The Project (USA, 89 minutes). Yikes! If you’re gonna train a bunch of Somalis to take out the pirates who prey on shipping off the horn of Africa, make sure the guys you recruit are not pulling for the other side. This film is more edge-of-your-seat tense than any Tom Hanks drama because it is real: we do not know which of the characters will make it out alive. Spoiler: not all of them do. Recommended, but not for the weak of heart.
The Italian Character: The Story of a Great Italian Orchestra (Italy/Germany, 100 minutes). This is a feast even for those who do not revel in classical music. We meet Rome’s Orchestra dell’Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, famed for its passionate interpretations of music from Mozart to Shostakovitch. Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians and, atheist though I be, I’ll say that she seems to be doing a good job with this ensemble. The only problem is — and this is an inevitable flaw in any doc about musicians — we get only snippets of our favourite pieces. But the sound is full and bright. Recommended.
Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (South Africa, 96 minutes). See this film if (a) you want to get in touch with your inner teddy-bear or (b) you would rather embrace your inner cynic. Set in modern (read post-apartheid but not post-racist) South Africa, this flick follows the adventures and piteous misadventures of a pair of interracial lovers (she’s Zulu, he’s Afrikaaner). But from the first five minutes you know that eventually things are going to be all right. Her father wants the “lobola” (bride price), which our homely hero is too poor to provide. Meanwhile, his mother (as straight-laced and white as a bucket of starch) is suitably appalled that her son is getting wriggly with a black woman. Both parents come around, of course. Everybody’s happy. Except for the gal’s Zulu would-be suitor, who winds up with a herd of 30 cows in front of his snazzy night club. Guess you have to see the film to see how that happens. But he’s really a nice guy. Everyone is nice. This is a really nice film. Okay, okay. That was my inner cynic talking. Bad inner cynic. Bad, bad, bad.