Film + Media
This year’s top films were about love – but not romance. My Architect was Nathaniel Kahn’s uniquely moving film about buildings and the visionary architect Louis Kahn, his father, who never publicly acknowledged him.
The Story of the Weeping Camel by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Fatorni was a Mongolian documentary-style feature about camel herders’ efforts to persuade a camel to accept and suckle its calf. Captivating, unidealized and with the look and feel of real people in their own environment, it worked beautifully.
Writer-director Amma Asante’s first feature, A Way of Life, provided serious and subtle insight on blighted teenage lives and the background to an act of racist violence. This was an impressive and mature début from a talent to look out for. Finally, in his inspired documentary, Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s, beloved by millions, for a month and had doctors monitor what it was doing to his body. Gratifyingly, the junk food industry hated the film and McDonald’s profits continue to fall.
In The Cry of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo Ndebele (Ayebia Clarke Publishing, NI 369) a quartet of South African women await a return that may never come. Into the women’s conversations comes the most famous waiting woman in South African history, Winnie Mandela. This book expertly blends fact and fiction, imagination and history in a moving and powerful exploration of the experiences of South African women. MG Vassanji’s family saga The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (Canongate, NI 373) centres on Vikram Lall, born in Kenya of Indian parents and destined to be reviled as ‘one of Africa’s most corrupt men’. From an uneasy vantage point his family observes the rise of the Mau Mau and the end of British colonial rule. This was an engaging epic, querying the role of the individual in determining the tides of history. With Another world is possible if... (Verso, NI 374) veteran campaigner Susan George tackled the crucial question of the global justice movement: ‘under what conditions is another world possible?’ Impelled by incisive clarity, George’s contribution was welcome indeed. Paul Hewlett, a new writer from New Zealand/Aotearoa, used comic fiction to tackle similar issues. His début novel Moonzoo (Fictionland, NI 368) is a tale in which benign aliens visit earth to purchase Antarctica. This fast-paced satire on ownership, collective responsibility and political morality was fresh, funny and asked all the right questions.
Before the winner’s envelope gets opened, a couple of honourable mentions for those that didn’t make it into these pages through no fault of their own: Rizwan-Muazzam’s Qawwali and Le Tigre’s This Island. That said, it’s been a songwriter’s year: List of Lights and Buoys by Norwegians Susanna and the Magical Orchestra (Rune Grammofon, NI 370) was a clear début, full of elegant pacing and understated emotion. There was nothing held back in The Rough Guide to Rebétika (World Music Network, NI 374 ) a glorious compilation that went to the heart – and bars – of the Greek blues. But it’s kd lang’s (Nonesuch, NI 372) that takes 2004’s gong. This Canadian songbook maps out a whole new direction for one of the greatest voices of the last 20 years.