Movie Review: American Sniper

Before I dive into my critique of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, I want to elaborate on why I do film reviews. First, it goes without saying that I am an ardent cinephile. I’ve been in love with the art of filmmaking for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t for my aversion towards the celebrity lifestyle, I definitely would have pursued a career in Hollywood (or Bollywood).

Second, I’m not the only one who loves movies. Everybody loves watching  movies. Everyone can quote random dialogues from films released twenty years ago. Some of our most cherished memories have been shaped around the movie-watching experience.

Therefore, films are one of the best mediums for social commentary. For decades, Filmmakers have utilized their craft to convey an important lesson to their audiences. Born on the Fourth of July poignantly captured the anguish and pain endured by numerous Vietnam veterans. Mummy Dearest (despite the unintentionally laughable acting) exposed the prevalence of child abuse. Inside Out persuaded us to get in touch with our inner emotions. Therefore, cinema has an incredibly tremendous impact on our culture.

This brings us to American Sniper. Clint Eastwood has continuously proved himself to be a sage in filmmaking. American Sniper is no exception. It was, no doubt, a brilliantly-produced masterpiece. In addition, Bradley Cooper was exceptional in the biographical role of Chris Kyle. In terms of film quality, I have nothing negative to say.

I watched this movie a year and a half ago in theaters with a couple of my friends. I remember the theatre room was packed, unsurprisingly. Upon the film’s conclusion, with the credits rolling through the depiction of Chris Kyle’s real life funeral, the theatre room fell into an eerie silence. As the screen went pitch-black, the silence continued. After a few moments, as my friends and I gathered our belongings, a spontaneous applause erupted. Some of the audience members had tears running down their cheeks.
The reason I’m telling this is to illustrate the depth of emotions this film evoked from the American public. In post-9/11 America, this movie had a cathartic impact on its viewers. Because of this film’s monumental significance, I’m even more disappointed by its distorted depictions of the events following 9/11.

The movie implies that 9/11 was the primary motive behind the US invasion of Iraq. That botched episode, which basically annihilated George W Bush’s credibility as president, was glorified in the film as a noble cause.

Ironically, Clint Eastwood is known for being firmly anti-war. He has vocally disapproved of American military engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, Eastwood insisted that American Sniper was written to be an anti-war film!

Although most have doubt his assertion, I actually believe him. Eastwood aspired to depict the disastrous effects war has on one’s mental health. He never intended to produce a historical documentary. Eastwood primarily wanted to illustrate how PTSD not only affects soldiers, but their families, especially their spouses who are pressured to pick up the pieces.

In order to accurately depict the impact of PTSD, Clint Eastwood did a character sketch of Chris Kyle and portray the battlefield through his eyes. Unfortunately, Chris Kyle’s subjective perspective completely obfuscated the historically-factual account of the Iraq War. Therefore, future generations watching this movie will have an inaccurate picture of the Iraq War.

American Sniper attempts to humanize a person famed for his 150 kills. Chris Kyle is depicted as being helplessly trapped in the shadows of moral ambiguity that envelopes over the reality of the battlefield. However, Chris Kyle’s autobiography confirms that he is a self -aggrandizing liar and a sadistic psychopath who takes pleasure in shooting defenseless Iraqi children! Kyle represents the worst of the US armed forces and does not deserve to be lionized in an cinematic production!

Movie Review: Dazed and Confused

Most of the films I’ve reviewed for this blog were released within the past couple of years. So, I thought a change of pace was in order. And so, my devoted reader, I present to you my take on Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. 

Dazed and Confused images-7is a 1993 coming-of-age comedy set in the suburbs of Austin, Texas in 1976. The film is most notable for launching the careers of Mathew McConaughey and Ben Affleck into stardom. Dazed and Confused was one of many cinematic productions that capitalized off of the nostalgic idealization of the 1970’s that implanted itself in pop culture during the better part of the 1990’s. Sort of like how we, today, are infatuated with anything from the 1990’s.

I’m not going to debrief on the synopsis because…well…there really isn’t much of a story MCDDAAN EC010to tell. It’s just a bunch of stereotypically rebellious teenagers from the 1970’s idly dawdling from one scene to another. This movie reminded me of That 70’s Show (and I wouldn’t be surprised if That 70’s Show was inspired by Dazed and Confused). However, unlike The 70’s Show, the characters in Dazed and Confused weren’t likeable, nor very interesting.

