.  She started acting at age 10 playing on stage with "Les Miserables."  She has 31 credits including "Vienna Blood" (2019-2022).

Tara Corrigan plays the daughter who feels she must lose weight to get her father back (not true).  She has two film credits.

Carlo Ljubek played Luka Zaric, former partner to Mike Atlas who seems genuinely concerned Mike undergo therapy and is comforting his wife.  He got started on stage.  His 58 credits include "The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner" (2008)

Melika Foroutan, born in Iran plays the head of prosecution and is very hard nosed.  She has 66 film credits.

Melodie Wakivuamina plays Britney, a black lesbian cop who was Mike Atlas's replacement as a threesome police unit.  She was born in Switzerland with 14 film credits.

There are some twists as expected and the viewer has to be careful to focus on a couple of overlapping plots.  It is well done.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Another World (Un autre monde)

Decisions that affect everyone are in reality made by a powerful few.  French cinema has come up with an example with "Un autre monde" (2022).  

It starts with an older couple discussing a divorce with lawyers.  The husband, Philippe explains that they had discussed the difficulties of a career decision he made.  The wife, Anne was lost as she felt the money distorted what she was really concerned about.  This is definitely not a date night type of movie.

We next see Philippe in a series of business meetings.  He has one ally, but they are surrounded by those who feel he is too soft.  The company will have to lay off several people and want to prepare for it.  He feels it would weaken the company and could be avoided if the directors would forgo an expected annual bonus.  It is the purpose of the company to increase profits.  We see an American business man (speaking in English) they want to do a deal with and he seems angry over the the amended proposal offered (without the layoffs). Philippe is assured that because he has such a good relation with the union that he is the one to handle the layoff problem.

Confronted by the union he seems to feel that he could change the layoff decision and assures the union leaders that the rumors are wrong and there will be no layoffs.  Unfortunately he is not able to change the policy and when the situation worsens he is blamed and threatened with dismissal, although highly regarded for his abilities.   He is offered a better position if he will co-operate in explaining the situation to the union.  

In the meantime he is still carrying on 'normally" with his wife and son.   It is obvious he is under stress and will have to make a decision.

His dilemma is part of a capitalistic society.  There is no room for emotion when it comes to business decisions.  The goal is to make more profit.  There have been thousands of conflicts between decisions of those on top of the pyramid with the impacts felt by the rest of society depicted in film scripts.  This is just one situation, but it is symbolic.

There is talent(and little courage) involved for this film to follow.  Here are some of the people responsible.

Stephane Brize was the director, writer and co-producer.  He began with the theatre and television.  He has 12 film credits for each as director and writer.   Included "Mademoiselle Chambon" (2009).

Vincent Lindor is the main actor and also a co-producer.  He actually was married to the co-star, Sandrine Kiberlain and had had one child before divorcing.  He was able to use family connections to get various jobs in the film industry including as a costume design assistant.  He had 18 film credits as an actor, but also for writing and producing.  His films included "La Haine" (1995) and "Mademoiselle Chambon" (2009),  He won a best actor award at Cannes for "The Measure of Man" (2015)

Christophe Rossignon, a producer and actor playing one of the directors.  He had earlier produced "La Haine" (1995) about the aftermath of a race riot where he also played one of the minor characters.  He had 77 film credits as a producer as well as 51 as an actor.

Camille Rocailleux provided the music.   Ten film credits.

Eric Dumont was the cinematographer with 12 film credits.

Anne Klotz was the eidtor.  Her 35 film credits included "Mademoiselle Chambon" (2009).

Sandrine Kiberlain played Anne, the wife.  Her 74 credits include "Alias Betty" (2001), "Mademoiselle Chambon" and "9-Month Stretch" (2013).  She co-starred with Vincent in other films.  She also had been a singer with two albums.  

Anthony Bajon played their son, Lucas.  He has 33 film credits.

Marie Drucker played Phillipe's hard nosed and practical boss.  She is better known as a reporter and newscaster.  Has also been a writer and producer.

There are very many instances of the wealthy and powerful exploiting the less fortunate.  This is just an example from the business world (un autre monde), but very well done.  I watched it on a DVD from my local library.

I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Myth of Normal

Dr. Gabor Mate has a long history of exploring humans and the body mind connection.  What passes for normal in our society is neither healthy nor natural.  Most of us recognize that the world is very scary and the author traces much of the explanation to a lack of understanding of the body mind connection in our societies.

