May 31, 2011
Nazis, newspapers and Nuremberg
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The four main characters go their separate ways at first, but their lives continually intersect over the decades, sometimes with catastrophic results. As the women reconnect, late in life, at a funeral, they are able to make peace with their history.
“‘Bride Flight’ is a film about roots, about surviving,” Sombogaart said, “about the power, the strength of people to restart a life in a country where they speak another language, have another culture. It is about realizing and living your dreams. But the movie also tells you that people can’t flee from their past. One day the past will overtake them.”
Opposites attract in “The Names of Love,” opening July 1, a French comedy by filmmaker Michel Leclerc that has profound issues at its core.
Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin) is an uptight, 40-ish scientist who investigates communicable animal diseases. During a radio interview, he meets Bahia Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier), a seductive, young, free-spirited political extremist who converts men to her radical viewpoint by seducing them and planting her ideas into their minds at opportune moments. She is immediately taken with Arthur, whom she considers a formidable challenge.
They become lovers, both with shadows hovering over their lives. Arthur is the son of a French man and a Jewish woman who was hidden as a child during the Holocaust and never speaks of her past or her ethnicity. Bahia, the daughter of an illegal Arab immigrant from Algeria and a radical French woman who married to make a political statement, was repeatedly molested as a child by her piano teacher.
The film is very much about being the “other,” and deals with such issues as the relations between Arabs and Jews, French attitudes toward foreigners, anti-Semitism and immigration.
Are you reading this article online, or are you holding a hard copy of the paper?
As newspapers are losing readers and advertisers to the Internet, and as many are folding, the lines are being drawn between traditional print media and the so-called “new media.” Questions about the value of unfiltered news posted by “citizen journalists,” as opposed to the work done by vetted reporters with proven credentials, are being widely debated. Director Andrew Rossi got heretofore unavailable access to the inner sanctum of The New York Times, the reputed gold standard of print outlets, which now finds itself struggling in the current media environment. His film, “Page One,” opening June 24, reveals that the tried-and-true methods of authentic journalism are still vibrant at the Times. But, in an interview, Rossi vividly recalled one telling incident.
“I arrived at the Times newsroom to find Brian Stelter, the former blogger who now covers media for the paper, hovering over his computer, watching the video of a U.S. Apache helicopter shooting down two Reuters journalists and several Iraqi civilians. It had just been leaked by WikiLeaks. The talk in the newsroom was all about how the leak was a modern-day version of the Pentagon Papers — and an example of how the Times wasn’t the all-powerful presence it once was.”
Rossi added, “The movie really looks at how the gap between “old” and “new” is closing. In the film, we see David Carr, the Times’ intrepid media columnist, vehemently defending on-the-ground reporting while extolling the value of Twitter in connecting him to a ‘wired collective voice.’ So the Times itself is actually a great example of an institution that’s figuring out this new news environment. The question is, what will be gained and lost as old and new continue to collide and converge?”
From the halls of The New York Times and “all the news that’s fit to print,” we move to the offbeat documentary about the bizarre exploits of former beauty queen Joyce McKinney, who fell desperately in love with a young Mormon man and pursued him relentlessly. Filmmaker Errol Morris interviews McKinney and several of the men who became involved with her story in “Tabloid,” scheduled to open July 15.
During the 1970s, McKinney became enraptured with Kirk Anderson, who suddenly disappeared from her life when he was sent by the Mormon Church to do missionary work in England. She claimed he was abducted by the Church, and she set out for England to “liberate” him. What occurred next is open to dispute.
With the help of her friend, Keith May (K.J.), McKinney took Anderson to a cottage in Devon, where she chained him, spread-eagled, to a bed and had sex with him repeatedly over the next few days. She insisted it was all consensual and that he was able to leave at any time. Once he did get free, he reported to the police that he had been kidnapped, held against his will, chained to the bed and raped. McKinney was arrested and spent three months in a British prison before being released on bail. She and May, her co-defendant, fled the country and returned to the United States. In 1984, she was arrested in Utah for allegedly stalking Anderson, who was married by then, at his work, and, before she could stand trial, she again fled and evaded prosecution. According to the film, McKinney remains a fugitive from justice.
