documentary


It so happens (and maybe it was not just a coincidence) that  I have seen ‘The Dead Nation‘ (‘Tara moarta’ in Romanian) at the Haifa International Film Festival the very day that is declared in Romania as the National Holocaust Day. I saw the film in a hall where maybe one half of the viewers were survivors of the Holocaust or their immediate descendants. This very special documentary created by is part of a still open debate in Romania about the role and responsibility of its leaders and people in the Holocaust. It’s the kind of event that cannot be judged only from the perspective of the film fan, because it includes so much history, politics and emotional charge.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6855898

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6855898

 

shows again that he is a director who does not run away from controversy and who is not afraid of inventing new ways to put on screen his ideas and the messages that he considers as important. ‘The Dead Nation‘ covers the years 1936 to 1944, the darkest period in the history of Romania and in the history of the Jewish community in this country, which counted almost one million people prior to WWII. While the country fell into nationalistic dictatorship, became an ally of Nazi Germany, implemented racial laws, and deported part of its Jewish population in ghettos and forced labor camps in occupied Russia and Ukraine, it also lost part of its territory to the neighboring USSR and Hungary, with the Jews being considered and scapegoats. However, there is no direct footage on screen about what happened. Instead, the director used a collection of photographs recovered from a photo studio in a small dusty town in South Romania of the epoch. Instead of pogroms, ghettos and death trains we see on screen the peasants, soldiers, nationalist militants in their festive but also daily lives occasions. And riffles. Many, many riffles. The soundtrack is more sophisticated, composed from a combination of nationalist Romanian songs, news reels commentary, speeches of the politicians of the time alternated with reading from the daily journal of a Jewish doctor – deprived of all rights, subject to fear, abuses, persecution. The message is the one of ‘parallel lives’.

 

(video source ROLLERCOASTER PR)

 

The Dead Nation‘ lets the viewers make their own judgment, there is no off-screen comment that guides, explains, tries to make explicit points. There are no moving images, just a collection of stills pictures from the Acsinte collection of photographs. Viewers are left to judge by themselves. It belongs to a category of itself, maybe the only similar documentary that I can compare this film with is ‘s ‘Shoah‘. I can only wish that the public impact and contribution in understanding and assuming the dark history of the Holocaust will be – from the Romanian perspective – similar.

 

One of the previous films of , The Tree of Life included a long segment about the origins of the Universe. When I saw that movie it was not at all clear to me how that part was related to the rest of the story – a family saga developing around a complicated father – son relationship. Director Malick was so much in love with that part that he decided to abandon any fiction in his latest movie and focus on the cosmology story. The result is Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey which is listed as a documentary, although I have a hard time sticking it into that category either. Documentaries have as goal educating, or making statements about history or society or nature. Here we seem to be closer  to poetry or sophisticated video art. What counts eventually is not the category but the result.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1945228/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1945228/

 

The film starts with CGI images of the birth of the Universe combined with cosmic video art based on images of the most remote (thus the earliest) galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It continues with images that describe or reconstruct the birth of Earth, the appearance of water and life, the evolution of plants and animals, the cosmic events (like the asteroid that almost eradicated life on Earth and put an end to the dominance and very existence of the dinosaurs), the emergence of mankind and its evolution towards the mega-cities of today, with their human mosaic and social problems. Most of the images combine fabulous nature filming with computerized effects and they are great, the story telling is visually astounding and has its own logic. I would have loved the film to be only visuals. I would have even accepted the soundtrack although I am not great fan of the world music or Gregorian chants, not when used in New Age messaging. Unfortunately decided to add a spoken commentary and I simply could not make any sense of it. Some incantations and frightened kid questions directed to an over-present Mother (Nature? a feminine God?) were repeated over and over. To be clear, I like and I understand poetry, I respect religious feelings and texts, but the spoken commentary was nothing of these. The fact that , an actress that I deeply admired borrowed her voice to read this text, did not help, it just made me mad because I feel that her huge talent was wasted here. The result is just boring, and I surprised myself almost napping despite the beauty on screen.

 

(video source Zero Media)

 

OK. So Terrence Malick wanted hardly to make a film about the history of the Universe. A Film about Everything. The Film about Everything. Now that you made it, please, Mr. Malick , come back to making the films we loved you for, films like Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line.

