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— Claire C.
Film Reviews
Parts Known & Unknown

"Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent" - The popularity of Anthony Bourdain’s well known series, Parts Unknown, is all about revealing people and places as yet undiscovered. But what about the first well-known “celebrity chef” who, to this day, remains an unknown mystery?  The answers are not to be found in some secret recipes, but in a study of one extraordinary man’s unique personal gifts and baggage. This was Mountain Shadow's selection for May, 2017, and a Bay Area premiere.Click on the image above to read a Mountain Shadow review.

Free and Clear

A Review ofAsghar Fargadi's Oscar-winning film, "The Salesman" - In Arthur Miller’s 1948 theatrical classic, Death of a Salesman, the main character plays the role of a disgruntled shell of a man; exhausted from a life spent peddling some unnamed commodity that ends up being as meaningless as the sum of all his days.  Willy Loman is plagued by his failures that are a heavier burden to bear than the suitcases full of worthless wares he carries. In the end, he puts an end to his embittered life; but not before inflicting plenty of pain and misery on those around him. In the course of Asghar Fargadi's Oscar winning film, The Salesman, Emad is left to deal with the aftermath of a suspected and presumed assault on his wife, Rana. But the cost of revenge can be both deadening and deadly. To read the full review of this gem of a film, click on the image above.

When Poetry and Politics Mix

As the son of a railway worker, Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto’s sympathies for the working class are in his bones. But when he achieves success as a world-renowned poet and later Nobel prize winner, he changes his name to Pablo Neruda; and joins a company of world-class intellectual elites like the artist, Pablo Picasso, and existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre. He is not just an esoteric, rabble-rouser poet. In 1948, he is also a Chilean opposition leader, whose political views are subversive to the status quo; where gross economic disparity reigns and divides a nation. When a warrant is issued for his arrest, he will run only fast enough to elude and torment his would-be captor. The escapade will blur fiction and non-fiction as an epic cinematic poem. To read the full review, click on the image above.

A Dramedy on Thin Ice: A Review of HERE IS HAROLD

Charlie Chaplin once said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” There’s also hardly anything funny to be found in the first fifteen minutes of this Norwegian cinematic drama-comedy; but subtle humor that underlies much of the way the real world exists will break through the ice and expose both the absurdity and touching beauty of life. Click on the image above to read the full review.

Two Left Feet

Fúsi is a baggage handler at the airport, where he spends his days handling everyone else’s arrivals and departures. Unfortunately, it suits him well.  Enter Sjöfn, a spunky, but seriously flawed chick who introduces Fúsi to a whirlwind of new experiences he could hardly have conjured up for himself.  Fúsi then goes through all the pains of growing up; from the innocence and naiveté of childhood to a kind of mature and compassionate affection some adults never achieve. Click on the image above to read more about this little gem of a film.

An Impossible Dream

As a place known only too well as one of international conflict and internal civil strife, modern day Iraq might seem an unlikely place for a film about two star-crossed lovers following an impossible dream.  In fact, the director of El Clasico, Halkawt Mustafa, has described how filming on location in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” was interrupted numerous times by nearby bombings. At the same time, perhaps the point of the storyline is made all the more poignant and persuasive when the internal ways of the heart can withstand all the slings and arrows the outside world can heave, and still triumph in the end.  With no U.S. commercial release for this film (only a few select festivals), this was Mountain Shadow's exclusive screening and selection for October, 2016. Click on the picture above to read the full review.

2nd Annual Short Film Competition

With the conclusion of our 2nd Annual Short Film Competition the weekend of September 16-17,  the consensus is in: “Wow, ten spectacular films by some remarkable filmmakers!”  All ten Finalists were winners for having beat out hundreds of other submissions; but you can click on the image above to find out the tallied results from the 300+ ballots cast from our three audiences. You can watch a YouTube video of the Q&A with the filmmakers here.



For most players, chess is a game of attrition; knocking off enough of the opponent’s pieces, in order to expose the vulnerability of the king and its capture.  But for the skilled player, cornering the king with an inescapable checkmate can sometimes be accomplished when your opponent still has plenty of other powerful pieces left on the board. Even a few lowly pawns can potentially become the victors.  And sometimes with the help of a knight on horseback. It is the peculiar ability of the knight’s horse to leap over other pieces -- forwards or backwards, up two squares and over one, or vice versa -- that can sometimes be most effective. And therefore, sometimes it’s really just a matter of backing the right horse against all odds. To read a Mountain Shadow review of "The Dark Horse," click on the image above.

Exchanging Notes

THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS:  Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble

By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director

[This film was Mountain Shadow's selection for July, 2016]

Through the dramatic stories of an ensemble of characters, this new documentary film drives home the challenge for us to rethink how different cultures, with their unique traditional music lore, get preserved, honored and shared; to either evolve and interact, or clash. Any film intended to celebrate the universal thread of music, with the diversity of its expression in different cultural traditions, all sounds lovely. In point of fact, the Silk Road Ensemble’s throbbing rhythms and the joyful expressions so clearly expressed by its members, sounds powerfully persuasive. But we live in a world filled with more than harmonious musical notes. In focusing on the lives of several members of this ensemble, we are confronted with the unavoidable intersection of happy musicians colliding withever-present political intrigue and international conflict. Click on the picture above to read the full review and commentary.

When Walls Build Bridges

A Commentary & Review of A NEW COLOR
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
[This film was Mountain Shadow's selection for June 2016]

Artistic expression is typically reserved for gallery exhibitions; and by those with a pedigree of obvious talent.  Even so-called “folk art” required the credentialed critic’s approval and the test of time, before posthumous recognition was even a possibility. But when Edy Boone found the gumption within herself to demand that the city’s public housing authority in Harlem clean up the squalid conditions in which she was trying to live a life, she was given some paint, and left to her own imagination and devices. As a result, she found herself and her vocation in a term she’d never known before: muralist.

Click on the image above to continue reading.