Archive for the ‘European Film Festival’ Category

The Skarderud Hypothesis

Another Round

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Maria Bonnevie, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt

Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10

This film is in Danish with English Subtitles

Running time 1 hour and 55 minutes

Watch Another Round without any moral prejudice. Watch this film without judgement, because Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s stunning film Another Round is truly superb, expertly exploring the psychology and comraderies’ of male friendships.

Focusing on four male friends in their mid-forties, they decide as teachers at a local college in Copenhagen to explore the Skarderud Hypothesis, based on Norwegian psychotherapist Finn Skarderud who believed that human beings are born with a 0.5% alcohol level too low, which in turn is based on an untested premise from an 1880 book called “On the psychological effects of wine” written by Edmondo de Amicis.

Another Round follows the raucous misadventures of Martin brilliantly played by BAFTA nominee Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Charlie Countryman, Doctor Strange) as he and his friends test this hypothesis with vodka, wine, absinthe and many other intoxicating drinks all during the day, when they are meant to be functioning as productive and intelligent college lecturers.

While the inebriating effects of their experiment start affecting their relationships with their wives and with their students, director Thomas Vinterberg expertly shoots this film without taking any moral stand. He shows the actors in a film which is both raw, nuanced and utterly plausible. There is no American slant on this film. It is refreshingly Scandinavian and perfectly Danish.

While the men slightly drunk become better teachers and coaches, they even begin to inspire some of their students specifically the extremely anxious Sebastian played by Danish actor Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt. Then tragedy occurs unexpectedly, because life isn’t hypothetical. It is messy, real and unpredictable.

Then Another Round does something brilliant, the film ends on a triumphant note celebrating life and all its subsequent misdemeanours, its irreverent messy complicated affairs but also everything that makes being human a celebration and something to applaud, despite our complex flawed existence. Catch the astounding dance sequence at the end of Another Round as the students celebrate their graduation. This is European cinema at its best.

Another Round deservedly won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 2021 Oscar Awards and is by far one of the best films I have seen this year and is available at this year’s European Film Festival online. Another Round gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is exceptionally brilliant.

This Danish film is highly recommended viewing, beautifully photographed, with superb acting by Mads Mikkelsen who deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his role as Martin.

Casting for Confidence

The Bright Side

Director: Ruth Meehan

Cast: Gemma-Leah Devereaux, Siobhan Cullan, Karen Egan, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Kevin McGahern, Barbara Brennan, Claire O’Donovan

European Film Festival 2021https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/films/

This film is from the Republic of Ireland and has no subtitles

This film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10

Irish director Ruth Meehan tackles the subject of breast cancer in her charming first full length feature film The Bright Side, starring a wonderfully off beat performance by rising star Gemma-Leah Devereaux (Judy) as thirty something Kate McLoughlin who has a budding career as a stand-up comedian and is the reckless sibling of responsible brother James played by Kevin McGahern.

Kate’s career is stopped dead in her tracks when she is diagnosed with breast cancer and has to undergo chemotherapy and a partial mastectomy. Kate’s wicked sense of humour endears her to her fellow breast cancer sufferers who she meets during chemotherapy including Tracey played by Siobhan Cullen and the ever glamourous Fiona played by Karen Egan.

Writers Ruth Meehan and Jean Pasley do not gloss over any of the psychological trauma of women undergoing treatment for breastcancer especially the effects of chemotherapy and the associated body image issues that women might have with losing their hair or having their breasts removed.

There is a wonderful scene, both empowering and beautiful when Kate decides to go for a night on the town and in the ladies room at the local disco, she is standing next to voluptuous young women in their twenties who are glamourizing themselves in front of the mirror, when Tracey appears. Both Kate and Tracey take off their wigs, much to the horror of the young women and stand together in solidarity, looking at their reflection in the mirror.

Obviously this is a female focused story, but there is room for a male character, the shy pharmacist Andy played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor who takes a shine to Kate and then even offers to take the chemotherapy group on a fly fishing excursion in his van which has the words Casting with Confidence on the side. Andy has lost his wife to breast cancer and he decided to encourage breast cancer sufferers to take up fly fishing to help their lymphatic glands get better, with casting for confidence.

The Bright side is a bitter-sweet comedy featuring an amazing performance by Gemma-Leah Devereaux which encompasses all the dark humour that the Irish are known for.

The Bright Side gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is worth seeing, held together firmly by some strong female performances.

Both courageous and hilarious, this charming Irish film is highly recommended viewing for both men and women.