At a time when peace or at least co-existence near our neighbors seems as remote as ever and when the level of confidence in the political class seems to be at a historical low, it’s quite comforting for us, Israelis, to remember the times when the Prime Minister was a national hero, a man of vision, a person of unprecedented modesty who chose to quit politics and spend the last decade of his life as a member of a kibbutz, living a simple life, engaging in manual labor, working and living together with his neighbors and comrades. True, he had his political enemies also, and he was not exempt of controversies, but controversy is a way of life for Jews in general and Israelis in particular. The opportunity for these thoughts was provided by the documentary film Ben-Gurion, Epilogue which was co-produced (among other) and broadcast by ARTE TV and the Israeli Channel 8 stations, and screened in Israel and at festivals around the world. The film is based on the editing of about one hour worth out of several hours of a filmed interview given by the former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion in the spring of 1968, several years after retiring from politics.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5934542

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5934542

 

It is interesting to judge the portrait that is convened by this film from two points of view. One is the persona. While Ben-Gurion was a very visible public figure and a popular one in the decades before and after the making of Israel, there are less and less people alive who knew him. We are now left with written testimonies and with this kind of films. From this interview he appears as an individual of great intelligence and modesty at the same time, a man who was both aware and proud of his role in history and at the same time humbled to have been instrumental in the important events he was part of.  Then it’s the political dimension. The Ben-Gurion who talks to us from the recovered filmed interviews was not only a man of vision but also a pragmatic moderate in policies. He provides his views on controversial issues related to the attitude of the allies to the Holocaust that was happening during WWII and the reconciliation with Germany that had happened after the war, about the victory in the Six Days War and the consequences of Israel having won the war and occupied so many territories. For the Israeli audiences there are no astonishing news, the fact that Ben-Gurion would have preferred to negotiate the majority of territories for peace is known for decades, but this position is very well articulated in the film and so actual in the present we live in today.

 

(video source Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia)

 

There are no very tough questions asked, and there is an attitude of deep respect from the young journalist to the old statesman which is never left during the discussion. We still learn a lot about the man, his life, his passions, his positions on important issues, and much of these still resonate. The discovery of the film (with no sound) and of the tapes of the interview (with no image) and the way they were brought together are an interesting story by itself, and the ‘the making of …’ documentary is worth watching as well. More film material taken from newsreels and other interviews were added in order to put the exact moment the interview was given (less than one year after the 1967 victory of Israel in the Six Days War) and the personality of David Ben-Gurion in its historical context. The title of the film is a little misleading, as Ben-Gurion does not take a ‘testamentary’ approach at any point, seems to be in good physical form and had a lot of plans among which writing his memoirs. He unfortunately did not complete these and I wonder if notes of fragments are available. He lived for another five years and even gave more interviews later. This film is an important testimony of his personality and positions after retiring, but the epilogue may still wait to be written.

 

North Korea may be the most talked and the lesser known country of the planet. (it may compete with Israel for these titles but for very different reasons) It’s a closed and supervised nation which is practically disconnected from the rest of the world, and who let itself be filmed very seldom, by few people and in a well filtered manner. ‘Laibach’ is an anarchist band of metal rock from Slovenia, which had its peak moment of glory more than three decades ago when it brought its contribution to the fall of the Iron Curtain and of the Communism system and dismantling of the country that was known for much of the 20th century as Yugoslavia. The two came together in the summer of 2015 in an incredible event which can be of huge importance or can be just a footnote in history. The first concert of a Western (or at least European) rock band in North Korea. Until history decides about the importance of the event, we have this documentary film named Liberation Day which I have seen in the last screening of the DocAviv International Documentary Film Festival in Tel Aviv.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5847760

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5847760

 

Watching this film is a multi-layered experience. We see a door semi-open, or a crack in a wall of mis-communication or lack of communication – I think these words or some similar are being used in the film – to a closed world. But we also know that not all could be filmed, and not everything was shown to the guests. While the members of the band and the team that came with them seem to buy into much of what is being served to them, there is a lot that is not being said that needs to be taken into consideration. After all, the members of the Laibach band not only came originally from a similar political system, maybe not that extreme, but based on the same principles, but also fought against it, and contributed – with their music and public attitude – to their fall. So the question can be asked – why did they accept the censorship and the rules of engagement defined by their hosts? Were they manipulated? The answer is not simple and the ambiguous quote that opens the film describes their approach – any form of art (in their opinion) has its component of propaganda and manipulation.