A key factor in his analysis is that addiction originates in childhood trauma and is usually multi-generational.  Addiction often refers to drug addiction, but can be any substance or activity.  Rather than focus on the addiction we should focus on what drove an individual to seek it or what reality to escape from.  He suggests that it will take some generations to overcome the stresses on poorly treated groups such as blacks and indigenous.

Mate does not dismiss genetic factors, but feels that other factors determine what is activated.  Throughout the book he tells of traumatic experiences that predisposes an individual to gain a wide variety of illnesses, mental and physical.  He feels medicine has neglected the mind/body connection.  

In addition to our personal family connections all of us contend with a toxic culture.  A big part of it is physical such as air and water quality, but also economic pressures, social environment and politics.  He mentions four politicians and feels Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump all had trauma in their childhood.  He quotes Tony Blair who once said "Many public health problems are not strictly speaking public health problems at all.  They are questions of lifestyle:  obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases...they are the result of millions of decisions at millions of points in time"  This overlooks studies connecting trauma to these conditions.  A low social economic status steers many to bad decisions.  Political decisions certainly impact public health.  Capitalism tied to politics has increased its toxicity. 

The toxic culture starts before we are born.   Nutrition and the breathed air  prepare the mother.  Once pregnant those elements go directly to the fetus.  Stress felt by the mother also affects the fetus.  The author contends that the birthing process in the United States is not as healthy as in other parts of the world.  Once born the infant is subject to the stress of the modern world. 

There is a clash between the author's concerns about child rearing that he contends requires attachment and the right to be oneself with more strict advice from the likes of Jordan Peterson.  Certainly a youngster needs to deal with the "cruel" world.

The psychiatrist, Bessell van der Kolk quotes Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living".  As long as one doesn't examine oneself, one is completely subject to whatever one is wired to do, but once you become aware that you have choices, you can exercise those choices. 

There is a lot of meat to backup the author's thoughts.  He uses his experiences with his patients and with people you might be familiar with to make his point.  This is heavy reading.  His arguments are persuasive and should you heed his advice you will likely be happier and healthier.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Broker: Japanese Korean collaboration

The Covid pandemic has had many repercussions and we are still adjusting.  The insightful Japanese director/writer Kore-eda Hirokaza took time to determine a future film project.  One of his efforts involved looking at Korean films and he decided he would like to write something around Korean star Song Kang Ho.  From previous efforts Kore-Eda had researched adoption procedures in Japan and later Korea noticing some similarities and wanted to build on that.  He consulted with Song Kang Ho and later two actresses to shape a script.

The story starts with a baby box which both Japan and Korea have used to make it easier for women to abandon their children anonymously.  We see two men looking at a note which states I will return met with sarcastic doubts.  At the same time there are two women in a car that are videotaping the abandonment and then following the women to her home.

We soon realize the police suspect illegal adoptions from the church where the baby box was located.  The two women are police officers who are planning to set up a sting operation.  They are able to coerce some co-operation from the woman, Moon So-young.  Later we learn they have lined up a couple to adopt the baby outside legal procedures.  

The two men are very familiar with the procedures and much of the psychology involved.  One man Don-soo works in the orphan nursery and the other Ha Sang-hyun owns a laundry store (and does sewing jobs) is the broker.  When they decide circumstances are right (usually involving an interested couple) they set things up and negotiate.

Complications add to the plot.  The reason the woman abandoned the baby was that she had just murdered the abusive father and needed to flee the city.  It turns out the father's widow, fairly wealthy when she learned about the birth decided she wanted to raise the child and hired an agent to approach the broker.  The two men were confronted with two offers, but felt the wealthy widow who offered more money should be rejected as she was too old to raise a child.  Negotiations dragged on with various issues and it ended up that Moon So-young accompanied the two men on a trip to check out the prospective couple's ability to bring up the baby.  The two police woman were following and were aware of the murder.

Along the way the viewer gets a glimpse into the two brokers and the mother with lots of observations about raising children.  Accompanying the three of them is a charming 8 year old boy who endears himself to all of them and it is realized he is too old to be adopted.  There are a few twists that make you want to see it through to the end.

 There were a lot of very talented people involved to make this a very memorable film that also won international awards including at Cannes.  Here are some of the key ones.