Sure, there were a handful of quotable lines including the semi-pedophilic “That’s what I like about high school girls. I keep on getting older, they stay the same age” along with the contrarian yet all too real “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”. But that’s about it.

The only reason you should watch this movie is for the sake of cultural literacy. This movie has been referenced countless times on TV shows, comedy specials and even movies. I suppose Dazed and Confused is akin to films like Forrest Gump, The Breakfast Club or Home Alone. While you, personally, may not appreciated them, if you haven’t seen any of those aforementioned movies, you can’t call yourself a true, red-blooded American.

 

Movie Review: Vettah

Vettah was Rajesh Pillai’s final cinematic work before his untimely death in February of this year. Like many of his films, including the widely-acclaimed Traffic, Vettah utilizes hyperlink narrative techniques in conveying a riveting tale about two dedicated police officers attempting to tear through web of lies, conjured by the mysterious, yet crafty Melvin Phillip, in order to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of a beloved actress.  

Commissioner Sribala IPS, portrayed by Manju Warrier, is what every schoolgirl in the 21st century aspires to be. She is a high-ranking law enforcement professional working in a male-dominated field. She is collected and quick-witted in the face of danger. Unfortunately, her personal life is troubled. Because of a dire accident, Sribala’s father, a once respected police officer, has been left in a paralyzed mental state. 

Sreebala’s partner is Assistant Commissioner Xylex Abraham (okay, I know Malayali Christians are notorious for bizarre given names, but no one would go that far!). Despite their working relationship, Sreebala has a nagging suspicion that Xylex, played by Indrajith Sukumaran, was involved in her father’s accident, causing her trust in him to erode. 

Enter Melvin Philip, portrayed by Kunchacko Boban. He is arrested by the police for allegedly being connected to the news-worthy disappearance of Uma Sathyamoorthy, a fictionalized Malayali Hindi film actress. When brought to Sreebala and Xylex for questioning, Melvin Philip confesses to murdering his wife for cheating on him with a man who happens to be the husband of Uma. Phillips further reveals that he killed the husband and Uma happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Sreebala and Xylex learn that Melvin, who continuously wears a sinister smile, has left out several details from his story. As the film progresses, the two police officers realize that they’re being manipulated by Melvin, entangled in a convoluted web concealing a heartbreaking, personal tragedy. 

This current wave of experimentation in Malayalam cinema is both refreshing and exciting. From the nonlinear storyline, to the creative cinematography and visually-stimulating shots, Vettah definitely keeps you at the edge of your seat. The unexpected plot twists is guaranteed to magnetize your attention. 

Unfortunately, the film’s novel techniques cannot compensate for its disappointing drawbacks. The action scenes were poorly executed, which one would want to avoid for this type of film. In addition, the acting wasn’t on par. I don’t think Manju Warrier, Indrajith Sukumaran and Kunchacko Boban are terrible actors. In fact, they’ve proven themselves to be exceptional in a number of movies. However, in this film, they didn’t bring their A game. 

So, in conclusion, Vettah could be described as watchable. It’s undoubtedly not a best Malayalam movie of 2016, nor does it qualify for the top five. However, it’s a film you could watch if you want to kill a Sunday afternoon. 

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange provides a visually-captivating backstory to one of Marvel Comic’s most intriguing characters. Dr. Stephen Strange is Stan Lee’s answer to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and appropriately played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He is a well-accomplished neurosurgeon known for his acute wit, extraordinary depth of knowledge and overbearing ego. After a brief, yet life-changing rendezvous with a horrendous car accident, Strange is left with crippled hands, unable to perform surgery, which was the only thing that brought meaning to his life. After an encounter with a former paraplegic who was mysteriously healed, Strange is directed to Kathmandu where he encounters the Ancient One. The Ancient One reveals to Strange a realm of reality incomprehensible to his scientific mind. Yet, Strange’s encounter with the astral plane and other dimensions would began to change his life forever.  

This film is one of the best example of cinematography. The way the film portrayed the complexity of interwoven dimensions was enough to leave the audience bewildered, yet mesmerized. The visual effects effectively captured the audience’s imagination while allowing a relatively conovulated topic to be easily understood. 

I was impressed by Cumberbatch’s affected American accent. I’ve always been puzzled on how effortlessly British actors can imitate the American accent. Somehow, we, on the other side of the Atlantic, received the short end of that stick. 

