Category Archives: Documentary

BIFF 2012 #4: Distinguished Flying Cross (US 2011)

The only known photo of Wade Wilkerson's helicopter in combat

Screened as part of a double bill of short features, Distinguished Flying Cross is a 61 minute documentary about a US Army helicopter pilot sent to Vietnam in 1965. According to the festival brochure, Film Comment named director Travis Wilkinson as one of the top avant-garde filmmakers currently active. This turned out to be rather a misleading introduction to the film which is actually a conventionally structured eye-witness documentary. The simple structure uses title cards to announce questions and chapter headings for the statements of Warrant Officer Wilkerson who is shown in a head-on shot flanked by his two sons. The trio drink beer and mull over the father’s memories. Intercut with these scenes are clips of the war taken by unnamed army filmmakers (including some interesting footage of local bands playing for the Americans) and acquired by Travis Wilkerson via US National Archives.

Wade Wilkerson has an extraordinary memory from which he digs out some matter-of-fact observations of what happened and why. He was in Vietnam because he wanted to fly civil jetliners and the only way to get such jobs was via military training. He would have needed a college degree to get into the Navy or Airforce but the Army took him without questions. He wasn’t a very good soldier according to his own account and the incident which earned him the DFC, although certainly heroic on his part, was probably awarded for the wrong reason. An excellent raconteur, Wade tells an interesting story well exposing the bullshit as he puts it. I enjoyed the tales (most of which are familiar enough from the well-known books on the war such as Michael Herr’s Despatches or Philip Caputo’s A Rumour of War) – but I don’t think I’ve heard the specific helicopter pilot perspective before. This perspective is also important because this was 1965 when the US was supposedly ‘aiding’ South Vietnam and the anti-war movement was still in its infancy. Wade is quite illuminating about what it was like to be a mature student at a university a few years later.

If this pops up on TV at some point, I would recommend it.

BIFF 2012 #1: We Are Poets (UK 2011)

Azalia Anisko of Leeds Young Authors

My festival got off to a flying start with this wonderful documentary. We Are Poets won the Young Jury Prize at Sheffield Docfest last June. I missed the chance to see it there and at two subsequent screenings in Leeds where it is a local production with enormous local support. I’m so glad that I made it this time. It’s showing again on Wednesday 25 April and goes on limited release via Dogwoof on June 29th. Please don’t miss it – you’ll be sorry if you do.

The poets in question are six teenagers from Leeds who are all members of Leeds Young Authors, a community-based project in Chapeltown, the most culturally vibrant part of the city, an area rich in ‘cultural diversity’ if not in material wealth. The project attracts young people to an exploration of the spoken word, fuelled to a large extent by the rich history of performance poetry in the African-Caribbean and other communities in the UK. Every year, LYA stages a ‘poetry slam’ competition and the winner automatically becomes a member of the team which applies to attend the ‘Brave New Voices’ poetry slam in the US, an annual event with over 400 performers from across North America. We Are Poets is a record of the build-up and the performances at the 2008 contest in Washington DC. The first half of the film deals with the selection of the six person team and the rehearsals and preparation. The second half covers the contest with a brief coda about the outcomes.

The team

This is a film in which the sheer vitality, courage, intelligence and performance skills of the sextet tend to make you forget that this is a carefully constructed film – 80 mins cut from nearly 300 hours of footage. In a way, of course that is a tribute to the two filmmakers, Alex Ramseyer-Bache (a Leeds lad) and Daniel Lucchesi who met at Leeds Metropolitan University (who would eventually help to produce the film). In the Q&A which followed the screening Alex briefly discussed their major artistic decision, which was to open with one of the best poems spoken quietly over an effects heavy montage of Leeds street scenes. As he explained, it’s difficult to know how to cut the poems since it isn’t possible to include all the poems in full – which would produce a kind of concert film rather than the drama that unfolds when the sextet take their commentary on life in Leeds and what they think of the world today into an American arena. Let’s just say that Alex and Daniel do a great job and we are engaged in that drama. (Watch the YouTube clip below to realise the full extent of their commitment.)

