Archive for the Film International Category

SANTIAGO ALVAREZ (CUBA), Propaganda Movie 1967-71 CHE GUEVARA (Part 1 & 2)

Posted in Cuba Film, Film International, Film latino on February 16, 2011 by Listen Recovery

Cuban Propaganda Movie / 1967 by Santiago Alvarez
“Santiago Alvarez Documental que muestra diversos aspectos de la vida del heroico guerrillero Ernesto Che Guevara”
Documentary of Santiago Alvarez which shows diverse aspects of the life of the heroic guerilla Ernesto Che Guevara

In his first 40 years, Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez did not make a single film. In his last 40 years, he made more than 600.

“I am a product of ‘accelerated underdevelopment,'” Alvarez would say. “The Revolution made me a film director. I learnt the job fondly handling millions of feet of film.”

Some of the most vibrant cinema of the past century came from this footage handled by Alvarez. As a newsreel director for the Cuban government, Alvarez created a far-reaching body of experimental work that resonates strongly with American viewers today — at least, with the few Americans who have seen them.

One of the few is documentary filmmaker Travis Wilkerson. While shooting a film in Cuba, Wilkerson and his wife managed to land a meeting with Alvarez. “We ended up having lunch with him on his 77th birthday,” recalls Wilkerson. “We decided to drop the other film and make a film about Alvarez instead.”

Alvarez agreed to cooperate on one condition: The filmmakers would have to become more familiar with his body of work. “So for two weeks, we would go to a screening room at ICAIC [the Cuban film production office] every day and he’d show us his films, and then we’d talk about them.” Before his return to America, Alvarez presented Wilkerson with screening copies of a number of his films. “I think he felt like his work was being forgotten,” explains Wilkerson. “He was so angry at the U.S., but there’s no question he was excited that Americans would see his work.”
Wilkerson will present a selection of these films — some of which have never before been screened in the U.S. — at a program titled “He Who Hits First, Hits Twice: The Urgent Cinema of Santiago Alvarez.”

Urgent is an apt description for Alvarez’s oeuvre. His films are pamphlets, not documentaries. Their function was to keep the Cuban populace informed about current events at home and abroad, and as a result they were made on tight schedules and quickly distributed to extraordinarily large numbers of people. For instance, when Che Guevara died, Alvarez was commissioned to make a short film for a public memorial in honor of the revolutionary. He was given just 48 hours to make the film from start to finish.

In addition to the stringent time constraints, Alvarez and the filmmakers of ICAIC had extremely limited resources to work with. The difficulties of negotiating the severity of these restrictions forced the filmmakers to collaborate and innovate. Alvarez is often quoted as saying, “Give me two photographs, a moviola, and some music, and I’ll make you a film.” And not just any film, but a sharp-edged, structurally conscious work of termite art that devours its own boundaries and transcends the limitations of the medium. “He took this form [newsreels] that is associated with the most tedious films imaginable, and he makes this amazing experimental work,” Wilkerson points out. “And what’s peculiar is that these films are so personal.”

Alvarez’s “LBJ,” which will be screening at Cinematexas, actually earned criticism from his contemporaries for being too personal. The film employs a three-part structure: Part L for Martin Luther King Jr.; Part B for Bobby Kennedy; part J for John Kennedy. Through found footage and photographs from sources like Playboy and Life magazine, “LBJ” implicates the American president of the same name in each of the three assassinations. This implicit accusation may fall flat on a factual level, but Alvarez likely intended to indict the corruption that LBJ symbolized to Cubans, rather than the man himself.

Despite being deeply embedded in this historical context, “LBJ” still speaks powerfully to modern viewers. The film’s style is quite accessible: It moves fast through disjointed time and space in a rhythm that feels like current TV advertising. And like the latest 30-second spot from Weiden & Kennedy, this film was made for mass consumption. “Most work that [Alvarez] was doing was for immediate consumption,” Wilkerson notes. “He wasn’t thinking, ‘Is this going to look great in two years?’ He was thinking ‘Is this going to look great in two hours?'”
“LBJ” was made in 1968. It still looks great after more than 30 years.

