Rams: a minimal but insubstantial film on the fragility of family and community ties and traditions against the outside world

Grimur Hakonarson, “Rams / Hrutar” (2015 Forty years ago, a family rift led to two brothers in an Icelandic sheep-farming family going their separate ways, splitting the family property in half so that each brother tends to his own flock of pedigreed heritage sheep. For forty years the two brothers Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi …

Tom of Finland: a film of hope, sympathy for underdogs and inspiration to others suffering hardship and oppression

Dome Karukoski, “Tom of Finland” (2017) As a general introduction to the life of gay icon Tom of Finland, real name Touko Laaksonen, for a general viewing audience, this film is adequate enough. Spanning roughly four decades, it follows Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) from his youth when he was conscripted into the Finnish army to fight …

9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo: an ordinary documentary short with little to say and leaving too many unanswered questions

Floor van der Meulen, Thomas Vroege, Issa Touma, “9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo” (2016) Filmed over nine days (hence the title) in August 2012, this 13-minute documentary short captures one witness’s view of the beginning of the war between the Syrian government and the jihadis in Aleppo that was to last over …

Festen: a rich film skewering Danish society and social hypocrisy, and delivering redemption

Thomas Vinterberg, “Festen” (1998) “Festen” remains the best-known and most mainstream of the various films made under Dogme 95 movement rules. Even if audiences no longer remember what the goals and restrictions of Dogme 95 are, “Festen” still remains a powerful indictment of late 20th-century Danish society with its obsessions with social conventions and rituals, …

Breaking the Waves: a study of religious hypocrisy and oppression, and its effects on a naive woman, with a hollow heart

Lars von Trier, “Breaking the Waves” (1996) For the most part this often nihilistic film is excruciating in its slow and exacting pace, and its drama is manipulative as well, but “Breaking the Waves” does raise very troubling questions about the nature of religious faith, Christian concepts about love, self-sacrifice and the role of women …