Tag Archives: movies

Violet – New Directors/New Films


Written and Directed by Bas Devos
Director of Photography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
82 minutes, Belgium/Netherlands, 2014, DCP
Sat 03/21/2015 1:15 PM
Walter Reade Theater, NYC

Cast: Cesar De Sutter, Raf Walschaerts, Mira Helmer, Koen De Sutter, Jeroen Vander Ven, Fania Sorel, Brent Minne

“The muted but harrowing tone of Violet emerges in the prologue, as closed-circuit monitors impassively display the stabbing death of a teenager at a mall…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Violet is a highly accomplished debut feature led by Flemish writer/director Bas Devos, director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis, sound designer Boris Debackere, and a perfectly cast team of actors.

Cesar De Sutter as Jesse in Violet
Cesar De Sutter as Jesse in Violet

Flashes of violet (the last color on the visible spectrum), and the story opens on a bank of security cameras capturing the attempted robbery and fatal stabbing of a teenage boy in a mall. The lone physical witness to the murder is his friend Jesse (Cesar De Sutter), cowering in a shop doorway, unsure of what he is seeing.

A visual poem shot on 65mm film and the digital Alexa, Violet effectively captures Jesse’s heightened sensitivity to his surroundings as he tries to come to terms with an irrevocably changed life in the wake of a friend’s murder.

That the audience cannot see all of the security cameras contributes to a sense that we are not seeing some things that might be essential, as we follow Jesse and his struggle to cope with this horrific event over the next several days.

Normal teenage preoccupations with courage and cowardice, acceptance and ostracism are heightened by Jesse’s survivor’s guilt and the suspicion that even his mother and father may look at him differently, as do his BMX rider mates who openly wonder how Jesse survived without any visible harm while their friend was stabbed to death.

Winner of the Berlin Generation 14plus Grand Prix (Best Feature Film) and Best Original Music and Sound Design of the Ghent International Film Festival, Violet should get a second look for North American theatrical release.

New Directors/New Films – 2015


Among the movies at this year’s New Directors/New Films, I’ll be looking closely at several that haven’t yet found a distributor for North American theatrical release (*):

*Christmas, Again
Directed by Charles Poekel
Sat 03/28/2015 6:15 PM
Walter Reade
“A forlorn Noel (Kentucker Audley) pulls long, cold nights as a Christmas-tree vendor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. As obnoxious, indifferent, or downright bizarre customers come and go, doing little to restore Noel’s faith in humanity, only the flirtatious innuendos of one woman and the drunken pleas of another seem to lift him out of his funk…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane
Thu 03/26/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Winner of top prizes at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals, Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*The Creation of Meaning/La creazione di significato
Directed by Simone Rapisarda Casanova
Thu 03/19/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Though its title arcs toward grand philosophical inquiry, the stirring power of Simone Rapisarda Casanova’s second documentary-fiction hybrid—winner of the 2014 Locarno Film Festival’s Best Emerging Director prize—lies in its intimacy of detail and wry political observation…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

*Dog Lady/La mujer de los perros
Directed by Laura Citarella & Verónica Llinás
Thu 03/26/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“An indelible and quietly haunting study of a nameless woman (memorably played by co-director Verónica Llinás) living with a loyal pack of stray dogs in silent, self-imposed exile in the pampas on the edge of Buenos Aires…” [more at ND/NF] [Variety review] [THR review]

*The Fool/Durak
Directed by Yuriy Bykov
Sat 03/21/2015 9:15 PM
Walter Reade
“The lives of hundreds of the dregs of society are at stake in this stark, grotesque portrait of a new Russia on the verge of catastrophe…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*Fort Buchanan
Directed by Benjamin Crotty
Wed 03/25/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“Expanding his 2012 short of the same name, Crotty chronicles the tragicomic plight of frail, lonely Roger, stranded at a remote military post in the woods while his husband carries out a mission in Djibouti…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Goodnight Mommy/Ich seh, Ich seh
Directed by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
Fri 03/27/2015 9:15 PM
Walter Reade
“The dread of parental abandonment is trumped by the terror of menacing spawn in Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s exquisite, cerebral horror-thriller…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

The Great Man/Le grand homme
Directed by Sarah Leonor
Sat 03/28/2015 3:30 PM
Walter Reade
“When we first meet Markov (Surho Sugaipov), he and fellow French Legionnaire Hamilton (Jérémie Renier) are tracking a wild leopard in a desert war zone, at the end of their posting in Afghanistan…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Shim Sung-bo
Sat 03/21/2015 6:15 PM
Walter Reade
“First-time director Shim Sung-bo (screenwriter of Memories of Murder, the second film by Haemoo’s producer Bong Joon-ho) distills a gripping drama from a real life incident and delivers a gritty, brooding spectacle of life and death on the high seas…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

Directed by Darhad Erdenibulag & Emyr ap Richard
Sat 03/21/2015 3:45 PM
Walter Reade
“Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel The Castle is relocated to present-day Inner Mongolia, and the translation is startlingly seamless…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*Line of Credit/Kreditis limiti
Directed by Salomé Alexi
Sat 03/28/2015 1:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Things are tough all over. Mortgage crises and other economic woes have hit the entire world, including the Republic of Georgia…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Virgil Vernier
Sun 03/22/2015 8:15 PM
Walter Reade
“With an eclectic assortment of shorts, documentaries, and hybrid works to his name, Virgil Vernier is one of the most ambitious young directors in France today, and one of the hardest to categorize. Taking a cue from Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Vernier’s most accomplished film to date trains his camera on the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet, shadowing two receptionists (Ana Neborac and Philippine Stindel) who work in the lobby of the titular high-rise…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