Cumberbatch’s chemistry with Rachel McAdams’ character, Christine Palmer, was watchable, but completely tame and unremarkable. Both actor are competent in their craft, no doubt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I don’t think they make a convincing pair. 

The rest of the cast did exceptionally well for their respective roles. I think they brilliantly captured the moral ambiguity  of their situation and the conflicting emotions associated. Marvel comics have typically been more realistic in their portrayal of flawed heroes being overshadowed by murky circumstances. 

A minor disappointing facet was its depiction of the culture of eastern mysticism and spirituality. When Strange is directed to Kathmandu, where he encountered the chosen one, I expected him to have an enlightened encounter with the esoteric profoundness of the Eastern schools of philosophical thought. However, Strange is merely exposed to some vague, cliched proverb of “mind over matter” which enables him to acquire superpowers and access to different dimensions.

Speaking of misrepresenting Asian culture, I have to turn into SJW mode. In the original comics, the Ancient One is depicted as an elderly Asian man. However, in the film, the Ancient One is not a he, but a she (well, a bald-headed, androgynous-looking she). Derrickson was apparently worried that the image of an aging Asian man would evoke the outdated Fu Manshu stereotype. He further claimed that an elderly Asian woman would evoke the Dragon Lady trope and a younger Asian woman would be perceived as “exploiting the Asian fetishes of Marvel fanboys”. Honestly, I don’t understand the logic of this explanation. Not to mention Derrickson unintentionally exemplified another old Hollywood stereotype: Casting white actors to play Asian roles!

As if Ghost in the Shell wasn’t enough!!

Nevertheless, Doctor Strange is an eye-dazzling masterpiece with an intriguing story coupled with abstract themes and sprinkled with sardonically witty one-liners. If you enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy or Sherlock Holmes, this movie is definitely for you 

Film Review: Anak

To my Filipino readers, I’m sure you’re familiar with Rory Quintos’ Anak. As Philippine’s download-12submission to the 73rd Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Anak is often regarded as the best Filipino movie of all-time.

Anak is a touching tale, reflecting the hardship numerous overseas Filipino domestic workers have to undergo for the sake of their family’s livelihood. In the film, Josie, portrayed by Vilma Santos, is the representative for those tireless Filipino maids and nannies working abroad. After several year of working for a wealthy couple in Hong Kong, Josie finally earns the opportunity to return to her native Philippines and reunite with her children, whom she hasn’t see for many years.

Upon arriving in her homeland and meeting her grownup children, Josie realizes that the next chapter in her life was not what she expected. First, her plans of starting a business in her hometown are met with several unresolvable obstacles. In addition, Josie discovers that her absence from her children’s lives have made them emotionally-guarded, especially considering the death of their father, Josie’s husband, following Josie’s departure from the Philippines. Her eldest daughter, Carla, portrayed by Claudine Barretto, has especially grown explicitly hostile towards her. Josie discovers that years of working aboard to financially support her children have, ironically, made her a stranger in their eyes.

The Philippines is mired with poverty and widespread unemployment. Since the Marcos administration in the 1970’s, thousands of Filipino laborers were dispatched to the Persian Gulf, initially to ensure a steady supply of oil while attempting to resolve the unemployment crisis. Since that initial wave of emigration, Filipinos have sought low-skilled jobs all over the world, from Hong Kong to Riyadh. These migrant workers endure harsh work conditions and abusive employers in order to ensure a better life for their families back home.

Interestingly, a significant portion of these migrant workers tend to be women, making them the primary breadwinners of their respective households. In the film, one of Josie’s friends chastises Josie’s husband for not ‘being man enough’ to seek job opportunities aboard and provide for his family, burdening his wife with that task.

download-11As the movie progresses, the plot turns its attention to Carla. Struggling with feelings of abandonment, Carla carries heavy resentment for her mother while longing for her now-deceased father. She has descended into a life of promiscuity and debauchery. Surprisingly, she has even had two abortion as a result of her self-destructive lifestyle. Josie displays nothing but unconditional love and affection for her oldest daughter, which has only enraged Carla as she continues to carry that baggage of rancor.

Claudine Barretto wonderfully conveyed the rebellious nature of Carla’s character. She and Vilma Santos made a brilliant mother-and-daughter pair, capturing the nuances and grey texture of a parent-child relationship, similarly to Nil Batay Sannata.

