By LIH Staff
Biographical feature films (also known as bio-pics) were once popular in Hollywood. Remember from 2000 Erin Brockovich or most recently The Social Network? These great films informed and inspired audiences. Every month LIH’s staff will put in our vote for a “must see” film as an exercise to hone our cinephile senses we will review films with positive buzz by word of mouth. Today our focus and discussion will be on “bio-pics.” We hope you enjoy!
The Hurricane: by Open Book
Released in 1999 this bio-pic chronicles the incredible true life story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter where in 1966, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a top-ranked middleweight boxer whom many fans expected to become the world’s greatest champion in boxing. Yet his life was interrupted by a conviction for a Paterson, New Jersey triple murder where he spent nearly 20 years in prison. Narrating Carter’s life, the film concentrates on the period between 1966 and 1985. The film stars Denzel Washington who was nominated for an academy award for his amazing portrayal of Hurricane Carter. What I loved about this film is the glowing depiction of the resilience of humanity that extends beyond skin color or political affirmation. This is a good old-fashion mesmerizing drama about the potent force of small incremental doses of hope. Definitely a “must see.”
Behind The Candelabra: by Parisienne
This film was released May 2013. I chose this film because the story between Liberace and Scott Thorson is superbly told through the acting of Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson. The reason I loved this film and believe is worth seeing is due to the detail of the costumes and production design, which was astoundingly intricate and believable.
I always judge a film, if it has a historical element to it, on whether it has inspired me to go and find out more information about the subject. Gandhi is a long film, it runs for 3 hours and 11 minutes (in the version I watched it had an intermission half way though). The film depicts Mahatma Gandhi’s life from 1893, when he was thrown off a train in South Africa for sitting in 1st class even though he had bought a ticket (at the time 1st class was only for white people), which led him to him to become a non-violent protestor and a prominent figure for the Indian Independence movement, right through to his assassination in 1958. It was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Ben Kingsley (as Gandhi), Edward Fox, Sir John Mills, Martin Sheen, Rohini Hattangadi, Geraldine James and Candice Bergan. Daniel Day-Lewis also has a small part in it! The cinematography is beautiful, as is the film’s score. Ben’s portrayal of Gandhi is amazing. Even though he is soft spoken his words still carry weight. He’s not portrayed as a saint like figure but rather as a man who is just like the rest of us. We see his funny side, his optimism and the love he has of the people around him, yet we also see his struggle to lead and to do the right thing, his frustrations when protestors use violence and his sadness over the many deaths and the split of India when his goal of Indian independence is achieved. The film’s screen writer, John Briley has also done great work on the script. The British are shown as both negative and positive figures. It doesn’t shy away from the oppression and brutality the British dished out, but it shows many British people helping India’s fight for independence and also the conflict of those in power but agree with Gandhi’s cause (a particularly noteworthy performance is by Trevor Howard who plays the judge in Gandhi’s sedition trial). Also the tension between Hindus and Muslims is portrayed well. It’s not one dimensional either and you see both sides angry yet frightened of the changes and the division of the country.
It is obvious that this film is labour of love for Richard Attenborough. With his care and attention and the talent of the amazing cast and crew, a beautiful and inspiring film was created about one of the world’s most fascinating person! It deserves all the awards it won and it still maintains an 88% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes despite it being made in 1982. I could talk a lot more about this film and quote many of Gandhi’s quotes but we could be here for days! Going off my own rule I would recommend this movie as it has me hungry to learn more. However I recommend this film not just for the historical portrayal but also for its message which still applies now, maybe even more so with all of the political unrest going on in the world. Even though we inflict many terrible things onto other people, we are capable to solve disputes in a non-violent way if we put our minds to it. Gandhi sums it up best “Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it: always.”