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FILM: June 2007

I took Katrina Doyle, aged 8, to see BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (cert. PG 1hr.35mins.) She writes, "I really enjoyed 'Bridge to Terabithia'. When it started, the opening credits were really good, with line drawings - it made me think of magic fun things. When the two main characters meet, the new girl Leslie beats Jess in a boy's race, which he does not like, because he had been the fastest runner in the class. However, it turns out they are neighbours, and so they go home together on the bus (Jess first thinks Leslie is following him, but she just lives next door)

They both have strong imaginations, Jess enjoys painting and drawing, and Leslie discovers his work which sparks off a friendship. Leslie follows her heart, and lets her imagination run free. Jess can paint with brushes, but Leslie finds that she can paint pictures in his mind, and their friendship takes them on an exciting adventure. Leslie creates an imaginary world - Terabithia. Jess and she become its King and Queen. Just when they start to enjoy it, the 'King of Darkness' invades their land, bringing nasty creatures, that remind me of the bad children at their school.

Bridge to Terabithia

You are never sure if the creatures are imaginary or real, because it is filmed like that. It's all really believable. No one else knows their secret land.

The film was lovely. I thought it was really magical, but also normal - they went to school on the bus, and got bullied, got home and did chores, then went to this magical land. It was a great film, and all the actors were really good. Leslie had a lovely smile, and her eyes shine when her imagination gets going. She and Jess were really good together. I won't give all the story away - you must watch it for yourself. Good for children and parents too. I can't wait to own a copy of the film."

Ten Canoes

TEN CANOES (cert.15 1hr. 30mins.) is a very special film about an aboriginal tribe in north Australia. In fact it is the indigenous people who tell and show the story as it is being narrated by David Gulpilil, the only professional in a cast otherwise made up of those who actually live in the area. The film is special in that it differs from others around in the gentle, lyrical way it presents those depicted in photos taken in the 1930s - in black and white - and a story about a young man desiring the youngest wife of his brother.

This story takes place way in the past and is in colour. It might be difficult to find a cinema showing this out of London, but it is certainly worth looking for.

As is WATER (cert.12A 1hr. 44mins.), which will have limited outlets. Deepa Mehta's Oscar-nominated film is set in 1930s India. Seven year old Chuyia (a lovely performance by little Sarala) is a widow and is therefore brought to live in an isolated charity home, her head is shaved and she is forbidden to marry again. There she meets Kalyani, (a moving Lisa Ray) a beautiful young woman, who was also incarcerated in the home at a very young age, who meets and falls in love with an educated man (handsome John Abraham) who wishes to marry her in spite of all the difficulties. Even though Gandhi and his views on modernising India and freeing its underdogs is advancing, the traditional separation of widows from the general populace continues.


"Where is the house for men widows?" Asks little Chuyia, but, of course, there isn't one. As one very old woman dies in the house her friends hope that, "God willing she'll be re-born as a man." With terrific acting and great photography, this moving tale is one to be seen.

As, in a different way, is BLACK GOLD (cert.U 1hr. 18mins.), a film by Marc and Nick Francis, which shows the way that westerners enjoy their cups of coffee while impoverished Ethiopian coffee growers suffer from extreme poverty (15 million people in Ethiopia depend on coffee for their survival). The film traces the journey of Tadesse Meskela, the manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union that represents over 74,000 farmers, as he tries to bypass the international trading system and find buyers who will pay more for his high quality coffee. The lives of all the families of these coffee growers depends on the price of coffee and most families cannot afford to send their children to school, while many communities cannot afford to build a school. This is an interesting documentary, although not a Saturday night cinema visit. The message is twofold: first that trade is more important than aid and second that we should all buy Fairtrade products, not just coffee, from the third world. As for me - I am still searching for Oromia Ethiopian coffee!


LA VIE EN ROSE (cert. 15 2hrs.42mins.), which comes out towards the end of June, highlights episodes in the life of Edith Piaf. Rather than a straight biography the film shows how this great French singer developed from a child who sang to make money for her out-of-work father, her childhood spent in a brothel, through her discovery by Louis Leplee (Gerard Depardieu) to stardom. Along the way she is accused of murder, falls madly in love with the boxer, Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins) and is autocratic with her friends while being loyally served by her Manager, Louis Barrier (Pascal Gregory), her prostitute friend (Emmanuelle Seigner) and others, until she dies wracked with arthritis.