I don’t want to spoil the drama of the film, which I think is well handled. As we might suspect, our six Leeds young people have to deal with American incomprehension – “which part of London do you come from?” – and difficulties with the Leeds accent. And the UK poets have to learn how to perform in an American context in which there is a great deal of emphasis on ‘performance’ and the use of hip-hop techniques. By contrast the Leeds poets are literate, social realist and sometimes acutely political. The crunch comes when the group have to decide whether they are going to deliver a poem in which America is presented as the ‘bad boy’ who ‘rapes’ the Middle East. Their coach back in Leeds has advised that this might not go down too well.

One of the young poets, Saju Ahmed at the Q&A. The director of the film is next left. LYA coach Rommi Smith and communications director Simon Murray to the right. Q&A introduced by festival co-director Tom Vincent to the left.

In the Dogwoof Press Pack for the film it suggests that audiences should be prepared to have stereotypes challenged. I guess that I can see what this means and one of the poets does tell us that his time in LYA has helped him move away from less desirable activities. But it’s an indictment of our society if we just assume that any success that comes out of the Chapeltowns in our cities is so unexpected as to ‘break stereotypes’. All I can say is that I wept through much of the film, simply through joy at seeing beautiful and talented young people in performances anybody would be proud of. I wish I had been able to stay for the ‘slam’ that followed the screening – but that’s festivals for you and my next screening  was nearly ready to start. But I did have time to catch a glimpse of the next generation of young poets who are already performing in their schools and who in a few years will no doubt be competing for a place on the team to go back to America.

Alex told us that he’d love to see the film used in schools and that Dogwoof hope to screen it in ‘pop-up cinemas’ as well as conventional cinemas. Download the Press Pack and get more information here – and if you know a TV company that would like to see it, point them towards Dogwoof’s sales team.

The directors’ Q&A after a BFI Southbank screening:

And if you are still wondering what a slam is like, here are three of the Leeds Young Authors performing at the 2009 Brave New Voices Event in Chicago:

Films From the South #14: The Bengali Detective (UK/India/US 2011)

The team investigate a possible murder scenario by the railway tracks.

Part of the ‘Doc South’ strand of the festival, The Bengali Detective was perhaps the most enjoyable film that I watched during my festival visit, perhaps because it is set in Kolkata, a fascinating city that I visited in 2009. At its centre is the head of a ‘Detective Agency’, Rajesh Ji. British director Philip Cox had become aware of the rise of the private detective agency in India over the last few years and he saw this rise as a symptom of the widespread concerns by ordinary citizens about the ineffectiveness of local police forces. He met many other possible candidates for the central role of the detective in the film before settling on Rajesh and it is clear from the off that he chose well. Rajesh is massively engaging – enthusiastic, intelligent, well-organised, determined – and someone who seems to care both about doing a good job and looking after both his clients and his staff. But Rajesh also has his extravert side – leading his team in martial arts exercise classes and then entering them in a dance competition. He also has a difficult family situation because his wife is dangerously ill with diabetes and he fears for the future of his young son.

The documentary cuts between the home life of Rajesh, his time in the office as manager of the agency, his motivational work with his team and three investigations which the agency is following. We see raids on wholesalers and retailers dealing in counterfeit hair products, an investigation into the deaths of three young men, seemingly killed in a railway accident but claimed as a murder by a relative and finally a classic case of tailing a married man and the report of his extra-marital adventures to his wife. The three cases are well-chosen in that they represent the range of concerns of Kolkata’s residents. The middle-class wife is upset but needs to know the truth. Counterfeiting is a major problem in India. The relatively poor trader who is caught is perhaps more of a victim than a criminal but this kind of activity harms everyone and Rajesh needs the income from clients as important as the shampoo company. The murder investigation leads to a meeting with the police who listen to the careful presentation of the investigation carried out by the team but who clearly aren’t going to speed up their own painfully slow enquiries.

Philip Cox, like Pål Hollender in Finding Ali seen earlier in the Festival, is a European director who is clearly aware of what he is doing in representing South Asia. Unlike Hollander he doesn’t appear in his own film and he is supported by local filmmaker Sounak Chakravorty who he met via the Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute in Kolkata. They were able to shoot with two cameras and this provided the kind of coverage of events that with tight editing gives a wonderful sense of street life in Kolkata. The film really bowls along seemingly at a frantic pace but I found it coherent and satisfying. Camerawork and music are both very effective. I’ve seen a criticism that the action cuts too quickly between the potential silliness of the dance sequences and the tragedy developing at home, but I don’t agree. I think Cox maintains a close observation that isn’t judgemental and is respectful of Rajesh who certainly seems sincere whatever he is doing.