New Directors Shorts Program 1
Mon 03/23/2015 6:15 PM
Walter Reade
“Five short films by exciting new talents from around the world: San Siro (Yuri Ancarani, Italy, 24m), Boulevard’s End (Nora Fingscheidt, Germany, 15m), Blue and Red (Zhou Tao, Thailand, 25m), Nelsa (Felipe Guerrero, Colombia, 13m), and The Field of Possible (Matías Meyer, Mexico/Canada, 10m).” [more at ND/NF]

New Directors Shorts Program 2
Sun 03/22/2015 2:45 PM
Walter Reade
“Seven short films by exciting new talents from around the world: Icarus (Nicholas Elliott, USA, 16m), The Chicken (Una Gunjak, Germany/Croatia, 15m), Heartless (Nara Normande & Tião, Brazil, 25m), I Remember Nothing (Zia Anger, USA, 18m), Discipline (Christophe M. Sabe, Switzerland, 11m), We Will Stay in Touch About It (Jan Zabeil, Germany, 8m), and Odessa Crash Test (Notes on Film 09) (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, Austria, 6m).” [more at ND/NF]

Directed by Yohei Suzuki
Wed 03/25/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Jobless young Tetsuo and his girlfriend Yuriko are inexplicably immobilized after laying eyes on an orb-like object that appears out of nowhere, hovering near his bedroom ceiling…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Lukas Valenta Rinner
Tue 03/24/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“A Buenos Aires office worker finishes his day, visits his father in a rest home, lodges his cat in a kennel, and cancels his phone service…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*Tired Moonlight
Directed by Britni West
Thu 03/19/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“Britni West’s directorial debut, which won the Jury Award for Narrative Feature at this year’s Slamdance, discovers homespun poetry among the good folk of West’s native Kalispell, Montana…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

The Tribe/Plemya
Directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Sat 03/28/2015 8:45 PM
Walter Reade
“A silent film with a difference, this entirely unprecedented tour de force was one of the must-see flash points at last year’s Cannes Film Festival…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

Tu dors Nicole
Directed by Stéphane Lafleur
Fri 03/20/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“With this disarmingly atmospheric comedy, Québécois director Stéphane Lafleur continues to secure his place high among the recent surge of talent flowing from French Canada…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Bas Devos
Sat 03/21/2015 1:15 PM
Walter Reade
“The muted but harrowing tone of Violet emerges in the prologue, as closed-circuit monitors impassively display the stabbing death of a teenager at a mall…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

White God/Fehér isten
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Fri 03/20/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Thirteen-year old Lili and her mixed-breed dog Hagen are inseparable. When officials attempt to tax the mutt (a law that didn’t pass in Hungary, but was actually attempted), Lili’s father dumps Hagen on the street…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

My Virtual Berlinale – 2015


Two dozen from the 65th Berlin International Film Festival (with a focus on Forum and NATIVe).

Many excellent films screening at Berlinale aren’t included here, but these 24 stand out from my idiosyncratic perspective, looking for under-reported movies. With luck, many will receive theatrical release in New York.

UPDATE: Award winners included Balikbayan #1, Il gesto delle mani, and Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir. The Hollywood trades reviewed Eco de la Montaña, Hotline, Koza, La maldad, Las Niñas Quispe, Rabo de Peixe, La sirène de Faso Fani, Violencia, and Yvy Maraey (either from Berlinale or previous festivals).

201511069_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Balikbayan #1 (Memories of Overdevelopment Redux)*
By Kidlat Tahimik, The Philippines
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Language is the key to the empire. Enrique is the slave of Ferdinand Magellan, who circumnavigated the globe. Aside from bathing Magellan every evening, Enrique also has to translate Filipino languages into Portuguese and Spanish. The film opens with a cardboard box containing film rolls being dug up from the ground”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

*Balikbayan #1 won the Caligari Film Prize.

201510896_3_IMG_FIX_700x700Bankilal (Eldest Brother)
By María Dolores Arias Martínez, Mexico 2014
“In his role as Bankilal (the older brother), Manuel Jiménez strives to reconcile the contrasting beliefs that surround him through vivid prayer and public involvement in the day-to-day activities of the community. This quiet observation illustrates the situation as contemporary lifestyle versus cultural permanence and shows how elders have adapted to syncretic forms of worship since the introduction of Catholicism”… [more at berlinale.de]

fc09mainDari Marusan
By Izumi Takahashi, Japan
(Forum – International Premiere)
“Dari works for an agency that tracks down missing pets, and is given the assignment of finding the parrot that Yoshikawa lost two years previously. She will have to figure out what her client has really lost and find her own dignity in the process”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

201507925_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Le dos rouge (Portrait of the Artist)
By Antoine Barraud, France
(Forum – International Premiere)
“In Le dos rouge, a famous filmmaker played by Bertrand Bonello searches for an image of the uncanny. An eccentric female art historian accompanies him through museums, where they examine and discuss numerous works of art. A metamorphosis gradually takes place, as red marks appear on the filmmaker’s back”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

