Angels Are Made of Light

2019-08-12T21:15:35+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

Angels Are Made of Light Director/ James Longley Watched in theaters Rating 2.5/5   Three school-age brothers are the main characters in James Longley’s Angels Are Made of Light, but you wouldn’t know they are brothers from watching the film. You also wouldn’t know that one of the teachers in the school they attend is their mother. Even though one of the kids calls the teacher “Mother” it comes across as a way of referring to all female teachers, or at least that’s the impression I got. I also got the impression that one of the kids works at a tin salvage shop owned by his father (at least I think that’s his father, perennially bent over a hammer) but I didn’t realize that he is the father to all three boys. I only learned this information from other film reviews I’ve read, which were presumably written by critics after seeing the film in festivals, where they no doubt had access to publicity background material or gained the information from statements by the director. The nine people in the theater where I saw the film were, like me, pretty much in the dark. But, here’s the odd thing: The fact that we were watching members of a family turned out to be completely irrelevant. We never see them together as a family. We don’t see the boys in any sort of brotherly group or engaging in a familiar conversation. We don’t see them with their mother and father in a familial setting. One can only infer [...]

The Distant Barking of Dogs

2019-11-24T21:57:57+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

The Distant Barking of Dogs Director/ Simon Lereng Wilmont Watched on P.O.V. Rating 2.5/5   This tender, quiet film about two young boys’ day-to-day experiences in a rural slice of Ukraine during wartime, is both beautiful and aimless. The Dutch director and cameraman Simon Lereng Wilmont apparently spent 3 years filming the boys, cousins Oleg and Yarick, and their grandmother as they wait out Vladimir Putin’s military assault on their independent country. Wilmont’s eye is sensitive, his distance intimate. His direction is unhurried and respectful. He’s obviously gained the trust of his subjects; the boys nor their grandmother ever seem to be performing for the camera. But at 52 minutes, edited down from the film’s festival-length of 90 minutes, the movie still somehow manages to feel repetitive and unsubstantial. Perhaps the longer cut would help us feel the passage of time more acutely. Maybe there are a couple of dramatic moments that might have upended the rhythm of the picture, its anticipated beats.  As it is, the distant explosions of bombs rather than the distant barking of dogs function as off-screen markers of disquiet and danger, but it is a rather thin sonic hook to hang the film’s momentum on. More effective is the grandmother, a loving and protective presence who suffers from debilitating anxiety, yet still manages to be the one constant in the kids’ lives. I wondered if her voice-over, which is brief, poetic, and expository, was necessary for the film. It was obviously scripted, which left me wondering if these were really her [...]

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