Racial attitudes inspected in a tough documentary, in a bit of history and a biting satire
He’s stranded on an island when giant waves overturns his boat. He climbs a mountain, finds food and is watched by a pack of playful crabs. He realizes he’s lonely. Three times he builds a raft to get back to people. Each raft is shattered by a giant red turtle which he eventually immobilizes by flipping upside down on the beach. I don’t want to reveal more plot except to say there’s a woman, a garden of Eden aura and a baby. Much later there’s a tsunami. All this is animated in simple drawings and watercolors. The effect is magical. The artist, Michael Dudok de Wit, is Dutch and won an Oscar years ago for a short animation. Japan’s Studio Ghibli invited him to create a film for them and he’s the first non-Japanese ever to do so. The meaning may be elusive but the art strong. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5
A UNITED KINGDOM: Even the filmmakers admit they never heard of this story until they took on this project. But it’s a natural for both Amma Asante, who also directed Belle, about mixed-race prejudice, and David Oyelowo, who also starred as Martin Luther King, in Selma. Here he’s Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana, as it is now known, and heir to his country’s throne in 1948. He’s a student in England, falls in love with a white woman (Rosamund Pike) and marries her. Consternation breaks out. The film sharply explores it and along the way points out every slight Africans had to put up with. Even a prince couldn’t be served alcohol on an airline flight.
The film isn’t as moving as it should be because it buries the personal drama in the politics of the case. Bechuanaland, as it was known back then, was a protectorate of the U.K. Apparently, that meant control, judging by the officious meddling in this affair and the not-so-subtle threats by a British official, played very effectively by Jack Davenport. The Brits were afraid the scandal might antagonize nearby South Africa which was just starting to set up its apartheid system. There were also objections from the prince’s own relatives, associates and ordinary people. The film dares to show it on both sides, as well as to take a swipe at colonialism and call it imperialism. The love story though is shown with proper decorum. (5th Avenue Theatre) 3 out of 5
GET OUT: Though it’s billed as a horror movie created by a comedian, think of like this: a biting critique of modern racial attitudes in America. There’s actually not a lot of horror. What it does have is a slow and deliberate unveiling of an eerie mystery involving whites and blacks.
Our hero Chris gets into it even though he’s warned “Don’t go to a white girl’s parents’ house!” Does he listen? No. What could be the matter? His girlfriend’s parents are a doctor and a psychiatrist. Her brother is a martial arts fan but pretty normal. One by one hints appear that something is amiss. The dad (Bradley Whitford) is awkwardly friendly to him. The mom (Catherine Keener) offers to hypnotize away his smoking habit (and eventually does, against his knowledge). Two black employees, a cook and a gardener, are always serene and smiling. The story advances cleverly to a revelation that’s surprising, not that well-explained but pretty harsh about white people. This is a fairly smart satire of the racial divide from the African-American side. It’s entertaining and very involving thanks to the writing and directing by Jordan Peele who’s become big with his TV comedy and the laconic but excitable Daniel Kaluuya in the lead role. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: Zombie movies are a hard sell these days. They’re out of fashion, maybe because they’ve gotten repetitive. That unfairly hurts this one from England by Scottish director Colm McCarthy. It’s an unusually intelligent and restrained entry, dishing out far more suspense than gore. And it’s got an endearing new child actor in the lead. Sennia Nanua is completely natural as a young girl in the close control of a steel-tough soldier (Paddy Considine), an ice-cold scientist (Glenn Close) and a sympathetic teacher (Gemma Arterton). Slowly we find out why.
She’s one of the zombies, known here as “hungries,” who were produced by a fungal infection. But in a development said to have never been seen before, there’s now a second generation. A whole class-room of these “neo-nates” are being studied in hopes of finding a vaccine. When a horde of zombies bursts into the school and lab, she, her adult handlers and a couple of other soldiers have to escape. Out on the road they’re always in danger of being spotted, have to fight off zombies more than once and get into loud arguments over how much they have to do to keep the girl alive. Within her, meanwhile, two impulses, human and non-human, are also at war. The smartly-directed film and Sennia’s acting make that struggle emotional and intense. (It’s only in one theatre, The Park, and video on demand.) 3 out of 5