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Into Film Project: 9 – Wall-E

Today I watched Wall-E for World Food Day, which was last Friday. I have seen it before but it is one of those films where I frequently forget what happens. This doesn’t mean that it is a forgettable film, but I think I first watched it at a time when I was just too old for Pixar’s target market but still felt it was a film I should watch, meaning I did not pay enough attention.

On a second watch it is slightly more captivating, although a film that for the most part consists of about 2 words of dialogue repeated by the two protagonists can be quite hard to concentrate on. It is a slow start but gives a fantastic comment on the direction in which modern society is heading, and the future seems pretty bleak. Of course, it is given the Disney treatment so that the subject matter is palatable for the young audience, but as my housemate said “It is another example of Disney tackling complex issues within children’s films”. I’m not going to argue with that, the evolution of technology we see in the film and its consequences is something that could easily happen in centuries time.

It is not the best Pixar film, as you may have gathered from my previous comments, but the character of Wall-E cannot be described as anything less than lovable. His naivety and different outlook is refreshing in a world that follows the crowd and follows orders rather than thinking independently, and his kind nature is heartwarming.

Spoilers begin now. Why the film was chosen for World Food Day is slightly more cryptic. It centres around a rubbish clearing robot and the food based theme only really appears around the middle of the film. It’s not a theme that automatically springs to mind whilst watching, but once you think about it, there’s a lot of sense in linking Wall-E with food. The main problem addressed in the film is that of obesity, with the characters living off processed food in a cup. The whole idea of growing their own plants is completely foreign to everyone, and the captain has almost childlike joy at finding that a seed can grow into all types of food (although pizza trees are not a thing, sorry Captain!) In a small way this film shows the importance of providing the means to grow food to every person on the planet and the massive benefits a seed can bring.

The other predominant theme in the film is the reliance on technology. The residents of the spaceship no longer interact physically with each other, choosing to talk with friends via video calling. They do not walk because they can travel by hoverchair. They have all their food and needs provided by robots. Even the ship is controlled by an auto-pilot, with near catastrophic results when the pilot chooses a different path. John and Mary are the characters that bring the most hope for technology not being the be-all and end-all and their promising romance is a reminder that we need to get away from technology for a bit and really live in the world. I definitely don’t do this enough!

Childlike but not childish, Wall-E tackles serious issues in an understandable way, with a robot protagonist that will steal your heart. Three stars.

The next film is 12 Years A Slave for Anti-Slavery Day today (18th October) but I don’t have it so stay tuned for the next review!

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Into Film Project: 8 – Wadjda

Last night I watched Wadjda, Into Film’s suggestion for International Day of the Girl on 11th October. I was apprehensive at first but it was actually a greatly informative film and really emphasised the role of women and girls in Muslim society. Spoilers are included in this review, but it is as much a comment on reality as it is a film.

Firstly I did not realise that this film was in a foreign language. But seeing as it is set in Saudi Arabia this was fitting and the subtitles were easy to follow. It was a slow story but it did not need much background to understand the cultural context: Wadjda is a young girl struggling with growing up in a world where being female makes you a second class citizen.

“Here girls don’t ride bikes. If you ride a bike you can’t have children”

The film focuses on Wadjda’s desire to buy a bike, not particularly because this is of great interest but because it shows the inequality that exists in Muslim countries. As a child, Wadjda has more freedom than her mother but many of her activities remain frowned upon: fraternising with a male friend alone, not wearing her headscarf and, of course, riding a bike. Her life is dictated in part by the wishes of her father, mother and school, and deviation from the norm is highly discouraged.

The seemingly backwards ideals of Arabian life are what predominantly shines through this film. Women are wives, mothers and teachers but outside of these roles they are pushed aside, ignored and unwelcome. They aren’t recognised in a family tree and accept harsh treatment from men. Wadjda’s mother’s acceptance of her husband finding a second wife is particularly poignant – she is utterly defeated but accepts it, a similar response to when she loses her driver and cannot go to work. Marriage is something that is touched upon among Wadjda’s peers as well: one quote from the film is “Salma just got married and brought pictures of her wedding.” The teacher’s main issue with this statement is that pictures are forbidden in school, but for Western society it is the fact that a 12 year old girl is being married off to a 20 year old husband and the girls do not bat an eyelid.

Upon reading more about the film, I was surprised at how many boundaries it breaks. It was the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the director, Haifaa al-Mansour, is the first female Saudi director of a feature film. Her experience is descriptive of the segregation of the conservative Islamic kingdom – for some scenes she had to direct from inside a van and use a walkie-talkie to communicate with her team because of not being able to mix with the male crew members in public.

Despite the slow start, I was gripped by the ending of the film. On the surface we see a change in Wadjda as she heads towards the Koran competition that will win her the money to buy her bike, but there is a small twist that shocks both the viewer and Wadjda’s peers within the film. Her mother’s quote “If you set your mind to something no one can stop you” is something that emphasises her mother’s love above all else, and the ending of the film left me hopeful for the fortunes of Saudi women.

Whether you are immersed in Muslim culture or know nothing about it, Wadjda gives a wide overview of the inequality of women through a lovable little girl and is well worth a watch. Four stars.

This article was greatly informative about the film making process and well worth a read: http://www.timeslive.co.za/entertainment/movies/2012/09/03/saudi-s-first-female-director-seeks-to-break-gender-taboos

The next post for my Into Film Project will be Wall-E on Friday (16th October) for World Food Day.

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Into Film Project: 7 – Dead Poets Society (Part 2)

Here is my actual review of Dead Poets Society for World Teachers’ Day last Monday. It may be short but I cannot avoid spoilers.