Belfast Film Fetival (review)

Film Texax, Int. Film Fest. (review)

TUPAC AMARU II, La Pelicula, 1984 Cuba/Perù dirigido por Federico García (version Español), Narrado por Nicomedes Santa Cruz.

Posted in Film International, Film latino, Peru on September 17, 2010 by Listen Recovery

José Gabriel Condorcanqui Noguera, conocido como Túpac Amaru II (*Tinta, 1742 – † Cusco, 1781), fue un líder quechua que encabezó la primera y mayor rebelión de corte independentista en el Virreinato del Perú. Los tributos excesivos, la mita y los abusos de los corregidores fueron las principales causas de la rebelión india que estalló el 4 de noviembre de 1780 en la localidad de Tinta.

English text

A retelling of the 1880 Incan uprising led by Túpac Amaru II (1742-1781), played by Reynaldo Arenas. Born José Gabriel Condorcanqui, Tupac was the cacique of a Peruvian town which he governed for the king of Spain. When he was unable to persuade the government to improve the living conditions of the Indians, he rejected Spanish culture, adopted the name and native culture of his great-grandfather (Tupac Amaru I, the last Incan king), and he rebelled against the Spanish. He was defeated, and the film ends with the execution of Tupac Amaru and his family. This film can be confusing, with many references to Incan history and culture, but it is worth the effort.


ANTONIO DAS MORTES – Glauber Rocha 1969

Posted in Brasil, Brasil Cinematography, Film International on September 11, 2010 by Listen Recovery

Directed & Written by Glauber Rocha

released on June 14th 1969

winner for “Best Director at Cannes film fest France 1969”

Antonio das Mortes is a mysterious hitman and wanderer and the Brazilian sertao (desert or arid lands). He is an excellent marksman and carries with him a rifle and a machete, which he uses on occasion in duels. He is widely referred to as “matador” and “cangaceiro killer” (cangaceiros being rural bandits or pirate lords of the desert).

Physically, he is a bearded, rugged man. He is of a silent, contemplative demeanor. He wears a long brown coat and a withered hat which completely shades his eyes, and ties a red handkerchief around his neck, which he uses as part of any ritual duel.

His motives and thoughts remain unclear throughout his appearances. Whereas a secondary character in the first film, he grows into a full-fledged protagonist by the second.

ANTONIO DAS MONTES is the start of a Cultural Film Trilogy

Antonio Das Mortes part I

Deus e o  Diabo na terra do Sol part II (link)

O Dragão da Maldade Contra o Santo Guerreiro part III

full picture in 10 parts

link to deus e o diabo na terra do sol (blog link)

PLATA O PLOMO the Movie, Colombian Film Show Case MOLAA.

Posted in Colombian Art, Film International, trailer movie/doc on August 30, 2010 by Listen Recovery

I’m no critic nor a judge of movies, even thou I had my share of screenings during my journey to learning from independent movies in the Americas… Plata o Plomo is no stranger to the real life or history of Colombia’s drug commerce into the United States… But, it’s definitely a unique and nostalgic story, aside of the ending being one of the best ones… The entire movie will capture your attention from beginning to end.   John Human (director) debuts as (Executive Producer and Director) on Plata o Plomo, showing us that 1st ones can be great ones.  I strongly recommend you to check and find this film.

“Independent Colombian film at it’s best”

Renz De Madrugada

CREW: “Plata o Plomo”

Executive Producer and Director: John Human

Director of Photography: Bryan Cardenas

Assistant Producer: Wilmar Muñoz
Boom and Lighting

Gaffer. Lighting: Francisco Patiño and Boom

Jib and Second unit camera: Efren Gonzalez


John Acero as El Indio

Marlon Vasgavi as Orlando Restrepo aka “Tato”

Oscar Escobar as Jairo Restrepo aka “El Calvo”

Wilson Correa as Evilio Ramirez aka “Barimba”

Margarita Palacio as Amanda Gomes (Orlando’s aunt in Miami)

GREGORIO, Peruvian Film 1984 + original soundtrack song by LOS OVNIS “Gregorio” mp3

Posted in Film International, Film latino, Peru on May 22, 2010 by Listen Recovery

THE BURNING TRAIN (India, Ballywood 1980)

Posted in Ballywood stories, Film International, LP Covers on April 18, 2010 by Listen Recovery

The Burning Train was a Bollywood action film released in 1980 directed by Ravi Chopra and featuring a huge all-star cast. The plot revolves around a fast train named Super Fast Express, that catches fire on its inaugural run from New Delhi to Mumbai. The later Hollywood film Runaway Train (1985) has similarities to this movie.


