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Reviews for November 20th, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      There aren't too many political docs like Democrats which follows the struggles of two politicians in Zimbabwe as they help to draft a democratic constitution during the reign of dictator Robert Mugabe, who has been President of Zimbabwe since 1980. One politician, Douglas Mwonzora, represents the Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.), the opposing party to Mugabe's ZANU-PF, represented by politician Paul Mangwana. Both Mangwana and Mwonzora must work together to draft the constitution in spite of the political tensions between them. Director Camilla Nielsson provides you with unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to both politicians thereby allowing Democrats to be both fair and balanced. It's frightening to observe how daunting the process of drafting a constitution is in Zimbabwe despite. One can only imagine that it would be much more challenging to implement the constitution, though, once it's drafted and passed. Just like in every country though, democracy is easy to lose, but very difficult to win back especially when tyranny and corruptions runs rampant. Even if you're not a big fan of politics, you'll probably still find yourself entertained and riveted by frictions between the M.D.C and ZANU-PF parties, and fascinated by how charismatic both politicians turn out to be. Kudos to Nielsson for humanizing Mangwana and Mwonzora in ways that the mainstream media rarely if ever accomplishes. In other words, Nielsson is a not only a talented film director, but also a true journalist. Democrats opened Wednesday, November 18th at Film Forum. It would make for an interesting double feature with another political documentary opening this weekend, Sweet Micky For President.


Directed by Jonas Carpignano


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Sundance Selects.
Opens at IFC Center.


Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Cohen Media Group.
Opens at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

The Night Before

Directed by Jonathan Levine


Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Our Times

Directed by Yu Shan Chen

      After listening to a cassette tape of her favorite singer, Andy Lau, Lin Truly (Joe Chen Qiao-en) reminisces about her experiences in high school back in the 90's. Back then she was shy, quiet student (now played by Vivian Sung) and pining for the school's most popular athlete, Ouyang Extraordinary (Dino Lee Yu-hsi). When she passes a chain letter to Hsu Taiyu (Darren Wang), a trouble-making school bully, she ends up as his assistant and gradually befriends him while Ouyang dates Tao Minmin (Dewi Chien Ting-yui) whom Taiyu has a crush on.

      Our Times remains captivating and engrossing because it's relatable and fundamentally grounded in realism. Every adult at some point looks back at their life as a teenager to reassess their adult life or to experience certain epiphanies. Director Yu Shan Chen makes the reassessment quite delightful to watch. At the same time, the relationship between Lin Truly and Taiyu evolves in unexpected ways which will ultimately tug at your heartstrings. Vivian Sung is a very talented and charismatic actress who carries the film quite well as the protagonist, even during the more emotionally-driven scene. There's also some witty humor providing comic relief, i.e. confusing Andy Low with Andy Lau (it's probably even funnier if you understand Taiwanese). Admittedly, Our Time does run a little but too long with its running time of 2 hours and 14 minutes, but it's still a heartfelt, tender and engaging romantic drama.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Magnum Films.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.
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