Kore-eda Hirokazu, the writer, director and editor has a history of films revolving around unusual families and giving nuanced interpretations.  Interesting background is that is father lived in Taiwan and was recruited for the Japanese army and later detained in Siberia.  His grandparents had fled to Taiwan as they were unable to marry in Japan.  Early he became an assistant director for tv. documentaries.  Some of his film credits include "After Life" (1998), "Still Walking" (2008), "Like Father, Like Son" (2013), "Our Little Sister" (2015), "Third Murder" (2017) and "Shoplifters" (2018).  He wrote and directed his first film not in the Japanese language "The Truth" (2019).  Winner of over 100 international awards and much admired by Roger Ebert.

Jung Jae-il provided the music.  Other credits are for "Okja" (2017), "Parasite" (2019) and "Squid Game" (2021).   see

Hong Kyung-pyo handled the cinematography.  Other credits include "Mother" (2009), "Snowpiercer" (2013), "The Wailing" (2017) and "Burning" (2018).

Song Kang ho is one of those rare creatures that rises from supporting roles to lead roles with little reference to romance.  He is also one actor with his own post which gives a fuller picture of his stature.  But since then learned a few more things.  He is a heavily awarded actor including a Cannes award for this role as the broker and is revered by many directors.  He started in theatre at one time offering to work cleaning services to maintain working for the theatre.  In 2020 the New York Times compiled a list of the top international actors and he was listed as number 6.  With a slight hiatus he has been active in commercials and was noted for increasing sales of a liquor in Japan. Some of his film credits include "Joint Security Area" (2000),  "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2003), "The Host" (2006), "Thirst" (2009), "The Attorney" (2013), "The Age of Shadows" (2016)  "Snowpiercer" (2013) and "Parasite" (2019).  See

 Gang Dong-won played the partner to the broker.   He has had a leading role in 20 films with an accumulated attendance of 67,000,000 making him first of Korean actors in their 30's.  He is physically good looking and athletic starting as a model including work in Paris.

Je-eun Lee  played Moon So-young.  She has been one of the leading pop singers (usually under the name IU) in Korea where the emphasis has been on groups.  She has performed in Japan and her records have sold well there.  She has also been a song writer and contributed to the soundtrack album for "Crash Landing on You"  She was selected for this role after Kore-eda watched her performance in "My Mister" (2018).  She has also been very successful with commercials.  Check\

Lee Joo Young played one of the police detectives.  She was selected after Kore-eda watched her in "Itaewon Class" (2020).  Another film credit is for "Something in the Rain" (2018).   

Bae Doona played the other police officer.  A break for her was when  Bong Joon Ho for a role because she was the only one available who didn't insist on using makeup for a scene.  She has played in Korean, Japanese, English and French roles.  Her film credits include "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), "Linda, Linda, Linda" (2003), "The Host" (2006) and "Cloud Atlas" (2012).

Kim Sun-young played the orphanage director's wife.    She has had roles in and Crash Landing on You" (2019) and "Three Sisters" (2020).  See

Seung-soo Im plays the 8 year old orphan, Hae-jin who accompanies the mother and the two partners in crime.  It might seem an unnecessary role, but not only is he charming, but he fits in.  He represents a problem for orphans, but he alters the dynamics of the adults.

 Recently it has become available on Netflix with subtitles.  188 countries have bought rights to the film.  Wikipedia as well as IMDB was very useful for the research behind this post.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023


When I first checked out "Afwaah" (2023) there was a very low rating and some very negative comments.  I liked the cast and decided to watch it anyway.   The negativity seemed unjustified and I am still trying to fathom it, but in the meantime I have discovered many positive comments.

The story line revolves around a political election.  Vicky Singh is running for office and is stirring up Hindu-Muslim riots.  A man is killed.  Vicky's fiancee, Nivi  is so upset she runs out and in the midst of riots is mixed up with a scandal that she is eloping with a Hindu.  By circumstance Rahab Ahmed is on his way to a book event honoring his wife.  He is mistaken as the man who lured the fiance to elope.  They both flee for their lives.

One theme is about fake news.  The scandal really amounted to Nivi breaking off wedding plans while Vicky knew it would hurt his electoral chances.  The riots were concocted by Vicky as he branded himself as a strong leader.  A man was killed not quite by accident and in revenge the wrong man was killed.  There is lots of cold blooded violence, perhaps unnecessary, but emphasizes the attempt to control events with political implications using rumors.    

The cast and crew give this film a lot of credibility.  

