The stakes of The Ivory Game couldn’t be higher. Make the wrong moves now, or fail to make the right ones, and within a generation one of the largest and most beloved land mammals on earth will be no more. The gravity of the situation faced by the African elephant will stun many of those who behold the galling facts of Kief Davidson and Richad Ladkami’s revelatory documentary – this reviewer included: an astonishing 150, 000 elephants have been killed in the last five years and if this tide is not stemmed the animal risks total extinction within fifteen.
There’s something deeply unsettling about the unstoppable, magma-like flow of Werner Herzog’s Into the Inferno. Imperceptibly bubbling away in time with the veteran filmmaker’s monotone delivery, and left-field, impenetrable musings on mankind’s interaction with the natural world, this documentary may concern itself with the incendiary hostility of some of Earth’s most dangerous volcanic activity but the tentacled rivulets of human consciousness attributed to these volatile mountains of fire seep under the skin to chilling effect.
“Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing, or I am you.” Delivered by the principal subject of Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn’s Netflix Original documentary, the chilling ambiguity of this opening gambit is the knife-edge course taken to ascertain the truth of Meredith Kercher’s 2007 murder and a shambolic eight-year legal process. Amanda Knox, which premiered at Toronto and streams from 30 September, sees shifts from guilt to innocence and back with metronomic, unfathomable regularity.
The old saying goes that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ben-Hur, anyone? Not content to let sleeping dogs lie, Antoine Fuqua follows prevailing winds currently battering screens all over the world by remaking John Sturges’ 1960 Steve McQueen/Yul Brynner classic The Magnificent Seven, itself a Hollywood iteration of Akira Kurosawa’s seminal masterpiece Seven Samurai. Lack of originality aside, Fuqua’s latest suffers in a pedestrian opening half with predictable storytelling, surface-level character development, and ropey script but explodes – literally – into life with a spectacular extended showdown sequence that exhibits the director’s vision, skill, and flair in crafting stellar action.
The now infamous Brussels municipality of Molenbeek provides the polemical backdrop to Black, a brutal modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet by directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. A place name tragically familiar, the urban area has become synonymous with ISIS and Europe’s struggle with terrorism. There is no allusion to fundamentalism here but from its opening frames the headline-grabbing setting bears witness to virulent, violent conflicts that are no less pertinent: immigration, integration, the denigration of women, and gang violence.
Six men, a captain and two chefs on a boat. A competition of points both positive and negative on each and every aspect of their being and conduct. The winner crowned ‘The Best in General’. With Chevalier, Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari exposes the deeply rooted competitiveness of male kind and the unspoken anxieties buried just as deep. She spoke with CineVue’s Matthew Anderson to discuss her latest project, winner of the Best Film prize at last year’s BFI London Film Festival.
During one of A Patch of Fog‘s increasingly sinister exchanges between unhinged cat and desperate mouse, Stephen Graham’s devilishly dubious security guard, Robert, threatens his quarry with disconcerting rhetoric: “Am I a sad little man?” Though voiced by a veritable oddball, the sentiment could equally be applied to his prey, Sandy Duffy, a renowned novelist played by Conleth Hill – who will be familiar to many as Lord Varys in Game of Thrones. Through the titular blanket of low-hanging precipitation, secrets, lies and long-buried anxieties blur in and out of focus in an assuredly composed psychological thriller.
All good things must come to an end. The Enchanted One is the last piece in the puzzle of Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights, a rambling odyssey through austerity-hit Portugal via Baghdad in the age of antiquity. Just as enigmatic and eclectic in terms of style, construct and tone as its preceding volumes, the finale plunges deepest into the mystical and mythical origins of the story from which its structure is taken.
Sifting through scrubland near an abandoned warehouse a man cradles the burnt remains of celluloid film stock and speaks of their destruction by the Taliban: “They burned the films. They killed them. They bled into the ground.” Like the lament of this eloquent subject, A Flickering Truth tells of the destruction of Afghan cinematic culture with a visual and lyrical language that, in remembering, rediscovering, and conserving the work of the Afghan Films Archive – led by Ibrahim Arify – stands as a vital example of maintaining cultural heritage for a fragile national identity.