The Prague Remedy

Charlatan

Director: Agnieska Holland

Cast: Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jiri Cerny, Jaroslava Pokorna

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Czech and German with English Subtitles

Running Time: 118 minutes

Charlatan is screened virtually at the 8th European Film Festival from 14th – 24th October 2021 – https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/films/

In a similar vein to director Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Polish director Agnieska Holland’s handsome period drama Charlatan tackles the life and love of famed Czech healer Jan Mikolasec  played by Ivan Trojan who developed an uncanny knack for prescribing herbal remedies to patients based on their urine, a diagnosis determined by age and gender.

Ivan Trojek stars as Jan Mikolasec

Most notably, Mikolasec managed to navigate the political and social turmoil of mid 20th century Czechoslovakia as the country was first invaded and by the Nazi’s and then after World War 2, Czechoslovakia fell into the grip an equally totalitarian regime, the soviets as it got incorporated into the Iron Curtain until its liberation into glorious freedom during the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Oscar nominated screenwriter and director of Europa Europa (1990), Agnieska Holland returns to the big screen with this touching film Charlatan about the tormented journey of Mikolasec and his hidden and rapturous love affair with his beautiful assistant Frantisek Palko, a truly stunning and muscular young man perfectly played by Slovakian actor Juraj Loj.

Both Mikolasec and Palko are married to women as a means to conceal their homosexuality as it was completely illegal both under the Nazi’s and under the equally cruel Soviet regime.

What director Agnieska Holland perfectly does is capture the conflicting emotions of this fascinating man, Mikolasec as he is tormented, cruel and gifted. Agnieska Holland who has featured prominently in directing several episodes of the brilliant political series House of Cards, once again highlights the slippery boundaries of sexuality amidst the shifting geo-political landscape in Czechoslovakia from the late 1930’s until the late 1950’s through the Nazi era and onto the Soviet era, a theme she returns to as she did so brilliantly in House of Cards.

Charlatan is a tough watch, it is both beautiful and horrific, and equal parts a semi-mythical tale of a talented herbalist and his beautiful assistant and their forbidden love affair, as they set up a business prescribing herbal remedies to the local population and earning money off their respective ailments.

The narrative is told in a series of flashbacks to Mikolasec’s youth, the younger version of himself ironically played by Ivan Trojan’s son Josef Trojan as he learns the secret of his tradecraft from a mysterious herbalist Mrs Muhlbacherova played by Jaroslava Pokorna.

Beautifully filmed, Charlatan gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is a fascinating period piece about a Czech herbalist who didn’t achieve fame outside of Eastern Europe but went through a harrowing time in his own country. This film is recommended viewing.

A Mother’s Anguish

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Director: Jasmila Zbanic

Cast: Jasna Djuricic, Izudin Bajrovic, Boris Ler, Dino Bajrovic, Johan Helderbergh, Raymond Thiry, Boris Isakovic

Running Time: 102 minutes

This film is in English, Serbian, Dutch and Bosnian with English Subtitles

Please note that this film is not for sensitive viewers

In possibly the toughest watch in the 2021 European Film Festival is the Bosnian war film Quo Vadis, Aida? Which translates to Where are you going Aida?

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2021 Oscars, is director Jasmila Zbanic’s heartwrenching retelling of the Srebrenica massacre in Quo Vadis, Aida? featuring a brilliant performance by Jasna Djuricic as the English speaking Bosnian translater Aida.

Jasna Djuricic should have received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress at the 2021 Academy Awards because her performance rivals that of Oscar winner Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.

Quo Vadis, Aida? had it’s world premiere at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival and then was also screened at the Toronto Film Festival the same year.

As the Serb and Bosnian conflict reached its peak in the summer of 1995, the Serbian army overran the town of Srebrenica and immediately Aida who works as a Translator for the UN realizes that the population of this town is in desperate need of being saved.

Unfortunately, an ill-equipped Dutch run UN base is all that is guarding the inhabitants of Srebrenica from being annihilated by the Serbian army. On the 11th July 1995, the Srebrenica massacre occurred in which over 8000 men and boys were murdered and then buried in mass graves.

Told through the unflinching eyes of a desperate mother, Aida, a UN Translator is desperately trying to protect her husband Nihad played by Izudin Bajrovic and her two sons, Hamdjia played by Boris Ler and Sejo played by Dino Bajrovic from the Serbian army as the defenceless Dutch make a devil’s bargain with the Serbian army and allow them into the UN compound which is meant to be a safe zone.