The film has been very well received at various festivals including Sundance and in an unusual twist, the ‘rights’ have been bought by 20th Century Fox in order to produce a fictional ‘remake’. I’m sure that this must have happened before but it seems an odd development to me. I can’t imagine how a fictional detective’s story could quite top this documentary. The sales agent is eOne and Channel 4 have some money in the production, I think, so it should get a wide distribution and I imagine it will appear on TV in most territories – but I’d recommend it on a cinema screen. The print we saw was projected from HDCam and looked very good.

Official website

There is an interesting ‘Director’s statement’ on this site: Native Films (Production Company) Website

Trailer:

Films From the South #3: Finding Ali (Sweden 2011)

The subject of 'Finding Ali' as he was in 2002.

It could be argued that this film is more ‘about the South’ than ‘from the South’ but it certainly worked for me as what felt like a much more authentic ‘voice’ from Afghanistan than most of the news or current affairs programmes that I have seen. It formed part of the festival’s documentary strand and in this specific screening also part of a strand termed ‘The Critical Room’ in a session titled ‘Afghanistan – the Civil Society’. This comprised a discussion before the screening in which three panelists offered personal viewpoints on the prospects for civil society in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of western forces in 2014. The panelists were Director of PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo) Kristian Berg Harpviken, leader of the Afghanistan Comittee Linda Våge and the Iranian filmmaker and author of the international bestseller Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep (2002) Siba Shakib. The debate was convened by Jarle Roheim Håkonsen from NRK (Norwegian Public Service Broadcaster).

I was very impressed by the level of debate and contributions from the floor. I thought the convenor asked some ‘leading’ questions about the potential pragmatism of the Taliban but the three panelists gave much more considered answers. The consensus seemed to be that the best hope for Afghanistan was that left to its own devices a stronger civil society in the country could deal with the Taliban in its own way and that the best support for the Afghanis would be concrete infrastructure improvements such as roads, power supply, transportation systems etc. – and not the failed American-funded efforts which have so far not delivered. Interestingly much of what the panel (and the audience) said was re-iterated in the film.

Pål Hollender introduces his film

Finding Ali was written, directed and filmed by Pål Hollender for his own production company and was presented via a 2K digital print on what is, I think, the biggest screen used during the festival. It looked terrific. Hollender had first visited Afghanistan with his camera in 2001 and had befriended a nine year-old Afghan boy, Ali. The boy had a real personality and quickly learned sufficient English in Kabul (where his father had a shop) to converse quite freely on his feelings about the situation he found himself in. Hollender decided ten years on to return to Afghanistan and to try to find Ali to see how he had changed, along with the country. He cleverly structures his documentary narrative so that first we only see the younger Ali in clips from the earlier film as Hollender tours the country asking local police about the boy – mainly, I think, as an excuse to expose some of the local conditions. He finds Ali eventually.

Hollender is to some extent a ‘performer’ in his documentary but not in the same way that a Michael Moore or a Nick Broomfield takes over (and ‘provokes’) the action. I found Hollender more engaging and quite witty in his attempts to get points across. Some of what he uncovers is quite mind-boggling, including the luxury hotel and armour-plated vehicles used by some western personnel. Later on in the film he becomes the centre of a quite dramatic sequence but mostly he allows ordinary Afghanis (all men except for a single woman) to speak directly to camera and what they say is quite revealing – and quite shaming for western supporters of the ‘War Against Terror’. (Hollender recognises the difficulties he faces attempting to ask women to speak.) There are a few cinematic devices in the film such as occasional freeze frames but Hollender’s strength is finding simple but powerful images. He’s also good on simple historical observations, e.g. showing how Kabul looked in the 1960s. In fact he finishes on what should be a much better-known quotation from the British General who in 1880 suggested to London that the best policy was to “leave the Afghans alone and they will have less reason to hate us”.  The British Raj in India has a lot to answer for, but not all its leaders were fools. Finding Ali deserves a cinema release – I hope the 2K print means that it will get one in Scandinavia at least.

