Kevin Langson

Bliss

American regional differences and disparities between rural and urban culture have nothing on their Turkish counterparts
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REVIEW American regional differences and disparities between rural and urban culture have nothing on their Turkish counterparts. Abdullah Oguz's Bliss (a title that initially seems cruelly ironic) begins in a village in eastern Turkey where Islamic law still dictates that women be killed for breaches of sexual purity, even when they are victims of rape. Young Meryem (Ozgu Namal) shudders in isolation in a shed, receiving food and deprecation from her stepmother. Read more »

Pressure Cooker

Not all high school seniors only appreciate Fritos and Cheetos
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REVIEW "Some of you will not remain. Whatever you heard, it is five times worse," announces the ruthless but deeply well-intentioned culinary arts teacher Mrs. Stephenson. It's the first day of the class she teaches at a high school in an underprivileged area of Philadelphia. Pressure Cooker focuses on three seniors who are hardworking chefs-in-training, all chasing the generous scholarships that success in a final competition would award them. Read more »

Graphic Sexual Horror

A fair-minded glimpse into the pain-glorious performances and behind-the-scenes procedures of the now defunct hardest of the hardcore bondage Web sites
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REVIEW The prurient pleasure piece Graphic Sexual Horror cannot be accused of failing to live up to its title. In fact, it's safe to say that discussion or protestations (and anyone who's not catatonic is bound to have something to say) that follow this solid porn-ocumentary will be related to the rather contentious content. Read more »

Is that your final answer?

The Year in Film 2008: Slumdog Millionaire explores class and corruption
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In Slumdog Millionaire, the contrast between wealth and impoverishment is sustained but never entertained in direct terms. Danny Boyle's fairy-tale foray into Mumbai's underbelly juxtaposes the frenetic desperation of the slums with the cool affluence of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire set, and compares its affable protagonist, Jamal, with the sleek and callous men who run the show. The popular game itself can be seen as a mockery of working-class aspirations, since it dangles huge sums of cash above the heads of participants. Read more »

Year in Film: Beauty lies

A look beneath the surface splendor of 2007's most haunting documentaries
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Unsettling subjects such as fatality by bestiality and landscapes ravaged by industry might conjure coarse, sensationalist images — straightforward visions of debauchery and exploitation. Read more »

Cinema critiques sinophilia

The videos of Ellen Zweig
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Just as the serious-minded traveler to a foreign land sacrifices certainty and ease of understanding to derive fresh insight, viewers of Ellen Zweig's video works must jettison their expectation of narrative in order to embrace Zweig's fragmentation — its disorientation and truthfulness. Her interwoven snippets of interview, performance, and language are decontextualized in a way that is apropos of her thematic consideration of how Westerners construct, imagine, and experience China and Chinese-ness from a distance. Read more »

The works

Ghosts and Numbers and Luchando add new twists to an old story at SF DocFest
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Some films glean artful pleasure from the pains of labor. One flourishing subgenre or strain of documentary tackles working conditions in countries across the world, highlighting the plight of the marginalized to make ends meet and maintain dignity in the face of unjust or extreme conditions. In a sense, Ghosts and Numbers and Luchando, two features at this year's San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, belong to this group, but they are most interesting for the ways that they differ from it, in content and style. Read more »