Colonel Karremans played by Belgium actor Johan Heldenbergh (The ZooKeeper’s Wife) is out of his depth in a humanitarian crisis which is rapidly spiraling into a complete disaster receiving no guidance or support from those organizational superiors in the UN at the time, all of whom seem to be away on summer holidays.

Aida pleads with Colonel Karremans to save her two sons and her husband, sensing that something utterly tragic is about to unfold.

Director Jasmila Zbanic makes a sharp and harrowing film about a terrible event, which highlights more the ineffectiveness of a huge organization like the United Nations in times of ethnic cleansing, conflict and genocide in the face of humanity’s diabolical capacity for cruelty and violence.

Quo Vadis, Aida? gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 and is a superb film, but not for sensitive viewers. Highly recommended viewing about a horrific period of human history in the mid 1990’s.

Historical source:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srebrenica_massacre

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.

Death is Always with Us

The Traitor

Director: Marco Bellocchio

Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernando Candido, Nicola Cali, Fausto Russo Alesi, Luigi Lo Cascio

If viewers want an authentic Italian mafia film, then watch director Marco Bellocchio’s brilliant and atmospheric thriller The Traitor starring international Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, My Cousin Rachel) as Tommaso Buscetta a former member of the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia who flees Italy to go and live an exiled life in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Buscetta then turns state witness and joins the Italian prosecutors in attempting to persecute the high ranking members of the Cosa Nostra who evolved their cigarette smuggling business into a multi-million dollar heroin operation. All the implicated members of the Sicilian mafia are ruthless gangsters who feel nothing at killing an opponent’s children or relatives as well as killing them off. People are murdered in broad daylight or have their arms hacked off.

Toto Riina is the mafia kingpin who controls all these high ranking gangsters and as Buscetta turns traitor and rats on all of them. They all get arrested and stand trial in a bizarre and outrageous trial which is chaotic, sinister and shambolic from the potential convicts having epileptic fits to stripping naked in a packed courthouse.

Buscetta’s turbulent life is balanced by the calm guidance of Judge Giovanni Falcone played by Fausto Russo Alesi who realizes that by helping the traitor he is putting a target on his own back. In a poignant scene between Falcone and Buscetta they both realize that their imminent death is guaranteed and that death is always with them.

Certainly in The Traitor, there are a lot of killings including a particularly brutal seen whereby Buscetta’s two sons are tortured along with a devastating explosion along a Sicilian highway killing a key character in the film.

Buscetta gets witness protection for himself and his wife Cristina wonderfully played by Maria Fernando Candido who was nominated for a Best Actress Award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

They move to America and keep relocating to various places from Tampa, Florida to Salem, New Hampshire to Fort Collins, Colorado. Ultimately, Buscetta makes the decision to return to Rome to assist in prosecuting some of the remaining members of the notorious Cosa Nostra.

In the tradition of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and more recently director Martin Scorsese’s Oscar nominated The Irishman, director Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor is more of an authentic chronological account of the rise and fall of the Cosa Nostra in Italy from Palermo to Rome, from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, a gritty and grand narrative of arrests, assassinations and sacrifice without an extravagant American flourish.

The best scenes in The Traitor are the bizarre courtroom scenes in Rome and Palermo and Bellochio’s method of pacing the film to not only shock audiences but keep them in utter suspense.

The Traitor is sometimes difficult to watch, violent, unapologetic and cruel but ultimately at the end it is a rewarding and thought provoking film about the Italian mafia which for over the last 50 years has been mythologized by the abundance of American films on this subject.

Thankfully, The Traitor is written and directed from a uniquely Italian perspective which gives it an operatic quality and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing, but be warned this is a two and a half hour film.

Love Demands Sacrifice

Narcissus and Goldmund

Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

Cast: Jannis Niewohner, Sabin Tambrea, Roxanne Duran, Henriette Confurius, Elisa Schlott, Emilia Schule, Georg Friedrich, Matthias Habich, Andre Hennicke

Austrian Entry for the European Film Festival 2020

This film is in German with English Subtitles.

Winner of the 2008 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for The Counterfeiters, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky returns to the Big Screen with the film adaptation of famed 20th century German author Hermann Hesse’s medieval novel Narcissus and Goldmund which is the Austrian entry for the European Film Festival.

Set in the 14th century in medieval Germany at the time of the Black Death plague which swept Europe, Narcissus and Goldmund focuses on the homoerotic friendship of two young men in the monastery Mariabronn. Narcissus is devoted to the monastic life of prayer and soliture and aims to become an Abbott.

