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The Doll - A Short Documentary About Child Marriage

The Doll is an Iranian short documentary about child marriage, which focusses on the story a 14-year-old girl named Asal. Taking an objective stance and allowing interviewees to speak freely, the film captures some of the nuances of the matter without passing judgement. Iranian filmmaker, Elahe Esmaili, voices her concerns about children's and women's rights by simply representing the complicated situation as it stands. While Esmaili is dealing with child marriage within the context of a staunch patriarchal society in The Doll, the film also touches on parental conduct, violence against woman and overarching social inequalities.

The documentary laces together interviewees from across Asal's immediate family circle with a primary focus on her and her father. Introducing the situation, husbands and wives from both sides of the equation explain the age they were married and offer their opinion on whether it's wise to do the same. Specifically speaking into Asal's impending child marriage, the general consensus is that it isn't wise for a girl to marry so young. From not being mature enough to being unable to attend to her husband's practical needs, there appears to be a general understanding that 14 is much too young. From this point, The Doll narrows down the discussion to young Asal whose father has promised her to another man.

Through interviews with the attractive girl, it becomes apparent that she's still very much entrenched in her childhood. Accepting toys and candy as gifts, learning to skate and still figuring out who she is in terms of personal style and what she wants to do with her life, the exuberant youngster is in her rebellious stage. Estranged from his wife, who he had to discipline through physical violence, it becomes clear why Asal's marriage couldn't come soon enough. Living in his photographer work studio and wanting to move on with his life by marrying his fiancee, it appears Asal's presence has become a nuisance - both reminding her father of his ex-wife and destined to be a problem to his second wife.

The Doll documentary

The stream of interviews flows steadily as one gets a good sense of the situation through familial speculation and words from the prime subjects themselves. While we never become acquainted with the suitor who's studying medicine, the underlying concern from her family in a culture where child marriage is normalised and permitted, speaks volumes. The Doll isn't simply about an exception but about a contentious and universal social issue, leveraging Asal's story as a figurehead for an matter that is prevalent but not limited to Islamic societies.

Speaking quite candidly as if none of the family members will ever hear their comments, the documentary unearths a number of deeper social issues affecting women and children, which could serve as the subject of spin-off documentaries. The Doll's powerful, timely and important message is what creates an eerie undertone to this matter-of-fact documentary. Asal's willingness to get married and her father's eagerness for his daughter to essentially be adopted by another family with a view to marriage don't seem to fully comprehend the underlying issues. According to the Statistical Centre of Iran, over 300 children were born from mothers aged 15 or younger during the Spring of 2020.

The Doll documentary

While repetitive, the interviews have an openness and honesty, compelling the viewer through an almost seamless channel of thought as comments are stringed together to create a sense of continuity. Beautifully framed and shot, The Doll is almost entirely comprised of talking heads, offering cutaway footage of home videos, the family in their day jobs, passing time at home, dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and having fun at a skate park. Esmaili creates a sense of authenticity and establishes trust with her subjects, one of the documentary's main selling points, which underlines the importance of its message. While Asal has been exposed to Instagram and realises there's another world beyond the fashion and fun of the platform, her excited anticipation of becoming a child bride does jar.

Esmaili is a brave filmmaker, whose thought-provoking work is sure to create international interest and spark the right kinds of conversations. If The Doll is what she's able to achieve with modest resources, one can only imagine what other groundbreaking social issues documentary ideas she will be unearthing next.

Film Critics, Reviews, Ratings and the Digital Takeover

Before the Internet, we only had newspapers, magazines, television and word of mouth for our steady supply of pop culture intrigue and information. Unfortunately, these channels didn't have the speed of delivery, sheer volume of information or the value of consensus that search engines like Google offered at the digital takeover. Having information at your fingertips is empowering and it's how consumers are making their choices these days. Why wouldn't you do a quick search or reference a website before making a decision?

Getting the nitty gritty details and best price is what makes the marketplace more competitive these days. Whether you're shopping for a smart TV or deciding which movie to watch, being able to quickly reference a trusted review authority, user reviews or get finer details about what to expect can make all the difference.

film critics reviews ratings and digital takeover

The same goes for film reviews and movie critics. There was a time when readers would only have a few voices when it came to picking the right film for movie night. While a subjective process, readers would be able to decipher or learn to trust certain voices. Figuring out the critic's special interests, favourite genre, general disposition and even their rating allocation would help make them relevant to people even if they didn't necessarily agree with their ratings. In South Africa, there are two prolific and influential film critics with long track records who have managed to appear across all forms of broadcast and print.