Anak effectively reflected the burdens and anxieties of millions of Filipinos struggling to make ends meet. Parents worrying about their children’s future. Children burdened with the pressure of succeeding academically in order to please their parents and climb the social ladder. The reason behind Anak’s fame was its ability to resonate with its Filipino viewers, particularly overseas workers and the lower-middle-class at large.

Anak is an ode to all overseas Filipino workers, strenuously laboring not only for themselves and their families, but for the entire Filipino population

Film Review: God’s Not Dead

If I could think of the most tortuous punishment to inflict on suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, it wouldn’t be waterboarding, nor castration nor even anal rape! I would subject my prisoners to this horrendous film for which the director, the producers and cast members should submit themselves to compulsory sterilization in order to avoid producing more of themselves!

This ‘film’ embodies the persecution complex exhibited by the Religious Right in the United States. Boys and girls, allow me to give you a history lesson.

America. Land of the Free, Home of the Whopper. The founding fathers of this country established the United States as the first secular republic. While Christianity was the predominant religion in the nation, the federal government would remain neutral towards all faiths, granting neither support nor objection.

‘Great Awakenings’ and Freethought movements have occurred repetitively in this country, sometimes simultaneously. Nevertheless, the government always remained secular. Surprisingly, for most of this nation’s history, Christmas wasn’t even considered to be a federal holiday!.

In the 1950’s, the United States was engaged in a proxy conflict with the Soviet Union. To differentiate ourselves from those godless Socialists, our political leaders promoted religion as an integral part of the American identity. Through the next decade, Christian-run private schools faced pressure from the government to desegregate themselves and open their doors to prospective ‘colored’ students.

Religious leaders reacted to those measures by propagating themselves as innocent, unassuming victims, persecuted by the big, bad government . They aligned themselves with the American conservative movement, which camouflaged its blatant bigotry with ‘libertarian principles’ that extol the ‘virtue’ of the free market. Thus, the Religious Right was born. And throughthe Civil Rights Movement, the aftermath of the Roe V Wade Supreme Court decision, the cultural acceptance of homosexuality, the surge in non-Christian immigration, and healthcare mandates from the ACA, the Religious Right never ceased its persecution complex.

The story revolves around Josh Wheton, a college freshman portrayed by Shane Harper. download (2)Josh enrolls into a Introduction to Philosophy taught by ‘Professor’ Radisson, an avowed atheist. On the first day of class, rather than handing his students a syllabis for the course like any other college instructor, Radisson coerces his students write ‘God is Dead’ on a piece of loose leaf and submit it for one-third of their grade. But you know what, guys? God’s not dead! And Josh Wheton, in his defiance to Radisson’s request, sets out to prove that God is surely alive!

‘God’s Not Dead’ is nothing more than a cinematic representation of those contrived intuition-albert-einstein-quoteschain emails and Facebook posts depicting a student ‘logically’ proving the existence of God to his bewildered professor.  The only thing missing from this film is the unraveling of the student’s true identity: Albert Einstein!.

Strawman representations and poorly-crafted stereotypes are prevalent in this movie.  You have your innocent, goody-two-shoes Church boy, your condescending, atheist professor, your vegan, SJW liberal blogger and her heartless atheistic boyfriend, your token Chinese kid, and your jovial African pastor.

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In Theocratic Iran, Ayatollah stone you!

Of course, your modern Christian propaganda flick would be incomplete without the oppressed Muslim girl (who’s really a crypto-Christian) and her abusive father who forces her to wear the niqab (the ninja-looking, face-covering garb), complementing her tightly-fitted, short-sleeved blouse (because obviously, the makers of this movie have never met a Muslim girl in their entire lives).

There are a billion subplots to this film which awkwardly fuse together in the last act. In addition to the war of words between Josh Wheton and Professor Radisson, there’s the internal struggle of the Chinese student caught between his communist upbringing and newly-discovered Christian faith, the liberal blogger’s cancer diagnosis, the banishment of the Muslim (Crypto-Christian) girl from her home when her hidden secret is revealed,

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Hi, we’re actually suburban yuppies but we act like this to pander to stupid rednecks

And we can’t forget the biracial bromance between a local pastor, portrayed by David A.R White (the producer of this colossal mess), and his African colleague!

