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March Movies At Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

This month’s film programme is packed with films that address socio-political issues including gay rights, civil rights and freedom of speech. If that’s not your cup of tea, you have the opportunity to take in some light-hearted options with the 2015 Oscar Winner for Best Picture and the adventures of the most beloved archaeologist in cinematic history.

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4th March @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

The Imitation Game (UK 2014)

For many, Graham Moore’s speech at the Oscars, where he received the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, was the most touching of the evening. His final punch-line, “Stay weird, stay different,” went viral on twitter. One of the “weird” and “different” people that inspired the 34-year-old screenwriter was, in fact, British computer scientist, mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing. The Imitation Game examines Turing’s role, along with a small group of scientists and intellectuals, in deciphering the German Nazis’ Enigma machine during World War II.

Thriller and drama merge perfectly in Morten Tyldum’s film, in which flashbacks bring the audience into the inner depths of Turing’s life (impeccably played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and through the frustration, fear and excitement of the codebreaking process. Without extravagance and unnecessary innuendos, The Imitation Game shows the glory and shame of a nation: Turing’s codebreaking machine was integral in defeating Nazi Germany, but British society’s homophobia also punished that same man (Turing was forced to undergo “chemical castration” due to his homosexuality).


5th March @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

50 Shades of Grey (USA 2015)

The first film instalment from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, selling over 100 million copies worldwide and counting, was released on Valentine’s Day this year, and, as we speak, it is the highest-grossing R-rated international film in history. To say that the homonymous film has been surrounded by (often unnecessary) controversy would be an understatement.

Some countries around the world, including Malaysia, China and Vietnam have either banned Fifty Shades of Grey or sent it to the ‘butcher’ to be brutally cut, (ironically, the edited version is way more disturbing than the original as imagination is a powerful tool that can distort things), and France gave it a certificate 12.

The passionate love story between college dropout, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and tycoon, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) revolves around the compromises and discoveries that we are willing to make in romantic relationships. Whether you are a hard-core Fifty Shades fan or not, it is very interesting to see what’s behind all the controversy surrounding the film.


11th March @ 8 pm – deciBel Lounge 

Selma (USA 2014)

In Selma, David Oyelowo has the onerous task of portraying the Nobel Peace Prize winning civil rights activist Martin Luther King. The compelling and awe-inspiring performance of the British actor is the leading force of the film who re-enacts King’s struggles during his campaign for civil rights in the United States.

The peaceful protests depicted in the movie include the renowned march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in which the police brutally attack unarmed demonstrators. This event shocked and compelled the nation to support the cause and would ultimately lead to a new ear of racial discourse. Director Ava DuVernay was not allowed to use King’s speeches in her film due to copyright reasons, but, instead, she interweaves the private and public lives of the leader to highlight a moment in American history where the public was in strong opposition to government policies.


12th March @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Wild Tales (Argentina 2014)

The inexplicably overlooked Foreign Film category during the awards season contained some of the finest pieces of filmmaking this year. The Argentinian Wild Tales was one of them, and with Pedro Almodovar as one of its producers, it is easy to understand why. Six independent short stories bound together by a common theme serve to depict the Argentina of today. Through wickedness, humour and vengeance, director Damián Szifrón conveys the implosion of a nation and its people. The film was originally presented at Cannes Film Festival and has been nominated for various awards including Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.


18th March @ 8pm - deciBel Lounge

Pride(UK 2014)

A group of gay activists in London and a South Welsh miners’ community are the “odd couple” in Pride.

Winner of the Best Independent British Film Award in 2014 and nominated for Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes, Pride takes place during the Thatcher period, when miners’ went on strike to protest against the Iron Lady’s tough coal industry reforms.

Based on a true story in which LGBT campaigners fought alongside and supported (both economically and morally) the miners during the summer of 1984, Director Matthew Warchus wrapped the film with contagious joyfulness and anarchy.

