A freelance writer and copywriter for over fifteen years, Helene has written for publications and brands all over the world and couldn’t imagine herself in any other job. A shameless film freak, her first onscreen experience involved a trip to Avondale’s Hollywood Theatre at the age of five to see Yul Brynner in The Ultimate Warrior and she hasn’t looked back since. A big fan of documentaries, she has interviewed subjects as diverse as Henry Rollins, Jimmy Choo and Beyonce Knowles, and also has her own beauty blog - which can be found at www.mshelene.com - for the purpose of raving about red lipstick, big hair and other essential indulgences.

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KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON – an incredible tale of talent and friendship

Posted on Thursday 12/15/2016 December, 2016 by

“When you hear Clark, you hear his life. Only a master can do that.”  

Herbie Hancock on late musician, Clark Terry

A true labour of love in every sense of the word, tonight’s music documentary, KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON is the perfect film for this most silly of seasons. Without wanting to lay the mozzarella on too thick, it is a chance to pause and reflect on the good in the world, so cancel that Christmas party, pour a glass, put your feet up and enjoy.

Shot over the course of five years by first time filmmaker and drummer Al Hicks, the film depicts the remarkable story of jazz legend Clark Terry, who died at the age of 94 not long after the film was finished. Sometimes called a “living monument to the Golden Era of Jazz” in his time, Terry is among the few performers ever to have played in both Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's bands and his talents knew no bounds. Right-handed, he taught himself to manipulate the valves of the trumpet with his left hand too, and could even play the instrument upside down with the backs of the fingers of either hand. This enabled him to play flugelhorn in one hand and muted trumpet in the other, swapping four-bar exchanges with himself!

Terry actually played mentor to Miles Davis in his early days, and the young upstart soon fell under the spell of the slightly older musician. Terry befriended Davis - who was six years younger - In St Louis, and was trusted by Davis’s father to take the teenage Miles to play at all-night jam sessions. Davis said of Terry: “I started to play like him. I idolised him.” The two men remained lifelong friends. It was Terry who showed Davis the beauty of the mellow flugelhorn, which resulted in its becoming a major jazz instrument.

It was also Terry who reportedly initiated Davis’s interest in boxing and boxers. The former was an extremely good boxer when he was younger, and was friendly with the great light heavyweight Archie Moore, also from St Louis. Terry recalled: “Archie used to tell me that if I had stayed in boxing, I would have become a champion, but I stopped to think that I’d have had to meet cats like Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, and I’m glad I got out of that.”

In the 1960's, he broke the colour barrier as the first African-American staff musician at NBC (on "The Tonight Show"), and continued to work as a teacher and mentor to young people in the music industry until his death almost two years ago. The man never slowed down and never stopped giving, and just to hear him speak will fill you with joy.

But back to KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON, which documents an unlikely mentorship between Terry and a driven, blind piano prodigy, Justin Kauflin. Equal time is given to the younger musician, which is a great plot driver and stops the film from just being a biopic – despite the fact that Clark’s work is worthy of a biopic and more! The camera introduces us to the world of 23-year-old Kauflin, who met Terry through one of the programs the trumpet player ran for many years for young musical talent. Kauflin went blind when he was in sixth grade, which he admits seriously limited his life. No playing with friends, no video games… so he sat down in front of a piano, and something truly amazing came flowing out. Kauflin’s story is one that falls into what Roger Ebert likes to call the “perspective documentary genre”, which is a phrase I really like and try to employ when the time is right. If you think you’re having a rough day or can’t escape from whatever hole life has dug for you, Kauflin’s – and Terry’s - worldview should give you a little perspective. As I said, perfect for dealing with Christmas madness and end of year stress!

During the course of the film it emerges that Justin – a true rising star if ever there was one - is invited to compete in an elite, international competition while battling terrible stage fright. Terry is dealing with his own struggles, finally starting to lose his battle with diabetes in a serious way. His health takes a critical turn for the worse, and during the course of filming, he loses his sight completely. Amazingly, this deepens his bond with Justin, and we witness the two great friends tackling the toughest challenges of their lives. 

But enough said – this is an inspiring story of multi-generational friendship and it is a joy to behold. Clark Terry becomes so much more than just his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an inspiration as much for his character as for his talent. A beautiful film, and one so perfectly timed to make one stop, and smell those damn roses.

 KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON premieres Thursday 15 December on Rialto Channel 39 SKY TV 

MAVIS! – celebrating the power and the voice that is Mavis Staples

Posted on Thursday 12/8/2016 December, 2016 by

This week’s music documentary on Rialto Channel is MAVIS!  - airing December 8 on New Zealand television for the first time. It is an ode to an extraordinary woman, Mavis Staples. A key member of family gospel group The Staples Singers, she and her family members inspired millions and even helped propel the civil rights movement with their music. Mavis was a true trailblazer (as well as one hell of a vocalist) and after 60 years of performing, her key messages of love, acceptance and equality are more relevant than ever.

Staples was born way back in 1939 in Chicago, the youngest of four children born to Oceola and Roebuck "Pops" Staples. Pops worked as a meatpacker by day but played in a gospel quartet called the Trumpet Jubilees at night, eventually growing frustrated with his bandmates' lack of commitment to their music. The solution? Turning to his talented children to become his new bandmates. "Pops finally came home one night, got the guitar out of the closet and called us in the living room, sat us on the floor in a circle and started giving us our parts," Staples has recalled.

When Mavis was ten, the family band made its debut singing at a local church. After they received an enormous ovation, Staples recalled her father saying, "Shucks, these people like us. We're going home to learn some more songs!" Although she was the youngest member of the band, Mavis soon became its lead singer with a voice that many thought belonged to a woman several decades older and reportedly many times larger! She has gone on record as saying that her father told her: "Mavis, listen, your voice is a God-given gift. You know, you don't know music. You don't even know what key you sing in." Staples added, with a laugh, "And I still don't know what key I sing in."

In 1953, the Staple Singers dropped their first single, but it wasn’t until 1957 that they scored their first major hit with "Uncloudy Day”. They had toured the country and developed an impressive grassroots following, but limited their concerts to weekends until Staples graduated from high school that same year. From there on in it was all guns blazing and their career went full steam ahead.

In 1963, the group played a concert in Montgomery, Alabama that was attended by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. A meeting with the civil rights leader after the show had a profound effect on the group's direction, and for the next several years they wrote songs exclusively in support of the American civil rights movement. "We sing about what's happening in the world today, and whatever's wrong we try to fix it through a song," Staples has recalled her father explaining. "We're living in dark times, troubled times; we wanted to spread a ray of light on the world."

The Staple Sisters achieved their greatest financial – and global - success in the early seventies when they moved away from traditional gospel and protest songs to record now-legendary anthems like "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There". It was around the same time that Mavis’ solo career took off, and she actually released eight solo albums during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, all of which received high praise from critics but didn’t sell as fast as her work with the group. Oddly, that pattern changed when she released her self-financed album, Have a Little Faith in 2004 - her first release following Pops’ death. This time she received rave reviews as well as major album sales, making way for a late career renaissance that still continues today.

But back to the film, which features raves about Mavis from such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Prince and Bonnie Raitt, all of who profess to the difference that the work of the living legend made in their lives. It’s common knowledge that Dylan had a crush on Mavis Staples when they met in the early ’60s, and Staples felt the same. Dylan had long admired The Staple Singers, covering their song "Dying Man's Prayer" in 1962, and the Staple Singers had in turn recorded several Dylan compositions. In the late 1960s, the folkster actually proposed marriage to Staples… but she turned him down. Although she now considers Dylan the “one that got away” and laments dropping him like a hot coal, she explained her reasoning at the time in a 2004 Washington Post interview: "We had gotten with Dr. King and I was young and stupid, and I was thinking Dr. King wouldn't want me to marry a white guy." Dylan has referred to Staples ever since as "the love that I lost”. Awwwww!

As well as looking back, MAVIS! looks forward – and for me, that is one of its true charms. I love that the film shows her continuing to tour and perform – and most definitely winning new fans - as she remains a formidable force of nature well into her 70s. And she has no intention of giving up the calling that has consumed her since she was a child. "Ain't no stopping me, I will sing," Staples declared in a recent interview. "You know, you'd have to come and scoop me off the stage. I'm gonna sing till I die."

