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photo: Courtesy of IMDB

Whale Rider (Pán veľrýb) - Drama by Niki Caro. One of the most discussed and praised pictures of this year, Caro's second film, based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera, has been nominated for and won a number of awards at international film festivals. Taking place within a tight-knit tribe of New Zealand's indigenous Whangara people, the film focuses on a young girl, Pai, who must combat patriarchal traditions to prove to her elders that she is the true descendent of Paikea, the tribe's first chief, who initially arrived in New Zealand on the back of a whale many centuries ago.


Far From Heaven (Ďaleko do neba)- Drama by Todd Haynes. With the onset of Nazism, many of German cinema's best flocked to Hollywood and revolutionized American film.


photo: SPI International

This was most consistently evident in film noir and horror, but two directors - Douglas Sirk and Max Ophuls - took a slightly brighter, but equally critical take on what was then contemporary America. Taking melodrama to its glorious extreme, the two directors, in the late 1940s and the 1950s, perfected what came to be unfairl and, shortsightedly known as "women's pictures" or "weepies" - films that focused primarily on the difficult and often tragic lives of suburban American women. Using highly exaggerated emotions, sweeping music, and (in some cases) vibrant, otherworldly colour, Sirk and Ophuls hinted at the sexism, homophobia, and racism simmering underneath mainstream America's supposed picture-perfectness. Todd Haynes, one of contemporary cinema's very best, consciously made Far From Heaven in the style of these films. Though it directly addresses the critiques that the originals could only hint at, Haynes' film remains a most lovingly crafted tribute - right down to every lavender scarf, misty eye, string crescendo, and beautifully decaying leaf.

Prepared by Jonathan Knapp

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