MV5BMTgyNjUxMDI2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ5MTUzMTE@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Eco de la Montaña (Echo of the Mountain)
By Nicolás Echevarría, Mexico 2014
“Artist Santos Motoapohua de la Torre lives as isolated and forgotten as his Huichol village in Jalisco. His colourful work has catapulted him into the Western art scene, yet Santos does not let this world encroach on his people’s heritage”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb] [Variety review (Abu Dhabi)] [THR review (Cinema du Reel)] [film website]

Exotica, Erotica, Etc.
By Evangelia Kranioti, 201506545_1_IMG_FIX_700x700France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Alone among men on board gigantic freighters, the director travelled to 16 countries and lived with prostitutes in various harbour towns. From these experiences she has created a film whose impressive images and haunting soundtrack merge into a maritime symphony, a narrative of freedom, longing, love, and desire”… [more at berlinale.de]

Flotel_885796yFlotel Europa
By Vladimir Tomic, Denmark / Serbia
(Forum – World Premiere)
“When this film’s director was still a boy, he stood in front of “Flotel Europa“ and was hugely excited about the prospect of this gigantic ship moored in the port of Copenhagen becoming a new home for him, his mother and his older brother. Together with about 1000 other refugees from the former Yugoslavia, they started life anew on the ship.” [more at berlinale.de]

201505705_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Freie Zeiten (After Work)
By Janina Herhoffer, Germany
(Forum – World Premiere)
A girl band makes music. Women at a slimming course talk about successfully losing weight by controlling what they eat. Teenagers dance or go shopping. A role-play on conflicts at work is performed at a meeting of a men’s group. Other people do yoga, meditate to the sound of Tibetan singing bowls, limber up by babbling gibberish or run laps in a gymnasium”… [more at berlinale.de]

il_gesto_delle_mani_hand_gestures_locandina_berlinale2015Il gesto delle mani (Hand Gestures)*
By Francesco Clerici, Italy
(Forum – World Premiere)
“A bronze foundry in Milan. Hands that shape, knead, model, mix, repair, sand and polish. Work carried out on matter and fire, out of which the bronze figure of a dog by artist Velasco Vitali will ultimately emerge. The Fonderia Artistica Battaglia was founded in 1913 and is one of the oldest and most important artistic foundries in Italy. It produces bronze sculptures using lost-wax casting, a founding technique that dates back to the 4th century BC and is still done in much the same way today”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

*Il gesto delle mani won a Fipresci Jury Award and the Tagesspiegel Readers’ Jury Award.

10513606_detHamaca Paraguaya (Paraguayan Hammock)*
By Paz Encina, Argentina / France / Netherlands / Paraguay / Spain 2006
“Set in a remote Paraguayan village in the 1930s, Ramón and Cándida are an ageing couple of Guaraní peasants who are waiting for better times to come. They go about their daily chores, meeting at regular intervals at a clearing to sit in a hammock and talk about seemingly trivial things: the nuisance of a dog’s barking, the overwhelming heat, the rain which teases but doesn’t come”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

*Hamaca Paraguaya was released theatrically in New York in 2008.

By Silvina Landsmann, Israel / France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“The women from the Tel Aviv hotline for refugees and migrants work around the clock. They look after the rights of people without papers, give legal advice, go to government offices on their behalf and do public relations for their cause”… [more at berlinale.de] [THR review]

By Ivan Ostrochovský, Slovakia / Czech Republic
(Forum – World Premiere)
“They call him Koza, the goat. His best days as a boxer are behind him. Sometimes he re-watches the video of his fight at the 1996 Olympics. Now he needs money because his girlfriend is pregnant. That’s why he decides to return to the ring”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb] [THR review]

201510668_2_IMG_FIX_700x700Lo que lleva el río (Gone with the River)
By Mario Crespo, Venezuela, 2014
(NATIVe – World premiere)
“For Dauna, life on the Orinoco delta cultivated a strong curiosity for what lay beyond the river. Her natural talent for language and learning was always nurtured by her family and Father Julio. Tarcisio, her childhood sweetheart, also patiently supports her, but doesn’t know how to deal with social pressure in the Warao community. Dauna is sure of her love for Tarcisio but fears he will succumb to what tradition dictates, thwarting her ambition for academic development. The ever-present sepia river symbolises the divergence and convergence experienced throughout the story”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

201511054_1_IMG_543x305Madare ghalb atomi (Atom Heart Mother)
By Ali Ahmadzadeh, Iran
(Forum – World Premiere)
On their way back from a wild party, Arineh and Nobahar cause a car accident. A mysterious stranger by the name of Toofan offers to cover the costs. This won’t be the last time they’ll cross his path over the course of the night”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

7266749_300x300La maldad (Evilness)
By Joshua Gil, Mexico
(Forum – World Premiere)
“An old man in the country wants to make a film, the story of a whole life told across twelve songs, of a love lost and a family torn asunder, all guided by the logic of dreams. But even if the script is the best in the world, this film won’t be easy to make, as actors aren’t cheap and Mexico City holds the purse strings”… [more at berlinale.de] [THR review]

quispe girlsLas Niñas Quispe (The Quispe Girls)
By Sebastián Sepúlveda, Chile / France / Argentina 2013
“Secluded in the arid mountains of the Atacama Plateau, sisters Justa, Lucía, and Luciana are committed to their work as goat herders, but are also plagued by the isolation they suffer being the last of their kind. They repress their feelings and femininity in order to survive. The news that Pinochet has given an official order to prohibit herding in their region becomes the turning point in their quiet struggle to preserve their way of living. The imminent threat of the authorities coming to alter their whole existence is unbearable for the sisters, and all options seem bleak”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb] [Variety review (Venice)] [THR review (Venice)]