Vinod Verma (Vinod Khanna) is an employee of the Indian Railways, who always had a dream of making the perfect and fastest train in India. After years of dedication the Railway Board approves his prototype of the Super Express. But these years had had their toll on his personal life, as his wife, Sheetal (Parveen Babi) and son, are more like strangers to him. He hopes to make it up to them after the train makes it inaugural run from Delhi to Bombay in a record 14 hours. Showing him support are his friends, Ashok (Dharmendra) and Rakesh(Vinod Mehra). But an embittered fellow-employee named Randhir (Danny Denzongpa), the son of the Chair of the Railway Board, has other plans for Vinod and the Super Express – plans that may derail Vinod’s delicate personal balance, and make the Super Express’ inaugural journey also the final one.

watch the movie in parts at

original movie poster

Hare Rama Hare Krishna, 1971 song “Dum Maro Dum (Hare Krishna)” download mp3

Posted in Ballywood stories, download single song, Film International on April 18, 2010 by Listen Recovery

Dum Maro Dum (Hare Krishna) download mp3  < link


Hindi, 140 minutes

Produced, written, and directed by Dev Anand

Music: Rahul Dev Burman; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi;

Art Direction: T. K. Desai; Cinematography: Fali Mistry

The late 1960s and early ‘70s witnessed a weird new “invasion” of India—not by Central Asian or British empire builders, but by youthful, longhaired “refugees” from the rich and powerful First World nations that elite India was striving mightily to emulate. Middle class Indians, still accustomed to Nehruvian five-year plans that limited consumer goods to the meager products of indigenous industry and yearning for the imagined good life that lay beyond the Black Waters, reacted with dismay, derision, and general bewilderment to these new strangers in their midst, who came not as five-star-hotel tourists but as low-budget pilgrims out to experience “authentic” Asian life—amoebas and all. They often arrived via seedy overland buses that crossed Europe, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan to disgorge their loads of bottom-end travelers at the doorsteps of Old Delhi flophouses and hashish dens—usually as mere stopovers enroute to Kathmandu where (as conventional wisdom had it) “the hash is better and the people don’t hassle you.” Why, wondered puzzled Indian observers, were the sons and daughters of the postindustrial West affecting the look of Bombay pavement dwellers or (worse still) anti-social sadhus, wearing soiled clothes and grubby sandals, sleeping on charpoys, and smoking charas? There was even the fear, at least among the upper echelons of the middle class, that such bad behavior might infect the sons and daughters of Hindustan. The hippies’ drug use and advocacy of “free love” was appalling to Indian bourgeois values, and their confused appropriation of Hindu ideology and symbolism was likewise a source of embarrassment and alarm. Yet paradoxically, their admiration for the supposedly superior spirituality of the East (manifest in the successful Hindu “missionary” activities of globetrotting swamis like A. C. Bhaktivedanta, whose ISKCON temples and processions in major western metropolises were widely reported in Indian media) was also a source of a certain grudging pride—since spirituality continued to be seen as one of the (few) things that India was really good at manufacturing.

