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The Square, a new film by Jehane Noujaim (Control Room; Rafea: Solar Mama), looks at the hard realities faced day-to-day by people working to build Egypt’s new democracy. Catapulting us into the action spread across 2011 and 2012, the film provides a kaleidoscopic, visceral experience of the struggle. Cairo’s Tahrir Square is the heart and soul of the film, which follows several young activists. Armed with values, determination, music, humor, an abundance of social media, and sheer obstinacy, they know that the thorny path to democracy only began with Hosni Mubarek’s fall. The life-and-death struggle between the people and the power of the state is still playing out.
Part I: BEFORE THE FALL: For several months, the director filmed a group of Iraqis, mostly members of his family, in their expectation of the war. This first part of the film ends with the start of U.S. strikes on Baghdad. Part II: AFTER THE BATTLE: Americans invades Iraq and the film shows the consequences of this invasion on the everyday life of the characters. The film ends with the violent death of one of the main characters: the nephew of the filmmaker, twelve years old boy Haidar.
Singapore GaGa is a 55-minute paean to the quirkiness of the Singaporean aural landscape. It reveals Singapore's past and present with a delight and humour that makes it a necessary film for all Singaporeans. We hear buskers, street vendors, school cheerleaders sing hymns to themselves and to their communities. From these vocabularies (including Arabic, Latin, Hainanese), a sense of what it might mean to be a modern Singaporean emerges. This is Singapore's first documentary to have a cinema release. With English and Chinese subtitles.
Once the thriving capital of Imperial China, the city of Datong now lies in near ruins. Not only is it the most polluted city in the country, it is also crippled by decrepit infrastructure and even shakier economic prospects. But Mayor Geng Tanbo plans to change all that, announcing a bold, new plan to return Datong to its former glory, the cultural haven it was some 1,600 years ago. Such declarations, however, come at a devastatingly high cost. Thousands of homes are to be bulldozed, and a half-million of its residents (30 percent of Datong’s total population) will be relocated under his watch. Whether he succeeds depends entirely on his ability to calm swarms of furious workers and an increasingly perturbed ruling elite. The Chinese Mayor captures, with remarkable access, a man and, by extension, a country leaping frantically into an increasingly unstable future.
Under the sun, the heavenly beauty of grasslands will soon be covered by the raging dust of mines. Facing the ashes and noises caused by heavy mining , the herdsmen have no choice but to leave as the meadow areas dwindle. In the moonlight, iron mines are brightly lit throughout the night. Workers who operate the drilling machines must stay awake. The fight is tortuous, against the machine and against themselves. Meanwhile, coal miners are busy filling trucks with coals. Wearing a coal-dust mask, they become ghostlike creatures. An endless line of trucks will transport all the coals and iron ores to the iron works. There traps another crowd of souls, being baked in hell. In the hospital, time hangs heavy on miners' hands. After decades of breathing coal dust, death is just around the corner. They are living the reality of purgatory, but there will be no paradise.