Summary of Films

movie Life of Pi
Director: Ang Lee
Country: India
Trailer/Reviews: http://www.lifeofpimovie.com/
Summary:Life of Pi tells the extraordinary story of Pi Patel, a sixteen-year-old Indian boy who survives at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, alternating between fighting for his life and witnessing some of the most beautiful scenes nature can exhibit. In a unique twist that grants the audience an unusual degree of power over the narrative, Pi also offers a second version of his own story and lets his audience decide which to believe and which to prefer. The narrative derives its power from the combination of author Yann Martel’s focus on the importance of storytelling and director Ang Lee’s attention to the visual potential of such a message.

beijing bicycle Beijing Bicycle
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
Country: China
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpKh79XngZU
Summary: Beijing Bicycle is a film that asks the question about China’s transition into a Super power. The director presents the problem by using two seventeen-year-old boys and their relationship centered on a bicycle, the symbol of China. Both boys are of different social status, yearn for acceptance within their group, and are stubbornly determined to succeed.
     In one of the concluding scenes, as a group of punks chase the two boys through an older section of Beijing, one boy says to the other, "What are you doing? This doesn't concern you." The other boy replies, "I don't know my way out." In today's new China, caught between the traditions of an ancient culture and the new urban reality, young people are having trouble finding their way.

persepolis Persepolis
Director: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Country: Iran/France
Film website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/persepolis/
 What makes Persepolis unique is the blending of literature and cinema in the following:

  • use of one art form (literary graphic novels) with another (cinematic animation);
  • use of black and white in cinema, as in printed matter, to create images of ordinary people who can live in any country where political revolution is possible;
  • use of film as a Bildungsroman: the story of a young girl’s development in a novel;
  • entwinement of storyline with the political story: Iran’s political turmoil in the past 50 years (similar to the form and technique used by authors of historical novels);
  • use of film as political opposition which allows viewer to become involved; cinema allows the viewer to easily observe revolution
osama Osama
Director: Siddiq Barmak
Country: Afghanistan
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLMnB6OeJgU
The mark of an outstanding film is if it lives inside you long after you’ve seen it. Great films don’t die, for they are not a victim of taste or time. Such a film is Osama.
     Hillary Clinton showed Osama in November 2004 to members of the Senate when she was a Junior Senator from New York. She wanted to apprise her colleagues how the U.S. would support free elections in Afghanistan. Colin Powell, the American Ambassador to the United Nations, screened the film at the U.N’s Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium on March 17, 2004 as he briefed 191 Ambassadors why the United States will increase its military presence in Afghanistan. The film served as a visual briefing about politics and foreign policy. This is a reminder to viewers that cinema can have an impact to educate and encourage action.
     Osama’s mark as an important cinematic contribution is that the inner core of the film’s human story is as strong as the outer level of technique. The film’s message reflects how art and life intertwine. And in doing so, it transposes the viewer to another country and serves as a window to an unknown world. After such a journey, the viewer unravels the mystery of a different culture and tries to understand.

image The Lady
Director: Luc Besson
Country: Myanmar / Burma
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOPhgANP3EA
Summary: The mark of a hero is a person who has the courage and conviction to sacrifice everything for a Belief or Vision and act as we ordinary mortals do not dare. Such is the Lady, the protagonist of the film and the real-life icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, of Myanmar. She never gives up fighting the injustices of Burma’s military junta that has been in power since 1958. Despite numerous attempts of assassination, imprisonment and house arrest of more than 15 years, Aung San Suu Kyi defies the Burmese Generals with patience, non-violence and adoration from her Burmese people.
     The film’s release came propitiously at the time of the first democratic elections in Myanmar in 2012. The Lady was allowed to lead her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and won 43 seats in Parliament. Her courage has inspired not only the Burmese but all people around the world who believe in Freedom.

image Spirited Away
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Country: Japan
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByXuk9QqQkk
Summary: Unusual as it is for a film to achieve a certain level of richness, depth, and complexity in either external events or internal experience, Spirited Away manages both. The world of spirits that Miyazaki created out of a combination of traditional Japanese mythology and his own imagination is one of constant surprises and delight. At every step we meet fascinating creatures, as: a six-armed man running the boiler room of a bathhouse, a giant but benevolent radish spirit, three disembodied hopping heads, a giant baby that gets turned into an adorable gerbil, a young boy that can turn into a ferocious dragon, and more.
     Yet, this constant stimulation of the external senses does not in the least detract from the core of the story, which is a young girl’s emotional journey from a soul overwhelmed by fear of the unknown to a soul that knows love, compassion, trust, bravery, and the value of work. Young audiences can easily identify with Chihiro’s uncertainty when it comes to moving to a new home and new school. With this empathy and identity, viewers of all ages, undergo the emotional journey with her. It is a story that crossed barriers of country, culture, genre, and age. This can be seen from its extraordinary successall over the world.

