Soul Kitchen

Zinos Kazantsakis runs a small diner in his Hamburg warehouse. The bags of frozen chicken patties and french fries he serves probably come from a local grocery store or Costco (if they have any of those in Germany). His business model is simple, give the customers what they want. It gave me hope about starting my own restaurant someday, all you need is a microwave, deep fat fryer, and a few big refrigerators! But sanitation conditions aren’t good, and the health department is breathing down his neck, demanding bribes or they’ll close down his restaurant.

In steps Zinos’s ex-con brother who needs a job in order to stay out of prison. Zinos’s girlfriend tells him she’s moving to China, and he’s thrown out his back. No longer able to cook, it looks like the end of the business. It’s one problem after another, but despite all of these obstacles I wasn’t left feeling hopeless. Go figure.

This is the third film I’ve seen from Director Faith Akin. It is not at all like the serious dramas of his I’ve watched in the past, but based on my limited exposure I would characterize him as one of the most promising and original directors working today. His 2007 movie The Edge of Heaven is one of my all time favorites.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Country: Germany, France, Italy
Language: German, Greek, Spanish


Cairo Time

Juliette runs a magazine in the U.S. and misses her husband. Tareq owns a coffee shop in Cairo, but used to work for Juliette’s husband at the U.N. Juliette hasn’t seen her husband in a long time, so she flies to Cairo to spend time with him, however he’s off on assignment in another country and she’s left to attend embassy functions alone. Juliette seeks out Tareq, who is kind enough to show her the sites. There is no sex, so don’t get your hopes up, but you know where all of this is heading.

I heard someone call this a “chick flick” while standing at the bus stop after the movie. I really don’t know what a chick flick is, but the phrase offends me. Perhaps it’s a slow-paced story with romantic overtones, beautiful cinematography, and not a lot of kick boxing or gun fire? By that definition, I agree it was a chick flick.

This was made on location, and there are lots of exterior shots and panoramas of Cairo (which are beautiful). One of the audience thanked the director for filming it in Egypt. I guess other cities are often substituted for Egypt in movies, partially because it’s difficult to get permits and a censor is assigned to each project. The Egyptian government is worried about exposing the filth and poverty of the city to western audiences.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Genre: Romance, Drama
Country: Canada, Ireland, Egypt
Language: English, Arabic



Set in earth’s future, a young doctor-type woman hires onto a large cargo ship to earn extra money so she can afford moving to a newly colonized planet where her sister’s family awaits. The cargo ship is rickety, weathered, and unremarkable. Its destination is roughly 4 years away at some space station with a high number for a name (25 maybe?). The earth is no longer habitable and humans are working “hard” to colonize other worlds. Everybody lives in dismal conditions on huge, overcrowded, rotating cities that orbit the earth.

For a low-budget outer space flick, it wasn’t bad. There was nothing original or compelling in this film though. The premise, characters, plot development and interwoven themes struck me as a collage of other sci-fi works from years past (The Matrix and Wall-E are just a couple that come to mind). The acting was adequate, not phenomenal. The ending was goofy, if not predictable. But for a low-budget outer space flick, ….

Maybe the film is best described by a list of keyword phrases:

sky marshall
secret mission
virtual reality
naive doctor
long voyage
misunderstood terrorists
robin hood
environmental disaster
unknown cargo

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Genre: Sci-fi, Thriller
Language: German
Country: Switzerland


Countdown to Zero

It’s a reminder that nuclear weapons are still a threat. Those of us that grew up during the last of the cold war have seen these warnings many times before, but it makes you realize that as long as countries keep refining uranium, there are people who will use it and it will eventually get used. There are lots of short interviews with famous individuals and political leaders. Three possible avenues to detonation of nuclear weapons are contemplated throughout: accident, miscalculation, or madness. Personally, I vote for madness, the other two choices just sound dull.

I liked the cinematography more than anything else. The production quality was good. It was the second film from director Lucy Walker I watched at this year’s festival (the first being ‘Waste Land’). She also made the 2002 documentary Devil’s Playground which I highly recommend.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Country: USA
Genre: Documentary
Language: English



It’s a Russian musical about jazz music and hipster clothing, teenage exploration of alternate lifestyles, general rebellion against the party line, all taking place during the 1950’s. This is a really fun film, something I don’t believe I’ve ever said before about a Russian movie. The colorful costumes, swinging music, and characters’ energy are emotionally uplifting.

This was winner of the audience award for best Feature Narrative at the 2009 Anchorage International Film Festival, a festival whose motto is “Films worth freezing for”. It also looks like it won most of the 2009 Golden Eagle Awards from the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Russia, an organization whose motto could be “Титульная страница” but I can’t really tell because their entire web site is in Russian.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2010
Country: Russia
Language: Russian
Genre: Drama, Musical