Political Film Review #671


Russians believe they are strong, while Westerners are effete. They also believe men are stronger than women and, in Free Skate, men are determined to show their prowess. The film depicts a father who cultivates his daughter to be a top ice skater in Russia. At a young age, his mother dies for reasons not explained, whereupon her father dominates her life. On several occasions she performs badly as she auditions, but ultimately she (played by Veera W. Vilo) is cheered by thousands. She excels at ice skating but does not understand that such prominence means that she will be forced to have sex, with her father benefiting financially. Accordingly, she tries to hitchhike to Finland, a truck driver takes her a distance, and once again she is assaulted. However, her grandmother lives in Finland and assists her as she achieves her goal of figure skating. Directed by Roope Olenius, the film has a lot of figure skating but dialog in the fictional account is sparse.  MH


Mennonite “colonies” exist in Canada, the United States, and Bolivia. Women perform household chores and not allowed educational opportunities. Such asymmetry evidently provokes the view of some men that they are superior, while women are mere objects. Between 2009–2009, about 150 women were raped, ages 5 to 65. Soon after the latest episode is reported to Bolivian authorities, men go to court, leaving the women with the choices of staying calmly, staying and fighting, or departing from the colony to parts unknown. Women Talking, directed by Sarah Polley, focuses on a debate among the women on which of the three options to choose. Early in the debate, at least one woman decides to stay, fearing that otherwise she will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Several women are determined to leave. The debate continues because most are undecided. To find out how the debate is resolved, filmviewers must endure the debate, which occurs in black-and-white cinematography for most of the film, which is based on facts reported in the 2018 novel Women Talking. (Film titles do not report 8 men are eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison.) The Political Film Society has nominated Women Talking as best film exposé of 2023 and best film on human rights of 2023.  MH    


The Grand Imam of Egypt is in bad health, so the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government is concerned that 2 of the 3 possible successors might provoke civil war. Colonel Ibrahim (played by Tares Tares) of the Security Services is assigned to ensure that the favored Sheik becomes the next Imam. He designs an elaborate plot that is not revealed until halfway through the gripping film: First, he awards a scholarship to Adam (Tawfeek Barhom), son of a fisherman in a remote area, intending to use him as a replacement for an unreliable assistant to one of the disfavored Sheiks who will then serve as a spy. To do so, he must first infiltrate the Sheik’s most trusted student group. After the existing assistant is murdered by that group, he is promoted, but the other Sheik confesses because he wants to reveal the plot in a public trial. Sure enough, Adam discovers that the Sheik has secretly given birth out of wedlock, so he is compromised. Then the Sheik has to be persuaded to revoke his confession, and Adam does so. But now Adam is in a position to expose the conspiracy, so Ibrahim’s boss indicates that he is a “loose end” who must be eliminated. Ibrahim, however, has developed a strong personal attachment to Adam, so the fate of Adam appears at the end of the film, which is called Boy from Heaven in Arabic. Directed by Tarik Saleh, who now resides in Sweden, clearly has strong views about el-Sisi’ rule.  MH    

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