Tag Archives: films

Live to Tell: ‘Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The Erika Jacoby Story’

Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The Erika Jacoby Story from Cheri Gaulke on Vimeo.

Great Philosopher Spinoza advised the mankind of how to endure suffering in days of yore: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” The essence of this suprameaning of emotional suffering, which Spinoza also poetically termed Amore Feti (Love of Fate), is to endure what you can’t change but to accept it as it is, for there is a meaning to it in the dark night of the soul.  In the terrible ordeal of the tormented soul, one has two choices to make: to yield to the force of deception calling for total abandonment of hope or to force oneself to turn to the voice of hope to sustain strength of the heart. The sovereignty of humanness is manifested by this holy office of selecting the spiritual choice in the darkest hour of the soul in the deepest valley of the abyss. “Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The story of Erika Jacoby”, a short documentary produced by Harvard Westlake-School, is one such tale of a survivor from the atrocity of moral and physical turpitude as a young child at Auschwitz during World War II.

A curious alchemy of illustrative animation and neorealist documentary delivers a momentum of pathos without elaborately scripted lines or special effects in the most powerfully elliptical way, which adds to the authority of truth that the story itself owns. Ms. Jacoby’s straightforward narration without a prolix litany of her woeful past is felt through the heart of the viewer, and it communicates to the mind of the viewer her smothered traumatic experience at Auschwitz, where she had to witness the death of her beloved and the enormity of evil reincarnate in the Nazis’ mass killing of the Jews and the violence against humanity through the eyes of a young girl.  Accordingly, the film is seen in the perspective of a young child whose innocence betrays ingenuousness of the story and thus delivers the profoundness of such experience that sublimates it into the highest form of Art in the context of regarding Da Vinci’s aphorism of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

This short documentary has chimed the hearts of thousands, including those judges at the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the most highly regarded film festival (note that it’s not an “award” ceremony where only gowns and jewelry and tuxedos and fake smiles are visible.) in the world. It will be shown at the American Pavilion at Cannes this month as part of a series on young, emerging film makers, one of whom includes Ian Kim, who is son of Mr. Harry Kim, a corporate lawyer at a law firm I am privileged to work. The creators of this documentary will appear on stage at Cannes, ergo it will be a festivity of creation, a festivity of humanity. Above all, the fruit of this film is a triumph of human will that rose above the carnage of war and the degradation of dignity and a manifestation of meaning of life, will to meaning, freedom of will as also corroborated by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, founder of Logotheraphy and also a survivor of five concentration camps during World War II. Ms. Jacoby shows us what it means to have hope as long as she lives. Dum Spiro, Spero. This documentary will strike the highest notes of your heartstrings.

 

“Bad Ben-The Mandela Effect” by Nigel Bach – review

Bad.Ben_.4.The_.Mandela.Effect.2018-poster-frontThe smashing success of The Blair witch Project has spawned its eponymous genre of films with its proprietorial low-budget production consisting of indie directors, unknown (or low-profiled) actors/actresses, limited gadgetry, simple scripts, and straightforward plot to evoke an arch of Realism in Reality in touch with the everyday life of the ordinary. In European films, this neo-realism has already been constituted by the works of Lars von Trier in Dancer in the Dark, the Dardenne Brothers in Rosetta, and Vittorio de Sica in The Bicycle Thief. Maybe it’s because the New World is innately rebellious to anything coming from the Old World for the reason that it is simply too sophisticated to appreciate its artistic sensibilities developed through the flight of times. Whatever it might be, now is different. American Cinema Paradiso has never been so teeming with many an ingeniously creative realistic film made by ambitious directors who are not shy to translate their imagoes or imaginative world on screen in a way that makes it look real as impressively illustrated in Nigel Bach’s Bad BenThe Mandela Effect.