Oh yeah, not to mention brief cameos from the Duck Dynasty guy. Yes, I’m serious……

By the way, if David A.R White looks familar to you, you might remember a younger-version of him from this classic late 2000’s internet meme below

Transcript:

*David A.R White’s character turns back*

“Hey Scotty”

*Scotty turns*

*With a creepy smile, David holds his fist up, threateningly*

“JESUS, MAN!!!*

*cue awkward, pseudo-inspirational soundtrack*

I was raised Catholic and I’ve seen my share of Christian movies. In terms of production value and acting, this film was on par with normal, Hollywood movies. Then again, most ‘Christian’ movies are shot in some guy’s basement with a few of his friends. This film, in contrast, was backed by a formidable budget and experienced movie personalities.

The soundtrack was deplorable! Then again, I’m not a fan of ‘Christian rock’ (an oxymoron if there was ever one). The opening scene was accompanied by the type of background music that’s supposed to be inspirational but, in reality, unintentionally prompts you to cut off your ears!

But despite all its innumerable flaws, this poor excuse of movie made a striking profit. Apparently, there are more right-wing, religious nutjobs in this country than previously estimated. This explains why Donald Trump is currently a contender in the presidential race.!  The only thing you can do is laugh at the face of absurdity.

 

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 **what really irks me about this film is its self-branding as a ‘Christian movie’. It would be an unforgivable offense to categorize God’s not Dead in the same league as classics including Ben-Hur , The Ten Commandments and Quo Vadis. Somehow, religious-themed cinema have regressed to this abhorrent monstrosity!  As I’d mentioned in another post, the purpose of religious-themed films is to deliver an uplifting message. In contrast, God’s not Dead left the cinematic equivalent of a bitter aftertaste

 

 

Film Review: The Man From Nowhere

-The Unexpected Bonds of Unconditional Friendship

On the surface, ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is an South Korean mystery thriller centered around a mysterious pawn shop owner well-trained in the martial arts. However, this eye-dazzling action-packed flick is actually a work of poetry celebrating the virtues of unexpected yet unbreakable bonds.

This film could rightfully be compared to Pierre Morel’s ‘Taken’ starring Liam Neeson. However, ‘Taken’ circles around a father attempting to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter, only to find her kidnapped by human traffickers. In contrast, ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is a story about two people who are nothing more than strangers.

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Cha Tae-sik is a unlikable pawnshop owner,who operates from his apartment. He is scorned by his neighbors and is assumed to be a child molester. Despite such an outlandish rumor, Cha Tae-sik always seems to have one little girl following him around. This young child is So-mi. Her mother, Hyo-Jeong, is a heroin addict who unwisely steals drugs from an organized crime syndicate. Hyo-Jeong’s drug habits self-destructively lands her daughter in hot water with a crime syndicate, prompting Cha Tae-sik to embark on a life-threatening, dangerous mission to save his only ‘friend’ during which, in the process, his dark past comes to light.

Kim Sae-ron gave a heartwarming, emotional performance as So-mi. It is no wonder she is currently the most demanded teenage actress in South Korea. So-mi is a neglected child, verbally abused by a mother who craves a heroin-induced intoxication over the love of her download (1)only daughter. Detaching from her mother, So-mi turns to her neighbor, Cha Tae-sik, and invests all of her affection towards him. When So-mi infers Cha Tae-sik’s seemingly apathetic attitude towards her, she laments:

“Mister? I embarrass you too, right? That’s why you ignored me? It’s okay. My teacher and all the kids do that too. Mom said that if I get lost, I should forget our address and phone number. She’s gets drunk and says we should die. Even though that pig called me a bum…you’re meaner. But I don’t hate you. Because if i did, I won’t have anyone I like. Thinking about it hurts me here. So I won’t hate you”

It baffles me on how the most unloved tend to be the most loving. So-mi understanding of unconditional love is remarkably insightful. Even if she remains an social pariah, she imagesunabashedly retains her love for Cha Tae-sik because that is her source of sustenance and hope. Her love for Cha Tae-sik is the net preventing her from falling into the abyss of nihilistic despair.

Bin-Won’s interpretation of Cha Tae-sik’s character was quite intuitive. He successfully captured the aura of mystery surrounding Cha Tae-sik. Dashing, with an edgy streak, our protagonist could trigger the interest of any viewer. He utilizes his astute martial arts skills to dazzle the audience while fighting off crime bosses. As the movie processes, his secret past is revealed, including a tragic event that changed his life forever.

