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Non-Review Review: Barbaric Genius

Barbaric Genius has a fascinating subject. Writer John Healy was responsible for The Grass Arena, generally regarded as one of the most searingly and brutally honest depictions of life on the streets published during the eighties. However, despite the fact that The Grass Arena became a touchstone for an entire generation and that it was so successful that it was developed into a film, Healy faded rather quickly from view. Despite writing consistently over the years that followed, none of Healy’s work was published for more than two decades following the 1988 release of The Grass Arena.

It’s an intriguing mystery, and Barbaric Genius does a thorough job exploring it, but the documentary suffers a bit as it tries to bring its subject into focus, often feeling like director/producer/narrator Paul Duane is having difficulty getting the necessary distance between himself and the film.

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Non-Review Review: Blood Rising

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013. It was the closing gala.

It is sometimes quite tough to review documentaries. It’s tempting to confuse a worthy cause with a worthy film. Blood Rising is certainly about a worthy cause. It explores the “femicides” that have been occuring in Juárez, Mexico since the nineties (if not earlier). Women are kidnapped, raped and murdered – and the local authorities have done next-to-nothing to help stem the tide of abuse. Those who dare speak up have been hounded out of the area, with some advocates even continuing the cause “in exile.” It is a very compelling and a very worthy cause, and one that deserves as much attention as it can garner.

However, even factoring in the very worthy cause and the fact that its heart is in the right place, Blood Rising feels like a rather ill-judged piece of cinema.

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Non-Review Review: Into The Abyss

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

Capital punishment is always a thorny issue to tackle, if only because of the delicate relationship between the victim and perpetrator of the original crime. It’s easy to seem sly or manipulative while painting the convicted murder as some victim of society or social injustice, while ignoring the impact of their actions on the family and friends of those they killed. Werner Herzog is always a deeply fascinating director, whether of narrative films or documentaries.

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Thoughts on Documentaries and Objectivity…

I caught The King of Kong at the weekend and I really enjoyed. It’s a fantastic underdog tale set in a fascinating subculture that really deserves to be seen. However, the movie was beset by claims after the fact that it had been somewhat unfair to Billy Mitchell, the reigning Donkey Kong champion who found himself cast in the role of villain. While fictional movies take liberties with their characters all the time, I can’t help but wonder what sort of standard should apply to documentaries. They obviously require some basis in fact, but to what extent is possible to be entirely fair and objective in bringing any subject to screen?

Something to chew on...

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