(Yes, indeed, but dosing differs.)

 

(video source Dogwoof)

 

Some of the images in the film are memorable. The beginning brings together crowds on stadiums gathered for rock concerts (in the West) or for big propaganda shows (in North Korea) and suggests a parallel. The huge statues of the Korean rulers and the ceremonies of bringing flowers and bowing to the monuments are impressive, even if one may disagree with the message that is being conveyed. Some of the situations shown on screen – censorship, controlled performances with selected audiences – are familiar for somebody who lived under the Communist system.  Other look simply surrealistic. The music of Laibach and the deep voice of the soloist remember us again on the background that what is important is the art and that its message needs not be explicit. A rock band concert in North Korea is an event. This film is an event. Viewers need to take this film as an open exercise and do their own reading.

While the Bansky exhibition curated by Steve Lazarides is still open in the city, the local cinematheque screened  the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop which has the name of the artist as director in its credits. is a mystery as artist and person, and Exit Through the Gift Shop does not aim and will not disperse the secret of his identity. It adds however more light on the origins of the street art genre and develops the documentary genre towards a direction that is both unexpected and rewarding for the viewers, whatever their opinions on this phenomenon may be.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1587707/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1587707/

 

The basic rule of street art is that there are no rules. This film tries to follow this. The principal character starts as a video camera addict (and there is a good reason for his addiction) named Thierry Guetta who at some point discovers street art and starts filming the fringe individuals who make street art during their night escapades. He gets to know some of the most famous ones, including the secretive Bristol-based . At some point he becomes more and more involved with his subjects, he abandons his bourgeois commercial profession, and street art becomes a way of life. Crossing the border between documenting street art and becoming a street artist comes next, and by the end of the film we see Thierry Guetta having become Mr. Brainwash, a successful artist cashing well on his products, while Bansky has become the maker of the film about him.

 

(video source ENTRTNMNT)

 

The very surprising turnaround makes out of the film a strange hybrid, a documentary where the lines between authors and subjects are blown up, with characters that claim to be real but defy common logic and would risk to be considered ‘non-credible’ in a fiction film. There is also a rather deep subtext and question marks about art and its value, about where street art belongs, about fighting commercial art and becoming successful and rich by selling counter-art. It’s difficult to put it in a box, but this is the case with street art in general. More than anything however, I found this film fun to watch.

 

Cunoştiinţa mea cu filmele regizorului german Werner Herzog datează de vreo patru decenii. Cândva, în anii 70, cinematograful Magheru de pe bulevard, în apropiere de Piaţa Romană devenise ‘cinematograf de artă’. Cred că a fost chiar şi cinematecă pentru o anumită perioadă. Acolo, într-una din rarele ferestre prin care se mai strecura câte o rază de cultură în perioada îngheţului ideologic inaugurat în 1971 de in-faimoasele Teze din Iulie, s-a organizat o ‘Săptămână a filmului din Republica Federală Germană’. Nu ştiu cum şi de de a scăpat acest eveniment filtrului cenzurii, poate a fost o ‘obligaţie’ contractuală a părţii române din sistemul de relaţii căruia în România i se spunea ‘destindere’ iar în Germania de Vest ‘Realpolitik’. Cert este că atunci, în acea săptămâna am cunoscut filmele câtorva dintre realizatorii generaţiei de cineaşti reprezentând ‘Noul Film German’ care devenise unul dintre curentele cele mai interesante ale anilor 70 ai cinematografiei internaţionale. Dintre toate filmele văzute atunci cel mai puternic m-a impresionat ‘Aguirre, spaima zeilor’ – o drama istorică plasată în perioada ‘la conquista’ – colonizarea spaniolă a Americii de sud – avându-l în rolul principal pe extraordinarul actor Klaus Kinski. Numele regizorului filmului era Werner Herzog.