201506034_1La nuit et l’enfant (The Night and the Kid)
By David Yon, France, Qatar
(Forum – World Premiere)
“A child throws stones at the moon. They say the sun has gone and will only return when anxiety has disappeared. Until then, the stars are there to offer comfort. So the child counts the stars in the night’s endless expanse on the slopes of the Algerian Atlas mountains. Aness, the child, is the companion of Lamine, a young man on the run. Both are being pursued by nameless people carrying arms. Who are these criminals? Why must the two of them hide and sleep at night with weapons in their hands? Is the child merely a figment of Lamine’s imagination? A desire made flesh?”… [more at berlinale.de]

201510401_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Rabo de Peixe (Fish Tail)
By Joaquim Pinto, Nuno Leonel, Portugal
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Rabo de Peixe is a village in the Azores that is home to the largest collection of artisanal fisheries on the whole archipelago. Joaquim Pinto and Nuno Leonel first came here at the end of 1998 to see in the New Year. After befriending a young fisherman named Pedro, they decided to make a film with him over the following year, a TV documentary later tampered with by the broadcaster and shown only once. They have now edited the same material into something new, a tender essay rooted in friendship and fascination”… [more at berlinale.de]  [THR review]

SipOhi-El-lugar-del-ManduréSip’ohi – El lugar del Manduré (Sip’ohi – Manduré Place)
By Sebastián Lingiardi, Argentina 2011
“Gustavo Salvatierra returns home to Sip’ohi, in the impenetrable Chaco forest region in north-western Argentina, to capture Wichí culture and spirit through their ingrained tradition of storytelling. With great respect and from a certain distance, he approaches the bearers of local tradition – and listens. These tales and legends have an expressive strength that triggers the imagination far beyond the filmic imagery”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb]

ZONGO_Michel_2015_Faso_fani_00_ban_BerlinaleLa sirène de Faso Fani (The Siren of Faso Fani)
By Michel K. Zongo, Burkina Faso / France / Germany / Qatar
(Forum – World Premiere)
“After it was shut down in 2001, the Faso Fani textile factory in Koudougou, Burkina Faso’s third-largest city, was left to rot. It probably figures in the World Bank and IMF archives as one more piece of collateral damage, yet another write-off in a West African sideshow. Michel Zongo, who grew up in Koudougou, reopens the case of this legendary factory. He visits relatives and former employees, including his uncle, who once owned a much admired modern cult object thanks to Faso Fani: one of the first refrigerators in town. Zongo digs through radio and TV archives and pieces together the factory’s proud history, which produced so much more than just textiles”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb] [THR review]

Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir (Twenty-Eight Nights and A Poem)*
By Akram Zaatari, Lebanon / France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“The song ‘Fil bahr’ (At Sea) extols the moon in twenty-eight different ways before finally making its point about the fleeting nature of love at the end. Different variations on one and the same thing, each an original: 28 Nights and a Poem is an interpretation of the archive of the Sheherazade photo studio. Photographer Hashem el Madani opened the studio in 1953 in the Lebanese city of Saïda after spending years photographing people in front of their shops, in public squares or at the beach to satisfy their wish to appear before the camera”[more at berlinale.de]

*Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir won a Special Mention for the Think:Film Award.

poster01_en_bigÜber die Jahre (Over the Years)
By Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria
(Forum – World Premiere)
“When we see nappies being packed in cellophane by hand, we already suspect it will all soon be over. Taking the demise of a textile factory in Austria’s Waldviertel region as its starting point, with the antiquated manufacturing plant initially shown in full operation, this film poses the question of what work means for people’s self-image and character. After the factory goes bankrupt and closes, the filmmaker accompanies some of its employees as they continue to make their way, questioning them about their daily routines, the circumstances in which they live, about looking for work or the new jobs they find”… [more at berlinale.de]

201506680_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Violencia (Violence)
By Jorge Forero, Colombia / Mexico
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Cicadas and birdsong, a black screen, the jungle floor coming into view at the start of day. A leisurely tracking shot: roots, moss, a metal chain, a sleeping man shackled, hands clasped together, feet caked in mud. A silent captive whose captors’ faces remain unseen, a daily routine in the forest as helicopters rumble above. Pleasurable moans in a dark bedroom, a white curtain with black flowers that keeps out the morning light. A teenager making his way through the city, CV in hand, the camera his constant companion: bustling streets, bright colours, huge intersections, a skate park. But he only finds a job in the countryside”... [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb] [THR review]

MV5BMTQ4NzE3ODY2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQyNTY1OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Yvy Maraey (Land without Evil)*
By Juan Carlos Valdivia, Bolivia / Mexico / Norway 2013
“Andrés, a ‘karai’ or white man, has lost touch with his inner self and is going through a creative and spiritual crisis. He becomes obsessed with the existence of an uncorrupted and secluded Guaraní population, which might hold the answer he needs. Andrés hires Yari to guide him on a road trip deep into Guaraní lands in modern-day Bolivia, where the white man is the minority. Their journey is one of self-discovery and intercultural understanding.”… [more at berlinale.de] [IMDb] [THR review (VLAFF)]

*Yvy Maraey screened once at the King Juan Carlos I Center, New York University, on 3 May 2014.

