Samsara is out in UK cinemas this weekend - and it's one heck of a unique cinematic experience. No words, no story, not even a fixed location, it's classed as a documentary but is far closer to a guided meditation. Or, if that sounds too intimidating, the greatest screensaver you'll ever see in your life.
I had my retinas blasted by Samsara's stunning time lapse imagery a couple of weeks ago at its London premiere. Attended by director Ron Fricke and stalwart colleague/editor Mark Magidson, who worked together on the similar-themed Baraka, they stayed behind to try and answer questions from a room full of dazed onlookers. From the film's content (dancers, cities, food factories) to its music, here are a few of the best questions and answers...
The Dark Knight Rises broke box office records last weekend, taking £53.1 million to become the 13th biggest film ever released in the UK. That’s above The Dark Knight. And The Avengers. And blah blah blah. Before you start going off on another Nolan-gasm, something else has happened that is way more important: The Imposter, which snuck in at the end of the UK box office chart to take number 10.
Burt Layton’s fantastic documentary (released by Revolver and Picturehouses) had a great Bank Holiday in 49 sites. 49 sites. That’s nothing compared to The Dark Knight Rises 400 odd – a piddly 12 per cent of its total cinema count. But from those cinemas it took a total of £345,000. That’s £6,799 a screen. Billion dollars this, world record that, whatever. For a small arthouse release, that’s what mathematicians refer to as a MASSIVE F*CKTON OF MONEY.
“The Balinese women have been dancing in unison now for several hours. Their hypnotic movements are a form of artistic expression among their people. And now we turn to our close-up camera…”
You can’t help but hear that voice in your head during Samsara. Twenty years after Baraka, Ron Fricke’s back with another non-spoken, non-linear documentary. The unique blend of imagery and music plays out like a cross between a Tate Modern art installation and a BBC wildlife documentary – an acquired taste that automatically brings your inner David Attenborough to life.
But it’s not just dancing tribes and trees: Fricke travels all over the world (25 countries to be exact), cutting from one thing to the next in a flurry of disconnected pictures. From Balinese rituals to thundering clouds and volcanoes.
“Engulved in fifty tons of liquid hot magma, the sudden eruption caught the women all by surprise. The Balinese dancers… are no more.”
Director: Burt Layton
Cast: Frederic Bourdin, Charlie Parker
Imagine The Talented Mr. Ripley is real. Now imagine that Jude Law is a 16 year old teenage boy. Now imagine that Matt Damon steals Jude Law’s identity. And that everyone in Jude Law’s family believes him.
Just when you think you're going to have a hard time picking your favourite new movie poster, up pops Bart Layton's The Imposter poster - ImPOSTER, if you will.
It's a freakishly brilliant bit of artwork, that gives a glimpse of French fraudster Frederic Bourdin's transformation from 23 year old male to 16 year old American teen. The fact that his family fall for it is almost as chilling as Bourdin's blank, determined expression. You get to see a lot of that in the documentary - which, by the way, is absolutely fantastic.
In fact, it's so good that you can read on to see the trailer too. The Imposter is out in UK cinemas on Friday 24th August.
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Have you heard of Rodriguez?
A singer. American. Played guitar in back-street dumps in Detroit. Discovered by a producer in the 1970s. Released two albums. Both of them flopped. Last seen about 30 years ago when he blew his head off on stage in the middle of a gig. Or torched himself alive. Or something.
No, me neither.
But it turns out that they have heard of him in South Africa. Over there, they love him to bits. He's a full-on national hero - a guy whose songs inspired a generation to stand up for their rights. Like the lovechild of Bob Dylan and Nelson Mandela.
Director: Chris Paine
Cast: Danny DeVito, Elon Musk, Bob Lutz, Carlos Ghosn
Certificate: 12A Trailer
No, it's not a slasher movie about an evil Toyota Prius.
In the last 10 years, 400 million cars have been churned out of production lines. Almost all of them run on gas. But back in 2006, US car manufacturers designed and produced 5,000 electric cars, including the popular EV1. Then, they recalled and destroyed them all.
After asking Who Killed the Electric Car?, director Chris Paine returns to the automotive industry as the technology hits top gear once again. Is the electric car really having its revenge?
Director: Matt Norman
Cast: Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman, Bob Beamon, Christopher Kirby, Ralph Boston
Mexico. 1968. The summer Olympics. Two men changed the world with a single gesture: Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a black power salute after winning medals in the 200m sprint final. But there was another man on that podium with them: an Australian guy called Peter Norman.
Salute, a film about the build-up to (and fallout from) that iconic moment, explains who that man was.
To director Matt Norman, Peter was first and foremost his uncle – a connection that makes this documentary as moving as it is muddled.
Director: Matt Norman
Cast: Christopher Kirby, Bob Beamon
UK release date: Friday 13th July
The picture of the three men on the winner's podium after the men's 200 meters final at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics is still considered one of the most powerful images in modern history. Salute tells the true story behind this iconic image, the story of American athletes Tommie Smith, John Carlos and the Australian silver medallist Peter Norman - three Olympic competitors who, in one peaceful but inflammatory moment of political protest as they received their medals on the podium at the 1968 games in Mexico City, would destroy their sporting careers and become a seminal and enduring symbol of the Civil Rights struggle.
"I always had something special to show them. Pictures of my family, my mum and dad, me, Spider-Man…because I like Spider-Man..."
There's some really quite stunning animation on BBC 2 at the moment in the series Seeking Refuge. It's a string of short films animating real-life stories of young people who have sought asylum in the UK.
It's part of an educational series, which means it's dumped at God-knows-what-o'clock in the morning, but if you have a spare 20 minutes, the first episode is on iPlayer over here. It's worth a watch. There's no sign of a second episode yet, but let me know what you think - I'd be especially interested to hear how any Key Stage 2/Key Stage 3 students (its target audience) react to it.
Apparently, it was broadcast to coincide with Refugee Week, a UK-wide event that goes on until tomorrow - which just goes to show that a pretty picture can go a long way. Look, ma! I'm raising awareness!