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JDIFF 2015: Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyongyang // The Crowd

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 Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyongyang

★★

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This is not a film about North Korea, basketball or America. It’s an unsettling look at the unravelling of a man who can’t cope with the stress he has unwittingly created, ultimately driving him back to his alcoholism. The man in question of course is Chicago Bulls and NBA legend Dennis Rodman. It focuses on the 2014 basketball match organised by Rodman between a group of NBA all stars and the North Korean national team.

Once Paddy Power, the gambling chain, got wind of the game they couldn’t sign up fast enough. However things turned sour when the benevolent leader Kim Yung Jong-un decides to have his Uncle executed, throwing a lot more scrutiny on the potential match between the two nations. Paddy Power left posthaste, meaning it became the Dennis Rodman show for better or worse. He managed to get together a team of players who were willing to join him on his adventure, although the whole affair nearly comes crashing to a halt once more when home sponsors threaten to pull their support of individual players.

The documentary is a standard point and shoot affair, more akin to a television documentary than an outing for the big screen. While there is no question that the team were incredibly restricted in what they could shoot and it’s impressive they got the footage out of the country there is nothing stylistically of note contained within.

Truth is certainly stranger than fiction when it comes to this tale but a more interesting documentary would perhaps have been the paranoia clearly invoked in all involved by being in the country. The film makes for uncomfortable viewing during the segments where Rodman is drunk, rambling and shouting at those around him. There is a fine line between exploitation and entertainment which people can draw for themselves and I wouldn’t be wholly convinced by the director Colin Offland’s motives.

The narration by Matt Cooper is harder for an Irish audience to comment on as we are so used to hearing his voice so perhaps this must be left to a more neutral audience to judge. it does create a rather surreal moment when he refers to himself in the third person. The tone in which he delivers some dialogue concerning Rodman’s drinking is too jovial adding to the sense of ridicule the film creates.

A great story for the telling but one that leaves you with a strange taste in your mouth.

Director: Colin Offland
Year: 2014
Country of Origin: USA
Duration: 95 minutes

The Crowd

★★★★★

crowd

This was a very special screening of The Crowd as it featured musical accompaniment from Stephen Horne on the piano and more besides. A classic from the silent age of film, The Crowd is the story of an everyman and how the trials and tribulations of life test him to his limits.

James Murray plays John Sims, a man determined to make it big but whose grand ideas don’t quite match up with reality. He soon marries Mary (Eleanor Boardman) and children are soon to follow. Directed by King Vidor he creates shots that are beautiful and astounding in their simplicity yet were so ahead of their time. You have the impression that you’ve seen this film before, but come to realise it’s because of the influence it had on so many pictures that were to follow. It many instances King Vidor was the first to incorporate them.

I was lucky enough to see the silent presentation of Safety Last, the Harold Lloyd classic from 1923 at last year’s JDIFF and this years screening didn’t disappoint. Stephen Horne did an outstanding job of scoring the film with many instruments at his disposal, achieving that most important feat in making the audience forgot he was there.

Director: King Vidor
Year: 1928
Country of Origin: USA
Duration: 104 minutes
Writers: King Vidor, John VA Weaver
Cast: Eleanor Boardman, James Murray, Bert Roach
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Páraic

Páraic wanted to be a gangster as far back as he can remember. Brought up on a diet of films he was too young to be watching by his brothers, all things 80s teens thanks to his sisters and the classics by his folks he's turned into a well-rounded (maybe a little too round) film lover. Only recently discovering North by Northwest, he longs for a train journey with a beautiful blond.

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