Here’s a taste from YouTube:

Fire in Babylon (UK 2010)

The triumphant West Indian team celebrating a wicket by Michael Holding at the Oval

This is a highly enjoyable film. It couldn’t really fail as a nostalgic celebration of arguably the most successful sports team of all time. But it’s a good watch for all audiences – whether or not you remember the West Indies Test team of the 1970s and 1980s. There is actually relatively little about cricket itself as a game, but a great deal about what it represented as a political and cultural force for Caribbean people in the period.

The documentary covers the years between the humiliating test defeat of the West Indies in Australia in the winter of 1975-76 up until the 5-0 ‘Blackwash’ of England in the summer of 1984. This was the period in which Clive Lloyd led a team which was transformed from stereotypical ‘calypso cricketers’ into a honed squad of invincibles, in the process forging a symbol of a unified West Indian identity across the disparate countries of the Caribbean and bolstering the struggle against racism and colonialist hangovers.

The events are carefully narrativised so that there is a conventional story arc. So, the success of the West Indies in the inaugural World Cup in London in 1975 is not included. They beat Australia twice in the one day competition and that wouldn’t have been a good starting point. Instead we get to see them pulverised by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson. I’d forgotten this and it was quite a shock. Indian commentators have noted that the film also misrepresents the next series they played against India. But apart from these manipulations the story is told in a straightforward way using archive footage and talking heads. The latter are often photographed in a stylised way, in a studio or on location in the Caribbean. As well as the cricketers themselves, the ‘interviewees’ include the great Bunny Wailer and several highly entertaining supporters. Interspersed are performances from a mento band, reggae stars like Tapper Zukie, archive footage of Bob Marley and, my favourite, a song by Short Shirt, the Antiguan calypsonian in the most outrageous costume I’ve seen in a while – I can’t begin to describe the exact colour of his hat and shoes! The impact of these interviews/performances filmed in HD video and with pulsing graphics using the African colours of green, red and gold  is all the greater because of their juxtaposition with the archive video footage on a big screen using digital projection.

The strength of the film is its clear connection between pride in cricket and pride in African heritage, emphasised by the comments of Bunny Wailer. It’s always been a sensitive area to comment on the sporting prowess of Black athletes because of the danger of ‘reducing’ Black achievement to physique rather than an overall appreciation of skill and intelligence. The film avoids this, I think, by its careful linkage of the US models (Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute at the Mexico Olympics etc.) with Clive Lloyd’s leadership and the fantastic individual stars of this great team. How could you not respond to the beauty, grace and power of Michael Holding (aka ‘Whispering Death’) surely the most aesthetically pleasing as well as the most lethal sight on a cricket pitch? What could top the sight of Viv Richards ducking bouncers and then sending the next ball to the boundary rope? The filmmakers have chosen the interviewees carefully so that we meet the most articulate and inspiring members of the team. Richards is a commanding presence, Andy Roberts is dry and deadly and Gordon Greenidge (who came to live in England aged 14) is the most dignified. Importantly there is one player whose presence in the documentary cuts through the possibility of too much simple idolatry on behalf of the audience. Colin Croft, one of the four bowling greats, accepted the money to join the rebel tour of South Africa in 1983 when the apartheid regime attempted to discredit the sporting boycott of South Africa. Croft survived the subsequent ban and shame to return as a respected commentator today – but many of the others on that tour had their careers, and indeed their lives, destroyed by the critical backlash. This part of the story, in which West Indian cricketers who were paid very little in comparison with modern stars were tempted by a chance to lift themselves out of relative poverty, is matched by the story of the Kerry Packer circus – ‘World Series Cricket’ in the late 1970s which saw Clive Lloyd’s team at odds with its own administrators in a bid to get better pay and conditions. The two stories underline the politics of international cricket.

The film works well politically. The focus on Australia, England and South Africa is justified in putting across the symbolism of the defeat of racism and colonialism. English cricket suffered from poor administration and the influence of the ‘backwoodsmen’ who still seemed to feel that they were running the Empire. The decision to make Tony Greig, a South African, captain of England at this time was outrageous. During the desperate days of overt racism in the 1970s and 1980s, most people I knew supported the West Indians unreservedly and to see Michael Holding dismiss Greig twice at the Oval in 1976 is one of my most cherished memories. (For those who don’t know cricket, I should point out that most of these West Indian test cricketers also played county cricket in England and they were heroes to UK crowds as well.)

