THE ACCOUNTANT OF AUSCHWITZ

Cert 12 Stars 3

Nazi atrocities of the Second World War will never lose their capacity to shock and horrify, and the focus of this brisk and grimly fascinating documentary is the trial of a 93 year old former guard.

Oskar Groning was responsible for collecting cash and personal valuables from prisoners as they arrived at the Auschwitz extermination camp, and in 2015 was charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 people.

Exploring how subsequent changes in legal thought lead to Groning’s belated arrest, his case is used to reflect on the failures of the 1946 Nuremberg trials in their prosecution of war criminals.

MCQUEEN

Cert 15 Stars 4

I’ve only a vague recollection of controversial British fashion designer Alexander McQueen as someone who was on the periphery of the 1990’s Britpop scene.

However by using never-seen before home movies, interviews with family, friends and collaborators, and footage from his catwalk shows, this striking and intimate documentary shows he was a key force of Cool Britannia era and put me straight on the extraordinary talent the working class London lad possessed.

It also conveys the pressures he suffered to maintain his standing in the industry, which contributed to his shocking early death in 2010.

 

 

A CAMBODIAN SPRING

Cert 15 126mins Stars 4

This horrifying documentary explores how Cambodia swapped the tyranny of Communism under Pol Pot for the wild west corruption of a UN-sanctioned free market democracy.

Following the collapse of the brutal Khmer regime, corporate and political corruption was fuelled by the World Bank injecting massive amounts of aid money for urban development.

The forced eviction of citizens from land they had held for generations lead to the ‘Cambodian spring’ of political protest, marked by street demonstrations and a violent response by the army and police.

Award-winning filmmaker Chris Kelly spent the six years shooting this debut feature, which charts the lead up to the country’s 2013 election crisis.

He centres the narrative around two ordinary mothers-turned-activist leaders and a Buddhist monk. All three suffer in different ways for taking a stand against the authorities and vested interests.

There’s no shortage of ambition in his offering a wide-ranging look at these under-reported events, and it makes for a frequently shocking and often compelling watch.

THE DEMINER

Cert 15 83mins Stars 4

Outrageous courage and real-life footage make this bomb disposal documentary a tense and sobering experience.

It’s a humbling tribute to the remarkable Colonel Fakhir Berwari, a Kurd who served in the Iraqi army after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Hours of footage of him defusing IED’s, land mines and pot bombs was captured on smartphones, transferred to DVD and kept in a family suitcase.

He is armed only with old wire cutters, a broken pickaxe, a devotion to duty and a supreme sense of stoicism. In his first year in Mosul he deactivated over 600 bombs, and in response the US military dubbed him ‘Crazy Fakhir’.

With his wife and eldest son wearing black while interviewed, a sense of doom hangs over the film.

We see him surviving multiple blasts, frequently hospitalised and losing a leg. All of which had me cowering behind my seat every time he disappeared into a doorway, but his indefatigable spirit is never broken.

 

BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

Cert 12 Stars 4

This eye-opening documentary on the extraordinary life of one of Hollywood’s most beautiful stars is almost worthy of it’s astonishing subject. 

Lamarr was a much-married Austrian-born actress who escaped the Nazi’s to star in Hollywood epics such as 1949’s Samson and Delilah.

Meanwhile she developed a radio guidance system, the principles which are the basis of Bluetooth wireless technology, meaning Lamarr helped invent the internet. But she never received any credit or money for her work.

Her fame lives on in the musical Little Shop of Horrors, where she’s name-checked by a murderous alien plant. And on that bombshell..

I AM HEATH LEDGER

Cert 12 Stars 3

This sincere and respectable documentary serves as a reminder of the talent and charisma of Australian teen pin-up turned Oscar winning actor, Heath Ledger.

However it’s far from exhaustive and there are some notable omissions such as mother of his only child, actress Michelle Williams.

Having won his acting spurs and world wide acclaim for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, he died aged only 28 in 2008, from an accidental intoxication from prescription drugs.

His posthumous awards victory came for a majestically feral performance in 2008’s Batman film, The Dark Knight. For millions of fans, he will always be the Joker.

 

 

 

WALK WITH ME

Cert PG 93mins Stars 1

There’s not much to be learned from this  fly on the wall documentary which amounts to little more than an advertisement for a Buddhist retreat in France.

The filmmakers seem to have traded access for acquiescence and checked their critical faculties at the front gate.

Bells regulate the lives of the shaven-headed and celibate monks, at the sound of which all activities pause, in order to encourage ‘mindfulness’.

However enlightenment can be anyone’s for a mind expanding and eye-opening €550 per-person per-week, for a double room stay at the monastery.

As the film is coy about the prices, I looked them up on their website.

The concept  of ‘mindfulness’ seems to be that life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Well it was actually Ferris Bueller who said that, and he got to drive a Ferrari. Maybe those monks are onto something.