The hippies’ mecca of Kathmandu in neighboring Nepal also acquired special notoriety during this period, and for a variety of reasons. Imagined (not entirely wrongly) as the epicenter of their orgiastic behavior, it attracted the longing gaze of (especially) Indian men, titillated by the prospect of scantily clad, drug-crazed blonde nymphets giving themselves freely to a range of casual comers on. Moreover, this was but a new wrinkle on a classical trope, for the fantasy that the folk who live beyond the Himalayas have looser morals and less inhibitions, and that their womenfolk exercise freer agency in their choice of partners—a standard that invites both opprobrium and envy from those who see themselves as more constrained by strict dharma—has a history that dates back to ancient Sanskrit literature. This has long led to a certain exoticization of the Nepali Other—a kind of homegrown Indian orientalism, focused on a mountain Hindu kingdom where (it is said) even Brahmans eat meat, drink alcohol, and have a proclivity for tantric rituals. Moreover, during the latter days of Congress Raj, when India’s imports were still severely restricted by protectionist trade barriers and the middle classes were enjoined to practice Gandhian austerity, this fantasy was augmented by the fact of Nepal’s freer economy, which made Kathmandu an alluring bazaar of much-desired foreign consumer goods, especially East Asian electronics and watches (considered to be far superior to the equivalent Indian products), clothing, and liquor. The imagined lifestyles of the transnational rich, carried out poolside and in the discotheque of Kathmandu’s five-star Soaltee Oberoi Hotel, added another layer to the complex fantasy of a trans-Himalayan realm of forbidden pleasures—so near, and yet so far beyond the means of the average Indian.

These intertwined discourses about alluring and threatening Others—hippies, Nepalis, and the ultra-elite of wealthy, jet-set Indians (the label “NRI” had yet to be invented)—come together in Dev Anand’s lurid and chaotic period piece, which became the classic Bombay cinematic statement on the counterculture phenomenon. Indeed, throughout the 1970s, street urchins in Indian towns were apt to greet young Western travelers with a mocking rendition of the film’s hit title song (whose chorus utilizes the Bengali Vaishnava and ISKCON chant of “Hare Krishna, Hare Ram” but which is more generally known, following standard Bombay practice, by its opening line, “Dum maro dum,”—“Take another toke!” In the film’s soundtrack, it is seductively performed by Asha Bhosle). Shot mostly on location in Kathmandu with dozens of real-live hippie extras, the film proffers a titillating inside glimpse of stoned-out life brokered through the time-honored cinematic trope of the self-turned-Other: a cultural insider who has gone “native” (c.f., Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet). In this case the turncoat is a Canada-raised Indian girl, Jasbir Jaiswal (Zeenat Aman), whose India-raised brother Prashant (Dev Anand), an airline pilot, is trying to rescue her from her adopted hippie “love family” in a Kathmandu commune called “The Bakery.”

Since the hippies’ implicit (if selective) critique of Western materialism was mostly incomprehensible to middle class Indians, standard explanations for their bizarre behavior centered around the notion that they were “lazy” youth, the product of morally lax upbringings, who were “running away” from worldly responsibilities, and whose minds had become unhinged through psychedelics and promiscuity (this was not, of course, an altogether unfair assessment in some cases). But whatever would induce an Indian girl to succumb to this wastrel lifestyle? The film explains this through a long flashback set in a soundstage Montreal, where snowflakes swirl around obviously fake skyscrapers, and where Prashant and little Jasbir (played by Master Satyajit and Baby Guddi) share sibling love (celebrated in the cute song Phoolon ka, taron ka, “The flowers and stars [all say that my sister is one in a thousand!]”), while dodging the crossfire of their feuding parents (Kishore Sahu and Achala Sachdev). As in other films of the period that feature overseas Indians (for example, Purab aur Pachhim), Western living is shown to have taken a heavy toll on the Jaiswals: Mr. J. has a mistress, Mrs. J. drinks and dances in clubs, and they hurl abuse at one another in front of their traumatized children.