7 films in and this is the first that I have watched with a friend. Not only that but this was a friend who, until recently, had aspired to be an English teacher. And what can you describe this film as if not a film about an eccentric English teacher who pushes boundaries and inspires his pupils?

Robin Williams takes to the role of Mr Keating perfectly. His demeanour commands enough respect for the pupils to be attentive yet his facial features reflect the joy and spontaneity that characterises the unorthodox Keating. At times his character can be compared to Hector from the History Boys and the idea of a different style of English teacher is a theme that runs through both of these films.

As a film that fails the Bechdel Test (see http://theorbital.co.uk/bechdel-test/ for further information on what this is), I did struggle to engage with the film by the time it reached the middle section. Set in a boy’s school I shouldn’t have expected there to be any strong females depicted, but the fact that women were portrayed simply as something for the boys to chase after was a little bit disappointing for me.

However, the climax of the film was gripping. I had a vibe that the film would not end with the same number of characters as it started with, but the loss of one of the younger characters was not something that I had expected and a really compelling end to the film.

Of course, the final scene of the film is one that is hailed as a key part of this film and even films in general, but I did not connect with it in the same poignant way as my friend sitting next to me did, probably because I was still reeling from the earlier death.

Ultimately this is a film that inspires: children to learn, teachers to teach, and everyone to follow their dreams. Four stars.

The next film in my Into Film Project is Wadjda for International Day of the Girl on 11th October. I am currently unsure whether I will be able to get hold of this film, but a new review should be coming at some point soon.

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An update: October 2015

I feel like I have not been keeping up with my blog. I am particularly failing at the Into Film Project as I am partly struggling to find the films and partly not having time to watch and review them, but I am vaguely on top of it!

The main reason you have not heard from me is that I have been incredibly busy doing various things and generally using the large number of opportunities available to me whilst I am at university. The following tweet basically sums up how I feel:

To some extent I am not doing all I can, as there are always more things I could be doing. But in a way I am doing all I can, because physically I cannot do everything. And I think my friends would stage an intervention if I signed up for anything else because they think I am too busy. However I think I am the right amount of busy!

Anyway, a snapshot of things I am doing:

  • My degree – I remain a history student and I am taking modules in Tudor and Victorian history this term as well as one of Medieval London which is taught in London, giving me a taste of the commuter life
  • The Orbital Magazine – I am Acting Comment Editor after the elected one became Deputy Editor and hopefully I will take the position officially at the Orbital elections next week. You can see the mini Freshers issue that was predominantly from my section at the bottom of this page.
  • Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra – I am currently seated in the First Violins which is pretty exciting and I am looking forward to getting back into playing some interesting music.
  • Insanity Radio – I spontaneously applied for a show on the student radio station after being a guest and excitingly you can now hear my voice on Mondays from 3-4 on 103.2FM across North Surrey and South East Berkshire or online at http://insanityradio.com/ OR via the Insanity Radio app for Android and iOS!
  • Work – I am continuing with my two casual Saturday jobs and the Rugby World Cup means constant work for the next few Saturdays, but it’s enjoyable and includes many once in a lifetime opportunities. Plus it’s making up the shortfall in my student loan.
  • Christian Union – I’m still trying to keep some involvement with CU and once work is less hectic I’m excited to get back to helping with Club Mission on SU nights.
  • Church – Let’s not forget attending the lovely St John’s and Student Life Group with a fantastic group of people!

So yes, I am doing a fair amount of things. But I am loving it! Plus living 20 minutes walk away from campus means that I am getting 40 minutes of light exercise 5 days a week plus at least 30 minutes every time I go to work or church, which is doing wonders for my fitness.

There should be an Into Film post tomorrow, but hopefully I will be posting again soon, and contact me if you want to get in touch about ANYTHING!

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Into Film Project: 7 – Dead Poet’s Society (Part 1)

This is not my review of Dead Poet’s Society. I had really hoped that I would have a review for you by now but I have had a lack of time to be able to watch the film, even though World Teachers’ Day was on Monday and so I am already 2 days late. At some point this month I will also be reviewing a film for Black History Month (the official seventh film on the wallchart).

In lieu of a review, please see the following article which includes some fun facts about the film: (please be aware it contains spoilers)

http://mentalfloss.com/article/59232/15-facts-about-dead-poets-society.

I hope to be able to review Dead Poet’s Society very soon and also fill you in on all the busyness that’s getting in the way of blog updates!

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Into Film Project: 6 – He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not (À la folie… pas du tout)

Blog Error. This was supposed to have been posted on Friday, as it was already late. Next post should be up tomorrow.

Last Saturday was European Day of Languages and Into Film suggested I watch some short French films…which I could not find! So instead here is a very short spoiler-free review of He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not (À la folie… pas du tout in French) which is my favourite French film to date! I also watched the film in French with Italian subtitles, although I have previously watched it with English subtitles so I know what is going on. Two frantically busy days are to blame to the late publishing of this blog.

Starring Audrey Tautou, this film is much more than the rom-com it looks to be on the surface. Her art is fantastic and everything looks like it’s going well for her, especially with the anniversary rose we see in the opening scene. The recipient of the rose, played by Samuel Le Bihan, is celebrated Dr Loic Le Garrec, a married cardiologist. However, things are not quite as they seem, and this film has more twists than a helter-skelter. The cinematography is exceptionally clever, and you are left wanting more. This is a film that screams to be revisited, and doing so really shows how much effort went into creating the cinematic narrative.

An exploration of mental health, He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not emphasises the fact that there are two sides of every story. Four stars.

Thank you for being patient in waiting for this post, which celebrated European Day of Languages on 26th September. The next suggestion for my Into Film Project is for Black History Month, which is throughout October, and the next concrete date is 5th October when I will be watching Dead Poet’s Society for World Teachers’ Day.