The other cast members also played their roles well, including Kim Hyo-seo as Hyo-Jeong, Kim Tae-Hoon as the detective, and Thangagong Wanktrakul as Rowan. Kim Hee-won was downloadexceptionally menacing as Man-Seok, from the crime syndicate.

Lee Jeong-beom’s sense of direction is nothing short of sensational. The background setting was so authentic, you felt as if you were there. The action scenes were astutely choreographed. The soundtrack was so unique and eerie, it would implant itself in your head for at least a week.

The Man from Nowhere is a beautifully-crafted movie that attests to the greatness of Korean cinema. Highly recommended!

 

Film Review: Alif

One Woman Against the Ummah

“A follower of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) asked him, “who should I respect the most in life”?  The Prophet said : “Your Mother”.  “Then who?”, the follower repeated the question. The Prophet answered, “Your Mother”. “Then who?”, the question was repeated again. The Prophet answered, “Your Mother”.  After the fourth time, the Prophet then answered, “Your Father”. 

Alif is one of Alif-2015-Malayalam-HDRipthe most striking stories I’ve come across. Following the ‘New Generation’ trend in Malayalam Cinema, Alif deviates from the mainstream Malayalam cinematic trope of hypermasculine, larger-than-life ‘heroes’. Alif is a simple story about ordinary, down-to-earth characters. Similarly to recent films like English Vinglish and How Old R U, the plot for Alif resolves around an asthma-affected , economically-disadvantaged, Muslim mother of two who embarks on the journey of self-discovery that enable her to be pillar of strength for her family.

Our protagonist is Fatima, portrayed by Lena. She is a relatively poor woman who lives in a meager wooden hut with her mother, Aatta, her grandmother, Ummakunju, along with her two children, Sainu and Ali. The family, which include four generations of women, belong to the Mappila Muslim community, the descendants of Arabian merchants and converted South Indian natives inhabiting the northern districts of modern-day Kerala.

Aatta, portrayed by Zeenath, is the sole breadwinner of the household. Her means of income includes serving as a housekeeper to the more affluent families in their village. Fatima, constantly burdened with asthma, has her world shaken when her unlovingmaxresdefault (1) husband, Abu, portrayed by Irshad, announced his intentions to divorce her and leave the family. When Abu recites the term ‘Talak’, customary in Islam for divorce proceedings, you could clearly witness Fatima’s heart sinking while the rest of the family put on brave faces despite anticipating the dreadful future.

Afterwards, there is an announcement for a sermon being delivered that night by a well-known Muslim scholar on the subject of family life. The recently-divorced Fatima attends the lecture, joining members from her local mosque. The Muslim scholar emphasizes the importance of female submission and stresses that it is the duty of every wife to unconditionally submit to her husband.

Fathima, uncharacteristically for her at this point in the film, stands up and openly criticizes the Muslim scholar, chiding him for twisting the Qu’ran and Sharia in order to indulge his own misogyniAlif-malayalam-movie-stills-(6)4483stic inclination. She laments that these regressive attitudes enabled her husband to divorce her and leave the family. Fatima tearfully calls  for reform, stating that change is crucial not only for Muslims, but also Christians and Hindus as well.

Unfortunately, the Muslim scholar admonishes her, leading the mosque commitee to banish her and her family. Ostracized by the villagers, Fatima is forced to overcome the many hardships that await. How she gathers the boldness and fortitude that gives a ray of hope in such a distressing situation forms the rest of the story.

Although this film, directed by Muhammed Koya, is aimed specifically towards Mappila Muslims, the underlying feminist themes could equally be applicable to Christians and Hindus. As poignantly and bluntly stated in the film, women are often the first victims of religious fanaticism.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul of Tarsus claims that, in an ideal Christian household, husbands are the heads of wives. For centuries, women were not allowed to preach in a church. Even today, the Roman Catholic Church does not permit women into the priesthood. While Pope Francis is currently looking into whether women can serve as deacons, many conservative Catholics continue to be aggressively opposed to the very idea of a women serving at the altar. My own mother shakes her head when seeing young girls serving as altar servers with their male counterparts. Surprisingly, her rationale is menstruation.

I rest my case.

In the realm of male chauvinism, these four generations of women assert themselves boldly and gracefully. For example, when the school instructor expels young Ali because of his mother’s ‘scandalous’ reputation, Aatta insists that she has the knowledge and ability to teach her grandson all he needs to learns about his Islamic faith.