Medicinal Plants Used by the Oromo People of Ethiopia’s Ghimbi District


Medicinal plants used in traditional medicine by Oromo people, Ghimbi District, Southwest Ethiopia

Abera B
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 May 8;10:40
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4060869
Map of Ethiopia highlighting the Oromia Region
Map of Ethiopia highlighting the Oromia Region (Source: Wikimedia Commons User:Golbez)

Balcha Abera of Jimma University conducted an ethnobotanical study to identify the most effective medicinal plants used by the Oromo people of Ethiopia’s Ghimbi District, within the Oromia National Regional State.

Allium sativum
Allium sativum [source: William Woodville: „Medical botany“, London, James Phillips, 1793, Vol. 3 Plate 168: Allium sativum (Garlic), Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 30 key informants and 165 community members, Abera documented 49 medicinal plant species used to treat various human ailments, the majority of which were collected from the wild and the rest from homegardens. Three species demonstrated particularly high healing potential: Glinus lotoides (against tapeworm infection), Croton macrostachyus (against malaria), and Allium sativum (against malaria and other diseases).

Abera notes that the transfer of indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge in the region is declining from generation to generation, from a number of causes:

“Regarding the current transfer of indigenous knowledge [this study] confirmed that the traditional knowledge is declined from elder to younger age groups. On top of this, during specimen collection, interview and field visits elders express their interest by demonstration how to collect, process, administer, and prescribe medicinal plants and with great beliefs of the traditional medicine on its effectiveness on treating the diseases while the young generation showed low participation in all aspects. Thus, decreasing positive attitude towards use of medicinal plants in traditional medicine by young generation indicate the loss of vital indigenous knowledge…. Moreover, the decline of the traditional knowledge in generation is due to the … interference of and shifts to the use of more synthetic drugs not only in the urban but also extending to the rural areas…. Moreover, most of the African modern health professionals greatly undermine the contribution of traditional medicine in health care system while the scientists of developed nations intensively search for medicinal plants to seek a solution for the old and newly rising diseases. All these factors may result to a loss of this rich and useful knowledge which has been accumulated over many generations.”

He recommends incorporation of indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge into formal education before it is lost.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medicinal Properties of Sri Lanka Cinnamon


Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review

Ranasinghe P, Pigera S, Premakumara GA, Galappaththy P, Constantine GR, Katulanda P
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Oct 22;13:275
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3854496

Priyanga Ranasinghe of the University of Colombo (Sri Lanka) and colleagues at the University of Colombo and the Industrial Technology Institute conducted a comprehensive systematic review of the scientific literature to provide a comprehensive summary of the potential medicinal benefits of Sri Lanka cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum (C. verum).

The authors begin by making an important distinction between two main varieties of cinnamon, C. zeylanicum and C. cassia, based on the coumarin content of the two:

Sri Lanka cinnamon (C. verum/C. zeylanicum)
Sri Lanka cinnamon (C. verum/C. zeylanicum) [Source: USDA photo, Wikimedia Commons]

“Cinnamon is a common spice used by different cultures around the world for several centuries. It is obtained from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum, a tropical evergreen plant that has two main varieties; [C. zeylanicum] and [C. cassia] (also known as Cinnamomum aromaticum/Chinese cinnamon)…. [C. zeylanicum], also known as Ceylon cinnamon (the source of its Latin name, zeylanicum) or ‘true cinnamon’ is indigenous to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India…. One important difference between [C. cassia] and [C. zeylanicum] is their coumarin (1,2-benzopyrone) content. The levels of coumarins in [C. cassia] appear to be very high and pose health risks if consumed regularly in higher quantities. According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), 1 kg of [C. cassia] powder contains approximately 2.1-4.4 g of coumarin, which means 1 teaspoon of [C. cassia] powder would contain around 5.8-12.1 mg of coumarin. This is above the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for coumarin of 0.1mg/kg body weight/day recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The BfR in its report specifically states that [C. zeylanicum] contains ‘hardly any’ coumarin. Coumarins are secondary phyto-chemicals with strong anticoagulant, carcinogenic and hepato-toxic properties… The EFSA advocates against the regular, long term use of [C. cassia] as a supplement due to its coumarin content. In addition, according to currently available evidence coumarin does not seem to play a direct role in the observed biological effects of [C. cassia]. Hence, although [C. cassia] has also shown many beneficial medicinal properties, [its] coumarin content is likely to be an obstacle against regular use as a pharmaceutical agent, unlike in the case of [C. zeylanicum].”

