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Eight films to watch in febrauary in 2017

  • Author:By Fiona Macdonald
  • Source:BBC news
  • Release on :2017-02-14
Hidden Figures

This feel-good drama about three unsung heroes topped the US box office on inauguration weekend, and has since nabbed Academy Awards nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. In an era of segregation, African-American women Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer – who received the nomination) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) calculated the mathematical data needed to launch Nasa’s first successful space missions. Directed by Theodore Melfi and based on a true story, the film is an ensemble piece, with a cast including Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali in “a mash-up of the space race and civil rights that serves both well”. Screenwriter Allison Schroeder – who grew up at Cape Canaveral, and whose grandmother was a computer programmer at Nasa – has crafted a film that’s “both a dazzling piece of entertainment and a window into history”, according to Time magazine. Released 2 February in Brazil and Germany and 23 February in Singapore. 

The Salesman 

Oscar-winning writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) returns to Iran with The Salesman, which has picked up a Best Foreign Language Film nomination in this year’s Academy Awards. Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti star as a husband and wife in Tehran navigating marriage problems while performing in a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Forced to leave their apartment, which is in danger of collapsing, they struggle to cope after a mysterious assault. “With every shot, our sympathies flicker and tilt”, says The New Yorker, while The Chicago Reader praises Farhadi for privileging “a woman's viewpoint without either sharing or exploring it”. Released 2 February in the Czech Republic and Germany and 23 February in Argentina. 

Land of Mine 

Another Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, this tense Danish drama delivers “a classic wide-screen World War Two epic… with a number of unsettling twists”, according to the LA Times. Writer-director Martin Zandvliet’s third feature tells the story of a group of German POWs forced to remove landmines from a stretch of beach at the war’s end. According to Variety, “Zandvliet’s script and direction avoid milking an innately loaded situation for excess melodrama or pathos, sticking to a discreet economy of approach that accumulates considerable power”. Released 9 February in Greece and 17 February in the US. 

The Great Wall 

Critics have been mixed about this Chinese-US blockbuster from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, with Singapore’s Strait Times calling the epic an “attempt at Hollywood capitalism with Chinese characteristics”. Backed by a Chinese-owned Hollywood studio, The Great Wall is the most expensive film ever made in China, which is expected to become the world’s largest film biggest market by 2019, and there have been doubts over its cultural sensitivity. Yet some reviews have been positive, with The Guardian saying “Simultaneously futuristic and historic, the visual spectacle carries the film… the director’s artistic touch is on display in his long panoramic sweeps and artful use of colour”. Matt Damon stars as an Irish mercenary alongside Andy Lau and Jing Tian in a film that looks at China’s relationship with foreigners – without being too heavy-handed. According to the South China Morning Post, “Zhang appears to remember that he is delivering fantasy entertainment, not a political manifesto”. Released 16 February in Russia and Australia and 17 February in the US. 

I am not Your Negro 

Billed as “a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter”, this documentary from film-maker Raoul Peck (Sometimes in April) imagines an unfinished book by James Baldwin. At the time of his death in 1987, the writer left 30 pages describing an assignment he turned down in the late ‘70s. They outlined a personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends, the civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Weaving Baldwin’s words (narrated by Samuel L Jackson) with archive footage, Peck “makes a persuasive, intuitive case for Baldwin as a poet and a prophet”. He also makes connections between the past and present, opening with a montage of photos from Ferguson, Missouri and of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. According to The New Yorker, “Peck’s references to current events reveal Baldwin’s view of history and his prophetic visions to be painfully accurate”. Released 3 February in the US, 17 March in Sweden. 

The Space Between Us 

Peter Chelsom (Hector and the Search for Happiness) directs an interplanetary adventure tackling a perennial young adult topic with a cosmic spin. The Space Between Us stars Asa Butterfield as a teenage boy who was born on Mars when an astronaut discovered she was pregnant en route to the red planet. After beginning an online friendship with a girl called Tulsa (Britt Robertson), he travels to Earth but discovers his organs can’t survive there. Running out of time, he goes on a road trip with Tulsa in search of his father. In an interview, Butterfield described how the film doesn’t fit one genre: “It’s kind of got a sci-fi element. It’s a road trip. It’s a love story. I think, most of all, it’s a coming-of-age film about this boy learning to be human and finding out where he belongs.” Released 3 February in Canada, 9 February in Germany and 16 February in Hong Kong. 

The Lego Batman Movie 

Arrested Development alumni Will Arnett and Michael Cera co-star as Batman and Robin in this spin-off from 2014’s The Lego Movie. Rosario Dawson is Batgirl (who in this role is also Gotham City’s female Police Commissioner), Siri plays the batcave computer and Ralph Fiennes is Alfred Pennyworth in what director Chris McKay has called “a critique of the Batman character”. In a panel discussion, he said “we wanted to take a look at how absurd this guy is… The thing that he does to fix the hole in his heart is to go out and learn karate and dress up like a bat and fight criminals at night.” That said, Arnett’s reprisal of the role looks to be a more sympathetic take than the pompous character in The Lego Movie – in the trailer, he sits by himself in his mansion attempting to synch his gadgets. On general release from 9 February. 

Kiki 

An artform made famous in Madonna’s 1990 Vogue music video has seen a revival in recent years, and some of the scene’s key figures appear in a documentary combining personal stories with exuberant dance performances. Jennie Livingston offered an inside look at New York’s ballroom culture in her landmark film Paris is Burning, which won the grand jury prize at Sundance in 1991, and this film from director and co-writer Sara Jordenö and co-writer Twiggy Pucci Garçon shows a new subculture combining art with activism. According to The New York Times, “Kiki fluidly combines interviews with on-the-street and dance-floor scenes to create an exhilarating, multifaceted portrait of ballroom participants, a number of whom are LGBT activists”. Following seven characters from the Kiki community over the course of four years, Swedish film-maker Jordenö looks at the lives of the youth outside the dances to create “a kaleidoscopic and vivid rendering of a world that is larger than life, flamboyant but ultimately fragile”. Released 24 February in the US and online.

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