A few of the films in the Netflix First collection include
No Maps For These Territories - Profile of the influential writer William Gibson who coined the term “cyberspace” and wrote seven science fiction novels including Neuromancer and the short story and screenplay for Johnny Mnemonic. The film features original music by Bono and The Edge from U2.
- Croupier - Director Mike Hodges sticks a knife into London's gambling underbelly and lets it rip in this smart, sexy crime thriller. Would-be writer Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) lands a job as a croupier so he can stand behind the dealer's table and watch the passing parade of human desperation.
- Such A Long Journey - Set against the backdrop of the 1971 India-Pakistan conflict, Such a Long Journey is a funny, heartfelt drama that underscores both political and personal crisis. Roshan Seth is a bank clerk and family man whose life begins to slowly fall apart despite his best efforts. Mixing family drama and political intrigue, this adaptation of Rohinton Mistry's acclaimed novel is a masterpiece of modern Indian cinema.
Most of the films are documentaries, and therefore may carry the bias of the documentarian. Some film-makers acknowledge this openly. Others, leave the message in the medium for the discerning viewer. For example, one of the films in the collection is Voices Of Iraq.
The producers of this groundbreaking documentary distributed 150 digital video cameras across Iraq to enable everyday people -- mothers, children, teachers, sheiks, even insurgents -- to voice their perspectives on issues such as war, terror and the democratic reform. The result is a unique tableau documenting Iraqis' lives and their hopes as they struggle with years of turmoil and striveto build a civil society.
VOICES OF IRAQ begins as though it really will give you a host of different voices (and maybe even different views) of the Iraqi people today. Initially you do hear conflicting reports (It was better under Saddam; it was worse. We are living in fear and destruction; we are making real progress). Then, slowly, the footage and verbiage turns amazingly positive and glowing, while anything negative is relegated to the period prior to the US attack. We are treated to so much footage of Saddam's horrors (including a mention of how he favored Al Qaeda people over any other Iraqis--a first, as far as I know, since Osama bin Laden has spoken out directly against Saddam) that the movie forgets it's supposed to feature Iraqis talking about today. "Now" does not exist in this film. Nowhere do we see the U.S. attacks, bombs going off, anything that might be construed as bad for this "Iraq," which is a wonderland where electricity works, water flows, people laugh and pursue their dreams of a better life--and (almost) everyone loves America. Who, exactly, passed out these 150 video-cams, and how did they choose such a select group of happy campers? Who chose the locations in which to film, avoiding any and all bloodshed and violence (except of course in the former Saddam footage)? Why does nothing shown here jibe with what we are reading or seeing in our American or international news? According to the British journal Lancet, approximately 100,000 Iraqi civilians are now dead in the wake of America's attack. This despicable documentary gives them no hearing, no justice, not even an f-ing nod of the head. Shame on the sleazy group that is foisting this pernicious propaganda on the American public just prior to election day.
Netflix First thus fulfils one of the elements of good film criticism, serving as a medium for discourse about film.
I recently saw a documentary titled Bollywood Bound through this program. It is a study of four post-colonial Canadian-born and raised Indians, coming back to India in an attempt to rediscover their identity, as well as strike it big in Bollywood, India's version of Hollywood. Bollywood produces many more films than Hollywood, about 800 a year. Most are generic song-and-dance routines, although, some filmmakers have been stretching the envelope, both in Bollywood terms, as well as of film itself.
The film ably captures the emotions of the colonial diaspora, bringing together East and West, amalgamating tony Canadian accents with Bombay slang. Bombay, itself, comes across as a city to rival all cities, a city filled with gusto, a Maximum City
Highly recommended as a tonic to wean one away from reality shows, Bollywood Bound is a movie to watch.