List Friday: The 10 Best Documentaries of 2015

This article was entirely written by me and originally posted on Taste of Cinema, in January 2016. It is the result of the public feedback to the films, and a hint of personal preferences.

After a year full of so many documentaries about compelling topics, it is difficult to compile a list of the ten best documentaries of 2015, but there are certainly a few that stood out. While many of the films were biographical films of well-known personalities, there were also a few that succeeded in bringing forward powerful stories of ordinary people.

The power of documentary film is that of exploring situations and lifestories usually unavailable to the general public, a fact that has popularized documentary film more and more, year after year. What drives us towards documentaries is curiosity, borne from our thirst for knowledge, an immortal trait of humankind. The films on this list did the best job in provoking the viewers’ voyeuristic disposition.

10.Finders Keepers (Bryan Carberry, Clay Tweel)

Finders Keepers

This is a highly entertaining film about what appears to be an ordinary American reality TV subject. Shannon Whisnant, amateur entrepreneur as he calls himself, buys a storage locker in which he finds a human foot, hidden in a grill. In his attempt to gain fame over this finding, the authorities intervene and they find the owner of the storage space, and the leg, John Wood.

The film is a tragicomedy exploring the life beyond the absurd debate of who is the proper owner of the foot. The foot becomes an obsession, and the film interestingly documents its importance to the parties involved. John Wood’s family is interviewed, revealing the history of hardships the family has had to face. Continue reading “List Friday: The 10 Best Documentaries of 2015”

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The Kite Runner. A book and movie analysis

book:  ”The Kite Runner”, Khaled Hosseini, 2003

movie: “The Kite Runner”, Marc Forster, 2007

  In this case, the movie is very similar to the book, leaving out only minor details, so this will be more of an analysis of the story itself, of how the author portrayed certain ideas, and how the director gave them life in movie form. Enjoy!

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Story

The story begins in San Francisco, with a phone call from Afghanistan who tells adult Amir he has to come back to his homeland, because “There is a way of being good again”. The story then jumps back a few decades back, in 1970’s Afghanistan, where two boys, Amir and Hassan are flying kites together, and shoot pebbles at animals with a slingshot. Amir is the son of a wealthy businessman, nicknamed Baba. Hassan, on the other hand, is the son of Ali, a devoted servant of the family and also a good friend of Baba, with whom he grew up.

Themes

The main themes of the story are friendship, parent – child relationship, prejudice, betrayal, guilt, religion and ethnicity.

Hassan is exceptionally good at flying kites, and he is constantly praised by Baba, to Amir’s bitter disappointment and envy. The boy feels blamed by his father, Baba, for killing his mother while she was giving birth to him. When he overhears Baba telling Rahim Khan, his best friend, that his son is not daring and confident enough, Amir is convinced that his father doesn’t love him and that he has to earn his love by winning the kite flying contest and prove he is as good as Hassan.

The conflict that sparks the plot twist is due to the different ethnicity of the two boys: Amir is a Pashtun, but Hassan is a Hazara. After a series of uprisings by the Hazaras in the nineteenth century, and ongoing tensions in the twentieth century, Hazaras were looked upon with disgrace by some Pashtuns, who compared them to dogs, slaves and parasites that pollute Afghanistan. Theprejudice is present in the story: Assef, a young boy who is always looking for trouble, confronts Amir and Hassan. The conflict intensifies and a disturbing event centering Assef changes the friendship between Amir and Hassan. But the guilt follows Amir all his life, and after receiving the phone call from his father’s best friend, Amir Khan, he knows he has to go back to Afghanistan and make things right. Continue reading “The Kite Runner. A book and movie analysis”

The Shining – Kubrick vs King

In 1977, Stephen King published his third novel, a horror story that helped define his position in the world of horror literature. The title is inspired by the song “Instant Karma” by John Lennon, which contains the line “We all shine on …”. King confirmed that the book is based on his own experience with alcoholism and his fear of not hurting his children.

Jack Torrance, one of the main characters, is an alcoholic writer compelled to accept the job as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel during winter break, in order to provide for the family. The three, Jack, his wife Wendy and their son Danny move into the isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies just as the summer season comes to a close. But their five years old son has psychic powers that allow him to see past events that happened in the hotel. Any link with the outside world is compromised due to a storm, while the hotel grasps Jack’s mental health, which puts the whole family in danger.

Three years after the book, the Stanley Kubrick film comes out in theaters. The movie has a slightly different structure than the book. Many aspects are omitted or completely changed to 180 degrees, which sparked controversy among fans of the book and annoyed Stephen King. The American writer admitted that he had high expectations of Kubrick’s adaptation, being a big fan of the director, but was disappointed, accusing him of transforming the story in a simple case of domestic abuse, ignoring almost completely the supernatural aspect of the story.

For a comparison between the book and its adaptation in film form, we need to consider several aspects: the construction of the characters and their motivation, the structure of the events and the different approaches by each of the two authors. Continue reading “The Shining – Kubrick vs King”