In their humble dwelling, a portrait of an elderly man in traditional Islamic attire hangs from the wall. This man is Kuhammu Saihib, the late patriarch of this courageous clan. A revolutionary activist during the 1940s and 1950s, Saihib instills in his children and grandchildren a set of principles advocating progressivism and open-mindedness in a land severely lacking in both.

Fatima, when sunk in the depths of depression, is visited by a apparition of a smiling, compassionate Saihib. From beyond the grave, Saihib recalls the tale of Mohammed’s wife, an intelligent and brave women who questioned her husband on why the Qu’ranic verses gave preference to men. He gives his granddaughter his full blessing and complete encouragement, assuring Fatima that she is on the right side of the brewing controversy.

In my opinion, Ali is the most captivating character. He embodies the innocence of an angel yet, paradoxically, displays a mischievous streak that rivals Bart Simpson! As the youngest main character, Ali doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of his family’s ‘dishonor’. In fact, he’s barely aware of the concepts of ‘dishonor’ and ‘excommunication’. When he visits his actor-gourav-menon-new-stills-36177friend, Mehru, to watch television with her, Ali is kicked out by Mehru’s mother. While the young girl disappointingly watches her friend leave, Ali wanders to through the village, distraught and confused. And it doesn’t help that he happens to see his estranged father, who is now clearly in a relationship with another women. When Ali returns to his home, he remains silent as he sits with his grandmother. Yet the look on Ali’s face is enough to break anyone’s heart.

Despite being snubbed by the majority of the village, the family, nevertheless, is shown an adundance of empathy from a few good men. The character of Chandran, portrayed by the regrettably late Kalabhavan Mani, is quite noteworthy. He is one of the few non-Muslims in the Mappila-dominated village. Chandmaxresdefaultran is an avowed communist, who articulates his ideology to Ali as simply dedicating one’s life to the upliftment of the poor and downtrodden. My own grandfather, who passed away in 2012, used to explain his leftist views in the same way. And while I wouldn’t identify as a communist, similar to Ali, I dream of diving into social activism and
addressing the strenuous burdens the poor have to endure.

While the mosque committee resolves to banish Fatima and her fa
mily, there is one dissenting member: Hajiyar. Portrayed by Joy Mathew, Hajiyar is one of the few staunch defenders of Fatima and her family. He condemns the narrow-minded attitudes of his colleagues and, in a futile attempt, encourages them to be sympathetic toAlif-2 the plight of women.

This film is not a major ‘hit’. The director is unknown amateur. The actors are relatively unknown to the majority of Malayali moviegoers. However, I don’t think I could have picked a better cast. All the actors plays their roles perfectly. Nilambur Ayesha’s role of Ummakunju is nothing more than poetic justice. A veteran actress of yesteryear films, Ayesha was one of first Muslim women to pursue a career in music and cinema, while being censured by her fellow Muslims. She paved the way for other aspiring actresses in her community, including Zeenath.

The dialogues were realistic and heartfelt. The interactions between the various characters felt authentic. I wish I could say the same for most Indian films. The cinematography the mesmerizing, particularly the ending scene when Fatima and daughter walk through an spellbinding array of paddy fields and vegetation overlooked by palm trees and a clear blue sky, inspiring the motto of Kerala, ‘God’s Own Country’.

The portrayal of the Mappila community seemed fairly accurate. The soundtrack provided a genuine representation of Mappila folk music, a nostalgic rhythm where Arabian and Malabar tunes intertwine. The dialect used in the film was fairly fascinating. It is a varient of Malayalam laced with Arabic, Persian, Urdu and even Tamil loan words.

There weren’t too many flaws with the film. However, I think the editing and post production could have been enhanced to give the film a more professional look. I also think that the Sainu’s character was too passive for a film espousing woman’s empowerment. Also it would add at least thirty minutes to an already two-hour movie, I think it would benefit the audience if the film took a glimpse into Sainu’s life and her role as a teenage Muslim girl trending the line between her traditional Muslim upbringing and the liberal globalized world of modern India.

In closing, definitely watch this film! It may not be a hit like the vastly overrated ‘Premem’ (oh yea, I’ll be ready to read those angry emails) but I think it’s one of the best film of 2015. However, I must warn you. The story is very heartbreaking. In fact, one of the main characters untimely passes away ( I will not reveal who it is). So make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.