ZIMBABWE: “'Life is Beautiful' is structured like a fable where emotion reigns supreme”
In Life is Beautiful, Italian director Roberto Benigni took an enormous risk in trying to marry light comedy with the stark tragedy of the concentration camps. Benigni plays the role of a Jewish man during World War II who, together with his wife and son, is deported to a concentration camp. There, he makes his son believe that the camp is just a game, the goal of which is to win a tank. The movie is structured like a fable where emotion reigns supreme. The love and tenderness that this father feels for his family is boundless. The movie’s objective is not to gloss over Nazi atrocities, but rather to flesh out a human story.
RUSSIA: "'Happy Together' is a mesmerizing and sensitive movie”
My favourite movie is Happy Together, a film from Hong Kong directed in 1997 by Wong Kar-Wai. It is a love story about two men from Hong Kong who decide to travel to Argentina. But their adventure goes awry and can be boiled down to an “I love you, I love you not” type of situation. I think it is a masterpiece. The movie is nuanced, mesmerizing, sensual… It’s about life, basically. The two protagonists [Editor’s note: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung] are gay, but the story is not really about that so much as about a couple in crisis. Furthermore, thanks to a carefully crafted aesthetic — black-and-white sequences alternate with colour sequences — the end result is magnificent.
LEBANON: “I have seen 'Cast Away' at least a dozen times, and each time it’s made me cry”
My number one choice easily goes to Cast Away, a movie by Robert Zemeckis featuring Tom Hanks as a sort of modern Robinson Crusoe. Following a plane crash, the protagonist finds himself stranded on a desert island with a volleyball as his only “companion”. Tom Hanks, of whom I’m a big fan, does a wonderful performance. He is the only person in the movie, and we see him go through all kinds of phases: from hope to disillusion, from laughter to tears… He also keeps losing weight as the film progresses [Editor’s note: Tom Hanks lost a lot of weight for this role], which makes the story more believable. I have seen this movie at least a dozen times, and each time it’s made me cry.
FRANCE: “'The 400 Blows' is a movie that resonates deeply with our modern times”
A masterpiece that has marked my generation is La Haine [a film by Mathieu Kassovitz that takes place in low-income French suburbs], but François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows — his very first movie — was an even bigger game-changer when it came out in 1959. I see these two movies as being very similar, in that they push you out of your comfort zone. The 400 Blows deals with the difficult childhood of a 12-year-old boy in 1950s France who struggles with his distant parents and ends up in a juvenile detention center.This movie disrupted French cinema because it was so avant-garde. It speaks of a youth that suffers from the same angst as today’s youth. In short, it’s a movie that resonates deeply with our current society.
USA: “'The Battle of Algiers' served as a case study for the Bush administration in its war on terror”
The Battle of Algiers is an Italo-American movie directed by Gillo Pontecorvo in 1966 that tells the story of the battle that pitted the French army against the Algerian National Liberation Front in 1957. What a movie! This fake documentary, which mixes archive footage and reenactments, is very brave, as it does not try to hide its anti-colonial stance. [The film was censored in France until 2004 because it was considered a propaganda film]. As surprising as it may seem, the movie served as a case study for the Bush administration in its war on terror. Richard Clarke, “Mr. Anti-Terror” under both Clinton and Bush, screened it several times for administration personnel.