When the marriage finally melts down, a Canadian court decides (for unspecified reasons) to give the daughter to the father, who remains in Canada and remarries, while the son accompanies the mother back to India. Each child is told that the other has “died,” but the younger Jasbir, marooned in chilly Canada with a neglectful dad and nasty stepmom, gets the worse deal; her compensatory thumb sucking and guitar strumming hint at the bad habits she will later acquire. Sure enough, sixteen years pass and she falls into unsavory company, steals $5000 from her father’s safe, and flees to Kathmandu under the name of Janice, where she opens a psychedelic boutique with a hippy boyfriend and becomes the presiding spirit of The Bakery’s tribe. It appears, at first glance, that she has a pretty good deal. Though some of her videshi friends look rather wasted (as pasty-faced foreigners tend to do in Hindi films), Janice/Jasbir is, let’s face it, Zeenat Aman, so she is always (even when supposedly doped-out) gorgeous, bubbly, and vivacious, nicely coifed and made up, and stylishly dressed. With several adoring boys in tow, she seems to be having a whale of a time, playing acoustic guitar, smoking charas, and pertly lecturing attentive hippies on Eastern Spirituality 101.

Lest viewers get the wrong idea, grown-up Prashant flies in, tipped off by a cue from Jaiswal senior that Jasbir is still alive and in Kathmandu (which we first admire from the air, when Prashant and a fellow pilot take their commercial jet through a series of don’t-try-this-after-9-11 low passes over the city’s famous monuments). Big Brother will tell us What’s Wrong With This (happy hippy) Picture, but first (being Dev Anand) he will immerse himself in several subplots. He will be befriended by a fast-talking tourist guide named Toofan (Rajendranath) and his simple-minded child sidekick Masina (Jr. Mehmood), who will help him woo the local belle Shanti (Mumtaz). In doing so, he will run afoul of evil landlord Dronacharya (Prem Chopra), who also has his lustful eye on Shanti, when he is not stealing gold idols from the Swayambhunath shrine (a Buddhist complex outside Kathmandu) for sale to foreign dealers. These subplots interweave with Prashant’s incognito pursuit of Janice (who steadfastly denies being Jasbir, and who assumes that Prashant has amorous intentions), in the course of which he flirts with hippie ways (or anyhow, costume) thus displaying his Heroic versatility—though the aging Anand, adorned with love-beads, appears rather out of his element in his own film.
We get to ogle at erotic dancing of the Approved Sort when uninhibited Shanti publicly performs the flirtatious song Ghungroo ka bole (“What do the anklebells say?”), revealing her fancy for Prashant, and of the Disapproved Sort too when half-naked hippies writhe by firelight to Dum maro dum—the full version of this famous song includes Prashant’s song-sermon rejoinder to the wayward youth, Ram ka nam badnam na karo (“Don’t give the name of Ram a bad name!”):

“Understand Ram, know Krishna,
awaken from your slumber, O intoxicated ones.
Conquer your minds by reading the Gita.

Ram relinquished all pleasures with a smile,
but you are fleeing sorrows out of fear. 
Krishna taught the way of duty,
but you have shut your eyes to all obligations.
I swear by Lord Ram,
don’t give the name of Ram a bad name!”

In the end, all the plots converge, and even the long-divorced Jaiswal parents turn up in Kathmandu to reunite with their son and be properly distraught over the plight of their daughter. But although stolen idols can be recovered and star-crossed lovers wed, don’t bet too much that 1971 Hindi-film morality will permit the bubbly Janis/Jasbir— a girl who has happily guzzled beer, smoked hash, and (seemingly) slept around—to be fully redeemable, even after she has recovered her familial memory.

The film is predictably awash in psychedelic colors and abounding in the zoom shots that were so favored by directors (and not just Indian ones) at the time. Yet the use of Kathmandu locations and the casting, as extras, of the very people who form its main subject gives Hare Rama, Hare Krishna at times the feel of a tables-turned ethnographic documentary—and this may be, in retrospect, the film’s most intriguing feature—in which anthropologist Anand serves as an Indian eye to gaze at the strange customs of the inscrutable whiteys. As an American who first went to India in 1971 at age twenty, longhaired and kurta-clad, I recognize, beneath the hokey plot trappings, more than a little uncomfortable accuracy in Anand’s portrayal of what was, after all, a very strange subcultural moment on the Subcontinent. To paraphrase Pogo, “Them was us!”
[The Eros Entertainment DVD of Hare Rama, Hare Krishna features a good quality print of the film, and tolerable subtitles—though (as usual with products from this company) none are provided for the songs.]