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Defiant Requiem-Movie Review *** 08/13/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, Big Apple Film Festival, Documentary, PBS, World War II.
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Defiant Requiem (American) 2012 ***

PBS Documentary
Written and directed by Doug Shultz

WINNER, Best Documentary, Big Apple Film Festival

The true story of Raphael Schächter, a Czech conductor who was sent to the Terezin concentration camp by the Nazis. When Schächter finds an unused piano, he secretly trains a chorus of his fellow prisoners. Eventually they are found out and are forced to perform for their captors. Schächter chooses the beautiful and difficult Verdi’s “Requiem.”

This amazing story haunted conductor Murry Sidlin, who decades later brought a choir and orchestra to Terezin to perform “Requiem” in the very place that Schäcter and his chorus did. The rendition is so beautiful, even a non-religious person would be touched, especially when contemplating the message Schäcter and his chorus delivered through the lyrics.

The film includes interviews with people who were at the camp, some of whom participated in the chorus.

Highly recommended.

85 min. Not rated. Content could be disturbing for children.

Owl and the Sparrow-Movie Review 05/24/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Big Apple Film Festival, Denver International Film Festival, Independent Spirit Awards, Los Angeles Film Festival.
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Owl and the Sparrow (Vietnamese) 2007
Cu va chim se se

Written and directed by Stephane Gauger
Starring Cat Ly, The Lu Le, and Han Thi Pham

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Festival Prize (Gauger), Big Apple Film Festival
WINNER, Emerging Filmmaker Award (Gauger), Denver International Film Festival
NOMINATED, John Cassavetes Award (Gauger and producers), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Audience Award-Best Narrative Feature (Gauger), Los Angeles Film Festival

Young orphan Thuy (Han) escapes from her overbearing uncle and runs away to Saigon. There, along with other children in similar circumstances, she makes enough money for food selling roses on the streets. Thuy meets two lonely people, Hai (Le), a kindly zookeeper, and Lan (Ly), a disillusioned flight attendant, and conspires to bring them together. She only has five days to do so before Lan’s layover ends.

This film takes a more lighthearted approach than one might expect, concentrating more on the relationship that develops between the three main characters than on the hardships endured by Thuy (who seems to find her way in the bustling city with no plans but no insurmountable problems, either). This was the first time on screen for the young Han Thi Pham, whose very natural performance makes the story touching but not overly sentimental. Some reviewers complain about the quality of the camera work, but I didn’t find it distracting.

98 min. Rated PG.