MAVIS! premieres Thursday 8th December on Rialto Channel

AS THE PALACES BURN – where metal meets courtroom drama

Posted on Thursday 12/1/2016 December, 2016 by

2013’s exceptional - and not unexpected - choice of ‘Searching for Sugarman’ as the Oscar Academy’s Best Documentary Feature reinforced what many of us music fans have been saying for years: we are living in the Golden Age of the music film. With the unmissable backing singers documentary ‘20 Feet From Stardom’ up for the same award and the Coen brothers’ ’60s New York folk scene period drama ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ also nominated that year, of late we have been truly spoiled for choice. To say that there are literally scores of great music documentaries making the rounds right now would be an understatement - and even if the genre is not always your bag, the subject matter can still be utterly compelling. 

Rialto Channel’s upcoming collection of lovingly curated music documentaries – under the banner “Where words fail, music speaks” are a great reminder of some of the compelling films of late that fall under the music genre, and there just may be something in the line up for everyone. 

The first to air is one for the metalheads like me, and comes in the form of AS THE PALACES BURN, showing December 1 on New Zealand television for the first time. The correct word to use when describing the documentary about metal band Lamb of God would be the same word I would use to describe their music i.e. heavy. But in a different way. The band set out with the intention of making a movie about how their genre of music has gone global, named after one of their most celebrated albums. Following a successful tour in the Czech republic, they decide to return to the country a year later whilst making the documentary as they have always had such a great response there. However, upon arriving at the airport the band are taken away by the authorities and lead singer Randy Blythe arrested and charged with the manslaughter of a young fan from the previous year’s tour. Completely blindsided, it was a death the band knew nothing about, and they are understandably in shock. Paroled only after lengthy negotiations (he was held for 38 days), Blythe opted to later return to Prague to stand trial, where he faced the very real possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. 

This caused the project, which was originally meant for fans, to drastically switch tracks, turning it into an edge-of-your-seat legal thriller – and it’s a good one, with some incredible twists and turns. At the time Blythe's trial was only being covered by Czech papers, and this film does an incredible job of filling in all the blanks and providing the true version of the story. 

We see plenty behind the scenes as the band rally together to find memorabilia to auction in order to fund Blythe’s defense, as well as his work with his legal team as he struggles to make sense of the crime of which he is charged. We also get see the heartbreakingly emotional final statement from the uncle of the young fan who died, a powerful speech where he states Randy ultimately was not responsible but that doesn't stop the loss and hurt his family ultimately feels. 

One of the most powerful moments in the movie is when the final verdict is read and Blythe’s confusion due to the language barrier is palpable. The exact moment where Blythe learns he's exonerated is made even more powerful by the soaring, very personal score by Lamb of God guitarist and composer Mark Morton. Gripping stuff. In conclusion, the film is a fantastic insight into a terrible time for Lamb of God, whose fan base continues to grow on a daily basis. Time spent early on with a male fan in Colombia and a female fan in India discussing the impact the band's music had on them is heartwarming and real, but the courtroom drama - with an unbelievable twist – that follows elevates AS THE PALACES BURN above the usual music doco. Not a metal fan? Then watch anyway, as in the words of The Guardian’s reviewer: “even if you hate the music, there's much here to impress”.

AS THE PALACES BURN premieres 1st December at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM – the chaotic end of one hell of a war

Posted on Thursday 11/24/2016 November, 2016 by

Nominated for an Academy Award in 2016, tonight’s documentary LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM looks at a war that we have all heard about time and time again, but tells it from a refreshing – for want of a better word –new angle.

The Vietnam War has been depicted on film and in documentaries for nigh on forty years, and many of us are familiar with the iconic image of the last US plane leaving the country. It signaled the end of an event that had affected a generation of young people most acutely, and that moment of escape was fraught with difficulty. This documentary tells the historic tale of that particular moment in time from the point of view of those who were there – and examines the emotional turmoil they faced.

Like most wars, the war in Vietnam was a goddamn mess. The end was no different, but it came swiftly. The Fall of Saigon, or the Liberation of Saigon - depending on who you talk to – was in effect the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (also known as the Việt Cộng) on April 30, 1975. The event marked the end of the Vietnam War and the start of a transition period to the formal reunification of Vietnam under the Socialist Republic.