His life is upended by the arrival of the gorgeous yet adventurous Goldmund, wonderfully played by German actor Jannis Niewohner, whose blond hair and sparkling blue eyes lands him in all sorts of trouble. Narcissus is played by Romanian actor Sabin Tambrea whose portrayal of tortured love and self-flagellation is nuanced and perfect.

Unlike Narcissus who has to constantly suppress his unrequited love, Goldmund on the other hand is a drifter, who decides that the Church life is not for him and embarks on a picaresque adventure as a young and handsome man who frequently lands himself in the beds of every available German maiden.

Goldmund is duped by the German noblewoman Lydia played by Emilia Schule and is taken up by the wealthy and entitled Julia played by Elisa Schlott. Riviera star, French actress Roxanne Duran also has a brief role as a noblewoman who seduces Goldmund.

Besides his numerous romantic adventures, Goldmund also has to use his wits to survive the growing devastation of the Bubonic plague which swept through 14th Century Europe as well as surviving the rage of his numerous patrons from Furst played by Georg Friedrich and Burger played by Matthias Habich. Goldmund possesses a unique talent of creating beautiful wooden sculptures and when he returns to Narcissus for assistance, his friend commissions him to create a beautiful altar for St Catherine at the Monastery.

Haunted with eternally searching for his lost mother, Goldmund creates a ravishing wooden sculpture reflecting all the woman he has met and seduced, a religious art piece that causes controversy amidst the cloistered monks. Narcissus confronts Goldmund about his suppressed love for him, but unfortunately their social circumstances forces them to remain apart.

As the prying Lothar played by Andre Hennicke says to Narcissus, a lifetime devotion to God is a love which demands sacrifice.

Narcisssus and Goldmund is a fascinating film about male friendship in the medieval times, about two diametrically opposed characters that ultimately lean on each other to survive in a harsh and judgmental society which was completely controlled by the Church.

Gorgeously shot with some unforgettable and enlightening sequences, Narcissus and Goldmund gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is definitely worth seeing.

Sylwia’s Stalker

Sweat

Director: Magnus Von Horn

Cast: Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna, Zbigniew Zamachowski

Polish Entry for the European Film Festival 2020

The Polish entry for the European Film Festival is director Magnus Von Horn’s intimate examination of the moral duplicity of a social media star and fitness trainer Sylwia wonderfully played by the beautiful actress Magdalena Kolesnik in his film Sweat set in Warsaw and surrounding areas. Sweat was also part of the official selection for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival held virtually this year.

Sweat presents Warsaw as a glossy and sophisticated contemporary European capital complete with upmarket apartment buildings and thriving shopping malls and the main character Sylwia is a vain and ambitious social media star whose only concern is how many followers she has on Instagram and whether her beloved dog Jackson is loved.

Director Von Horn follows his main character Sylwia around as he guides the viewer through her hollow and utterly vacuous existence as she tries to deal with her mother Basia played by Aleksandra Konieczna and her new boyfriend Fryderyk played by Zbigniew Zamachowski (Three Colours: Red, Three Colours: Blue, Three Colours: White).

Sylwia also has a rather weird relationship with her male fitness star Klaudiusz wonderfully played by Julian Swiezewski who she sexually manipulates to beat up a male stalker who has been following Sylwia and become erotically obsessed with. An incident occurs late at night whereby Klaudiusz forces Sylwia to directly confront and assist her stalker.

Besides the moral repugnance of the main character, Sweat is more of a direct commentary on the age of obsessive social media and as the overly long film portrays Sylwia does not come clean about her ordeal with a stalker but rather seeks the self-congratulatory limelight of Polish Television as she does more to increase her social media visibility and her brand by ironically portraying herself as a victim of her own success.

Sweat is a fascinating and incisive portrayal of social media obsession but unfortunately it needed to be drastically edited since basically every frame of the film focuses on the life of Sylwia and her media obsessed fitness world and its inherent darkness. This microscopic obsession does tend to drag the film down and perhaps the viewer might find the subject matter tedious without their being any form of cathartic release or even an alternative point of view.

Sweat gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and unfortunately is not the best Polish film I have seen, but is certainly the most bizarre in terms of subject matter: vanity and self-obsession.

Desert Fox and the Informant

Curveball

Director: Johannes Naber

Cast: Sebastian Blomberg, Thorsten Merten, Dar Salim, Virginia Kull, Michael Wittenborn, Franziska Brandmeier

German Entry for the European Film Festival 2020

German director Johannes Naber’s brilliant political satire Curveball is an absolute must see and this year’s European Film Festival held virtually in South Africa and scheduled to be released in Germany in November 2020. Curveball premiered in the Berlinale Special section at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival held in February 2020.

