NXNE 2013. Movies Reviewed: Filmage, All Out War PLUS Dirty Wars

Posted in B-Boys, Cultural Mining, documentary, Drones, Music, Punk, Uncategorized, US, War by CulturalMining.com on June 14, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

NXNE is Toronto’s annual indie music festival. It works like this: Right now, all across the city, on the hour, in dozens of nightclubs and spaces, a different band sets up and plays one intense set, straight through. Then, at the next hour, another band plays, and so on and so on. Plus some really famous bands, like The National, playing for free tonight at Yonge-Dundas Square.

There are hundreds of bands in town for this, from across the country and around the world. Punk to dubstep, indie to experimental, folk rock to hip-hop… you name it, it’s here. And there are also music-related movies (that’s my territory), plus art shows, digital workshops, and even comedians. Quite the experience – you should check it out.

So this week I’m going to talk about two entertaining docs having their world premiers at NXNE, plus a very important one that’s in the news.

Dir: Deedle Lacour, Matt Riggle

NXNE is full of rock docs, so you should choose one with music you enjoy. I liked this one, about a largely unknown 80s band called The Descendants. They played non-political, non-scene driven punk-pop like nobody’s business. Eschewing the standard punk clothing and song subjects, they hand scribbled their album covers and dressed however they wanted. They sang about life, love, farting and frustration: songs with non-stop guitars, bass and always, always drums. Their most famous album was Milo Goes to College.

Some of them were only 15 when they started, but the band Milo CU by Atiba Jeffersoncontinued on and off, in different guises for another couple decades. It’s said that they were a decade and a half too early. Listen to the music and judge for yourself. While Filmage isn’t exactly a thrilling documentary, it does have lots of great tracks, cartoon bits and vintage pics to complement the frequent talking heads.

NastyRayAll Out War
Dir: Robert Pilichowski

What was called break dancing or breaking in the 80’s was a form of impromptu street-side dancing that started up alongside rap, graffiti, and other elements of hiphop culture. That was then – this is now. All Out War is about some current B-Boys who engage in the dance form as an intense, corporate-sponsored competition.

Matches are set up, judgements are made, winners and losers are decided on. Dyzee, a Filipino-Canadian from Toronto wants to make something with his life, but has to watch out for competing crews who start gang fights to depose him. TheNessRoof2 Machine — rural, African-American – is doing well. In the deep south where he’s from, the machine says you prove your worth with the three B’s: B-Ball, B-Boy, and BBQ. Caspar’s a white kid from Hollywood, forced by his stage mom to earn money dancing in ridiculous costumes for TV appearances. And Alienness, an old-skool Latino breaker, once part of the Rock-Steady Crew, is trying to get into Canada for the big competition, the All Out War, the King of the Ring.

If it sounds like a boxing competition, then they’re succeeding in their sports metaphor. The whole event is staged just like a boxing (or MMA) match, complete with an elevated boxing ring, a loud announcer, referees and judges who declare the winners. It’s a sudden- death competition, with each match eliminating one of the competitors.

But it makes you wonder – why did they choose boxing as the genre to imitate? Why not, say, skateboard competitions as the model? Or pole dancing? Or figure skating? If anything, it looks most like the Brazilian dance martial art capoeira. It’s almost as if they had to prove that while it’s a dance form it’s still completely macho and manly and all that (there are no women in this competition). Whatever, excellent precise, sharp photography shows some unbelievable moves, spinning on heads, tying themselves into knots and then flipping back to their feet: incredible. All Out War is a fun, wow-worthy competition to see.

From staged competition of all out wars to the nitty-gritty…

Jeremy Scahill in Somalia DIRTY WARS 1 Courtesy Mongreal MediaDirty Wars
Dir: Rick Rowley

Daoud, an Afghan policeman in Gardaz is shot dead at his home by American soldiers, along with three women (two pregnant), when he ventured outside from a birthday party. Then, unidentified special forces (described as “men with beards and muscles”) then dug the bullets out of the dead bodies with knives (to cover up the evidence) and left them to die. At first it was completely denied by the US government

Jeremy Scahill in Yemen DIRTY WARS 3 Courtesy Mongreal MediaThe movie follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill (the man who broke the Black Water scandal in Iraq) as he connects the dots, from Afghanistan, back to Iraq, and onward to Yemen, Mogadishu, and all over.

His big revelations made in this new movie may be somewhat familiar to you, as the things he uncovered have already made it to the front page of newspapers:  the White House has made frequent statements, promises or out-and-out denials about Scahill’s work.. He shows how secretive special ops, like the previously unheard of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) have spread around the world. Set up by Bush, they have run rampant Jeremy Scahill in Afghanistan Dirty Wars 4 Courtesy Mongrel Mediaduring Obama’s reign, operating in places where the US is not even at war, like Yemen, sometimes even assassinating US citizens in their operations. The film outlines the war crimes he uncovered in a series of episodes. It’s a combination Indiana-Jones journalistic adventure, and a sad testament to the excesses of undeclared wars. And it shows how it may be the special ops and drone attacks themselves – the dirty wars of the title – that are fueling the anger of future jihads.

Dirty Wars opens today in Toronto, and Filmage, and All Out War are both playing at NXNE this weekend. Go to nxne.com/film for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

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