Reviewing the literature, the authors found that available in-vitro and in-vivo evidence suggests that C. zeylanicum has anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, anti-oxidant and free radical scavenging properties, and that it lowers blood glucose, serum cholesterol and blood pressure. They caution, however, that because of the paucity of studies in humans, and other limitations of the current evidence, further randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trials will be required to establish therapeutic safety and efficacy of C. zeylanicum as a pharmaceutical agent.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Curcumin as a Candidate for the Treatment of Cerebral Malaria


Natural products for the control of malaria

Malar J. 2011 Mar 15;10 Suppl 1:S1
BioMed Central

X. The plant-based immunomodulator curcumin as a potential candidate for the development of an adjunctive therapy for cerebral malaria

Mimche PN, Taramelli D, Vivas L
Malar J. 2011 Mar 15;10 Suppl 1:S10
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3059458

Curcuma longa
Curcuma longa [Source: Wikimedia Commons, J.M.Garg]
Patrice N. Mimche of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Università di Milano, with coauthors Donatella Taramelli and Livia Vivas, review the properties of curcumin (Curcuma longa) and its potential as an adjunctive therapy for the management of cerebral malaria.

From the abstract:

“The clinical manifestations of cerebral malaria (CM) are well correlated with underlying major pathophysiological events occurring during an acute malaria infection, the most important of which, is the adherence of parasitized erythrocytes to endothelial cells ultimately leading to sequestration and obstruction of brain capillaries. The consequent reduction in blood flow, leads to cerebral hypoxia, localized inflammation and release of neurotoxic molecules and inflammatory cytokines by the endothelium. The pharmacological regulation of these immunopathological processes by immunomodulatory molecules may potentially benefit the management of this severe complication. Adjunctive therapy of CM patients with an appropriate immunomodulatory compound possessing even moderate anti-malarial activity with the capacity to down regulate excess production of proinflammatory cytokines and expression of adhesion molecules, could potentially reverse cytoadherence, improve survival and prevent neurological sequelae. Current major drug discovery programmes are mainly focused on novel parasite targets and mechanisms of action. However, the discovery of compounds targeting the host remains a largely unexplored but attractive area of drug discovery research for the treatment of CM.”

The authors review the evidence for curcumin as a modulator of the innate immune response to malaria infection, and conclude that the potential anti-malarial activity of curcumin merits investigation alongside ongoing research efforts exploring clinical applications of curcumin in chronic inflammatory disorders, diabetes and cancer.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Summer Season 2014


My picks so far from New York’s summer season:

Thursday, July 10, 8:30 PM
JAPAN CUTS: Why Don’t You Play in Hell? / 地獄でなぜ悪い (Jigoku de Naze Warui)
Japan Society, NYC

In Sion Sono’s latest provocation to hit NYC, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Sono has since completed three films with a fourth in post-production), a DIY film crew sets out to debut the new Bruce Lee but instead find themselves caught up in a yakuza clan feud. The film won the Public’s Choice Award at the 2013 Montréal Festival of New Cinema and the People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Reviewing Why Don’t You Play in Hell? for Roger Ebert’s Far-Flung Correspondents, Seongyong Cho wrote:

“…I watched the film with some sort of bizarre fascination, observing how far it was willing to push its sheer craziness, and it surely did not disappoint me. It is apparent from the opening scene that this nutty movie does not give a damn about looking realistic or believable at all, and it keeps going on and on with more craziness, and then we find ourselves in the middle of the deranged bloody mix of passion and delusion, in which every character is swept to the extreme point which must be seen to be believed.”

Friday, July 11, 7:00 PM
An Evening with Juana Molina
The Greene Space at WNYC/WQXR, NYC

The Argentine singer-songwriter and actress joins WNYC’s John Schaefer and NPR’s Maria Hinojosa for “a night of live music and conversation.” Molina’s Wed 21 (2013), her sixth album, is her first in five years.

Reviewing Wed 21 in Pitchfork, Nick Neyland wrote:

“Mostly this is an album that’s remarkable for how close Molina draws you in and then spits you out, alternating wildly between closeness and distance. The sense of familiarity carried over from her other records works in her favor, making Wed 21 feel like an old friend who’s back in town with a clutch of new stories to tell. Like all good storytellers, Molina’s gift is in the delivery. [7.5]”

Sunday, July 27, 8:00 PM
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with Guest Nicole Atkins
Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC

With a 2013 album (Push the Sky Away) out and a new documentary (20,000 Days on Earth) on the festival circuit, the ultimate Australian multi-hyphenate and his band hits the US and Canada for a summer tour.

Reviewing Push the Sky Away in Pitchfork, Stuart Berman wrote:

Push the Sky Away is the 15th official album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but it could almost be their first. After 30 years together, the band has effectively come full circle, having completed its evolution from untamed beast to rock dignitary and, via the fearsome alter-ego offshoot Grinderman, back again. [8.0] “

Asbury Park’s own Nicole Atkins will be opening. Reviewing Atkin’s 2014 Slow Phaser, New York Daily News critic Jim Farber wrote:

“Nicole Atkins has a bullet-proof voice. Gleaming in tone, piercing in volume and unstoppable in attitude, it rips right through you.

“It’s the ideal vehicle for a song like “Cool People,” which could become the anti-Williamsburg anthem of all time. It’s a sarcastic takedown of hipster culture, delivered with a confidence that, ironically, makes Atkins seem like the coolest person in the room.”

Friday, August 1, 10:00 PM
Asian American International Film Festival: How to Disappear Completely
City Cinema Village East, NYC

In a recent interview with Gino Barrica on FLPNO.com, Raya Martin describes his latest fiction feature as one of his more “accessible” works:

“I was always trying out something visually new in my previous works, but it’s also a challenge to work structurally narrative-wise in a film. In a way, the story-telling in How to Disappear Completely is very simple: it’s a child’s daily life in a small town. That also makes it the most challenging: how do you translate certain moods and feelings in something as simple as that?