A very well-crafted film by the director, Olivier Dahan, the part of Piaf is played with uncanny verisimilitude by Marion Cotillard. Wisely it was decided to have Piaf's own voice on the soundtrack so we have a wonderful rendition of all the famous songs, including, of course Piaf's trademark, "Non, je ne regrette rien."

And.if you enjoyed the other Pirates of the Caribbean films, you will doubtless enjoy the latest, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: At World's End (2hrs. 48mins) which at almost 3 hours is much more of the spectacular same!


Somerset Maugham is popular at the moment although THE LETTER (Wyndham's) is not him at his strongest. Nor is Jenny Seagrove, who plays the wife of an ex-pat Brit in 1927 in Malaya. However after she shoots her lover and has to justify herself, she becomes stronger and the rest of the class are adequate in this somewhat dated story.

There is much in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Savoy Theatre) to affect immigrant communities in general not just the Jewish contingent. Director, Lindsay Posner manages to extract the full pathos as well as the comic characteristics in Sholem Aleichem's story of a poor milkman and his family in the Tsarist Russia of the early 20th Century. I was pleased to see Tevye, portrayed by Henry Goodman, as a real man - yes, with quite a bit of the showman about him but also a hard-working husband and father of 5 daughters, 3 of whom are of marriageable age. Good acting, too, from Beverley Kline as Golde, his wife, all the daughters who sang well, but particularly Hodel (Alexandra Silber) who has a beautiful voice.

There is an interesting wooden structured tiered set. All the well-known songs are here, and there are some good witticisms, which tell the truth beneath the humour, such as Tevye to God, "I know we're the chosen people but once in a while can't you choose someone else?"

Fiddler on the roof

The Oval House Theatre, which is showing YELLOW LINES, a play by Steve King, has a fantastic café serving afro-caribbean food. The play includes David Firth in its three person cast and deals with panic on London streets and security with a touch of corporate morals and it shows the way big business operates. This is an interesting experimental theatrical work in a vibrant space.


Summer has arrived and with it another lovely season at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park and the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The Globe has begun with OTHELLO. As we watch Eamon Walker strutting his stuff as the noble General of the Venetian forces and also a Moor, who is brought to commit the terrible act of killing his wife, we can wonder at the fact that white actors - even (or most noteworthy) the great Olivier - used to 'black up' to play this part, and we, the audience, accepted this! How times have changed.

But the story and the play lives on in this interesting production. I thought that Tim McInnerny portrayed one of the best Iagos I have seen. The way he arouses Othello's jealousy by insinuating a love affair between Desdemona and the very loyal Cassio, using his wife to aid him without realising what she is doing, is truly evil.

While most parts are well-played, the Desdemona of Zoe Tapper enunciates a bit too carefully and slowly. I found her questioning of her husband as he is about to kill her somewhat like a journalist's interview until her final moments where she is suitably emotional. As usual the audience at the Globe is always riveting to see so closely engrossed with the stage action. At £5 for 'groundlings' this remains one of the best bargains in London. But.be warned, you have to stand for over three hours apart from the interval.

At Regent's Park, the tragedy of MACBETH, kicks off the season. It is very difficult to do this play at full shout, as it were, and the cast led by the Macbeth of Antony Byrne, make a brave stab. I found Sarah Woodward's (Lady Macbeth) voice a bit on one note. She is also too intense and strident at the beginning, although that fits in with her encouragement to her husband to get rid of all those who stand between him and the crown as per the witches' prophecies later on. The setting, costumes and time-frame seem somewhat confused and it is difficult to pin-point in what era the action takes place.


There are some good theatrical touches in that the director, Edward Kemp, makes great use of the space particularly with the witches appearing and disappearing all over the auditorium. I enjoyed the music and singing. On the night I attended there was one extra actor: a large bird flew on to the stage.and remained there!

I had the opportunity to visit Dirty Dancing (Aldwych) and FAME (Shaftesbury Theatre). The first is terrific with great dancing and a memorable song or two. Two upcoming stars in Josef Brown as the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and Georgina Rich as 'Baby' who learns to dance and love. Fame leaves much to be desired - the music is very loud and there is only one memorable (the title) song.


Carlie Newman

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