Barry Ronge

The most prolific film critic must surely be Barry Ronge, who was widely broadcast across TV and radio, able to disseminate his opinion on up to 5 films a week. While his tastes varied, one quickly realised that arthouse films tended to land better reviews. An iconic reviewer, he was quite daring with reviews often led by emotion.

Using an /10 system that inspired the SPL!NG-O-METER, he'd use an adjective to describe each of his ratings. This meant he could offer some spectrum to each number however limiting the alliteration was to certain ratings. Adding a bit of his flair, he'd be able to rate something a "saucy 6" or "noteworthy 9" giving each /10 rating its own sub-rating descriptor.

Leon van Nierop

An author, screenwriter, lecturer and film critic, Leon van Nierop's movie reviews were more considered and serious - a respected reviewer and now luminary for the Afrikaans film-going public. His catchphrase "dis die een" still echoes in his film reviews today whether he's reviewing on his RSG radio show Monitor or in local newspapers or magazines. As an active screenwriter, he penned Wolwedans in die Skemer based on his long-running radio show and produced Ballade vir 'n Enkeling, both of which made a splash at the local box office. Leon van Nierop's televised film review featured on GMSA (Good Morning South Africa). Having been in the entertainment industry for over 4 decades, he's an established and award-winning author and journalist.

Now that the floodgates have opened, you can get opinions on film from the well-respected RogerEbert.com right through to your buddy's latest "kiff or kak" Facebook status. Film critics are now pontificating across the spectrum of media from YouTube channels and blogs through to more traditional print media and established online publications. The main reference points are IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, website repositories that offer up-to-date film information and more importantly ratings. Movie goers now feel armed with the power of IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes who can and do guide them to better movies based on their ranking systems.

IMDb's /10 Rating

IMDb's rating system provides an /10 score based on general ratings and links to critic reviews. Giving viewers a semblance of what to expect in terms of thousands of opinions boiled down to a number, it seems like a safe bet. However, it's important to know how the system works. The Independent Movie Database (IMDb) is primarily male-orientated, which is reflected in the site's Top 250 films through voting demographics and even film choice. Respected by industry professionals and movie lovers, it's widely referenced often ranking high in Google searches. However, it's not the be all and end all, often skewed by the loyal user base's tastes and preferences. In an ideal world, the rating system would be used in a way to best represent a viewer's take... but it's subject to abuse.

Besides voting syndicates using the platform to skew public opinion about certain films, there's a dedicated bunch who try their best to protect their hallowed selection of films from being downgraded in stature. Just click through one of the /10 ratings on IMDb to see the voting allocation. Almost every film has a scattered allocation of ratings with a glut of 10/10 and 1/10 ratings. There's also no way to verify a film has been watched by a user and being based on an honesty system, there's no real way to confirm raters have even seen the movie they're trashing. Influenced by public perception, boosting a film's rating just to sell more tickets or trashing it to thwart its success makes it a flawed system that somehow ends up representing a film's overall standing.

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer

Rotten Tomatoes is strict when it comes to accepting film critics into the fold, which makes their system seem more robust. While it's easier to get an idea of what the general critic's position is based on consensus and capsule reviews, there are some issues. For starters, most people don't understand the Tomatometer percentage score that is often referenced as the standalone component when deciding on a movie. This is the percentage of critics who gave fresh reviews of a film. It's not a sliding scale comparable with an /10 rating. You can ostensibly get a 6/10 movie that has a 100% fresh score, meaning every critic who reviewed the film thought that it was fresh but otherwise just better than average.

Another issue is determining a mean score from the film critics since each of them is working on a different rating system or none at all. How do you credit a positive review with a weighting or how do you determine a score based on an /4 rating system versus an /10 one? These discrepancies can alter ratings quite substantially when pulling from a selection of less than 100 reviews. While Rotten Tomatoes have moved away from aggregating critic scores, there does seem to be a need to anchor the Tomatometer to another element for context.

