Slumdog Millionaire Wins Big at the Baftas: Danny Boyle’s Mumbai Masterpiece Takes Home 7 BAFTAs

Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach) has astounded critics and audiences alike with his latest, greatest film Slumdog Millionaire. Based on the book Q and A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire is often described as a “feel-good” movie, but that is not all it is. Boyle delved deep into Mumbai street life to portray a story that is, at times, almost unbearable. There’s beatings, death and horrifying scenes of child labour in the film, and yet it still manages to convey feelings of warmth and even humour amongst the children of the slums.

Realism and Romance in Slumdog Millionaire

The film dances along on a whirlwind ride, encompassing a gamut of emotions from anger and pity to pure joy. Most of all, the journey is told with a hope and positivity that lifts the spirits. Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy have between them achieved a drama which whilst true to life is anything but gritty. There’s a dusting of fantasy and romance, and yet enough realism to keep viewers absolutely gripped. Perhaps that is why the film has gone down such a storm.

The Baftas

Slumdog Millionaire was awarded seven Baftas at last nights glittering ceremony in London:

  • Best Director – Danny Boyle
  • Best Film – Christian Colson
  • Adapted Screenplay – Simon Beaufoy
  • Music – A.R. Rahman
  • Cinematography – Anthony Dod Mantle
  • Editing – Chris Dickens
  • Sound – Glenn Freemantle, Resul Pookuty, Richard Pryke, Tom Sayers, Ian Tapp

Other Bafta Winners

The other winners of note at the 2009 British Academy Film Awards were as follows:

 

  • Leading Actor – Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler
  • Leading Actress – Kate Winslett for The Reader
  • Original Screenplay – In Bruge
  • Film Not in the English Language – I’ve Loved You So Long
  • Animated Film – Wall-E
  • Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
  • Supporting Actress – Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Outstanding British Film – Man on Wire

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button also won Baftas for production design, hair and make up, and special visual effects. The prestigious Orange Rising Star award went to Noel Clarke, and the Carl Foreman Award (for special achievement on a British film debut) went to director Steve McQueen for Hunger.

Terry Gilliam Bafta Fellowship

Pinewood and Shepperton studios were honoured for their Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, and finally that crazy, wonderful, incredible man responsible for such brilliant cinema as Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Time Bandits was accepted into the fold. Yes, Terry Gilliam was awarded the 2009 Academy Fellowship. See what he has to say about it here at the Baftas site.

Company Man (review): A CIA Secret Agent tries (and fails) to overthrow Castro in Cuba.

Grammar (and sometimes Spanish substitute) teacher Alan Quimp, played by Douglas McGrath, is so sick of being pushed to get a better job by his wife (Sigourney Weaver) and father-in-law that he comes up with the perfect lie: he is really an undercover CIA agent. When his father-in-law tells him that the only way he could be an agent would be if CIA stood for “Cowering Idiots Association” Quimp is encouraged. He makes such a good spy because nobody would believe he is one. Of course, he isn’t and his lie escalates until he finds himself helping a Russian ballerina, played by Ryan Phillippe, escape the KGB and defect from Soviet Russia. In order to take credit for it, the CIA recruits him and ships him off to a little place where nothing ever happens: Cuba.

Quimp Arrives In Cuba

Once there he meets his fellow agents; Officer Fry (Denis Leary), the Chief (Woody Allen), and the crazy Crocker Johnson (John Turturro). His first assignment is to find Agent X, an agent believed to be leaking information which has resulted in the deaths of undercover agents. In less than a day, Quimp succeeds. If it weren’t for the fact that he “doesn’t have the wits to be a single-agent” the company would be concerned about him being a double-agent. His other purpose in Cuba is to keep the Cubans happy. Agent Johnson believes that Cuba is on the verge of a revolution. Of course the Chief and Quimp agree that they seem happy and their custom of flaming piñatas (which read Batista and Viva la Revolucion on them) is cute. But Johnson is right. When the newly overthrown General Batista (Alan Cumming) arrives at his door, Quimp is thrown into a mad scheme to assassinate Fidel Castro (Anthony LaPaglia) before he fully takes control of Cuba to return power to Batista. To make matters worse, his controlling wife arrives to view his work firsthand so that she can write a book that will make her lose her faith in God if it “does not outsell the Bible”.

The Bay of Pigs

Quimp and his fellow agents embark on a series of ridiculous plans to kill Castro, including making him bald and thus unpopular, to offering him poisoned cigars. At the same time Quimp, as part of his cover, runs a radio station to convince people that they really are happy living in Cuba. Their efforts to unseat Castro and a misinterpreted set of songs Quimp plays set off a chain of events that result in the famous, failed mission that history would call The Bay of Pigs.