Considering how many British films have used the Thatcher period as a backdrop - Brassed Off, Billy Elliot, This is England and My Beautiful Launderette just to name a few – one cannot help but wonder why such an inspiring story of solidarity that had real impact on the politics of the UK has not been portrayed in film before.


19th March @ 8pm - Saigon Outcast

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)  (USA 2015)

“And the Oscar goes to…Birdman!” Although these were not the exact words used by Sean Penn to announce his friend of 10 years, Iñárritu, was awarded the third and most important award of the night beating out Boyhood for Best Film of the year.

The eccentric and satirical take on the psyche of actors and the divisions between intellectual critics and Hollywood’s moneymaking super-hero productions are at the heart of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Michael Keaton is Riggan, a washed-up actor who made his money and gained success in his early days by playing superhero, Birdman. Now, desperate to be recognised as a "proper", serious actor, he has put his career, private life and own money at stake by writing, acting and directing his very first Broadway play: Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." 

The Mexican director assembled a terrific cast: Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and a magnificent Edward Norton to deconstruct the ego of actors as well as illustrating the break within the industry where prejudice and snobbery of critics stand in opposition with Hollywood's money-making superhero films. It is hard not to think Iñárritu gets the last laugh since he managed to craft a visionary film with a superhero at its centre while managing to convey something meaningful. The casting choices of Keaton and Norton are also ironic as their characters embody what the two actors have experienced in their real careers. Keaton has been often overlooked due to his comedy films, and he is often solely remembered for his role as Batman. Moreover, Norton's recent "problems" with Hollywood's big studios (on the set of The Incredible Hulk) have characterized him as an artistic-method actor who has turned his back on the establishment.


22nd of March @ 1 pm -  deciBel Lounge 

Indiana Jones Marathon (Raiders of the Lost ArkThe Temple of DoomThe Last Crusade)

After the Star Wars Marathon, deciBel Lounge will screen the first three (and best) Indiana Jones films. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford brought to life the now-iconic Dr. Henry Jones: an intellectual treasure hunter that made archaeology look like the most exciting job on earth. His adventures in exotic lands are mixed with romance, supernatural and political elements that enthralled both children and adults in the 80s. Thirty-four years after the first release, Indiana Jones still holds up as a solid piece of filmmaking that can show kids today what it was like to shoot an epic film without the overwhelming amount of technology at disposal today.


25th March @ 8pm - deciBel Lounge

Big Eyes (USA 2014)

Tim Burton, one of the most childlike directors in Hollywood, returns behind the camera with Big Eyes. Starring Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and the always-delightful Amy Adams (American Hustle), Big Eyes is set in the 1950s and tells the real story of Margaret Keane, a mysterious woman who left her husband and moved to San Francisco with her paintings and her daughter.

Through a fortunate incident, Keane’s kitsch and mediocre paintings catch the attention of the media and Hollywood celebrities, who start buying the now-in-vogue artworks. The film focuses its attention on the exploitation by art dealer and the new husband of the painter, Walter Keane (Waltz), who passes the paintings off as his own. By doing so, Big Eyes raises the contemporary issues of authorship and exploitation of woman in male dominated sectors.


26th March @ 8pm - Saigon Outcast

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry – documentary (USA – China 2012)

“I think that art is certainly the vehicle for us to develop any new ideas, to be creative, to extend our imagination. I think there is a responsibility for any artist to protect freedom of expression,” responded Ai WeiWei during a radio interview for BBC in 2011. The interview followed the release of Ai WeiWei from prison, after he spent 81 days, without being charged, for alleged tax problems.

Alison Klayman’s documentary offers a view into the internationally notorious Chinese artist and activist from his investigation into the Sichuan earthquake to the above-mentioned interview. Through his art and campaigns, Ai WeiWei has positioned himself as one of the most well-known people to publicly criticise the Communist Party in China and, probably due to his high-visibility around the world, was able to advocate for democratic rights and freedom of expression in the country like no other intellectual or activist before.

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