User reviews have also come into play on the website, allowing ordinary film goers to flex their film critic muscle by chiming in with a review and rating. This is more quantifiable and useful to see how the audience score matches up against the overall movie critic percentage. Submitting their opinion via the same channel makes it possible for Rotten Tomatoes to offer a considered consensus, which has more credibility when linked to a user account. Taking the time to string a few sentences together also means it's easier to sift the have-seens from the haven-not-seens. Perhaps they should really be looking into forcing critics to adopt a similar type of submission scheme.

As it stands, there isn't a perfect system since each of the consensus ratings are done on an unverifiable review or rating. While Rotten Tomatoes distinguishes super reviewers and has its certified movie critics, it seems that it's coming full circle. Since social media and faceless publications have proven to be fallible often with ulterior motives, the need for experts who have become trusted authorities on fields is on the rise again. While the power of consensus and trust has become a currency through apps with link backs to Facebook profiles for credibility, these avatar-based systems can only take one so far. What entertainment journalism and news reporting in general requires is time-honoured integrity and the transparency to win people's trust without a shadow of suspicion.

The Matrix: Reeveolutions - The Keanu Reeves Story

Keanu Reeves has come a long way in his career, starting with his breakthrough film River's Edge in 1986, he systematically climbed his way to the upper echelons of Hollywood. It's been a bumpy ride and not just because he's from Canada. Ranging from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure all the way through to Matrix: Resurrections, the actor has cast a spell on the world. He's played many iconic roles, many of them surprisingly named John! Johnny Mnemonic, John Constantine, Johnny Utah and John Wick, The One has really become one with the name. His actual name, Keanu, means a gentle breeze over the mountains in Hawaiian and strangely enough he was born in Lebanon, son to a showgirl/costume designer and geologist.

While the actor has been ramping up his career in recent years on the back of the critically-acclaimed John Wick franchise, which is already a trilogy with part four and part five filming and in preproduction, he's also reviving The Matrix under the watchful eye of Lana Wachowski. Matrix: Revolutions ended the trilogy in 2003, a film which was problematic because it didn't keep a foot in the ground. The series started with an 80/20 rule in terms of real versus unreal and progressively moved through to flipping that ratio so that Revolutions was largely shot against a green screen with extensive CGI. Leaving the world behind, or in fact ironically going into the actual real world, the film struggled with story and failed to meet the expectations as set by the The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded. It's been almost 20 years since the last Matrix installation, which together with Keanu's renaissance has prompted a revival.

There have been many '90s revivals lately. Just in Keanu's film stable, we've already seen a so-so remake of Point Break and Bill & Ted Face the Music. The Matrix is by far the biggest franchise remake to come out. releasing its first trailer for Matrix: Resurrections (above), after its barnstorming success and pop culture explosion in 1999. Reeves has turned it into a Reeveolution of his own with some parallels to his film career. The actor has gone through a resurrection of sorts, having been on the fringe before the household name became Internet famous. On the back of memes and discussion around his good nature as a human being, it seems as though his status has been elevated over the years. This has also been propelled by the massive success that is John Wick, action ballet if you will, which has semi-reinvented the Keanu Reeves brand.

He's always played dark characters in 47 Ronin, A Scanner Darkly and Constantine, no doubt inspired by his role as Neo and The Matrix. It's funny to imagine how The Matrix would have turned out with Will Smith who was originally considered for the lead. Now that Keanu's John Wick, it seems as though he's adopting the beard, black clothing and longish hair in almost every role he plays like a *Johnny* Cash trademark. Definitely Be My Maybe featured Reeves as "himself", which we all know is very difficult. Helen Mirren once said in a masterclass that one of the most difficult things is to play yourself on screen. Even just walking into a scene naturally is difficult and acting as yourself - just ask Jerry Seinfeld. Reeves decided to go completely over the top with his rendition of himself playing a negative, narcissistic and egotistical version of himself, which based on his current saintly reputation is completely inaccurate. However, he still maintains that John Wick look even if he's wearing glasses.

