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Review: All the Invisible Children, Razzle Dazzle and Wordplay

By July 11, 2007December 31st, 2013No Comments

All The Invisible Children posterAbout 13 years ago I found myself trans­fixed by an image on a tele­vi­sion news broad­cast of a seven-year-old girl trapped on a bridge. With her fam­ily she was try­ing escape the Rwandan gen­o­cide and escape to Tanzania before the bor­der was closed to refugees. The con­fu­sion and pan­ic was over­whelm­ing and before she could get through offi­cials shut the gate with her fam­ily on the Tanzanian side, the Tutsis who wanted to kill them all on the oth­er side, and her in the middle, look­ing for someone to help her.

I often think of that little girl, and the agon­iz­ing fear and uncer­tainty on her face, which is why films like All the Invisible Children have the abil­ity to rip the heart right out of me. The film is a UNICEF-supported col­lec­tion of short films about the unre­cog­nised plight of chil­dren in the world. From child sol­diers in Sierra Leone to entre­pren­eur­i­al scav­engers on the streets of Rio, these are chil­dren whose miser­ies are the dir­ect the res­ult of the actions of adults, even parents.

Directed by luminar­ies like Emir Kusturica, John Woo, Spike Lee and Ridley Scott, these are films that have a heavy point, some­times too heav­ily made. The agit-prop pur­pose of the pro­ject means that enjoy­ment isn’t really on the agenda but a copy belongs in every school in the coun­try and it served to rein­force to me, at least, that any human activ­ity that isn’t for the chil­dren ain’t worth shit, really.

Razzle Dazzle posterMore chil­dren being abused for the aggrand­ise­ment of adults appear in the Australian mock­u­ment­ary Razzle Dazzle, a wel­come return from the recent World Cinema Showcase. In it, the world of child dance con­tests is giv­en a good roast­ing with the help of a jolly cast led by English com­ic Ben Miller. He plays Mr Jonathan, a dance teach­er who believes that his cho­reo­graphy has the power to change the world, if only the judges would recog­nise his tal­ent for mer­ging issues like glob­al warm­ing with 80’s English pop music and sequins. The usu­al rogues’ gal­lery of pushy par­ents, lonely admin­is­trat­ors and gar­ish judges are on dis­play and I have it on good author­ity, from someone who might be described as an expert wit­ness, that it nails its sub­ject mat­ter perfectly.

Wordplay posterAnother film get­ting a brief return from the Showcase is the easy-going doc­u­ment­ary Wordplay, about cross­word puzzles (spe­cific­ally the New York Times’) and the people that puzzle every day, includ­ing the Indigo Girls, former President Clinton and a very funny Jon Stewart. The cli­max is the final of the National Crossword Championships in Stamford and it is almost as grip­ping as that oth­er non-sports sports movie Spellbound, though the con­test­ants aren’t any­where near as cute. Wordplay is a per­fectly accept­able way to while away an after­noon but I still have no desire to even look at a real cross­word puzzle, let alone try and fill one in.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital TImes, Wednesday 11 July, 2007.