The genre of the film blurs on the boundary of comedy and horror. In fact, it delivers the sensuous kicks of laughing and shuddering, putting the viewer on the pleasure roller coaster ride. To begin with, the undeniably irascible bold-headed “Tom Riley,” played by Nigel Bach, who also produced and directed the film, with his thick southern New Jersey accent and the accordant “don’t mess-with-me” attitude is a great subject of comical caricature resembling none other than himself. Then there are the possessed satanic dolls that are more irritable than horrible because they get on Riley’s nerves. Even the profane language Riley employs to covey his frustration and to provoke fear in the evil dolls is not offensive but risible. Besides, the setting of the house, which is also the actor’s real house, renders the plot of the film a sense of verisimilitude, an illusion of watching a non-fiction documentary film based on a real event.

The real gem of this strangely attractive film is how the plot is unfolded with a wicked deception of the eyes and the ears of the audience even without special effects or ingenious editing. How a man like Tom Riley – the porky bald-headed fiftyish curmudgeon- can commend a screen presence would have been a challenge, had it not been for Bach’s natural way of delivering his lines without overtly dramatic emotions  and his elliptical plot of a plausible story of an everyday man experiencing the supernatural in everyday life. In fact, from the moment Riley gets to his new proud and really beautiful house of dream bought at a sheriff’s sale, we take the plot of the film for granted with a foregone conclusion until it gets us to the surprising denouement thereof with the kind of sensation and sensibility that Riley experiences over and over again. In this manner of empathy, we are in Riley’s parallel universe whether we like it or not during the whole film, come what may.

It is both fun and worthwhile to watch this one-man act without boredom for what is worth. It is a motion tessera elliptically put together by bits of Child’s Play, Paranormal Activity, and Twilight Zone studded with crude American sense of humor and practicality of the storytelling that does not impart preposterously and pompously supernatural ambiance. Other acerbic reviews of the film notwithstanding, this film deserves of applaud for its ingenuity to employ a modern theatrical version of ventriloquism, fusing Riley’s amusingly jagged story telling voice with the director’s own impetuous gushing of the realistically uncanny atmosphere he tries to create without elaborately intricate scripts or other fantastic cinematic bells and whistles.

‘Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (TV Movie 1994)’ – review

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The Unlikely Duo in tandem

Tales of mistaken or traded identities between either by the irony of fate or whimsical voluntary submission bespeak our desire of realizing dreams and desires at one fell swoop without drudgery of going through rules and conformations of social norms and mores. From The Prince and the Pauper to Cinderella and to The Trading Places, the basic story lines contextualize the instant social mobility of improving one’s social status and the essence of human nature laid bare in dealing with new milieus. But forget the verbiage of latent sociological theory and academic analysis because after all, we all know that such wish for rapid social escalation is only father to the thought. So why not continue to enjoy the world of wishful thinking entertainingly translated on screen for the sake of art, such as this delightful movie Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (AKA The Whipping Boy)?

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Guess who’s the prince?

The movie has a charm of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, giving it impression of a spin-off from the two stories in all likelihood. But what makes it worth the viewing are the characters whom you find difficult to dislike and the detailed background setting that conjure up the spirit of the time and bring out the personalities of the characters delightfully rendered on screen. The young prince is not really a brat but a lonely child who needs love and attention from his ever busy king father. The prince’s impudent pranks are signals for sending emotional SOS to the king who puts the security of his kingdom before the attention to his one and only child. And there’s a young rat-catcher about the same age as the prince who accidentally finds himself as a whipping boy for the unhappy prince. What happens next is the gem of this movie in their subconscious quest for their cherished ends, their treasures at heart, through their eventful journey together in the unlikely duo of the prince and his whipping boy.

All in all, it is a little cute feel-good movie intended for all ages about what’s really important in life. Yes, we all may know the answer to it, but it really touches us in the denouement of the movie, leaving us with a feeling of warmth, affection, and jolliness, chiming the emotional, sentimental bells of our childlike imagoes. That said, if you want a movie that takes you away from your worries and sadness arising out of living adult life for some time, this movie might do good for you as it did for me for the day.