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm746066176

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm746066176

 

Cariera celui pe care Francois Truffaut l-a numit cândva ‘cel mai important regizor în viaţă’ a avut parte de numeroase suişuri şi coborâşuri. Face parte din generaţia lui Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, şi Wim Wenders şi după anii ’80 şi-a diversificat preocupările şi eforturile artistice şi şi-a împărţit timpul în trei direcţii principale: regia de filme de ficţiune, de operă şi de filme documentare. În domeniul operei (în care înregistrase succese remarcabile între 1986 şi 2002) nu a mai creat decât un singur spectacol în ultimii 15 ani. Filmele sale de ficţiune din ultimele decenii au fost cam toate ‘eşecuri remarcabile’ şi de public şi de critică, dar niciodată neinteresante. Criticul de film american Roger Ebert scria că până şi eşecurile lui Herzog sunt ‘spectaculoase’. Domeniul filmelor documentare pare a fi cel care i-au dat cele mai multe satisfacţii şi s-au bucurat de o primire foarte apreciativă în ultima vreme. Filmul său cel mai recent din această categorie ‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ are că temă istoria, prezentul şi viitorul Internetului. Un subiect care desigur că mi-a trezit interesul şi care ocazionează o întâlnire unică între pasiunea mea pentru cinematograf şi unul dintre realizatorii cei mai interesanţi ai industriei filmului, şi profesia (şi pasiunea) mea – Internetul. Un motiv în plus este faptul că filmul este produs (sau producţia este sponsorizată) de compania Netscout Systems, fondată în 1984 de Anil Singhal, al cărui nume apare pe generic, companie care a creat produse şi aplicaţii de măsurare a performanţei reţelelor informatice dintre care cele mai cunoscute sunt ‘sniffer’-ul şi probele de monitorizare a traficului Ethernet.

 

    sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm1819271424


sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm1819271424

 

Cele zece episoade ale filmului tratează în ordine oarecum cronologică începuturile Internetului, prezentul cu realizările şi problemele sale, şi viitorul cu oportunităţile şi riscurile lui. Primul episod deşi scurt a trezit interes şi a creat nostalgie celor care au trăit epoca începuturilor comunicaţiilor între calculatoare, sau care – ca mine – au avut ocazia să-i cunoască personal pe câţiva dintre eroii acelor vremuri. Leonard Kleinrock (în fotografia de mai sus) este unul dintre cei care a participat la prima încercare de a stabili o comunicare între calculatoarele universităţilor californiene din Los Angeles şi Stanford. Dulapul electric (de fapt un calculator cu o putere de calcul infimă faţă de orice telefon mobil astăzi, dar un vârf al tehnologiei de la sfârşitul anilor 60) care a iniţiat comunicaţia în cămăruţa care apare în film a încercat să trimită cuvântul ‘log’ pentru a se lega (a se loga) la calculatorul aflat la distanţă. Doar că primul mesaj trimis vreodată pe Internet a întâlnit şi primul ‘bug’ şi a cauzat şi primul ‘crash’, aşa încât a treia litera din cuvântul l-o-g nu a mai apărut în cealaltă parte. A rămas doar acel ‘lo’ de la începutul titlului filmului care oferă ocazia unui joc de cuvinte în limba engleză folosind expresia ‘lo and behold’ care semnifică surpriza unui eveniment pe care l-am putea numi astăzi în limbaj hi-tech şi ‘disrupting ‘.

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm2688291840

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm2688291840

 

