Cities falling, people calling for help. Voices from the battlefront, refugee camps and first steps towards a new life.

7 Days in Entebbe (2018)

7 Days in Entebbe is a […] ticktock of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France jetliner en route from Tel Aviv to Paris by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Red Army Faction, a German leftist group. […] [It] would be conventional, were it not for the fact that the movie opens with a startling snippet of a performance by Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company […]. And then the movie, by director José Padilha, [cuts] to the hijacking, which brought more than 200 passengers, including 84 Israelis, to Uganda’s Entebbe Airport. […] [T]he fact-based drama […] follows the week-long showdown between the hijackers, including Germany’s Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Böse (Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl), and the Israeli government. Infighting – among hijackers over strategy, and between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (a marvelous Lior Ashkenazi) and Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) over
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Another Day of Life (2018)

In Another Day of Life, the Portuguese word “confusao” is used to describe the anarchy and chaos of the conflict zones through which its hero/journalist moves. Featuring 60 minutes of animated feature, 20 minutes of interviews, live action and footage, and 80-plus minutes of hagiography of that journo, Ryszard Kapuscinski, this […] adaptation of Kapuscinski’s same-title account of his involvement in the Angolan conflict could also have ended up being very “confusao.” But instead it cannily draws its various strands together into a visually striking piece of rare immediacy and power, one [with a] refreshingly unsimplified, pragmatic message – that wars, though terrible, may sometimes be necessary. Kapuscinski [voiced by Kerry Shale], who died in 2007, has a claim to be one of the great writers on international conflicts and their human victims, and Another Day of Life is determined to consolidate his legacy. We first meet him in the
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Birds of Passage (2018)

These days […] South American drug stories are a dime a dozen – or, maybe, 10 bucks a bag – but you’ve never seen one like Birds of Passage, a visually stunning and often surprising true story that charts the rise of the Colombian drug business back before Escobar from its unexpected roots, among an indigenous clan in way over their heads. Matching its artistic vision in anthropological value, this fresh take on a familiar genre – told from the point of view of the country’s Wayuu people – marks an ambitious follow up to the Oscar-nominated Embrace of the Serpent for helmer Ciro Guerra and his wife, producer Cristina Gallego. Over the course of four features together, Guerra and Gallego have gone a long way to represent native experiences otherwise undocumented on film, but Birds of Passage marks the first time they have shared directing credit – perfectly fitting
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Black 47 (2018)

Irish helmer Lance Daly brings menace and power to a lean revenge Western that does overdue cinematic justice to famine-blighted Connemara. Compared to other eras in Ireland’s history, there is no great wealth of contemporary Famine literature, few photographs document its excesses and even fewer films. It’s as though, through a combination of catastrophic crop failure and a deliberate program of socio-economic deprivation, people were too busy dying where they stood to bother pondering the mysteries of life. And so this may well be the first encounter international audiences will have had with the Great Hunger, and for them Daly delivers a resonant, beautifully performed Irish Western that benefits from the exotic sound of Irish Gaelic spoken as a living language, and the brackish majesty of cinematographer Declan Quinn’s wide vistas. […] Brian Byrne’s ominous score contains some traditional uilleann pipe flourishes but avoids cliched Irishness with its brooding, disquieting
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Central Airport THF (2017)

Karim Aïnouz achieves the perfect balance between people and locale in Central Airport THF, a rare observational documentary that recognizes the beauty of spatial forms without forgetting the individuals who inhabit those voids. Struck by the irony that Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport, a place of transit amplified by Nazi dreams of grandeur, is now used as a refugee center, the Berlin-based director combines his superb compositional eye with an empathetic glimpse of the lives of a few people living and working in the center. […] Aïnouz ensures that the men and women who appear on-screen have a humanity to counter the numbing statistics invariably accompanying discussions of refugees. Aïnouz wisely focuses on just a few people in the center, so apart from overhead shots of the rows upon rows of white cubicle-like living spaces set up in the different hangars that give a vague notion of just how many people
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The past can be a prickly thing. One of the strengths of Anja Kofmel’s part-animated documentary investigation into the death of her cousin Chris in Croatia in 1992 is that it does not attempt to sand the troubled history it explores down to smoothness. Instead, Kofmel, who was a child when 27-year-old journalist Christian Würtenberg was found strangled in a Balkan field wearing the uniform of a mercenary unit embroiled in the Yugoslav War, uses a variety of approaches […] to embody those contradictions without claiming to understand them. Chris was a good-looking, Bradley Cooper-esque young man with a thrill-seeking nature […]. At a young age, […]‚ Chris left Switzerland in search of adventure on several continents, before being magnetically drawn, as were so many young men back then, to the conflict in the Balkans. [Chris the Swiss] is liberated from being a slavish work of investigative journalism and free
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What is the wake up call that can make violent extremists change? In Exit – Leaving Extremism Behind, we meet Angela from the US and Ingo and Manuel from Germany, all former right-wing extremists who made the leap to leave their movement. They are now forced to live isolated lives in hiding due to their dangerous pasts. The other side of the spectrum is explored as former violent left wing extremist Søren shares the story of his life. Director Karen Winther also travels to France to meet French former jihadists. David was active in the Armed Islamic Group and has served 6 years in prison for terrorist activities. Reflecting on her very own extremist past and the stories of the people she meets along her travels, Winther walks us through how she arrived at her own “wake-up call” and the extraordinary journey that followed. We are invited to join Winther
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Foxtrot (2017)

