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April Films at Saigon’s Alternative Movie Venues

A filmmaker fights censorship, an architect’s endeavors reassess the leftist ideology and documentarians raise awareness about contemporary capitalist practices as well as development. From fictional stories to real accounts, this month film's program focuses on the impacts individuals can have on social change.


April 6 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Taxi Tehran (Iran, 2015)

Despite being repeatedly censored by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance – and ultimately banned from making films for 20 years – filmmaker Jafar Panahi has not shown any signs of stopping. Since the ban, Panahi has found ways to sneak three films to the outside world. His latest effort, Taxi Tehran, won two Silver Bears at this year's Berlin Film Festival. By installing small cameras in his taxi, Panahi drives around the streets of Tehran while picking up and dropping off a range of colorful customers, who casually engage in a range of conversations regarding Iran’s rate of capital punishment, the contradictory rules imposed by the Ministry of Culture, the access to foreign films and several human rights cases. It is all done very briskly and light-heartedly. Even the real-life human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh’s appeal to the camera – “because the people of cinema can be relied on” – is joyful and casually inserted. After all, Panahi is simply driving a taxi, not directing actors in a film about the power of cinema.


April 7 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Dikkenek(France/Belgium, 2006)

Dikkenek, the first feature film by writer-director Olivier Van Hoofstadt, is the sort of film you would use as shock therapy for your politically correct and prude friends, and yet it is simultaneously a stylistic, cinematic piece that has recently become a cult film. This irreverent comedy about finding true love sees a group of dysfunctional and rude characters whose only solution for their problems is violence.


April 13 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Mustang(France/Turkey/Germany, 2015)

A story about five sisters isolated in their house by overly protective relatives immediately brings to mind The Virgin Suicides,but the similarities between Coppola’s film and Mustang end here.

Although set in a secluded village one hour away from Istanbul, first-time director Deniz Gamze Ergüven never makes Mustanga story about Islam but rather one about women's rights that could apply to any society and their impositions of female roles. Ergüven’s camera takes the audience inside the intimate and imaginary world created by the “trapped” young women, making the contrast more powerful when they are shown to us in their society. The apparently innocuous and kind words which their grandmother uses to describe them – “beautiful and unique” – sound like sharp knives stripping the girls of their own distinct personalities, for now they have simply become wives-to-be who need to be advertised to the families of potential husbands.


April 11 @ 8pm – Yoko Café

Oscar Niemeyer: A Vida É Um Sopro(Brazil, 2010)

Filmmaker Fabiano Maciel looks at the life, career and ideology of the late Oscar Niemeyer, one of the world's most influential and respected modern architects. The career of Niemeyer was strictly connected to his native country as a result of his involvement in the planning of Brasilia as well as his political activism during both the Vargas dictatorship and the subsequent military government. Maciel uses interviews and archival footage of prominent literary figures, such as Paul Sartre and Jose Saramago, and inspirational architects in Niemeyer’s work like Le Corbusier to map the architect's rich life, which went far beyond the functional erection of buildings.


April 14 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

The Lobster(Greece/Ireland/UK/Netherlands/France, 2015)

If George Orwell wrote a romantic version of 1984, The Lobster would be it. The setting of the first English-language feature by Yorgos Lanthimos is a familiar dystopian future, in which people have to be in a couple or they will be moved to the Hotel. Here, they must find a compatible partner within 45 days or they will be turned into an animal of their choosing. The key word here is “compatible”: like an online dating website, in which people believe that sharing hobbies or home towns are the winning criteria for a happy relationship, the Hotel’s management does not accept that two individuals can form a solid, loving relationship that will lead them to become “good citizens”. A funny, moving satire of today’s visions of love, The Lobster received the Jury Prize at Cannes, earned seven nominations at the British Independent Film Awards, as well as a win for Best Supporting Actress Olivia Colman, and took home the top honor for Best European Screenwriter at the European Film Awards.


April 20 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

The Second Mother(Brazil, 2015)

Regina Casé’s warm and spirited performance would be enough to make anyone fall head-over-heels in love with this double story about a mother’s sacrifice to support her children and Brazil's changing class society. Val (Casé) has worked for 13 years as a live-in au pair to raise a wealthy couple’s only child. We soon discover Val’s resilience, hard work and cheerful acceptance of her condition are motivated by traditional values of servitude towards one’s employers and children, but those firm beliefs start to fall apart when her daughter, Jessica (Camila Márdila) comes to live with her. Jessica's arrival challenges the apparently open-minded wealthy couple and Val, who, in her microcosm, has to face the progressive social changes that Brazil has been going through in recent times.


April 21 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

The True Cost(USA, 2015)

So-called “fast fashion” is so ingrained in contemporary fashion and accepted among today's consumers that seeing a dress for less than US$10 on sale in popular chain stores does not raise any concerns.

Andrew Morgan’s documentary methodically unveils the horrendous facts behind the sustainability of low-cost garments: from the impact this industry has on the environment to the working conditions of employees in the manufacturing company which produce these garments. In the past year, some TV programs have begun tapping into these realities, and Morgan’s accounts on them are an essential part of this long-overdue conversation.


April 25 @ 8pm- Yoko Café

Tekkonkinkree(Japan, 2006)

A sci-fi philosophical thriller with a (little) crime twist, Tekkonkinkree is a Japanese animé directed by American-born visual effects expert-turned-director Michael Arias. Two young street kids – White and Black – embody the spiritual side of a fictional metropolis, which has come under threat by property developers who wish to revitalize the decaying city with amusement parks. What follows are metaphorical battles with Yakuza mobs and other criminals to preserve the history and emotional connection with the threatened urban landscape.


April 28 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Zoolander 2(USA, 2015)

Fifteen years later, Ben Stiller reprises his “ridiculously good-looking” Derek Zoolander, and he has brought along his long-time partners in crime, Hansel (Owen Wilson) and Mugatu (Will Ferrell).

Both Hansel and Derek have retired from the runway but are compelled to return when a series of good-looking people get killed. While the first Zoolandercarried a brutal satire against the fashion world and made a mockery out of the people in it, the sequel’s laughs can be found in the now-endearing portraits of the two “old” models and the realization that they are no longer important in an industry that moves fast and worships youth and beauty above all things.

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