Fiecare dintre celelalte nouă segmente abordează din perspective diferite relaţia între tehnologiile informatice şi de comunicaţii şi lumea în care trăim sau lumea viitorului. Cititorii rubricii CHANGE.WORLD se vor găsi în multe dintre ele pe un teren familiar, căci majoritatea tematicilor descrise au fost abordate de-a lungul anilor în articolele mele. Există de exemplu segmente despre inteligenţa artificială şi aplicaţiile ei în transporturi inteligente, despre începuturile Web-ului şi perspectivele dezvoltării hipertextului, despre securitatea comunicării pe Internet şi insuportabila uşurinţă a atacurilor de securitate, despre legătura dintre jocurile electronice şi evoluţia programelor inteligente. Câteva alte subiecte au fost abandonate pe parcursul producţiei, de exemplu cele legate de plăţile electronice şi moneda bitcoin, deşi materialul filmat există şi poate cândva va apare şi public. Apar persoane şi personalităţi cunoscute între care Bob Kahn, Elon Musk şi Tim Berners-Lee. Şi despre ei am discutat în acest spaţiu cu diverse ocazii. Unele episoade au o tentă mai pesimistă şi discută pericolele comunicării – impresionant fiind cel în care apare o familie care deplânge publicarea fotografiilor copilului pierit într-un accident circulaţie, incident tipic lipsei de discreţie şi sensibilitate în comunicaţii atât de răspândită din păcate pe Internet. Nu toate au legătură directă cu Internetul – de exemplu fenomenul sensibilităţii faţă de undele electromagnetice este cunoscut, studiat şi tratat în diferite feluri (cel prezentat în film este doar una dintre opţiuni) dar nu este legat direct de reţeaua globală ci mai degrabă de comunicaţiile radio. Facem cunoştiinţă însă cu acest prilej cu una dintre acele comunitatati anarhiste care încearcă să trăiască în insule sociale fără legătură la reţeaua globală. Tehnica intervieverii folosită de Werner Herzog este cea a interogării din off (nu îi vedem niciodată chipul), cu întrebări puse cu calm şi precizie germană (subliniată de accentul vocii), însă care evident ghidează interlocutorii şi crează liantul şi firul raţionamentului dezvoltat în film.

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm2688291840

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275828/mediaviewer/rm2688291840

 

Interesul lui Werner Herzog pentru Internet şi tehnologie este de dată recentă. Până cu câţiva ani în urmă, Herzog putea fi considerat un ‘tehno-sceptic’, iar atitudinea să faţă de anumite aplicaţii internetice cum ar fi platformele sociale era net negativă. Lucrurile s-au schimbat în momentul în care a abordat acest proiect dar punctul de vedere umanist, întrebările tranşante venite din direcţii neaşteptate, o doză nedisimulată de precauţie şi chiar de pesimism în legătură cu interactia între natură umană şi tehnologie rămân trăsături distince ale acestui film care abordează altfel decât suntem obişnuiţi Internetul şi comunicaţiile în masă. Abordând tema ‘viselor’ şi prezentând combinaţia dintre Internet şi inteligenţă artificială că una dintre direcţiile cele mai promiţătoare tehnologic, dar şi dintre cele mai intrigante şi poate chiar şi periculoase dintre posibilele trasee în viitor, Herzog se plasează în avangardă tehnologică, dar interesant, nu şi cea a ficţiunii căci tema a fost abordată de scriitori ai genului science-fiction cu multe decenii în urmă, un exemplu cunoscut şi la noi fiind polonezul Stanislaw Lem şi al său ‘Solaris’. Va deveni Internetul (generalizare a entităţilor dotate cu inteligenţă artificială) complet autonom? Iar după ce se va întâmpla – problema doar de timp – care va fi diferenţa între aproape perfectele maşini gânditoare şi imperfecţii indivizi care compun omenirea? Capacitatea de a visa? Cea de a iubi? Se pot îndrăgosti şi pot visa roboţii? Dar Internetul?

 

(articolul a aparut in revista culturala Literatura de Azi – http://www.literaturadeazi.ro/ )

The message of ‘s documentary Command and Control is crisp and scary. Atomic weapons are man-made machines. Man-made machines sooner or later break. A very serious accident, or even atomic apocalypse is only a matter of time. Actually a very serious accident did happen in 1980 at a nuclear missile in Arkansas, when the area around, the continent and maybe the whole world was close to a disaster maybe similar in proportions to the one that happened in Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) a few years later.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5598206/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5598206/

 

I liked the low-key documentary style of this production. The authors restrained from commenting too much (although there are a few punch lines) and let the facts speak. It is amazing how much filmed material was available if we are taking into account the classified nature of the events that took place. We can also draw some conclusions, this being mostly left to us, viewers. At the end of the day the safety systems in place worked, but the wrong decisions of the human factors did not lack either. What was different from the incident in the Soviet Union besides the very existence and quality of the safety equipment was also the fact that the decisions were made at a relative low level, and eventually the right decisions prevailed. Heroism was there, at least one precious life was lost, and several people remained with physical and psychological traumas, not to speak about the imposed silence about the events. For these people the film is an act of recovery and rehabilitation which seems to be well deserved.

