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CINEMA Film round-up

Reviews of Mandabi, Running Against the Wind, Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), 69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez and Nobody

Mandabi (PG)
Directed by Ousmane Sembene
★★★

HAILED as the “father of African cinema,” Ousmane Sembene’s trailblazing 1968 Mandabi (“money order”) has been painstakingly restored in 4K resolution and is being released for the first time in Britain.

The first ever film to have been made in an African language (Wolof) it is a sharp and poignant satire on post independence and the lasting effects of colonialism on African nations.

Adapted by Sembene from his own novella, it opens with Senegalese father of seven Ibrahima (Makhouredia Gueye) being shaved and having his nostrils cleaned and trimmed (in a disturbing non-socially distanced way) by a street barber which sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Set in Dakar, Mandabi follows the nightmare that the jobless and illiterate Ibrahima faces when he tries to cash a 25,000 Fr postal order sent to him by his nephew in Paris.

He is confronted with one bureaucratic hurdle after another as he cannot speak French and does not possess an identity card or a birth certificate in order to claim the money, all the while being hounded by crooks, beggars and corrupt bureaucrats.

What seems like an answer to all his prayers results in the worst ordeal of his life. It is also a fascinating character study of a pompous wheeler-dealer loser who expects his two wives to wait on him hand and foot — a rich and compelling film which still resonates and holds up today.

Maria Duarte
In cinemas

Running Against the Wind (15)
Directed by Jan Philipp Weyl
★★★

ETHIOPIA’S official submission to last year’s Academy Awards is an inspirational yet gritty tale of enduring friendship, ambition and the realities of social deprivation.

Inspired by true events, it follows the story of two 12-year-old boys (Ferhane Beker and Alamudin Abduselam) who grow up together herding goats in a remote rural Ethiopian village before they part ways to pursue their respective dreams.

Abdi (Ashenafi Nigusu) stays at home to train as a long-distance runner, hoping to represent his country on the world stage, while Solomon (Mikias Wolde) heads to Addis Ababa to become a professional photographer, but is befriended by a street gang who lead him to a life of petty crime.

Jan Philipp Weyl’s impressive directorial debut feature, which he co-wrote and stars in, pulls no punches in its depiction of the poverty and hardship faced by those marginalised by society, and is driven by captivating and stand-out performances from the young cast.

Devoid of any sentimentality, it shows the exact grit and determination it takes to overcome adversity and the importance of friendship and being given an opportunity to prove your worth.

MD
Available on digital platforms

Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) (15)
Directed by Monica Zanetti
★★★★

FORMER Tonightly writer Monica Zanetti makes her feature debut with the uneven but very impressive Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), best described as an Australian LGBT teen romantic drama by way of Drop Dead Fred.

Sophie Hawkshaw takes the lead as teen Ellie, whose discovery of her sexuality brings forth her long-deceased lesbian aunt as a sort of “Ghost of Gayness Past” who helps her to both adjust to her orientation and ask her classmate Abbie (Zoe Terakes) to the big school dance.

Playful but not without much-needed — given the subject matter — gravitas, Zanetti delivers a belter of a concept that fuses elements of Drop Dead Fred, Edge of Seventeen, and Pride; entrusting said concept to one heck of a charming cast. A terrific and touching story let down only slightly by a couple of tonal shifts that briefly stunt its otherwise very captivating vibe.

Van Connor
In cinemas

69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez
Directed by Vikram Gandhi
★★★★

PART investigative doc, part Scarface, rap documentary 69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez takes us inside the life of the controversial rapper, and equally prominent troll, Tekashi 6ix9ine — as he’s sometimes referred — is not quite as well known in Britain as across the pond (or, as we discover, in Bratislava, strangely!) and, as such, writer-director Vikram Gandhi has quite the story to tell as he chronicles the toxic online figure’s meteoric rise from street rapper to fashion icon, from online troll to incarcerated snitch.

To hear 6ix9ine’s story explored in the detail it is here by both his closest friends and enemies is tantalising enough, but Gandhi kicks it a notch further by ensuring his biographical doc includes a stylistic and energetic bent absolutely befitting his subject, which — as even a five-second Google search of the man will demonstrate — is just gleefully out there.

VC
Available to Watch Now on Altitude Film

Nobody (15)
Directed by Ilya Naishuller
★★★★★

STRAP in for a damn good time at the movies with Nobody, the unlikely in-universe action concurrent with John Wick, whose scribe Derek Kolstad returns to introduce us to, effectively, Jeff Wick.

A mash-up of A History of Violence and what you’d get if you made Denzel’s Equalizer funny, Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk is our eponymous downtrodden lead, whose long-dormant rage goes from simmering to outright explosive in the wake of a home invasion.

Odenkirk’s a blast, selling the initial suburban melodrama and subsequent action insanity with equal parts thespian melodrama and menacing glee. This is Neeson in Taken; Firth in Kingsman. And yet, of the three, Odenkirk’s Hutch Mansell would easily walk away the most emotionally investable and naturally likeable.

Stylised to fit within the John Wick aesthetic both in slick ambience and sadistic humour, Nobody is the first genuinely great action movie of 2021; full of romping needle-drops and high octane, frenetically powered action beats that will have you wincing and dodging things right there in your seat.

Nobody is unmissable. Nobody is a great time. Nobody is really somebody.

VC
In cinemas

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