the counterfeiters The Counterfeiters
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Country: Austria
Film website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/thecounterfeiters/
Summary: The Counterfeiters retells the true story of the Germans’ World War II “Operation Bernhard” of destroying the Allies on an economic battle-ground. Their aim was to destabilize the British treasury by forging English bank notes and then continue to do the same to the American one-hundred dollar bill. The leader of the group of counterfeiters in Sachsenhausen concentration camp is Sali, a complex character of many shades and stripes of grey.

image The Lives of Others
Director: Henckel von Donnersmarck
Country: Germany
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3_iLOp6IhM
The power of The Lives of Others comes from two essential sources: first, its accurate depiction of the political atmosphere in East Germany during Communism; and second, its vivid portrayal of human nature and emotions. These elements offer depth to the story about a complicated time period. The combination of a fictional love relationship set in a historic political period helps the viewer understand that circumstances, not differences in human nature, made the Cold War what it was. The depiction of Communism, plagued by unspeakable horrors, may be unknown to most people today. Yet, this film is so powerful that the viewer can easily relate to the storyline’s motivating factors of fear and love.     
     Director and writer Henckel von Donnersmarck saw the importance of portraying the role of human emotions in creating the atmosphere of the film when visiting his family in East Berlin as a child. The idea for the film came from author Maxim Gorky’s account of a conversation with Lenin, in which the iron-handed dictator said that hearing Beethoven’s Appassionata weakened his resolve in the revolution. The idea that there are things that can touch even those most imbued with Communist rhetoric and redeem that soul is an important theme of the film. The concept that a man can change parallels that a government can also change.

image Madagascar
Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Country: Madagascar
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feJhlG9XcJY
Madagascar is an animated film that tells the story of four Central Park Zoo animals who have spent their lives in blissful captivity there, but are bored. Wanting adventure, they are unexpectedly transported back to Africa, getting shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar. And then they want to return home to Central Park, NYC.

march of the penguins March of the Penguins
Director: Anthony Powell
Country: Antartica
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlUg-6dv808
Summary: March of the Penguins is a documentary film about nature in animated style. The first screening was at Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. (2005) and one week later it was released in France. There are multiple versions to the film. The American version features a third-person narrative with a professorial voice by Morgan Freeman. The original French version, as the German, Danish and Hungarian, uses a first-person narrative voiceover technique as if the penguins are telling the story themselves. Another difference between the American and European versions involves the music. The original French version uses experimental electronic music by Emilie Simon while the American version uses an instrumental score by Alex Wurman.

image Wadjda
Director: Haifaa al-Mansour
Country: Saudia Arabia
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3koigluYOH0
Summary: The first feature film directed by a Saudi Arabian woman, and the first film ever to be entirely shot in Saudi Arabia, Wadjda is about a tenacious and rebellious ten-year-old girl challenging the constraints of her society, in which girls and women face severe restrictions on what they can and cannot do. Wadjda has her heart set on having a bicycle and saving up her money to buy one. Until 2013 in Saudi Arabia, girls were not allowed to ride bikes-
“A bicycle is not a toy for girls,” Wadjda is told-- it’s dangerous for her virtue.
     That director, Haifaa al-Mansour, as a Saudi Arabian woman now living abroad was able to tell this ground-breaking and deeply humanistic coming-of-age story on her own terms, parallels the resourceful resilience of Wadjda.
Viewers know from the opening shot at school that Wadjda is a rebel—she’s wearing black Converse sneakers, unlike the black shoes the other girls wear. Her best friend is a boy with a bicycle, a boy who teaches her how to ride one.
     Though not particularly interested in Islam at first, Wadjda, who makes bracelets for money as well as doing all sorts of enterprising, sometimes comical endeavors to earn money to buy her own bicycle, is motivated to study and recite verses to win the prize-winning contest money. And when she does, to the consternation of her teacher, she announces she will buy a bicycle. She is publicly told at school that she absolutely will not do that. But will she get her bicycle? And be able to ride it?

image The Other Son
Director: Lorraine Levy
Country: Israel
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65Xk7_Jk0TA
 The Other Son is more than a story about Israeli and Middle Eastern politics. It is a story about human error and heartbreak, a story that could happen to anyone. And yet, it is also a movie of Hope. If an Israeli and Palestinian could “learn” to love the enemy, as shown by director Lorrain Levy, then why can’t we?
     The story begins with a Polemic, similar to a philosophical debate a professor presents in class: “What would you do if…?”  As the viewer watches this heart-rendering problem unfold, the entire history of the Middle East is symbolized on the screen. We empathize and hope the director or actor or someone, can find a solution.
     Spoken mostly in French with some Arabic, Hebrew, and English, the four languages make the situation appear more universal. We are transported out of the Middle East and into our own home to ponder if we could eradicate prejudice and love another son?


Vialogues from Columbia University

Master Class Demonstration, Columbia University, Teachers College, (Video/Article)

Ed Lab, Columbia University, Teachers College

International Cinema Education

The Gift of Diamonds

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