North Vietnamese forces, under the command of General Văn Tiến Dũng, began their final attack on Saigon on April 29, 1975, with Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces commanded by General Nguyễn Văn Toàn suffering heavy artillery bombardment. This bombardment at the Tân Sơn Nhứt Airport killed the last two American servicemen to die in Vietnam, Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge. By the afternoon of the next day, North Vietnamese troops had occupied the important points of the city and raised their flag over the South Vietnamese presidential palace. The South Vietnamese government capitulated shortly afterward and the city was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City, after the Democratic Republic's late President Hồ Chí Minh.

The capture of the city was preceded by the evacuation mentioned earlier of almost all the American civilian and military personnel in Saigon, along with tens of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians associated with the southern regime. During those chaotic final weeks as the North Vietnamese army closed in on Saigon, American soldiers and diplomats alike confronted a soul-destroying moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only…or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they could. Slowly, they began the difficult mission of evacuating as many friends, family members and South Vietnamese collaborators as possible before Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese.

The evacuation culminated in Operation Frequent Wind, which was the largest helicopter evacuation in history. The images from this chaotic mass evacuation have become iconic. They show people being helicoptered away, sometimes under fire, to waiting American warships. Such was the speed of the evacuation and the number of people involved that the ships soon became overwhelmed with humans and the helicopters that had brought them. Orders were given to push surplus helicopters over the sides of the ships to make room for more. Some pilots were told to drop off their passengers, then ditch their machines in the sea, bailing out at the last moment to be picked up by waiting rescue boats. It was utter madness, and a messy end to a messy war.

Exhausting, heartbreaking and also heart warming at times, LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM paints a picture of ordinary people with human consciences who are caught up in a truly crazy war. It shows them defying their orders to do the right thing when bureaucracy fails them, and refreshingly, the film makes no apologies or justifications. A great watch.

LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM premieres Thursday 24 November at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

KORENGAL – War, what is it good for?

Posted on Thursday 11/17/2016 November, 2016 by

Before we talk about tonight’s heart-stopping documentary, KORENGAL, we need to discuss RESTREPO, an equally important and directly related work that came before it.

RESTREPO, the 2010 American documentary film about the Afghanistan war was directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and the late British/American photojournalist Tim Hetherington. The film explores the year that Junger and Hetherington spent in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair magazine, where they were embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the notorious Korengal Valley.

Nestled between high mountains on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan, the Korengal Valley has easily been one of the hardest fought over patches of ground in the War on Terror. As far as I can tell 54 Americans have been killed (although the number could be higher) and four Medals of Honor were earned in the valley.

Today, the American military rarely moves into the valley, but handpicked Afghan commandos (some trained by the CIA), are still fighting constantly with militants there. The Afghan government maintains offices at the Pech River Valley, the entryway to Korengal. Their police execute raids and patrols in a continuing attempt to shut down or limit the shadow government operating there, but by all accounts it remains truly terrifying territory. As it is located on the border with Pakistan in steep mountains and thick forests, it has served as a major conduit for smugglers for decades, especially during Soviet occupation. The Pakistan side of the border is in the tribal region, which has historically served as a recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The valley itself is so inaccessible that the Afghan government temporarily gave up on trying to control it, even before the people began a strong resistance.

There are many reasons why Korengal Valley is one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan, not least the nightmare-ish terrain. Steep mountains, loose shale, thick forests and open patches of land make the area a nightmare for an occupying force. Combat outposts were built in relatively open areas so that defenders could see approaching militants. However, this meant patrols returning to the base had to cross the open ground, sometimes under heavy small arms fire from nearby wooded areas and houses. Korengal’s steep hillsides allowed snipers to climb above outposts and fire into the bases as soldiers slept.

So on to RESTREPO, which received the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The film also received a certified fresh rating of 96 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus stating: "Forsaking narrative structure for pure visceral power, RESTREPO plunges viewers into the experiences of soldiers on the front lines of the Afghan War." Additionally, numerous critics and publications included it in their annual top film selections and the National Board of Review named it as one of the top documentary films of 2010.   

