Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

The Lithuanian Radioman that Caused All the Trouble

The Jump

Director: Giedre Zickyte

This film is a feature length documentary

Lithuanian with English subtitles

Running time 1 hour 24 minutes

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

This documentary film will be screened virtually as part of the 8th European Film Festival – https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/films/

Ever heard of Simas Kudrika? Don’t worry if you hadn’t.

Neither had I until I saw this absolutely brilliant documentary called The Jump by Lithuanian ethnographic film maker Giedre Zickyte whose previous credits included the short documentary film I am Not from Here which won Best Short documentary at the 2016 Budapest International Documentary Festival.

On Thanksgiving Day in November 1970, Lithuanian radioman and aspirant defector jumped off a Russian vessel onto a nearby American vessel off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in American waters.

While the Americans aboard the Vigilant tried to harbour Simas Kudrika and keep him from being captured by the Russian seaman who had boarded the American vessel to hunt for Simas, they ultimately failed, leading to one of the biggest diplomatic muddles of the Cold War, sending ripples through the frosty relationships of the two biggest superpowers in 1970, America and the USSR.

The Russians recaptured Simas and extradited him back to Siberia in Russia and tried him for treason, for betraying the motherland, the almighty USSR.

Simas Kudrika

Meanwhile in America, particularly in political circles under the choppy presidency of Richard Nixon, the Simas Kudrika affair was starting to make waves both in the immigrant Lithuanian communities in New York, Washington DC and Chicago but also for the mere fact that how could those friendly American sailors allow Simas Kudrika to be recaptured by those nasty Russian naval officers when all Simas really wanted to do was defect to the land of the free and the brave, the gloriously opulent United States of America?

From 1970 to 1974, Simas Kudrika remained in freezing Siberian prisons completely unaware that an ocean away, the activists of the Lithuanian immigrant communities in America were successfully lobbying to get him freed and returned to America.

Even former top diplomat and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger (1973-1977) got involved as did President Richard Nixon’s successor President Gerald Ford.

Eventually through a strange twist of fate, the immigrant community in America discover that Simas’s mother was actually born in America so this Lithuanian radioman had some claim to his American birth right.

Documentary film maker Giedre Zickyte expertly blends archival TV and film footage with real interviews with Simas Kudrika in this brilliantly told true story of one man’s journey to defection from the then Soviet controlled Lithuania during the Cold War.

The Jump is a superb documentary, a real slice of cold war historical drama tinged with nostalgia and emotional realism to make the viewer side with who the real Simas Kudrika was, a Lithuanian radioman that didn’t mean to cause so much trouble but just wanted to live in a free country.

The Jump is highly recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 9 out of 10. An absolute treat of a documentary especially designed for history buffs.

Living with Memories

Ella Blumenthal: I am Here

Director: Jordy Sank

This is a Feature Length Documentary and is available online at the Encounters: South African International Documentary Film Festival from Thursday 10th June until Sunday 20th June 2021 – https://www.encounters.co.za/ #Virtuallyeverywhere – https://www.encounters.co.za/film/i-am-here/ and at select physical venues in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

After his South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) nomination for best short documentary The Locket in 2017, SA documentary film director Jordy Sank tackles a fascinating subject, the horrific memories of a still living holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal in his directorial debut feature length documentary Ella Blumenthal: I am Here, which was part of the official selection at the 2021 Miami Jewish Film Festival https://miamijewishfilmfestival.org/ and winning the Audience Award at the 2021 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival https://www.ajff.org/film/i-am-here and now is available to watch online at the Encounters South African Documentary Film Festival.

In a plush apartment in Seapoint in Cape Town, South Africa, Holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal celebrates her 98th birthday surrounded by her children and grandchildren. During this auspicious occasion, Ella Blumenthal reveals the secret of her horrific past as a Holocaust survivor.

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1921, Ella Blumenthal was 18 when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939 igniting World War II. Her and her family were immediately transferred to the Warsaw ghetto until it burnt down. Ella and her niece Roma were then transferred to various concentration camps , while her survival skills were paramount she went onto survive both Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camp where eventually n 1945, World War II ended and the Holocaust survivors were freed by the Allied troops.

Director Jordy Sank films his subject matter with a compassionate gaze from Ella walking briskly on the Seapoint promenade to her emotional retelling of her horrific experiences of being a prisoner of some of the most notorious concentration camps of World War II at her 98th birthday celebration in 2019, surrounded by friends, children and grandchildren, educating them about the past.

Perceptively and rather cleverly, the flashbacks to the concentration camp horrors are told in a strategic combination of documentary news reel and beautiful animation provided by Greg Bakker, giving the documentary a palatable and heart-warming tone.

Impressively it is the shot of the 98 year old great grandmother swimming in a heated pool with the magnificent skyline of Cape Town in the background as her voice over describes the relief at being rescued by the allied troops and being brought to a camp with well-made up beds and running water, basic necessities which we nowadays take for granted.

Ella Blumenthal: I am Here is a captivating and brilliantly shot documentary about an extraordinary woman, a 98 year old Jewish woman who came to South Africa to make a new life and it offers a message of hope and forgiveness as she recalls how her and her grandson visited Auschwitz in 2004 to make peace with the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. Ella’s message is simple, love everyone and be grateful to be alive.

This is an amazing documentary, skilfully educating a new generation about the survivors of the Holocaust and a formidable woman who has learnt to live life through memories as most of her family from Poland were killed during World War II. With the exception of her niece who now lives in New York, Ella Blumenthal is one of the few survivors of a generation that got brutally obliterated by pure hatred and rampant Anti-Semitism.  

Highly recommended viewing and an important documentary to watch, Ella Blumenthal: I am Here gets a documentary film rating of 8 out of 10. Catch this insightful documentary online at the Encounters Film Festival –

86th Academy Awards

The 86th Academy Awards / The Oscars

 

Sunday 2nd March 2014

 

OSCAR WINNERS AT THE 86TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

 twelve_years_a_slave

Best Picture/Film: 12 Years a Slave

gravity_ver3

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

dallas_buyers_club_ver4

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

blue_jasmine_ver2

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

12_years_a_slave_2

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave

her

Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze – Her

Great Beauty - la_grande_bellezza_ver3

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (Italy) directed by Paolo Sorrentino

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Beauty

20 Feet_From_Stardom_poster doc

Best Documentary Film: 20 Feet from Stardom – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_Feet_from_Stardom

frozen

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity

Best Editing: Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger – Gravity

Best Hair and Make-up: Robin Matthews – Dallas Buyers Club

Best Original Score: Steven Price – Gravity

gatsby-poster

Best Production Design: Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby

Best Costume Design: Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby

Best Visual Effects: Gravity

Source: http://www.oscars.org/

 

 

 

 

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

2013_Toronto_International_Film_Festival_poster

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

the fifth_estate

Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

twelve_years_a_slave

People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

2013 Venice Film Festival

2013 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as La Biennale di Venezia takes place annually
in late August, early September and is regarded as the oldest Film Festival in the World.

Sacro_GRA

Golden Lion (Best Film): Sacro Gra directed by Gianfranco Rosi (documentary)

Miss_Violence

Silver Lion (Best Director): Alexandros Avranas for the film Miss Violence (Greece)

Best Actor: Themis Panou – Miss Violence

Via_Castellana_Bandiera

Best Actress: Elena Cotta – Via Castellana Bandiera 

philomena

Best Screenplay: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope – Philomena starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench

Source: http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/news/07-09.html

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