Her escapade in England became fodder for the British tabloid press, which followed McKinney relentlessly, a situation she claims caused her great distress. Morris said the British have a view of tabloid culture that is different from ours.
“I think that both the Brits and the Americans are capable of extremes and excess, maybe just not the same kinds of extremes and excess. It is interesting to me that this was a very newsworthy case in the U.K., but really did not make it to this side of the Atlantic. People were scarcely aware of it over here.”
Reporter Peter Tory of England’s Daily Express, says in “Tabloid” that he filed McKinney’s story as she told it. In contrast, Kent Gavin, a photographer for the Mirror who also appears in the film, says he uncovered pornographic shots of McKinney, along with evidence that she had worked in the sex trade. She denies his allegations and claims that the photos were doctored.
Her odyssey ends with the cloning of her dog after his death, along with her stated goal of writing a book about her “very special love story.”
Referring to the movie as his favorite project, Morris said, “It’s one of the oldest kinds of stories about romance and love. What gives it an unusual character here is that Joyce persisted in this for so many, many, many years. It became, if you like, a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s of interest. But I think it’s an incredibly complex story, an interesting one.”
As to whose version of events is the truth, Morris said, “I don’t know what really happened in that cottage. Did she rape Kirk Anderson? It seems far-fetched. Did she abduct him at gunpoint? Perhaps. Alas, we’re playing with an incomplete deck. Kirk Anderson won’t talk, and K.J. is dead. I don’t think she’s a completely trustworthy narrator, no.”
In the movie, Tory comes to the conclusion that McKinney is “barking mad.” Whether she is, or merely misunderstood, is left for the viewer to decide.
As scandals go, the one surrounding financial fraud Bernie Madoff was a case of epic proportions. So far, there have been a few films centering on Madoff, and more are being planned. Now there is a movie about the whistleblower who spent some 10 years investigating Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and trying in vain to get the regulators, the press and anyone else who would listen, to do something that would stop the swindler. “Chasing Madoff,” opening Aug, 26, is based on the book “No One Would Listen,” by Harry Markopolos, a securities analyst who needed all of five minutes to realize that Madoff Securities was a scam that was fleecing investors out of billions of dollars.
In his preliminary research, director Jeff Prosserman discovered the report titled “The World’s Largest Hedge Fund Is A Fraud,” that Markopolos had given, in vain, to the SEC in 2005.
“Why did no one listen to Markopolos?” Prosserman wondered. “Who else was guilty that had yet to be brought to justice? And, most grippingly, what personal tolls did he endure? I was absolutely convinced that this story needed to be revealed to the world.”
The documentary plays like a detective saga as Markopolos and his fellow sleuths uncover the details of the deception, which reached across the globe, along with the complicity of other individuals and organizations.
“Although Madoff is currently serving a 150-year prison sentence, I believe there are hundreds, if not thousands, who aided and abetted the scheme that will evade justice,” Prosserman observed. “Some suggest that the funds that were feeding their client’s money into Madoff were duped, but when you do the research it becomes extremely difficult to buy that argument. These funds were making too much money.”
The director continued, “Many of these people were willfully blind. They were greedy, and with less than a dozen arrests made since the scandal collapsed, they’re still out there.”
But it is the SEC that gets the brunt of the blame. The film includes footage in which members of a Congressional investigating committee excoriate representatives of the regulatory agency for not doing their job.
“You have to wonder,” Prosserman said, “that if the regulators were not able to stop a fraud this large, how will they uncover much smaller frauds in the future? Everyone receives a bank statement every month. We each trust that what that particular institution states is correct. I hope after they see the movie, people are outraged by what they discover. ‘Chasing Madoff’ is a warning. This isn’t over yet.”
As for the summer’s blockbuster, “X-Men: First Class” opens June 3 and is based on the Marvel comic book about mutants who battle threats to the world. The film contains a Jewish character called Magneto, who is a survivor of Auschwitz that rejected his human nature and his religion in favor of identifying as a mutant driven to confront the oppression of his adopted species.
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