KORENGAL picks up where RESTREPO left off. Same valley, same men. And with all of the above in terms of accolades in mind, it had a wee bit of pressure to perform! It was also a project that Junger ended up taking on alone after Hetherington was tragically killed in Libya covering the civil war. The film’s maker also opted for a slightly different tack this time, as in the same general territory but a very different look at the experience of war. KORENGAL not only shows what war looks like, but how war works and what it means to the young people who fight it. While one soldier may cheer when he kills the enemy, another asks if God will ever forgive him for the killing he has participated in. As one soldier grieves the loss of a friend, another explains why he misses the war now that his deployment has ended, and admits he would go back to the front line in a heartbeat. Breathtaking and heartbreaking in turn.

It takes the viewer so close to the minds and the motivations of the ordinary young people that fight every day around the world in service to their countries, and is a sobering watch especially in light of last week’s US Presidential election and its inevitable global fallout.

KORENGAL doesn’t have the immediacy of its predecessor but it’s equally as affecting, and a reminder of how young and innocent the people many nations send to defend them really are.

Director’s Statement: to the men of Battle Company, 2/503…

Many ago, you welcomed my colleague, Tim Hetherington, and me onto your bases in the Korengal valley. We spent a year, off and on, at the KOP and at Restrepo; we went on innumerable patrols and were in countless TICs. You helped us keep safe and you answered our questions and mostly, you gave us your friendship and your trust…and the result was our film, Restrepo. We wanted to make a completely non-political film that would help civilians back home understand what you were doing for them, and we could not have done it without you guys.

Tim and I often talked about making a follow-up to Restrepo, but after Tim passed away I was left on my own with the project. I enlisted the other two members of our old Restrepo team and we went back to work. The result, Korengal, is another feature-length film and like with Restrepo, we paid for the entire production ourselves, which gave us complete control of what the film would be. Restrepo was intended to be a way for civilians to experience what combat feels like; Korengal is very different. It tries for understanding rather than experience. How does fear work? Courage? What is it like to come home from war? Why do so many soldiers miss the war they were in?

I think that many of the questions that you have been asked by civilians over the years, are answered in this film. I’m incredibly proud of it; it truly does pick up where Restrepo left off. I hope you get a chance to see it, I hope you like it and - above all - I hope you are doing well out there in the world. If you come through New York, please let me know. And if you would like to help bring attention to this film, we would be thrilled to have you on the team.

Best wishes,

Sebastian Junger

 KORENGAL, premieres on Thursday 17th November at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

THE LOOK OF SILENCE – behind the 1960’s Indonesian genocide

Posted on Wednesday 11/9/2016 November, 2016 by Rialto Admin

The documentary I wrote about last week for Rialto Channel - ONLY THE DEAD – was no easy watch by any stretch of the imagination. It was harrowing, brutal and infuriating in turn, and as I said at the time of its first showing, unmissable viewing. This week’s foray into the personal stories behind wars is THE LOOK OF SILENCE, and it is no less a hard watch but in a more elegant, cinematic way.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary, THE ACT OF KILLING was a profound indictment as well as what some critics have called “a stunning experiment”. Its main subjects were the ruthless, seemingly heartless death squad leaders who had been responsible for brutally killing thousands of their own people during the 1965-66 genocide in Indonesia. Unbelievable to watch at times, it depicts the killers as openly proud as they elaborately reenact their most hideous crimes in an almost comical fashion. This “re-staging” of their unspeakable deeds for Oppenheimer’s camera is a sickening thing to watch, especially as the perpetrators are filmed laughing over the horrors visited upon their victims. It was transgressive stuff upon its release but told an important tale, and those that saw it will never look at that time in history the same way again.

This week’s documentary, THE LOOK OF SILENCE has been called a follow up of sorts to Oppenheimer’s original work about the Communist purge in Indonesia, this time focusing on the victims of the genocide. The main focus is on one - an Indonesian man with a communist background named Ramli was brutally murdered when the aforementioned genocide took place in 1965. His remaining family members reportedly lived in fear and silence until the making of this documentary, making it an essential watch if ever there was one.

Oppenheimer follows Adi, a young, married optometrist who is also Ramli’s brother. Adi never met Ramli, whose killing is recounted in decade-old video interviews shot for the earlier film. His mother, Rohani confesses that Adi was born out of her grief, and it appears that while his birth perhaps allowed his mother to keep on living, it did not help her move on from the death of her first son. Ramli’s killing still haunts his family, with Rohani continuing to commune with her dead son and admitting that she sees him in her dreams. Meanwhile, their invalid father is now struggling with full-on dementia, the only silver lining being that he has forgotten the horrific death of his son.

