The garbage orchestra from Paraguay

« The world sends us garbage – we send back music ». That’s the motto of Favio Chavez. He opened a music school in Cateura on the outskirts of the Paraguayan capital Asunción. There’s no money for instruments – but no shortage of refuse in the neighbourhood.

Gomez turns the garbage into violins, guitars, cellos and other musical instruments. The orchestra he started has had invitations to perform around the world. A documentary film about the project called « Landfill Harmonic » has received backing from crowd funding.

Cateura exists virtually on top of a landfill site where residents make their livings recycling and selling other people’s rubbish.

Situated along the banks of the Paraguay River, 1,500 tons of waste is dumped in the area each day.
But despite the critical levels of pollution and the threat to their health residents of Cateura manage to find the most positive of uses for the rubbish.

Inspired to do something to help the inpoverished families, Chávez began using the trash in the landfill to create instruments for the children.

« One day it occurred to me to teach music to the children of the recyclers and use my personal instruments, » explains 36 year-old Chávez, who worked as an ecological technician at the landfill.

« But it got to the point that there were too many students and not enough supply. So that’s when I decided to experiment and try to actually create a few. »

Last Train Home. A hard life metaphor in China

Last Train Home (2009), directed by Lixin Fan, is a Chinese documentary, or possibly a docudrama. According to the film, over 200 million factory workers, who have left their homes to work in the city, attempt to return home for the Chinese New Year holiday. The film shows a couple’s conditions of slavery at work and the family life fragmentation, in the (vain) intent that their children can achieve education to access a better life.

When you ‘undergo’ the film that keeps track of the effort of the Chinese for export, it comes to my mind what Deng Xiaoping evoked: « It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice. » It is true that in 1978, at the beginning of Deng’s reforms, China exported in a year what it now sells abroad in one day. But this success in catching mice – in other words, the transformation of China into a global largest exporter – is being done through an unsustainable human and social cost.

Last Train Home is touching, really inspiring, and documentary film-making at its best. Director Lixin Fan forces no comment, on no occasion partisan, as he tracks the lives of two Chinese migrant workers over a gap of two years. The camera is merely an observer- it’s this kind of focused observational film-making that makes this film so moving and poignant.

Inside Job – White collar mafia

Inside Job (2010), American documentary by Charles Ferguson on the financialization of the economy that led to the crisis of 2008 and that just received the Oscar for best documentary.

Beyond the director’s unrelenting demonstration, and the very accomplished mise en scene, the framework gravitates around film noir where mafia plots — this time white collar — are replacing  one another. Relying on true images, Ferguson’s work shows that deregulation of the economy, which began in 1980 with Reagan, was continued by Clinton, then by George W. Bush and now by Obama — the last avatar of a president who has forgotten his promises to reform Wall Street.

A lukewarm record of greed that caused the collapse of Wall Street.
On the downside, the movie oversimplifies the causes of the crisis. It focuses primarily on deregulation and Wall Street’s incentive structure and culture of reckless risk-taking and lax morals and ethics. It also briefly mentions poor risk assessments by credit rating agencies and predatory lending, without really explaining what it was or getting into any depth on the matter.

Sub-prime lending was mentioned only in a very cursory manner. There was no mention of the Clinton Administration’s push for sub-prime lending to expand mortgage loans to low and moderate income people.

There was no mention of the Federal Reserve’s contribution to the housing bubble as a result of its policy to ease credit conditions in the early 2000s to soften the impact of the collapse of the dot com bubble and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There was no mention of the shadow banking system; how it contributed to the crisis and how it greatly amplified the losses.

The film has the merit of showing how little has changed the U.S. financial world, despite Obama’s rhetoric. Rather than being held accountable for their role in the collapse, many of its architects remain in key positions of power. Recommended.

Bed sports for Christmas

I cannot resist the temptation to share the video that my adorable Click-Clack-Chuc-Chuc forwarded me a few days ago under the title “Sport en chambre” (which somewhat means “Sports at Room”).

It’s in fact Birth-day, a very funny composition, full of finesse, which the staging is definitely inspired by Mozart.

Performance was ‘committed’ by the Nederlands Dans Theater under the direction of its former (but always associated) art director, the famous Czech dancer and choreographer Jiří Kylián. It is watermarked by his Six Dances, a sort of facetious tribute to Mozart and the nonchalance of the Baroque period. Birth-Day was inspired in part by Sabine Kupferberg, who is one of the performers, as well as Jiří Kylián’s wife. The music is by Mozart, the dancers (who play in real time while the scene is performed in fast motion) wear period costumes and wigs. Here the duo recreates an endearing naughty bed scene.

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Also, a frantic Charlie Chaplin-ish scene, always in line with Six Dances, is where two dancers are preparing a birthday cake competition that ends in smackdown.

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That’s a great fun. Judge for yourself and enjoy it!