It seems as though he's trying to adopt the look of John Wick in The Matrix, where he plays Neo who's developed amnesia. It seems like one of the only ways to really reboot a series is to start over again. While set further in the future, he has to choose the red or blue pill once again - a major part of the marketing campaign. The trailer is suggesting that he has been doing that for quite some time, which means that he has to escape the digital dreamscape of the Matrix all over again. People that grew up with The Matrix will be pleased to revisit this '90s gem, a near-perfect film, and many will no doubt rewatch the trilogy in anticipation. Having greatly influenced cinema in its wake, Reeves is still fondly remembered for playing the man known as Mr. Anderson and it's quite interesting to see what has become of him opposite Trinity and Morpheus. Unfortunately Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne are not returning for this reboot. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has become the new Morpheus and Weaving has confirmed that he won't be reprising his iconic role as Agent Smith.

Based on what has been presented by the trailer, it promises to be an eye-popping visual extravaganza. While the technology has certainly come a long way, let's just hope that it doesn't turn into a Roland Emmerich style film, where CGI becomes the currency rather than the actual storytelling. Reeves probably inspired the Wachowskis to even consider another Matrix based on his newfound popularity and acclaim. Now a big-name with an ethereal kind of fame, this serves as a prelude to the subsequent John Wick sequels and let's just hope that the new Matrix: Resurrections film is good enough to revive the series and even prompt a couple of sequels of its own.

Keanu has an interesting screen presence. While mostly effective when cast in a role befitting his unique screen presence and talents, he does transpose much of his own vibration into roles. Besides his unmistakable run, he's become a conduit of sorts, not as vacuous as the chiseled Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) but able to give audiences a chance to live vicariously through his performances. >Matrix: Resurrections is only coming later in the year, so we'll just have to wait and speculate based on early trailers. Nowadays with the disruption of a global pandemic, the timing is perfect. Many have been shaken to the point that they have seen beyond their hamster wheel whilst others have seen too much and would willingly be inducted into the Matrix.

Christopher Guest's Six Fingers

Christopher Guest is a name that you may have heard bandied about in conversation. While he may not be a household name, the actor, writer and director is an absolute giant in the field of mockumentaries. Having risen through the ranks on the back of the career-defining mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, he's continued to ply the same comedic energy into every one of his productions. Collaborating on several occasions with Rob Reiner in This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride and A Few Good Men, he soon found a new writing partner in Eugene Levy of Schitt's Creek fame.

Christopher Guest's Six Fingers

While probably most famous for his role as the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride, Guest's become the crazy glue to each of his mockumentary productions.

Guest's Wikipedia page is a treasure trove of Easter Eggs from realising he was a Baron to being married to Jamie Lee Curtis.

A generous captain of an auteur, Guest has performed and worked alongside regular co-stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey and John Michael Higgins.

While a script guides the actors and scenes, there's a strong emphasis on off-the-cuff reparte for this ensemble comedies. Some of the funniest lines and moments come as a result of improvisation, comic sparring and over-extensions.

While your appreciation of his mockumentaries will be based on your connection with the story, they often feature a group of attention-starved characters who want to be thrust into the limelight and achieve ultimate recognition in their craft.

1. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This is Spinal Tap is a rockumentary about a band named Spinal Tap, who try to re-establish their presence as a serious rock band as they embrace their comeback tour with their heads held high. Filmed by a die-hard fan, their interviews and behind-the-scenes calamities become to add up. A mockumentary classic, this outrageously funny comedy set the bar high with many quotable lines - "crank it up to 11".

2. Waiting for Guffman (1996)

Waiting for Guffman mockuments the excitement and consternation of a Missouri small town musical production as rumours of receiving someone from Broadway come to light. Taken from the perspective of an awkward yet aspiring director, the so-so amateur cast try to up their game in anticipation of being discovered.

3. Best in Show (2000)

Best in Show lampooned the dog show circuit with a group of competitors being documented in this fun and ludicrous take about the tense build up to the Mayflower Dog Show.

4. A Mighty Wind (2003)

A Mighty Wind captured the hokey magic of folk musicians in their build-up to a reunion concert. Having never quite become famous-famous, their musical ambitions, old romances and self doubt kicks in.

5. For Your Consideration (2006)

For Your Consideration documented the award season buzz between cast and crew of an independent film, Home for Purim. After an unknown veteran's Oscar-worthy performance catches the air, nomination banter begins to snowball as the film gets called into question.

6. Mascots (2016)

Mascots sees a group of sports mascots trying to position themselves in their comeptitive world in the build up to the covetted Gold Fluffy award.

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