 

(video source Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films)

 

One more thought could not escape me when seeing this film – how young the heroes of this story were. The safety of the nuclear devices was put in the hands of very young people in uniform, who were only a few years before just kids. Many of the members of the emergency teams were also very young. Maybe one day a film needs to be made about those kids, or men and women who have been so recently kids to whom we trust not only the manipulation of deadly weapons, but the very existence of the planet and of life on it.

 

 

 

We know about the great musicians of the past only from written stories if they lived and played until the end of the 19th century. We can only imagine and read the stories of the contemporaries about the sound of the violin of Paganini, or the piano under the hands of Chopin or Liszt. Sound recordings started to be available at the end of the 19th century, and film rendition soon after, with film and sound synchronized since the end of the 20s. The great advantage of the artists playing today is that their music is available – if they allow, of course – for the times to come on recordings and films. More recently their lives and careers became also subject of documentary movies. Form now on not only their music but also their lives, characters, loves, families crisis can be documented for the posterity – if they allow so (or even if the do not, I guess).

 

source welltempered.wordpress.com

source welltempered.wordpress.com

 

 

I have seen three of them recently, all made in the last two years. The first was the closest to the traditional documentary genre retracing the life and career of the Hungarian-born conductor George Solti. The second one focused on how the Chinsese pianist Lang Lang grew up under the strong influence of his father and how he built a world-famous career starting from the very improbable career of a Chinese workers one-child family. Today I have seen Bloody Daughter, the documentary that Stephanie Argerich dedicated to her mother, the famous Argentinian pianist.

 

(video source EuroArtsChannel)

 

If somebody wanted a proof that it is practically impossible to live the life of a great artist and build a normative family with happy partners and children, Bloody Daughter is certainly one. Stephanie is the younger of the three daughters that Martha Argerich had with three different partners, and much of the film is dedicated into bringing together the pieces of the biography of a pianist who was another of these wonder children, raised and educated to be an artist – but also a beautiful woman, with a strong and unconventional character who decided to live her life as she wished to, placing her career at the highest priority. She is also a woman who does not have much of verbal communication skills, so although there is a lot of private footage of her on screen she talks very little about her art (and no great wisdom results) or even about her private life or feelings – we understand more from her looks, her facial expression, her eyes.

 

(video source mmoynan)

 

(video source DieVogelQDU)

 

Stephanie Argerich wanted this film to be not only about her mother but also about herself, her feelings, the relationship with her mother. There are implicit questions that she seems to want to ask her but never dares to. The puzzle of the family relations is carefully built in the first hour of the film, with the story of each one of the three daughters retraced and brought to its place. I would have personally wanted to dig more into the Jewish past of the family, but this seems to be a subject that neither Stephanie, nor Martha queried too much – maybe this is not that important to them, something buried in the past of Martha’s parents for unknown reasons never asked about. The last third of the movie does not bring too many new and interesting information about the great artist, and instead of the redundant family footage more music would have been preferable. Of course, this is just a personal opinion, but it might be shared by the many of us who love her art.

 

 

Ginger Baker is not only one of the greatest drummers ever but also a character who waits for a movie to be made about him. One day maybe a fiction movie will be made, until them we have ‘Beware of Mr. Baker’ – the documentary made by Jay Bulger. Rock documentaries are now quite ‘en vogue’ and there is a good reason for this. The big rock stars of the 60s and 70s, well, the ones who survived are now at the age of writing or telling on screen their memories. The younger generations may have heard little about ‘Cream’ or ‘Blind Faith’ but they do have an opportunity not only to watch part of their concerts (luckily filmed concerts technology developed just in time to catch much of their sounds, moves and the atmosphere of their live shows) but also to hear fist hand their version of the history of rock. And fans like me are definitely delighted.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1931388/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1931388/

 

‘Beware of Mr. Baker’ is centered around the interview reluctantly given by Baker at his ranch in South-Africa. He is one of those anti-social partners of discussion that you sometimes pity the interviewers about. He certainly loves to complain about his family, other musicians, life and fate in general – one of these guys who seem to love themselves much less than the world lives and admires them. We learn much more about his life from interviews with members of his family (his first wife seems still to have a crush on him, his son’s best memory is having made music with his father) and with other musicians. It’s the story of a life  damaged by drugs abuse and a pattern of behavior that preempted Baker from establishing good working relations with any of his colleague musicians and eventually led to the early breaking of all bands he played in. Yet, it is also doubtful if in the absence of this temper and even of the use of drugs his music would have been the same. And music is what is left at the end from such personalities. Great music in the case of Mr. Baker.