Cold Souls by Sophie Barthes, a refreshing proposal of surreal comedy

>> Haga click aquí para la versión en Castellano

Cold Souls is an off-beat intelligent, imaginative story that combines elements of magical realism, drama and mystery. It’s hard to describe this  surreal comedy. It doesn’t really fit in any specific category. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

Paul Giamatti delivers a beautiful and credible performance as, well, Paul Giamatti. Mastering a broad range of emotions and making his character delightfully amusing and sometimes heartbreaking. Exasperated with his general outlook on life, he does some research into the company who removes the soul from those like him. David Strathairn is the doctor at the soul removal clinic and he plays the knowledgeable, caring professional to perfection.

At different times, this one will remind of Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, and Total Recall, it never really delivers the depth or entertainment value of any of these. It’s almost as if first time feature director Sophie Barthes has so many ideas that it became more important to include them all, rather than refine the best. The tone reminded me of Kafka, Julio Cortazar and at times Woody Allen and Kaufman.

Some might believe it is a science fiction film. I would rather talk of an existentialist film, a delightful chronicle of the absurd in the style of Albert Camus, dressed with Anton Chekhov sauce.

Go and see. Your soul will thank you.

A 3D Exploration of Picasso’s Guernica by Lena Gieseke ©

>> Haga clic aquí para la versión en castellano

The ‘Guernica’ is a powerful masterpiece, an oil canvas, of very impressive proportions (782 x351 cm), that Pablo R. Picasso made in 1937 for the Paris International Exhibition.
The fabric, black and white, represents the bombing of the town of Gernika on 26 April 1937 by the Nazi German Aviation. The canvas is currently exhibited at the National Museum Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Now, a New York artist Lena Gieseke, who is very conversant with modern digital computer graphics techniques, has decided to propose a 3D version of the famous masterwork and hang it on the Internet, in video form. The result is fascinating and gives out visualizing imaginary details that, otherwise, we would have overlooked.

Even though, I am not fully aware what Pablo Picasso would think …

Thanks to my lovely Geneviève who forwarded me the video.She’s always raring to go for new amazing adventures :)

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Julio Medem’s Chaotic Ana

>> Haga clic aquí para la versión en Castellano

>> Cliquez ici pour la traduction en Français

 The come back of a psychiatrist who turned into a devoted admirer of woman’s beauty

“My sister Ana Medem was a painter, and she still remains it through her paintings. I’ll enlighten the beginning of this trip without setting the feet on the floor, above enough to suffer as little as possible. On 7 April 2001, my sister celebrated her largest exhibition of paintings at a winery resort in Carignan, south of Zaragoza, Spain. Arriving by car to this wine region I again recognized the reddish hue of the landscapes of Tierra (Earth), my third film that I shot there five years back. My sister should meet us, relatives and friends, at the entrance hall of the exhibition. That is, the people she most wanted were waiting for her, by a closed door that she should open. A few minutes before the fixed opening time, three kilometers away, my sister died in a car accident. We did not enter the exhibition. I have in my mind a full moon in the sky in late afternoon, almost red, and almost over the highway, while driving my car to Zaragoza
The next day, before they closed my sister’s coffin , I decided – and I told her – that one day I would shoot a film on her. “

[My journey with Ana, Julio Medem, El País, 12 August 2007]

chaotic ana indexAna is a free spirit who turns her passion for life in painting. Justine, a cosmopolitan patron, invites her to complete her training in Madrid with a group of artists she sponsors. It will be the beginning of a journey, not only physical, which will lead her to discover new continents, past lives and ancient myths. Ana attempts to break the chain of ancestral violence looming on doors painted in a wall, and at the end of the adventure she will choose if she becomes a monster or a princess.

Medem still retains much of what I admire in the storytelling way of a camera movie. Recurrent elements, if you may, always pull on the emotions and sadness that turn into beauty, like Ana´s image at sea, a resource that Medem already used in Sex and Lucia –whereas on this occasion it is brought to mind through young actress Manuela Vallés.

This appeal to aesthetics – and the use of music, wind sound or photographic colors as part of the plot – makes many of us love this film director with the same force as many criticize him for the same reason, turning Medem into the objective of the same worn arguments that were pointed against Kieslowski or the Dogma filmmakers.

We face first and foremost a good artwork – sometimes very close but not yet a masterpiece – that does not achieve the freshness of Sex and Lucia and Lovers of the Arctic Circle. In my opinion, the best films of Medem are those who have delved into the intimate territory and madness of human beings without needing to explore beyond their natural environment for survival. Whatever the case, and after having been attacked by the fascists for the documentary The Basque Ball: Skin against Stone, the come back of this unique psychiatrist, that has become a devoted worshipper of woman’s beauty, is good news.

After the wonderful Lovers of the Arctic Circle and his masterpiece Sex and Lucia, Chaotic Ana is an intense and ambitious film, beautifully acted – though some characters are undeveloped (Charlotte Rampling’s).

It is noteworthy that the British composer and pianist Jocelyn Pook is the person behind the original soundtrack.

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