You also called this your homage to American Independent Horror. What were your influences and why did you decide to pay tribute to that genre?

“It’s always been clear to me that if I make my more narrative works, they’d be towards that: I grew up watching a lot of horror films, even before I discovered filmmakers like Antonioni or Maya Deren, I was already into John Carpenter’s Halloween and Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. They were my real formative heroes. The soundtrack, for example, is reminiscent of Carpenter’s own work in his films.

I remember growing up in the Philippines and getting so scared by the Filipino folk tales of creatures and superstitions. How much of that influenced the film?

“There’s a different sense of terror in the Philippines, I think. It’s very interesting that we seem to be desensitized by everyday murders, but half-bodied flying witches are very much alive in our consciousness. It’s this overlapping of the superstitions with seemingly urban consciousness that makes us unique. I get paranoid more about a rattling sound on the roof that could come from a demonic creature, than perhaps a burglar. It’s that weird consciousness in the film.”

This screening will be the film’s US East Coast premiere.

Friday, August 8, 2:30 PM
The Princess Pyunggang – FringeNYC
Sheen Center – THE LORETTO, NYC

Bibimbab Theatre
Writer: Sookyung Hwang
Director: Jong Yeoup Lee
Choreographer: Grace (Yu Sun) Kang
“The story of Princess Pyunggang is a Korean ancient tale that tells the unforgettable love between a foolish and the princess of Goguryo. This story combines Korean traditional drumming instruments songs and dances to deliver a breathtaking performance.”

Monday, August 11, 3:45 PM
mislabeledilEMMA: No, I Don’t Have Downs Syndrome – FringeNYC
Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, NYC

Quirky Girl Productions
Writer: Emma McWilliams
Director: Anne Moore
“A quirky girl’s search for identity amidst the confusion of being told she was “disabled.” She faces the issues of discrimination, gender equality, race, religion, and “fitting in” as she tries to understand the Syndrome she was born with spontaneously.”

Tuesday, August 12, 7:00 PM
Nisei – FringeNYC
The Theater at the 14th Street Y, NYC

Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn
Writer: Marla Hirokawa
Music by Keith Hall, Craig Brann, Taki Rentaro, Harold Payne, Jake Shimabukuro
Choreographer: Marla A. Hirokawa
“It’s WWII and a Nisei, 2nd generation Japanese American soldier has to overcome bigotry displayed against him and his family by the very country he is fighting to protect. This legacy unfolds in a ballet of love, strength and honor.”

Saturday, August 16, 7:00 PM
Breaking the Shakespeare Code – FringeNYC
64E4 Mainstage, NYC

Hey Jonte! Productions, L.L.C.
Writer: John Minigan
Director: Stephen Brotebeck
“A brash, naive young actress approaches a gifted but callous acting instructor to coach her for an audition. Surprising them both, Anna and Curt’s explosive chemistry sparks 16 years of cat and mouse seductions and entanglements.”

Sunday, August 17, 7:45 PM
Forgetting the Details – FringeNYC
The White Box at 440 Studios, NYC

Nicole Maxali Productions
Writer: Nicole Maxali
Director: Paul Stein
“Family, Filipinos & Alzheimer’s. Described by Dave Chappelle as “funny, heartwarming & funny again,” this one-woman show will make you laugh, cry & remind you that in the end, it’s not the details that matter.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2:00 PM
The Fiery Sword of Justice – FringeNYC
Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, NYC

Pill Hill Productions
Writer: Lauren Letellier
Director: Kel Haney
“The last thing any corporation wants to hear is … the truth! One businesswoman’s super-heroic compulsion to confront hypocrisy leads her to battle Big Pharma, boozy bosses, and the fractured family fantasies that fueled her fight for Justice.”

ND/NF – Fish & Cat (Mahi Va Gorbeh)


New Directors/New Films
Fish & Cat/Mahi va gorbeh
Director: Shahram Mokri

Cast: Babak Karimi, Saeed Ebrahimifar, Siavash Cheraghipoor, Mohammad Berahmani, Faraz Modiri, Abed Abest, Amanaz Safari, Pedram Sharifi, Neda Jebraeeli, Milad Rahimi, Parinaz Tayyed, Alireza Esapoor, Ainaz Azarhoush, Samaane Vafaiezadeh, Mohammad Reza Maleki, Nazanin Babaei, Mona Ahmadi, Pouya Shahrabi, Nima Shahrabi, Shadi Karamroudi, Khosrow Shahrad

134 minutes
Format: DCP
Language: Persian with English subtitles

Mar 27, 6:00PM

“A bold experiment in perpetual motion with an enigmatic time-warp narrative, Fish & Cat plays out as one continuous shot, with the camera moving among a host of characters at a remote forest and a nearby lake. Gradually subverting a gruesome premise drawn from a real-life case of a backwoods restaurant that served human flesh, the film builds an atmosphere of tension as a menacing pair descend on a campsite where a group of college kids have gathered for a kite-flying festival. But as the camera doubles back and crisscrosses between characters in real time, subtle space-time paradoxes suggest that something bigger is going on. Brilliantly sustained, Fish & Cat is further evidence of a new generation of filmmakers emerging in Iran.” -New Directors/New Films

Winner of the 2013 Venice Horizons Award Special Prize, Shahram Mokri’s second feature Fish & Cat (Mahi va gorbeh) is a tour de force thriller realized in a single tracking shot in collaboration with veteran cinematographer Mahmud Kalari (A Separation, The Past).