The film was directed by Stevan Riley, a young British guy who has clearly impressed Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd and gained access to the right people. I hope the film gets seen in the Caribbean and persuades more young people to get interested in cricket so that the Test team can be rejuvenated. It’s great too to hear all the music again and it must be time for more films from the region. Go and see this film or get hold of the DVD – it’s pure joy. I’m off to dig out  some Linton Kwesi Johnson whose dub poetry is used in one clip.

Official trailer:

BIFF 2011 #20: JH Engström Q&A

JH Engstrom in conversation with NMeM curator Greg Hobson (photo by Paul Thompson for NMeM)

JH Engström in conversation with NMeM curator Greg Hobson (photo by Paul Thompson for NMeM)

Following two earlier photography documentaries, BIFF offered a chance to explore photographic practice directly through a Q&A with the Swedish photographer JH Engström. For several weeks the National Media Museum had been showing an exhibition of photographs by Engström and his ‘mentor’ and later colleague and close friend Anders Petersen. The exhibition closed a few days after this Q&A, but there is a book of photographs available for ‘From Back Home’ – a substantial project concerned with presenting images of the people and places of Värmland in West Central Sweden. In conjunction with the exhibition, I’ve been offering an evening class on aspects of Swedish Cinema entitled ‘Home and Memory’ so I was very interested to hear from Engström in person.

The event as advertised included both photographers and a screening of a short film about the pair’s work. However, Anders Petersen was ill and unable to travel and so Engström showed his own film about Anders, A Film With and About Anders Petersen (Sweden 2006). He also showed a ‘rough cut’ of a slide presentation of photographs from his new project focusing on his own recent family life – an intimate portrait culminating in the birth of his child. I found the slide sequence to be filmic and very striking. The documentary on Petersen was also very engaging and took us into Petersen’s world of close contact with his subjects which enables his distinctive high contrast black and white portraits. I understand that Engström has trained as a documentary filmmaker and there was clear evidence of this in the way he presented his friend (who reminded me in some ways of the Swedish writer Henning Mankell).

JH Engström with Anders Petersen (left)

JH Engström proved to be an entertaining speaker with lots to say, often very forcefully. Since I don’t know that much about international photography culture I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but Engström is clearly a major figure and the small cinema was packed. We learned that Engström’s whole outlook has been influenced by his background. He lived in Paris as a boy and returned there as a young adult to be an assistant to photographer Mario Testino. Then he returned to Sweden to gain a photography qualification. This is when he first worked with Petersen. But eventually he found Stockholm to be too ‘organised’ and restrictive and for a time he lived and worked in New York where he produced work for a project called ‘Trying to Dance’ (2004). When he did return to Sweden it was to Värmland where he had been born and where he embarked on ‘From Back Home’ with Anders Petersen. Now based in Värmland he seems to travel widely to give workshops etc. (See his website for his background.)

One of Engström's images in the 'From Back Home' exhibition. This image seems to me to be rich in cultural meanings and it 'speaks' to me about 'home' and 'memory'.

The key word for Engström’s approach appears to be ‘intimacy’. There was discussion of what this might mean, but for me Engström demonstrates it very successfully in his work. He seems to have a loose and free approach – but of course he works very hard and very professionally to achieve his aims. He said that when he first worked for Marion Testino, he wasn’t interested in fashion but he was impressed by the professional approach that he saw. He works in both black and white and colour on different formats, but always analogue not digital. I gather from this that there is no rigid ‘technique’ to be applied. Rather, he goes with whatever feels right in capturing the feeling of intimacy. As he said – “photography is about everything except reality”. His first project was in fact concerned with ‘social documentary’ – creating images with members of a women’s shelter in Stockholm but his later work consciously moves towards less organised communities.

In relation to the discussion about ‘close’ and ‘intimate’ qualities in the work a perceptive comment from the audience suggested the idea of the photographer who oscillates between the ‘personal’ – being immersed in the environment and emotionally close to the human subject – and the observer who is ‘close’ but detached. I think I’ve got this right but certainly Engström himself thought that this was an interesting line of enquiry.

