‘A Screaming Man’

A tender African tale of family and the immediacy of civil war, A Screaming Man is an unsentimental reflection on consequence.

The downsizing of staff in the resort hotel in N’Djamena, capital of Chad, sees former swimming champion Adam Ousmane (Youssouf Djaoro – Lingui, Dry Season) lose his position as pool attendant to his son, Abdel (Diouc Koma – Gloria Mundi, Yao). As rebel troops move closer to the city, Adam is pressured into contributing to the war effort. 

Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Grigris, Lingui), A Screaming Man is a quiet, nuanced narrative of family life with its subtle portrayal of envy, bitterness and guilt. The result is a sublime and understated contemplation on the small details of life.

Won the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Rating: 79%


An Oscar nominated documentary, Virunga is ostensibly a reveal of the protection of the last of the mountain gorillas found in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But seeing armed wardens in full military uniform stalking the forests and plains indicates that the story goes far deeper.

Found on the border of Uganda and Rwanda, the park, a massive 8,090 square kilometres, is one of the oldest and most biodiverse in Africa. But civil war, multinational corporate interests in the mineral rich Congo and corruption have placed it at risk. Including the lives of the wardens.

Director Orlando von Einsiedel (The White Helmets, Evelyn) weaves nature with secretive, cloak and dagger footage as French independent journalist Mélanie Gouby looks to uncover illegal activity by British oil company Soco International and their interests threatening the stability of the park – and the region.

It’s an engrossing documentary albeit a little uncertain as to its objectives (nature, politics, investigative), resulting in a film that needed a little more outrage, a little less restraint.

Nominated for the 2015 Oscar for best documentary film.

Rating: 63%

‘The Battle of Algiers’

Social realism extraordinaire, The Battle of Algiers is a stunningly shot, simply told tale of armed insurrection against colonial French rule.

Shot in a grainy black and white, director Gillo Pontecorvo (Kapò, Ogro) weaves archival news footage into the fictional documentary-style narrative as Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin – The Day of the Jackal, My Name is Nobody) tightens the military grip on the city. Organised strikes and demonstrations are met with violence and torture leading to the bombings of cafes and milkbars as the struggle escalates.

Pontecorvo marshalls his predominantly non-professional cast to astonishing effect, whether it’s local youth moving through the narrow passages of the city or the extraordinary choreographed troop manoeuvres as they close down the Muslim quarter. Seen from both sides, The Battle of Algiers is a powerful and brutal docudrama commissioned by the Algerian government to highlight cause and effect in the use of violence.

Nominated for the 1967 best foreign language film, nominated for 2 Oscars in 1969 for best director and original screenplay.

Rating: 90%


A surprisingly upbeat, vibrant narrative for a storyline that spells only trouble for the two young leads living in The Slopes housing estate in Nairobi.

As end of school and local elections approach, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) helps her dad as a candidate but prefers to hang with the lads, playing cards or a game of soccer. But she’s attracted to Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), daughter of her dad’s political rival.

Writer/director Wanuri Kahiu (From a Whisper, The Thing About Jellyfish) teases beautifully natural performances from her cast that adds a freshness to an age-old story of love from the wrong side of the tracks.

Rating: 64%

‘My Octopus Teacher’

A real charmer of a tale as filmmaker Craig Foster returns to South Africa’s Western Cape for a period of rest and recuperation. An area known to him as a child, Foster finds himself drawn to the wild ocean, little expecting an encounter that would change his life.

A keen diver, a chance sighting of a female octopus in an area of calm amidst a kelp forest results in one of the most touching accounts of unexpected friendship. With underwater cameras following and recording every day for almost a year, Foster and the octopus build a bond of trust as he learns, through observation, of the fragility of life and the deep connection between the human and natural worlds.

It’s a bittersweet experience, but one filled with hope as the life cycle of a female octopus takes its natural course. In not looking to be a ‘nature documentary’, My Octopus Teacher is instead more experential, a little more emotive, a little more personal. And this beautiful film, stunningly shot by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, is the better for it.

A Netflix original.

Winner of the 2021 Oscar for best documentary

Rating: 73%

‘The Harvesters’

the harvestersA stark, red-neck Christian Bible-belt story, Afrikaans-style.

In his directorial debut, Etienne Kallos’ powerful feature, set in the vast isolated open spaces of the Free State, looks to the threatened demise of an Afrikaan way of life. A quiet, brooding 15-year old Janno (Brent Vermeulen) and his position in his deeply religious farming family is threatened by the adoption of a troubled (Afrikaan) street boy (Alex van Dyk).

In spite of the threat, there is an understated intimacy between the two as separately and together they fight to find/retain their place in an environment where the mother follows God’s will and is fervent in her belief in salvation for the unsaveable.

Austere, shot with the muted colours of early winter, a minimal score and nuanced performances create a restrained yet simmering drama of quiet intensity.

Rating: 76%

Screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival

‘Dear Son’

Dear_SonA Tunisian domestic drama that evolves into a desperate search by elderly parents as their only child disappears from school days before his final exam.

A quiet, unassuming film that focuses on the everyday – the pressures at school, a father approaching retirement – until Sami disappears without warning to join ISIS in Syria.

Director Mohamed Ben Attia (Hedi) avoids action and melodrama in following Sami, instead electing to stay with the secular parents Mohamed Dhrif and Mouna Mejri as they come to terms with the impact of their son’s actions. It’s a (little too) slow, intimate yet dignified film, as much an exploration of family relationships as it is a pertinent narrative of jihadism and newspaper headline importance.

Rating: 53%

Screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival

‘Queen of the Desert’

qotd_posterA somewhat episodic telling of the fascinating story of Gertrude Bell, the Arabian explorer and adventurer who provided insight into the complexities of the region in the early 20th century.

Director Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu the Vampyre) has chosen to simply chronicle Bell’s story (competently played by Nicole Kidman – The Others, Moulin Rouge) resulting in a sumptuous but vapid sweep of the desert. And why focus on Bell’s relationship with men considering everything she achieved?

Rating: 35%