 

(video source Beat Club)

 

Cream - the gathering of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker was a stellar event. In my view it simply gave another dimension to rock, developing progressive rock and setting the stage for hard rock and metal (in the documentary Ginger Baker strongly disagrees, of course). It is hard to believe that they played together for only two years (1966-1968). It is said that when Hendrix came to London the only musicians he asked to play with were Cream, I do not know if this ever happened.

 

(video source Tony Palmer Films)

 

However, the disagreements between Baker and Bruce were so violent that they led to the end of Cream, fortunately not before a farewell concert at Albert Hall.

 

(video source Catarina Troiano)

 

Next step was for Baker and Clapton Blind Faith where they joined forces with Steve Winwood and Rick Grech. This super-group did not last more than two years either, but they also left one concert of legend in Hyde Park.

 

(video source Frank Westwood)

 

His own group Air Force formed in 1970 did not last more than one year. A great solo in this recording – one of Ginger’s many great solos.

 

(video source zoocat)

 

Ginger Baker spent the next six years (until 1976) in Africa. Here is is 1971 jamming with Nigerian afro-jazz musicians in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

(video source Delicious Vinyl)

 

At the beginning of the 90s Baker played with Masters of Reality.

 

(video source Luiz Claudio Ferro)

 

Baker and Bruce were back on stage together in 1993 with Gary Moore in BBM

 

(video source alexsh)

 

The Ginger Baker Trio was also short-lived (1994-1995) but we are left with this recording of a concert in Germany.

 

(video source MegaGuitarGods)

 

2005 was the year of the Cream reunion on the stage at Royal Albert Hall.

 

(video source Michael Hirsch)

 

Is the trip over? Not yet! After being filmed and interviewed for the documentary Ginger Baker was on stage in 2013 with Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.

We may still hear from the giant of the drummers.

 

It is probably better sometimes to see a film after the buzz is over in order to appreciate it – its good as well as its weakest parts. The break-through film of Alma Harel was very much talked about when it was released a couple of years ago. I have seen it only now and I can probably better enjoy its best parts, as well as wonder about other without necessarily being influenced by the chorus of praise (some justified) which accompanied its release.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1758576/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1758576/

 

The landscape seems to belong to a post-apocalyptic film. On the deserted shores of a sea that was born by an accident a small community of people deprived of almost everything tries to survive. Yet this is not the planet after an atomic war, and this is not the Sea of Aral either, but a real landscape and real people in the state of California, in a place located at measurable distances from all the services available in one of the most sophisticated states of the USA. The destinies of several people are being followed in parallel. A boy with behavioral problems whose parents went to jail are may be in danger of being denied parenthood if they get in any kind of more trouble. A teenager who was born and raised in the violent suburbs of a big city and has seen death and violence, and came here in the search of the right path for overcoming his social condition. An old man who survived a life of working in the oil fields but never abandoned his passion for booze, smoking, women. All the stories are human and credible and real. This may look like art fiction, but is actually a documentary of a special kind.

 

(video source dogwoof)

 

The art dimension of the film is provided by the each of the characters dancing at some point in time. Each of the dancing episodes is so well integrated in the whole movie that it looks quite natural. Dancing may not be part of their real life, but Alama Harel made it look like it is. Yet here comes also the problematic aspect of the film. We get a glimpse of life in one very extreme area of today’s America, with its people. It’s real life and yet there is some manipulation here, because there was a cameraman (maybe the director herself) some place to catch what looks like pieces of truth. It’s beautiful but I could not escape a feeling of artificiality. Yet Alma Arel is certainly a film-maker to follow, Let us see what subjects she will pick next.

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