In the gut-wrenching doco we see Adi revisit both the horrific incident and - amazingly – meet with the men who were responsible for the killings. These meetings uncover sadistic details of the murders that no family member should have to hear, as well as show the indifferent reactions of the killers' family members about the horrors their relatives perpetrated.

Although serving as an accompaniment to Oppenheimer’s earlier film, THE LOOK OF SILENCE easily stands on its own as a carefully and elegantly made documentary. It is astonishing to stop and think about the fact that it details a genocide in a country where vast swathes of the population have yet to admit any crimes took place at all, much less come to terms with them.


ONLY THE DEAD – the closest many of us will get to combat, thank God

Posted on Thursday 11/3/2016 November, 2016 by

There are times during tonight’s documentary ONLY THE DEAD when images speak for themselves. And often, those are the times when you most want to look away.

Directed by two-time Oscar winner Bill Guttentag in collaboration with Australian journalist Michael Ware, ONLY THE DEAD examines the Iraq war and its moral consequence through the story of the rise and fall of jihadi terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the progenitor of ISIS.

It throws the viewer into situations most of us can barely even contemplate due to the fact that the film is told largely through hand-held video footage, which was culled from hundreds of hours that Ware shot while reporting over the course of the war. It is in your face, extremely confronting and at times, most harrowing.

The Australian war correspondent-turned filmmaker Ware has said that he hopes his feature documentary will help enlighten global audiences on the origins of Islamic State, which I believe it does – and much more. The film is an intensely personal account of the Australian’s own experiences during eight years in Iraq as a correspondent for CNN and Time magazine, and was even filmed on a video camera he’d bought on the black market in Kurdistan.

“The viewer, like I did on the ground in reality, will witness the birth of Islamic State,” said Ware in an interview upon the film’s release. “You will also see how America’s young men, soldiers and marines, fight these people…but more importantly how it shaves away at their souls. When you have to reach out and fight against a great darkness, that darkness touches you back.” It is heart-stopping footage at times and a beyond difficult watch during others, taking us as close to the experience of being at the frontline of a real war as possible without well, actually being there.

One of the key narratives in the film is Ware’s pursuit of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the aforementioned al-Qaida leader whom he describes as a “hideous genius” and the creator of Islamic State. Ware actually met al- Zarqawi after slowly earning the trust of the Iraqi insurgents in Baghdad in 2003. After a suicide bombing - which he captured on film - he first heard the notorious leader’s name, and in early 2004 was escorted to one of the first Islamic State training camps. Once again even just watching the footage taken inside the camp is terrifying, it’s difficult to comprehend how Ware managed to keep his cool, let alone film the whole thing. After al-Zarqawi created his first gruesome propaganda video showing the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg, he walked over to Ware, handed him the raw material and simply said, “give this to the infidel”.

In interviews Ware has acknowledged the personal toll that spending time in Iraq took on his spirit, leading a life during those eight long years that can never be forgotten. “All soldiers and marines know that place you must go to in your head and your heart to fight,” he has said. “It’s a very animalistic and brutal place. It’s also a place filled with love among the men fighting on the front line. I went to that place as well. War became my normal. It’s ghastly the things you become accustomed to.”

A harrowing and graphic account of both sides of the war zone, ONLY THE DEAD is an unmissable film… but don’t go waiting around for any bright moments to save the day. The unique, on-the-ground view delivers scenes here that you can't un-see - much as you might want to - and is most definitely a look at the Iraq war unlike any other.

ONLY THE DEAD premieres Thursday 3rd November at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel 39


Posted on Thursday 10/27/2016 October, 2016 by


The story of a very clever woman and society rebel, tonight’s PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT is a devilishly good feature documentary about the life of art icon Peggy Guggenheim, based on her only authorised biography. A woman of extraordinary tastes and appetites, she was ahead of her time in more ways than one, and filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland has left no stone unturned when telling her fascinating tale.

The much loved, wealthy daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim (who actually went down with the Titanic) and niece of Solomon Guggenheim (founder of the famous New York museum of the same name), Peggy used her inheritance to become one of the world’s most passionate collectors of art and artists ever known. She founded galleries in London, New York and finally Venice, where her museum still stands.