I was impressed by many of the ideas in this session. For instance, I was taken by aspects of Engström’s methodology. He said that in his projects, selecting and editing photographs for the book comes first and that this then informs what goes into the exhibition (and presumably how they are presented). The photographs themselves I found quite striking and in his new work I was interested in how willing he was to display both himself and his partner for the camera. He seems like a very confident and assured young man. When I first saw the ‘From Back Home’ exhibition, I was struck by how the characters in what were recognisably Swedish locales looked rather different from the stereotypes – or rather that they looked both distinctively Swedish and ‘not at all Swedish’ at the same time. This probably says more about my own lack of knowledge about Swedish culture. However, several of the students on our evening class on Swedish Cinema linked to the exhibition remarked on how at first the characters seemed unusual but that after we had watched films set in Värmland or adjacent counties they seemed very familiar.

Here’s a short YouTube clip taken during the ‘From Back Home’ exhibition’s stay in Angers (dialogue in French):

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BIFF 2011 #10: Two films by Thomas Arslan

An Istanbul shot from the window in 'Aus der Ferne'

The second and third films in Bradford’s Thomas Arslan retrospective confirmed that the stylistic traits of Ferien shown earlier in the festival have deep roots. Turn the Music Down (Mach die Musik leiser) (Germany 1994) is recognisably the work of the same director, albeit with non-professional actors. There are the same perfect compositions on which the camera lingers – perfectly still but seemingly waiting for something that doesn’t necessarily happen. Or perhaps it is to allow us to reflect on the lives of the young characters in the story? I found myself happily watching a film in which nothing really happens in the sense of the generic narratives found in ‘teen films’ of any kind. I think this was because I was watching on a big screen and it was pleasurable to watch the scenes roll by and muse about the characters – but if this had been on television (it was shot for ZDF in Germany) I would probably have ignored it.

Turn the Music Down focuses on a group of four lads aged 16-20 (I’m not sure of their ages because the German school/college system is different) plus a similar number of girls (probably slightly younger). They live in Essen in the Ruhr and the major source of entertainment for the lads is music – ‘death metal’. They also go to a drive-in cinema and a music bar, but otherwise simply ‘hang out’. So far, so good, but these are bloodless teens by US or UK standards. They appear to have little testosterone – there’s no sex in the movie, no fights, no blazing rows with teachers or parents or police, no drugs. They drink beer but don’t get drunk. Their only vice seems to be to smoke too much and occasionally to shoplift or steal petrol. On the other hand, they are closer to what I imagine German youths of the time to be like (confirmed by some of the comments on IMDB etc.). I think the closest British film I can think of would be Ken Loach’s Looks and Smiles (1981), set in Sheffield and also made for TV, but that film has much more plot and an anger about unemployment. The German youths seem to have lost anger and found ennui – the global affliction of the 1990s? The most interesting comment comes from the older brother of the central character when he warns that “you mustn’t show fear – that’s what they want to feel” (the ‘they’ being, presumably, parents, education authorities, employers etc.).

Arslan himself lived in Essen and must have observed young people like this – I wonder what they did next? The oldest youth was due to start his Army Service at the end of the film.

From Far Away (Aus der Ferne, Germany 2006) is a documentary about Arslan’s journey through Turkey in 2005. It adopts the familiar style of the earlier features. A static camera, carefully positioned, creates landscapes, views over the city from windows, street scenes, closer shots of groups etc. The structure is the journey – starting in Istanbul and then moving to Ankara. In Istanbul Arslan joins Nuri Bilge Ceylan – editing Climates as far as I could make out. In Ankara he takes us to his old house and tells us about the school he went to. The journey then moves south to nearly the Syrian border and then East towards Iran. There are a couple of other short commentaries (about the Kurds and the history of persecution against the Armenians). Otherwise we are left to make our own minds up about what we see – which is fine by me. What it meant to me was an introduction first to busy, secular Instanbul, literally the gateway to Europe (with the image of people leaving the station) and then to calmer Ankara, the ‘modern’ capital. But as we travel south and east, an older, more complex image develops – not without its issues of security (the constant checkpoints on the road) and struggles for identity in a multicultural society, but also with beautiful landscapes. I’ve seen a negative review of the film but for me it acted like an invitation to the South and East of this large country which I’d certainly like to visit. In a later Q&A session, Arslan denied any strong identification with Turkish Cinema and in answer to a question about what he thought about Turkey (this documentary was his first visit for many years, I think) he said only that things looked different from his perspective simply because he had been away for some time and he had changed – the perfect response, I guess, from someone making a largely observational documentary.