College students from a Tehran university converge on the shore of a remote lake near the Iran-Iraq border (“a place of spirits and sprites”) for an annual kite-flying festival, innocent of the plans of a trio of locals to slaughter one of them to provide human meat for a derelict restaurant.

“The story I’m about to tell you seems like a fable, but it’s true” -script, Fish & Cat

Though the DPC version screened at MoMA was not the best, the film left a deep impression by means of expert writing, direction, cinematography, sound design, and music, and a closely choreographed mise-en-scène realized by a large ensemble cast, with several standout performances.

In a script that could have been a collaboration between Samuel Beckett and George Romero, Shahram Mokri employs an encyclopedic knowledge of horror-film tropes to fashion a profoundly moving essay on the futility of resistance against fate in the prison-house of time. Even an angel messenger (“He does things that are like miracles”) is an impotent observer while on the shore of this lake and adjoining forest where the dead and the living, ghosts and spirits, meet and meet again. We are often left wondering, “How did they do that?”

“The pic manages to be both narrative and nonlinear as the camera’s complex choreography creates fissures in time, piling on stories within stories that trap viewers in an increasingly ominous, often repetitive nightmare.” -Variety

Some reviewers have complained about the 2-hour-plus running time. On the contrary, I say Fish & Cat would ideally be screened on a continuous loop running at least twice, from a winter afternoon to dusk.

The film also benefits from the work of Christophe Rezai (music) among others.

Despite the best efforts of ND/NF organizers, none of the artists gained admittance to Fortress USA to meet their audience. When will we admit we were wrong to plot the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh’s government during the Truman/Eisenhower administrations, and move forward toward rational relations with Iran?

ND/NF – The Japanese Dog / Câinele Japonez


New Directors/New Films
The Japanese Dog/Câinele Japonez
Director: Tudor Cristian Jurgiu

Director of Photography: Andrei Butica

Cast: Victor Rebengiuc, Serban Pavlu, Ioana Abur, Alexandrina Halic, Constantin Draganescu, Kana Hashimoto, Doru Ana, Titi Radoaie

86 minutes
Format: DCP
Language: Romanian with English subtitles

Mar 23, 1:00PM
MoMA Titus 1

“Exquisitely attuned to the rhythms of nature and rural life—and the melancholy beauty of transient things—The Japanese Dog comes by its emotions honestly and poignantly.” – New Directors/New Films

“Tudor Cristian Jurgiu makes a quietly impressive debut with this deceptively simple tale of a father and son.” -Jay Weissberg, Variety

Tudor Cristian Jurgiu’s deeply insightful debut feature augurs a long and rich career. Twenty-seven years old at the time of filming, Jurgiu helmed a formidable cast and crew, led by the octogenarian actor and anti-Ceauşescu revolutionary Victor Rebengiuc and veteran cinematographer Andrei Butica (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Child’s Pose). A marvel of intergenerational artistic collaboration resulted, and a film that could mark a turning point in the history of Romanian cinema.

The Japanese Dog opens with long shot of villagers rescuing their possessions from a flooded field and then transitions to Rebengiuc’s character, Costache – a sober, industrious, private man who lost his wife and his home in the flood – as he goes about the mundane tasks of rescuing objects from ruin. Resettled in a large house, Costache seems to be the only man in the village who locks his doors.

Costache’s widower’s solitude is suddenly disrupted by the news that his long-absent son Ticu, who has built a new life in Japan as a construction engineer, has learned of his mother’s death and plans to visit his father, bringing his Japanese wife Hiroko and their son Koji with him.

The film chronicles the emergence of a new family as it relates Ticu’s homecoming with luminous attention to details of the sights and sounds of this particular space, on a primitive level of the emotions and relationships of these particular people. Audiences experience the fruits of Jurgiu’s collaborative genius as the story fully becomes one with the landscape and then expands beyond.

I am hoping for a U.S. theatrical release.

Film website: www.cainelejaponez.ro

ND/NF – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night


New Directors/New Films
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cinematography: Lyle Vincent
Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Milad Eghbali, Reza Sixo Safai, Ray Haratian, Pej Vahdat

107 minutes
Persian with English subtitles

MoMa Titus 2
Mar 19, 8:00PM

Ana Lily Amirpour delivers a knockout of a story in this cunning mashup of genres and genders, with knowing echos of styles and tropes from the past half-century of film.

Notwithstanding some minor artifacts in the DCP version presented at MoMA (which should be fixable), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a marvel of state-of-art black and white digital photography. In contrast to the desaturated tones of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, these crystalline images evoke the aesthetic of gelatin silver process and at pivotal moments approach the sculptural clarity of Robert Mapplethorpe’s Hasselblad portraits.

I recommend Guy Lodge’s Variety review from Sundance for a fuller assessment of this extraordinary movie.

Stuff you can learn from the credits: Elijah Wood is one of the executive producers. And some good tips for your playlist!

Update: US Distributor – Kino Lorber (2014)