Visit Los Angeles in 60 Seconds

LA is a monster. No seriously – Hollywood’s home is massive – even from the air, where its concrete streets and square forms assume an outlandish, almost dystopian form.

On street level, you’ll find many potential X Factor fails who’ve never quite made it into Hollywood’s hallmarks but get by busking at tourist traps such a The Santa Monica Pier at the end of Route 66.

You’ll also find a smattering of celebs here and there, cruising its boulevards in their fancy wheels, oblivious to the reality of life in The Sin City of the West Coast. And then there’s Inglewood…

LA is not for me I must contend (less so after being detained by the immigration authorities who asked me all sorts of irrelevant questions despite my pre-approved ESTA application and valid travel documents).

Every cloud has a silver lining though – thanks to my good pal Paul, who showed us the best of LA in his purring Mustang, I must also admit that I had a great time cruising through the throbbing metropolis.

Here’s how it all went down on our visit to Los Angeles:


Six of the best. This year’s CPH DOX top films

As the third largest documentary film festival in the world, the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (better known as CPH:DOX) had a jam-packed programme that spanned ten days.
The Local’s Charles Ferro and Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk took in a wide range of films in different cinemas across the city and we asked them both to select their three favourites films. Here are their picks, in no particular order.
Director: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Filmed over three years across 60 countries, the mammoth three-hour chef-d’œuvre features close-up interviews with over 2,000 men and women of all walks of life and ethnicities. Running parallel to these compelling interviews, ‘Human’ is also a study of the earth from above, shot with impeccable aerial photography that turns landscapes into dreamy, fantasy-like universes and leaves viewers in a state of awe.
Echoing films such as ‘Baraka’ and ‘Samsara’, this is a film of peerless cinematic quality. The colour grading, sound and technical structure are inch-perfect and Armand Amar’s music score adds a surreal dimension to an already brilliant film. Poverty, war, homophobia, war and immigration are at the core of a film that leaves you with the epic feeling of belonging to something that is bigger, brighter and bolder than oneself: our beautiful planet.
Directors: Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands
The town of Uncertain, Texas – population 94 – is where people go when they want to disappear.  Located in once idyllic bayou country just across the Louisiana border, the town’s financial base is a lake rapidly losing a battle to an invasive plant dumped into it from a home aquarium.
The directors examine the lives of three men with checkered pasts and uncertain futures. We get a look into the lives of Zach, 21 and a diabetic alcoholic whose life will likely become a write off; Henry, a 74-year-old fishing guide who served a term for killing a man and who is in love with a much younger woman who exploits him; and Wayne, a reformed drug abuser-ex-convict obsessed with hunting down a huge wild boar he has named Mr. Ed.
Along with the beauty of the bayous, despite almost hopeless pollution, the beauty of the film lies in the poignant look at what keeps the trio on the tracks: booze, love and the hunt (which drew some dubious snickers from a few viewers who failed to see the point).
‘Uncertain’ relates the human comedy/tragedy without a trace of pathos, and despite a grim outlook for the town, you walk away with the glimmer of hope in your eye.
The Dream of Europe
Directors: Liv Berit Helland Gilberg, Bodil Voldmo Sachse and Jens Blom

Not one for the faint of heart, ‘The Dream of Europe’ is an accurate a depiction as any of what is going on in our world right now. The film follows the work of Frontex, the EU organisation that co-ordinates European border management which, needless to say, has its hands full at the moment.

Shot in locations at the heart of the immigration debate, this film contains disturbing, real-life imagery of the sorts of conflicts that result from border policies on the one hand and the rights of desolate, desperate asylum seekers on the other. All of the above is made all the more relevant given that the quality of the footage is sometimes not the best as some of it is shot by amateurs who’ve gone to areas where few others dare to venture. ‘The Dream Of Europe’ is a well-researched, well-documented work that digs beneath the surface and presents its findings in an uncanny, stripped-bare fashion.

Salam Neighbor
Directors: Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple
‘Salam Neighbor’ was filmed at a refugee camp in Jordan, just a few kilometres from the border to Syria, well over a year before tens of thousands of Syrian refugees began their migration toward Europe. The documentary’s 2015 release date makes it all the more relevant.
The directors gave themselves a fairly simple task: move into a camp with 80,000 people and depict what has now become something of a conceptual term, refugees, as real people. This they achieved, capturing the smiles and the heartaches, and hearts left in ruins like many of the people’s homes.
For this viewer, the genius of the film lies in the editing. The film crew was the first to receive United Nations permission to live in a refugee camp and the start of the narrative seems to dwell on their getting ready for a big adventure. It might be unfair to say they were like a bunch of eager young people preparing for a camping trip, but …  the early prep scenes set the stage for things take a gut-wrenching 180-degree turn. Kudos to the editor for leaving them in.
Lost and Beautiful (Bella e Perduta)
Director: Pietro Marcello
Pietro Marcello merges the storytelling cinematic genre with documentary style to create a compelling fable about the existence of a man, a castle and a buffalo. The three stories intertwine in what might be called – as the film festival takes place in Denmark – a merging of Kierkegaard with Hans Christian Andersen.
The film’s narrator is a male buffalo named Sarchiapone. Doomed to a short life, Sarchiapone gets adopted by the volunteer caretaker of the castle equally doomed due to public neglect. Upon the caretaker’s death, a Tomasso, a masked character of Italian legend, appears to lead the buffalo on a trip across southern Italy to salvation.
The journey takes the viewer across southern Italy while delving into regional myth. The rural setting and peasants who live there play roles in a blend of contemporary life and older legend. Marcello’s imaginative tale treats this rustic environment with all the respect it deserves.
Lost and Beautiful demands the viewer let go of reality to enter a world that mixes fact and fable. As with any true fable, the film has something of a moral to its story and this is the mystery that has been puzzling man since the day he crawled out of the primordial slime: The meaning of life.
The Wolfpack
Director: Crystal Moselle
A story unlike any other you will ever come across, ‘Wolfpack’ is a tale of seven siblings who lived a sheltered existence in the confines of their Lower East Side apartment in New York City.
Prohibited from exiting their flat by their father, who had its only key, the siblings developed a love of cinema that helped them live through their extraordinary ordeal of confinement. Years later, in 2010, sporting waist-long hair and dressed in sunglasses reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ some of the siblings run into film director Crystal Moselle, who befriended the peculiar-looking boys and eventually cinematized their story. Their forays into the outside world had begun earlier in the same year when one of the family brothers, Mukunda, disobeyed his father’s instructions and wandered off into the real world.