As a young, rebellious woman in Paris she began to buy art, her passion funded by money she was left by her beloved dad. She was prompted initially by a taste for the outrageous, and her early purchases can be called eclectic and bold, if nothing else. Thankfully, she gradually developed an impeccable eye thanks to the influence of other early connoisseurs of modernism, and the quality of her collection grew. It was 1921, the Dadaists and the Surrealists were in full flight and she gleefully bought them all. And she kept buying. By the time she died in 1979, she had one of the world's most comprehensive modernist collections, ranging from Braque and Picasso to Pollock and de Kooning . She bought up dozens of great works by Picasso and others in Paris at the outbreak of war, when prices were at their lowest. She bought 10 Picassos all up, but the artist reportedly disliked her immensely, considering her a dilettante.

As she moved through the cultural madness of the 20th century, she collected not only art, but it has been said, also artists. Guggenheim became an art addict but she was also a bit of a sex addict, according to those who knew her best. Art was the heiress’ joy as well as her refuge from a personal life that was often marred by tragedy. The only man she claimed to have truly loved died young, and her two husbands were – according to Guggenheim - nothing but trouble. She too was no walk in the park, and frequently despaired about her own inadequacies. Not a conventionally attractive woman, she hated her nose and was actually one of the first people to have plastic surgery. She visited a surgeon in 1920 and requested a nose like the one she had read about in Tennyson's Idylls of the King, "tip-tilted like the petal of a flower".  It has been reported that she had the doctor stop in the middle of the procedure because it was so bloody painful, and he apparently didn’t succeed in getting her the nose she wanted. She decided to never have the badly botched nose job fixed and was widely mocked for it. Artist – and clearly, complete douchebag - Jackson Pollock reportedly said that you would have to put a towel over Guggenheim's head to have sex with her, which is a particularly horrendous given that she was his most ardent and committed patron! It comes as no surprise then when you hear that he was one of the few artists whose lives she helped prop up that she didn’t sleep with.

Guggenheim also struggled with motherhood - her daughter died of an overdose of barbiturates after a series of suicide attempts – and once again, art was her saviour. While fighting personal tragedy and loss of self-esteem on a regular basis, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art. This film is a testament to her achievements, and a startlingly good portrait of a patron of the arts extraordinaire who transformed a family fortune and great eye into one of the world’s most precious collections of twentieth-century art.

PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT premieres Thursday 27 October at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel 39

VERY SEMI-SERIOUS – inside the minds of the New Yorker’s highly respected cartoon team

Posted on Wednesday 10/19/2016 October, 2016 by Rialto Admin

The rather long winded, official title of the documentary, VERY SEMI SERIOUS is actually Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists, which gives you a hint of what’s to come when you watch the deliberately droll, pretty fun outing.

It gives us behind the scenes access at the New Yorker, specifically its cartoon division. Newspaper and magazine editorial cartoons are graphic expressions of their creator’s ideas and opinions, sometimes reflecting the publication’s viewpoint too. They are based on current events and therefore produced under restricted time conditions in order to meet publication deadlines, and also generally have an educational purpose to boot. They are intended to make readers think about current political issues and have a delicate balance of all of the above to achieve each issue, which is no easy feat. It is believed that the team of artists at the New Yorker does this better than most, and VERY SEMI SERIOUS lets us meet some of that talented bunch of oddballs and outcasts.

Bob Mankoff, a seriously droll guy and purveyor of graphic wit himself, has been the cartoon editor for almost 20 years. His job each week involves looking at about 1,000 submissions for consideration and whittling them down to an essential 15. That is a hell of a lot of evaluation involving multiple thought processes, which when you stop and think about them makes the average grey matter feel like its about to burst at the seams.

It has been said that VERY SEMI SERIOUS confirms what many might have expected: while the magazine’s editorial staff (and fancier than most readership) may be well-heeled, the cartoonists are a marvelous band of kooks who one could even say look and dress as if they belong in a New Yorker cartoon. “Getting teased as a kid is a prerequisite,” says artist Emily Flake wryly, whilst veteran Roz Chast offers a long list of reasons why she doesn’t much like going outside. It is interesting to observe that the inspirational Mankoff is grooming a younger generation of geniuses who might not have become functional members of society were there not an outlet for their unique vision. Reviewers have picked up on rare talent in the team like the painfully shy, very young British artist Ed Steed, who claims he only recently heard of the iconic magazine while vacationing in Vietnam. Despite being raised on a remote sheep farm, he produces insightful, timeless work that one could easily assume came from an artist many years his senior.