Sudhir Mishra was writer and director.  He comes by an honest interest in political manipulations with a grandfather who was a cabinet minister.  He earned a Master of Philosophy.  His 21 film credits include writing, directing and producing with such films as "Chameli" (2003), "Khoya Khoya Chand" (2007), "Inkaar" (2013) and "Serious Men" (2020).  Two observations from a YouTube interview.  Women are taking over technical film crews and that is a good thing.  He also pointed that a clever line is only clever in a context.

Anubhav Sinha was a producer and has a long history with writing, directing and producing.  His films include "Ra.One" (2001),  "Article 15" (2019), "Thappad" (2020) and "Bheed" (2023).   For another political perspective with social impact check:

Bhushan Kumar was another producer. At age 19 his father died and he took ovr the music business turning it into a major force.  Then he got involved with films leading up to 180 film credits including "Hindi Medium" (2017), "Kabir Singh" (2019), "Chandigarh Kare Ashiqui" (2021), "Drishyam 2" (2022) and Bheed" (2023).  Check

Karel Antonin, the music composer comes from Prague, Czech Republic.  He worked with short films, commercials and videos in Europe.  He has 67 film credits including a few in India such as "Serious Men" (2020).

Mauricio Vidal handled the cinematography.  He has 50 film credits including "Undertow" (2015) and 10 episodes of "Narcos" (2015)

Atanu Mukherjee, the editor has 23 film credits including "Serious Men" and "Bheed" (2023).  See

Bhumi Pednekar plays Nivi.   She started with casting.  Big break came when asked to help cast "Dum Laga Ke Haisha" (2015) where she auditioned for and had to gain a lot of weight for an unusual romance where she played an overweight bride that had been arranged to solve a revenue problem.  She went onto a number of memorable films such as  "Toilet: Ek Prem Katha" (2017), "Shubh Mangal Savdhan" (2017)  and "Bala" (2019).  With Rajkummar Rao she played a lesbian to his gay role in "Badhaai Do" (2022).  An earlier film this year was "Bheed" (2023)Having gained a lot of weight to get a role she lost a lot of weight to get other roles, but fortunately she is a very credible actress.  She chose this film to expand her acting to include thrillers.  Check

Nawazuddin Siddiqui played Rahab Ahmed.  The son of a farmer Nawazuddin became a chemist.  A long time playing minor roles before being recognized as an exceptional actor.  He played an aggressive obnoxious policeman in "Kahanni" (2012) blowing smoke in the face of a pregnant woman.  He played an obsequious role in "The Lunchbox" (2013).  Perhaps better known for gangster films like "Gangs of Wasseypur" (2012) and the tv series "Sacred Games" (2018-19).  Other interesting roles include "Manjhi:  The Mountain Man"Lion" (2016), "Manto" (2018), "Photograph" (2019), "Serious Men" (2020).  In "Raat Akeli Hai" (2020)  he is a tough detective in a delicate political situation (many of the other characters campaign for his firing)  and with his mother who is concerned he is too fussy to get married. check

Sumeet Vyas played the corrupt politician Vicky Singh.  He has 57 film credits including "Arakshan" (2011), "English Vinglish" (2013), "Parched" (2015), "Ribbon" (2017) and "Made in China" (2019).   Read about another film with political implications

Sharib Hashmi played Chandon, a character caught up in violence.  He is best known for the series "The Family Man" (2019) which garnered him international award for his supporting role.  His film credits include "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008), "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" (2012), "Phullu" (2017), "Ujda Chaman" (2019) and "The Great Indian Murder" (2022).  He wrote the dialogue for "Notebook" (2015).  Read about international spy missions:

Sumeet Kaul played a corrupt violent cop.  He once toured with a theatrical group performing in Hindi and Urdu plays.  His film credits include "Once Upon a Time in Mumbaii" (2010), "Haider" (2014) and "Hamid" (2019).  He has also been busy dubbing from foreign movies.   See

Eisha Chopra played Nandita, the wife of Rahab Ahmed.  Her 24 film credits include "No One Killed Jessica" (2011), "Aligarh" (2015) and "Neerja" (2016). 

I hope no one is deterred from this movie by a few negative reviews which struck me as too extreme to be credible, but I have learned some films attract negative views.  Many of the ratings were 1 out of 10 which by itself indicates a campaign.  There is a lot of violence, but normal  for such films. 

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.  For this post I wanted to emphasize the quality of the cast and crew.