Samuel Maoz’s award-winning film has drawn equal parts praise and controversy in his home country. At the start of Foxtrot, a knock at the door leads to a frightening sight for Dafna (Sarah Adler): two soldiers, standing impassively, bearing what can only be bad news – the death of her son […] The setting is an upper-middle-class apartment in Tel Aviv bedecked with expensive furniture and dark, nightmarish- looking modern art, and the way the soldiers move – with surreal precision and authority – to handle the family is similarly fearsome. Foxtrot is not a work of realism; the film doesn’t offer a gritty window into the life of an Israeli family wrestling with loss. Samuel Maoz’s drama, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and was Israel’s (snubbed) submission to the Academy Awards this year, is a highly metaphorical triptych that’s trying to grapple with
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The Insult (2017)

The Insult starts out as an allegory about Middle East wrongs and resentments that’s so sharp you could cut your fingers on it. Then it expands beyond the allegorical into actuality, all while walking a razor’s edge of dramatic tension and clear-eyed humanism. The film […] [was] nominated for this year’s foreign language Oscar. The plot concerns a petty feud that keeps getting bigger, watered by macho pride and memories of trauma. Tony (the charismatic Adel Karam) is a hotheaded Beirut auto mechanic, protective toward his pregnant wife, Shirine (Rita Hayek, serenely beautiful), devoted to his country’s right-wing Christian politics […]. Yasser (Kamel El Basha) is an aging Palestinian refugee, illegally working as foreman on a neighbourhood renovation project. [Director Ziad] Doueiri has done time in Hollywood – he served as Quentin Tarantino’s first assistant cameraman from Reservoir Dogs to Jackie Brown, before returning to Lebanon to direct his own
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The family that prays together stays together, with entirely chilling consequences, in Of Fathers and Sons, an intrepid, cold sweat-inducing study of Jihadi radicalization in the home from celebrated Syrian docmaker Talal Derki. Delivering on the auspicious promise of his 2013 debut, the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The Return to Homs, Derki’s follow-up finds him again visiting his ravaged homeland to examine the making of an anti-government force: this time not spiky rebel insurgents, but unformed young boys under the absolute influence of their Al-Nusra fighter father. The result is as despairing as any portrait of close-knit family and dedicated parenthood can be, adeptly blending sensationalism with domestic intimacy, and sincerely eye-opening in its portrayal of inherited Islamist fervor. The filmmaker explains at the outset how he convinced Al-Nusra Front member and father of eight Abu Osama that he was a jihadist-sympathizing photojournalist out to make a supportive documentary
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Styx (2018)

There is significant cinematic pleasure in observing someone perform an action at which they’re practiced. […]. In the first, nearly wordless third of Wolfgang Fischer’s thrillingly lean Styx, in filmmaking as crisp and slicing as a sea breeze, Susanne Wolff’s expert amateur sailor Rike embarks on a solo voyage across 5,000 km of open Atlantic, in a tiny, bright white sailboat called Asa Gray. And simply watching this one-woman-show of intense physical prowess is so absorbing that it’s a double shock when she happens upon an overloaded refugee boat […]. […] [Back] at home Rike is a doctor, and a first responder at that: perhaps the exact person you would want to have on the scene of an impending disaster. But though she has weathered an angry storm en route […], this is one situation to which even her skills and preparations are not equal. The sinking fishing trawler she
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The Tower (2018)

Portraying 70 years of strife through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl exiled in Beirut, Mats Grorud’s The Tower offers up a dark if rather accessible depiction of how Israel’s creation in 1948 resulted in the forced displacement of a quarter of a million Palestinians – most of whom have never returned to their homeland. […] [T]he animated feature, which mixes claymation and 2D techniques, is at times reminiscent of Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir […]. The Norwegian-born Grorud spent a year working at the Burj el-Barajneh camp in the suburbs south of Beirut, culling stories from some of the refugees he encountered. From that experience he crafted the tale of Wardi (voiced by Romina Adl Kasravi), a smart if shy pre-teen who was born in the camp and, sadly, represents the fourth generation of her family living there. As grim as that sounds, The Tower is filled with moments
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