The Movie Company Man

Directed by Peter Askin and Douglas McGrath, this movie is a hilarious retelling of a historical event and how it could have happened. Although for the CIA’s sake, the viewer hopes it was fictional. It has a unique way of advancing the plot by beginning with Quimp and another CIA officer (Paul Guilfoyle) trying to explain to a Senator just how the Bay of Pigs disaster occurred. The movie cuts between Quimp’s flashbacks and the secret Senate meeting where he tries to plead his case. Despite coming out in the year 2000 and boasting a great cast, this movie got very little recognition. The vast majority of people who would love it have no idea it exists. The movie is full of great quotes and memorable moments as Agent Quimp bumbles through his new job while trying to make the world a better place using proper grammar and insisting on speaking butchered Spanish.

 

The acting is superb and the sets beautiful. The entire movie is filled with theatre style entrances and exits, making it seem almost like a play instead of a movie; an interesting change from usual movies. Anyone who enjoys secret agent movies, comedies, and a dash of history should hurry out and get this movie.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Anil Kapoor Backs New Trafficking Campaign

If there is a scene we remember clearly from Slumdog Millionaire, it is the scene where vulnerable are blinded. What saves the hero’s eyes is his wonderfully terrible voice, deemed unsuitable for begging and singing on the street by the traffickers. Unfortunately, thousands of children and adults do not share the same luck and fall prey to trafficking for begging. This exploitation plagues all regions, including South East Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor on his interaction with the real life impact of human trafficking in India

Anil Kapoor, one of the lead actors in Slumdog, now joins a team of celebrities backing up the latest anti-trafficking campaign: The CNN Freedom Project: Ending modern-day slavery. Anil discusses his trip to an Indian village suffering from large-scale human trafficking. He speaks with CNN’s Radika Kapur. (“Slumdog Millionaire actor on fighting human trafficking”, CNN, 16 March, 2011)

Human trafficking for begging in China and Jet Li

In China, it is estimated that there are between half a million and one million stolen and trafficked children who beg on the streets. Earlier this year in February, movie star Jet Li gave his support to a social blog that posts pictures of begging children, which can then be recognized online by parents looking for their missing child.

International celebrities: UN Goodwill Ambassadors

Anil Kapoor is among the many public figures who use their social power and spotlight to bring attention to human rights violations. A myriad of celebrities have so far joined anti-human trafficking campaigns. Mira Sorvino, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, and Nicolas Cage are some of the recently appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadors.

The question of trafficking for begging under law

In early 2011, the book Trafficking for Begging: Old Game, New Name drew attention to the problem of trafficking for begging as it stands under international law, arguing for the inclusion of the exploitation in the interpretation of legal norms on human trafficking. The legal questions are far from resolved, however. Whether parents forcing their children to beg may be considered as human traffickers is an open question to which developing legal jurisprudence tries to provide an answer. In 2010 a UK court sentenced parents forcing their children to beg and steal: Romanian parents jailed for forcing their children beg and steal, (Robert Booth, The Guardian, 30 July, 2010). And as the legal and social debate on trafficking for begging is far from over, public figures’ contribution to awareness-raising campaigns is ever more needed.

Dystopian Review – The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood’s Dystopia for Women Critiqued

Dystopia is a concept that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can contemplate; after all, if Utopia is nowhere than its antithesis must be everywhere. At the same time, however, Dystopia has a more narrow meaning – it is a locale where very unpleasant things tend to take place, and there is frequently little hope of changing it. For the standard-issue reader, Joe W.A.S.P. Average, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World resonate well. For his wife Jane, The Handmaid’s Tale has a very particular orientation.

Dystopia For Women; Atwood’s Nightmare World

Set in a hypothetical future where the United States government is overturned and replaced with a theocratic regime dubbed The Republic of Gilead, the role of the average woman is devolved to the point of slavery. Facing a particularly grave crisis of fertility, women are (naturally) assigned blame for this crisis and all but the most sinless of married women are reduced to performing the paraphrased role of, as our protagonist Offred puts its, ‘Wombs with legs.’ Ah, but what’s this? What kind of name is Offred? Well, she is of Fred, of course; Fred is the name of the government leader who effectively owns this woman and determines her future. If she is shown to be capable of having a child, she will be forever thanked by society by knowing she need never be challenged in this way again by her next master.

If she fails to have a child, however, she is to be declared “Un-Woman,” and sent to clean up toxic waste in one of the many regions that have been defiled throughout the Republic of Gilead. This barbaric treatment is naturally downplayed to foreign visitors, outsiders who are only allowed to see what the government shows them. This limited picture certainly excludes a wall where people are executed and a label is provided demonstrating the reasons why – a yellow star to show they were Jewish, for example, following a trend reminiscent of The Scarlett Letter. Offred’s existence is a tenuous one, indeed, and the tale of her arrival at this predicament is, as discovered at the end of the novel, a series of tape-recordings of her reminiscence about the days before the government was overthrown and she, her husband and her daughter lived a typical middle-class existence.

The Handmaid’s Tale’s Role in American Culture

As one of the “newer” Dystopian authors, Margaret Atwood’s work is far from ingrained in the American consciousness. While its true that the book is even taught – and, according to an article in The Star (http://www.thestar.com/article/571999), challenged – in some high schools, it hasn’t reached the cult status of other Dystopian novels. While Atwood herself remains an up-and-coming author, with recent novels such as Oryx and Crake continuing her exploration of worlds which are unpleasant – even devoid – of humans, her first novel remains a defining work in her career.