It was interesting to find out that the New Yorker artists featured are all freelancers, and none of them are able to do their much-loved jobs full-time. Most supplement their income in other creative ways like the aforementioned Roz Chast, one of the first women to be regularly featured and also a renowned illustrator who makes pillowcases based on the designs of old soup cans.

Naturally the run up to the latest US presidential election has provided rich fodder for the cartoonists, which I wholeheartedly believe you need to have a gander at. The work of Benjamin Schwartz in particular echoes the mood of those saner members of the once-great nation, and Mankoff seems to be reveling in having Donald Trump as a regular point of focus for his team.

Academics, art critics, art historians and the like have too often tended to dismiss editorial cartoons as silly, yet many over the years have wreaked havoc throughout history. As Leah Wolchock's documentary VERY SEMI-SERIOUS shows, cartoons can have a powerful psychological, emotional, and political impact, and this is a look at some of the best.

VERY SEMI SERIOUS premieres Thursday 20th October at 8.30pm

PORTRAIT OF WALLY – the story of the Viennese Mona Lisa

Posted on Thursday 10/13/2016 October, 2016 by Rialto Admin

It has been called “the face that launched a thousand lawsuits”, which from the point of view of many a holocaust survivor would be putting it extremely mildly.

The story of a Nazi-looted painting, Egon Schiele's 'Portrait of Wally,' it is a fast-paced watch for a subject so steeped in research. The aforementioned painting was discovered on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art in 1997, triggering a historic court case that pitted the Manhattan District Attorney, the United States Government and the heirs of a Viennese gallery owner against a major Austrian Museum and MoMA. Filmmaker Andrew Shea deftly paints the surprisingly political saga of the infamous artwork after it was wrenched from a Jewish gallerist by the Nazis. We get to follow what amounted to a 70-year struggle to reclaim it, even as it hung publicly in major museums.

So, what is the big deal about the painting, and who IS Wally? Well, the small 1912 painting by the Austrian artist Schiele is perhaps the best-known representation of his model, lover, and co-conspirator, teenage beauty Walburga ‘Wally’ Neuzil. Hailed as a masterpiece, with its enigmatic grin the work has been dubbed the “Viennese Mona Lisa”, and other, more overtly erotic images of Ms. Wally – including “Wally Neuzil in Black Stockings” or “Wally in Red Blouse with Raised Knees” – have fascinated art lovers for decades.

Her hypnotic eyes and tawny hair are familiar, but the life of the woman who stood by Schiele from 1911 until 1915 remains in large part a mystery. Who really was Wally Neuzil? She was born in August of 1894 in the Lower Austrian town of Tattendorf and her family background was firmly lower-middle class. Her father Josef Neuzil, from a town in what is now the Czech Republic, was a grammar school teacher for a time, a position that, if not well-paid, was at least well-regarded. After his early death, Wally apparently moved with her remaining family to Vienna in 1906 and met Schiele in 1911 at the age of 16. The story goes that she was also Gustav Klimt’s model and perhaps even mistress, leading to even more intrigue around her mysterious gaze.

The story of the relatively small painting might never have come to light had it not been loaned to a traveling exhibition. Days before the closure of the show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1997, a New York Times piece exposed the sketchy provenance of the “Portrait of Wally” and owner Rudolf Leopold’s alarming collection practices. Several artworld and political players called for the painting - valued at the time at about USD$2 million - to be removed from the show and returned to the heirs of Lea Bondi Jaray, the painting’s original owner. The piece was confiscated by the federal government and stored as a more than decade-long battle raged over its ownership. Tonight’s documentary tells that story in a pacey, uncluttered way, clocking in at just 90 minutes.

The story is compelling, and the fallout of the 13-year legal battle over the painting helped establish important legal precedence regarding art looted from Holocaust victims. One would assume that returning property pilfered from Jews during World War II should be a moral no-brainer, but apparently not.

 PORTRAIT OF WALLY premieres Thursday 13th October at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

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