Lorna Codrai is a freelance journalist based in the UK and the UAE. She writes about film, television, lifestyle, travel, and Middle Eastern culture.
“I was a violent child. Anyone that got in my way was fair game. Don’t go thinking all violence is the work of hateful men. Sometimes it’s just the way a fella makes sense of his world.” This opening statement by Douglas “Arm” Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) foreshadows the brutal, yet unexpected nature of director Nick Rowland’s feature film debut and the emotional journey anti-hero Arm is to endure in this Irish crime drama.
There is an old Hollywood superstition that says any film with a question mark in its title will be a failure. 20 minutes in and I was blaming the question mark for cursing Elise Duran’s undemanding Can You Keep a Secret? However, the film’s lackluster script and dull, clichéd formula are the true culprits behind the film’s ultimate letdown, despite two charming lead actors who, frankly, deserve stronger material.
Apocalypse Now is as renowned for its disastrous three-year production as it is for its stark, realistic portrayal of the Vietnam War. Never straying far from any critic or fan’s top ten list, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war epic has achieved almost cult-like status, and no war film has captured the depravity of war the same way since.
Arab representation within Hollywood is rife with stereotypes and, generally, Islamophobic with its portrayal of Arabs and Muslims. Sufficient representation is scarce—even less so in animation. Thus, it’s quite refreshing to see The Knight and the Princess—which is Egypt’s first animated feature ever, and has been 20 years in the making.
The Journey Is the Destination is based on the true story of photojournalist and activist Dan Eldon. His tale is an inspiring one, albeit heartbreaking as well. Born in London and raised in Kenya, Eldon achieved so much during his short 22 years. He was a champion of human rights and an artist, having kept numerous personal fine art journals documenting his travels to 42 countries.
How often have you sat around with your friends pondering life’s great mysteries or discussing socio-political issues? How often have these discussions occurred in your pyjamas over cereal? This is what director and co-writer Sophie Kargman presents in her short film Query, alongside co-writer and producer Ryan Farhoudi. The topic of societal norms regarding sexuality is openly debated between two young males over the course of one day.
Escape at Dannemora—based on the extraordinary true story dubbed “the Shawshank case” by the media—is a seven-part miniseries starring Patricia Arquette, Benicio Del Toro, and Paul Dano. Arquette stars as Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, a seamstress working at a maximum-security prison who becomes entangled in a complicated love triangle between convicted killers, Richard Matt (Del Toro) and David Sweat (Dano).
In 2015, icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin reteamed for the first time since 9 to 5 (1980) for Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris’ television series Grace and Frankie. The series follows retired beauty mogul, Grace Hanson, and hippie art teacher, Frankie Bergstein, as they try to navigate their lives after their lawyer husbands, Robert and Sol (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston), announce they have been having a decades-long affair and now plan to get married.
The difficulty of finding a satisfying ending combined with the long-term investment you bring to a show makes the few who do wrap up cleanly all the more sweet, so this month for our Staff Inquiry, we’re highlighting some of the series that left us feeling just right.
LORNA CODRAI – 12 MONKEYS (2015-2018)
Prior to her debut fiction feature film Son-Mother, Mahnaz Mohammadi’s documentary work focused heavily on her activism. A prominent women’s rights activist, Mohammadi was jailed for five years in 2014 for allegedly collaborating against Iran with the BBC, and for “propaganda against the state,” which she staunchly denies. Mohammadi has a history of arrests and incarceration due to her work of campaigning for women’s rights throughout Iran.
After the premiere of his latest short film, Manara, at the Venice Film Festival in 2019, director Zayn Alexander explained that the film grew out of his angst and frustration with Lebanese culture and its obsession with appearances, and the picture perfect illusion forced to remain intact towards the outside community.
Before reforms in January 2018, getting caught with illegal drugs in Iran—whether 30 grams or 50 kilos— carried the death penalty. Even then, Iran has one of the world’s highest drug addiction rates. As the title of director Saeed Roustaee’s Just 6.5 suggests, there are roughly 6.5 million addicts in the country. Roustaee’s brutal action-thriller exposes the shocking truth of Iran’s deepening drug problem, and delivers a searing look into a side of Iran seldom seen in Middle Eastern cinema.
After Un Fils (A Son) screened at the 19th Brussels Mediterranean Film Festival in December 2019, director/writer Mehdi M. Barsaoui stated that he tried to describe “the cultural impact that religion can have on our daily life and on the situation of women.” Barsaoui was determined to “make a film about the emancipation of women and men,” as well as discuss important issues within modern Arab society.
Leonardo DiCaprio — now that is a movie star name. You say that name and everyone including their grandmother knows who he is. Everyone has their connotations about him; their opinions, their favourite performance and their favourite film, and most millennials likely had a 90s Leo poster on their bedroom wall growing up.
“Is this a women’s rights thing?” skeptical onlookers ask a young Saudi doctor who’s announced she’s running for local council in The Perfect Candidate, which recently screened at the London Film Festival. It’s a rather apt question to raise in director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s fourth feature film—and her second made in Saudi Arabia—given the Kingdom’s recent breakthroughs for women’s rights.