 

The themes Atwood addresses are, at present, not exactly threatening to manifest themselves. The American political system is too strong to be easily disrupted, and even if the leadership of America was eliminated it’s implausible that the military would simply concede to an organization of religious fanatics. A more comparable situation is the one that Iran found itself in, before the rise of the Islamic republic; a country with a largely reviled government that lends itself to a popular overthrow. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for watching the encroachment of religion into public life – should the government begin to ensconce religion in its practices, it falls on the people to rebuke them before things can grow too outlandish.

In short, Atwood’s tale creates a feasible example of an America gone wrong and crossed with a fundamentalist dictatorship the likes of which she is fighting abroad, today, in the real world. As with all Dystopian literature it serves as a warning to resist the forces of totalitarianism, but whereas two of its aforementioned predecessors cater to the common audiences of their day, The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on those who could well fit its Chaucerian title; the plight of women in a world of hellish nightmare.

 


 

Blindness – 2008 Film Dogged By Controversy

Blindness follows a group of unnamed characters as they struggle to survive an epidemic that renders its victims sightless. Rounded up and institutionalized they are left to create a new social order as the outside world slowly succumbs to a blindness bathed in light.

I’m going to have to run headlong into traffic here and say that I thought Blindness was a fantastic film. Though negative swaths of critical review, audiences and even The National Federation of the Blind will beg to differ and have made no secret of their frustration and distaste for the film. Actually it was just this ground swell of negativity that lead me to shuffle Blindness onto my ‘see only if my life has a surplus 120 minutes that I cant possibly do anything else with’ file. In some ways I guess this turned out to be a good thing for now four years after its initial release I can see it stripped bare. Unadorned and free of the clutter that battered and bruised it from the very day of its premier.

2008 Cannes Film Festival

Honored with selection as the opening film for the 2008 Cannes Film Festival it was to receive a brutal 1.3 average out of 4 by Screen International’s Cannes screen jury (which tabulates results polled from a panel of international film critics). Subsequent reviews were no less scathing and this wonderfully sculptured film was set to limp away into obscurity. A shame for there is a hefty swag of talented film making on show here that far and away out paces the lulling and even tempo that now defines mainstream contemporary cinema.

Fernando Meirelles Directs

Fans of the genre will appreciate the intricately constructed post-apocalyptic canvas that director Fernando Meirelles creates here as a backdrop to his vision of a world stripped of its sight. The utter chaos that lays ruin to every aspect of a society that is unfairly weighted toward those who ‘can’ see is the films most enduring element. It is then surprising that quotes the likes of “…it is quite obvious why blind people would be outraged over this movie. Blind people do not behave like uncivilized, animalized creatures.” from the American Council of the Blind would swirl about the film.

Blindness – Controversy Amid the Ruins

From a personal point of view Blindness more than any other film I can recollect extolled the hurdles mastered and surmounted by the sight impaired each and every day. The difference here is that the cast of Blindness are dropped suddenly into their ‘whited out’ world. They are not born into it nor have they had the luxury of learning how to manage it. As the film progresses it is not their blindness that leads the characters to grovel into their base instincts, its fear. That which was once taken for granted is lost and balance shifted, with those who were already blind now able to reign above the scrambling masses. It doesn’t help I guess that in this instance the narrative casts a blind character, The repugnant Accountant as such a negative and opportunist scumbag. But then of coarse there is nothing correct or pandering within this breath of foul air.

The films depiction of rape and the debasement of its female characters has also shouldered a blistering storm. Though again I see anything but gratuitous cinema here with every harrowing moment seemingly essential to the films bitter premise. Bleak and gritty does not always equal poignant cinema but here it works so well at dragging the viewer into frame. It here creates its hell with such putrid clarity that even the most simplest of tasks (bathing, buying food, dressing…) will for many become just that little less taken for granted. Not for everyone but search it out there is much, much more here than initially meets the eye.

Blindness

Tagline: Your vision of the world will change forever.

  • Director… Fernando Meirelles (City of God)
  • Writer… Don McKellar (screenplay) From the novel by José Saramago.
  • Cast:
  • Yûsuke Iseya (Casshern) as First Blind Man
  • Don McKellar (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as The Theif
  • Yoshino Kimura (Masters of Horror – Dream Cruise) as First Blind Man’s Wife
  • Mitchell Nye (GravyTrain) as The Boy
  • Danny Glover (Age of the Dragons) as The Man with Black Eye Patch
  • Alice Braga (Predators) as The Woman with Dark Glasses
  • Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island) as The Doctor
  • Julianne Moore (Children of Men) as the Doctors Wife
  • Gael García Bernal (Babel) as the Bartender/ The King of Ward 3
  • Maury Chaykin (The Sweet Hereafter) as The Accountant
  • DVD Release Date… February 10, 2009
  • Filming Locations… Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Montevideo, Uruguay. São Paulo, Brazil.
  • Runtime… 120 minutes
  • MIRAMAX