Copenhagen Dox 2015-Ten must-see films at Cph Dox 2015

Original article written for The Local Denmark, available here.

Film fans and budding cinema enthusiasts are in for their annual autumn treat as the world’s third largest documentary film festival opens its doors this week.

Running from November 5th to 15th, the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX) was founded in 2003 and has now grown into a mammoth event that encompasses concerts, art exhibitions, professional seminars, exclusive screenings and many other activities under the guise of celebrating the world of documentary filmmaking.

CPH:DOX is devoted to the support of independent and innovative filmmaking in its attempt to build bridges between curious audiences and a diverse palette of art forms within the frames of music and visuals. This year’s festival will be as experimental and as innovative as ever, featuring curation by Olafur Eliasson (you may remember him from his newly-opened Circle Bridge or his global warming ‘wake-up call’) and hand-selected film recommendations from the likes of astrophysicist Anja Cetti Andersen, DR2 Deadline host Martin Krasnik and the former climate minister, Connie Hedegaard.

Ahead of the twelfth edition of CPH Dox, The Local has compiled a list of 10 must-see documentaries that we feel are worth watching.

1. Muhammad: The Messenger of God

Perhaps the most controversial of this year’s batch of films is Iranian director Majid Majidi’s ‘Muhammad: Messenger of God’, one of only two films ever created about the prophet of Islam. With Islam’s strict ban on imagery depicting the prophet, this film has courted controversy and has even resulted in a fatwa against its creators. The first screening of the film will be held at the newly-opened Imam Ali Mosque in Copenhagen and will feature a Q&A session with director Majidi. (Screening times)

2. A Syrian Love Story

Putting a human face on the hordes of refugees that are knocking on Europe’s borders, A Syrian Love Story is the tale of a couple who met in prison many years ago, both doing time for their protests against an oppressive regime. Filmed over five years, the film drifts through the horrors of war and the challenges that they pose to two people who love each other – and their country – more than anything in the world. (Screening times)

3. Above and Below

Whilst science is looking at how to establish the first colony on Mars, there are others, closer to home who have already prepared themselves for what life on the Red Planet is like. The sands of Nevada are home to a parallel society, who, in preparation for apocalyptic scenarios on our earth, have forged a bare and survivalist existence in isolation from the rest of the world. (Screening times)

4. Time / Out of Joint

Einstein would have loved this one, a film set as a sturdy essay that immerses itself to the point of drowning in the concept of time and its potential reversibility and relativity. If it sounds complex, that’s because it is – prepare for a wave of intellectual jargon that will make you question the way things work in our universe. (Screening times)

5. Banksy Does New York

Like him or not, Banksy has become a fundamental player in redefining the way we look at and interact with art. Yes, this fad has been capitalized on by everyone who wants to be hip, but Banksy’s art is still at intriguing as his identity (or lack thereof). Chris Mourkabel’s documentary explores some of the mayhem that Banksy has created in New York, a city at the centre of the street art debate. (Screening times)

6. Behemoth

Part of the ‘Curated By Olafur Eliasson’ series, Behemoth explores one of those problems that we all know exists and want to do something about but in the end wind up contributing to through our purchasing habits. Filmed in the dire, apocalyptically sordid confines of a mine in China, Behemoth Is a tale of struggle and of the underside of a cash-driven economy that has little remorse for those born to toil for it.  (Screening times)

7. Bike Vs Cars 

We love our bikes here in Denmark. We also love the many kilometres of paths that allow us to cruise from A to B with relative ease, but that is certainly not the case in most of the world’s other cities. The bike vs car debate may not be as intense here as it is elsewhere, but this documentary sheds varied perspectives on some of the clashing forces in the argument between two wheels and four. (Screening times)

8. Arabian Nights Vol 1 – The Restless One

Part of a compelling trilogy set in an economically-ravaged but ultimately positive Portugal, this is the first in a long line of poetic anecdotes that delve into the far reaches of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Inspired by the classic Arab text ‘Thousand and One Nights,’ this film is both witty, morose and slightly overwhelming. (Screening times)

9. Of The North

An anthropological foray into what life is like at the northernmost place on earth, featuring footage taken by people who actually live in a hostile and unforgiving wilderness of sub-zero conditions. If you thought that Denmark is cold, this may make you think twice through its unfiltered look at life in the Arctic. (Screening times)

10. The Pearl Button

Soft, poetic genius from Chile, the serene country that gave us the likes of poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda. This is a study of the beauty of nature and the harshness of man, and of indigenous folk and their calm, collected ways. Water is a central element here, set against a backdrop of tense recollection and reflection. (Screening times)