Sebastian Blomberg (The Baader-Meinhof Complex, The People vs Fritz Bauer) plays the unassuming but slightly naïve German chemical weapons expert Dr Wolf who unwillingly gets roped into a political conspiracy to prove that Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president was harbouring chemical weapons.

Set between 1998 and 2003, Curveball is the terrifyingly true story of an Iragi fugitive Rafid Alwan wonderfully played by Iragi actor Dar Salim who has also appeared in Lee Tamahori’s brilliant film The Devil’s Double opposite British star Dominic Cooper.

Alwan is questioned by Dr Wolf on the existence of anthrax and other chemical weapons and their existence in Baghdad, which he eventually concedes that there could be such weapons driven around Iraq on trucks which is flimsy and unreliable intelligence at best. What makes Dr Wolf rely on this informant even more is that in Curveball they form a formidable friendship with Wolf teaching Alwan how to use a snow sleigh and Alwan proving that he is quite an unreliable source especially after his drunken escapades with whiskey.

Thrown into this bizarre friendship, is Dr Wolf’s feisty and ruthless CIA agent Leslie played by Big Little Lies star Virginia Kull who exploits Dr Wolf’s naiveté to steal the informant from the Germans to assist the Americans to construct a premise for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. No matter that both the German and American espionage service know that the Intel that Alwan has fed them is entirely fabricated.

Director Johannes Naber skilfully guides the audience through the key events of that period from the chemical weapons experts employed by the UN to search for biological weapons in Iraq in 1998 to the election of George W. Bush as U. S. President in November 1999 to the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks in New York City.

Curveball is both surreal, hilarious and utterly unbelievable made more bizarre by the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the intelligence services of America and Germany.

Thorsten Merten plays Dr Wolf’s ambitious boss Schatz while Michael Wittenborn plays the more pragmatic Retzlaff.

Curveball is fascinating viewing especially as it deals with recent historical events and demonstrates that the truth can be constructed for a political purpose in this case used to invade a foreign country. Curveball gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended for those that enjoy incisive political satires.

Zaheer’s Journey

Mogul Mowgli

Director: Bassam Tariq

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Anjana Vasan, Aiysha Hart, Andrea Hart, Alyy Khan

British Entry for the European Film Festival 2020

British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed’s fame in Hollywood rose quite substantially after his initial big screen performance opposite Kate Hudson in Mira Nair’s stunning film The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Since then Ahmed has gone on to star in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Venom and Jason Bourne.

Riz Ahmed and director Bassam Tariq co-wrote the British Pakistani film Mogul Mowgli which will be screened virtually at the 2020 European Film Festival, which focuses on the unlikely tale of a Pakistani rapper in a British city, the son of a traditional Pakistani family who immigrated to the UK to make a better life for their children.

Riz Ahmed plays Zed which is short for Zaheer a loud-mouthed and confident rapper who has proven his worth against a group of Nigerian immigrants at a rap competition and is on the cusp of a British tour aided by his manager Vaseem played by Anjana Vasan when tragedy strikes.

Zaheer, after an altercation in an alleyway with a disgruntled rap fan, collapses and is admitted to hospital. After several tests done, Zaheer is diagnosed with motor-neuron disease and his muscles are slowly deteriorating. The diagnosis comes as a shock to Zaheer and his parents particularly his father Bashir played by Alyy Khan.

Zaheer’s reflection on his condition which forces him to revaluate his hopes and dreams and specifically the side effects of the stem cell treatment which will make him infertile, makes up the basis of director Bassam Tariq’s over-directed film Mogul Mowgli which is saved by a stand out performance by Riz Ahmed who is basically in every scene of the film as he shows all of Zaheer’s vulnerability and subsequent humiliation especially as he has to rely on others to survive.

There is a particularly touching scene between Zaheer and his father in the hospital bathroom. Overall Mogul Mowgli is confusing to watch and the script is lacking some form of closure as to the real destiny for Zaheer, but nevertheless it’s his personal journey that counts. Riz Ahmed carries Mogul Mowgli and although this film has a niche appeal, it does showcase the lives of an immigrant community in contemporary Britain.

Mogul Mowgli is an interesting film, but it will not have a broad appeal as it deals with a very specific immigrant community and the strange and difficult choices they have made in attempting to integrate into a Western culture.

Mogul Mowgli gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 is a flawed film about a performance artist that has to deal with a devastating disease.

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