- David Parkinson
Parky At the Pictures (24/2/2023)
(Reviews of Joyland; Settembre; Charm Circle; and Creature)
Having won the Orrizonti award at the Venice Film Festival with his 2019 short. Darling, Saim Sadiq became the first Pakistani director to premiere at Cannes with his feature bow, Joyland. In addition to taking the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard strand, this poignant rite of sexual passage also won the Queer Palme. Moreover, it also became the first Pakistani title to be shortlisted for the Oscar for Best International Film.
Haider Rana (Ali Junejo) lives with wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq) in the large Lahore belonging to his father, Rana Amanullah (Salmaan Peerzada). He is forever asking why Haider doesn't have children like his older brother, Saleem (Sohail Sameer), who was barely able to hide his dismay when wife Nucchi (Sarwat Gilani) gave birth to their fourth daughter. Amanullah's disappointment in Haider is equally evident when he fails to slaughter a goat to celebrate the new arrival and Mumtaz has to cut the helpless animal's throat.
Until now, Haider has stayed home to look after his nieces, while Saleem and Mumtaz have been the breadwinners. But a pal helps him get work as a background dancer at the nightclub where trans dancer Biba (Alina Khan) is a star turn. He isn't sure he's cut out for the role, but is intrigued by Biba, who treats him like an unofficial assistant.
Feeling guilty that Mumtaz has been told to stay home and help Nucchi, Haider tells her that he is dancing. But the rest of the family think he's a stage manager, although they don't like the idea of him working at an erotic theatre. Mumtaz is jealous of Biba's looks when Haider brings home a giant cut-out on his scooter. However, he reassures her she has nothing to worry about, even though their relationship is largely platonic.
After a female neighbour complains about the Biba cut-out on the roof, Nucchi teases Mumtaz that she needs to dress more provocatively. But she points out that Biba is trans and that Haider won't be led astray (unlike the male neighbour on Mumtaz spies through binoculars when he's on the phone to his mistress).
As Haider is new, he takes time learning the steps and Biba removes his shirt to help free him up. They go back to her digs after rehearsal and he sits beside her on the subway after a woman complains that a trans shouldn't be in the female section of the carriage. Biba asks to see a picture of Mumtaz and climbs on his lap to kiss him. But Haider pulls away and flees. Unable to sleep and with a niece sharing the bed, he tells Mumtaz that he needs some air. However, he calls on Biba and they kiss passionately.
Mumtaz is frustrated by having to give up her beautician job and Nucchi tries to cheer her up by going to the Joyland fun fair. Biba and Haider try to hide their feelings at the theatre, but spend as much time together as they can. After one show, they chat in the empty seats, as Haider complains that he has nothing to call his own. In his absence, Mumtaz pleasures herself while spying on the neighbour and is aghast when Saleem catches her.
Saleem is even more scandalised when Fayyaz (Sania Saeed) stays over after coming to visit the disabled Amanullah and her son is humiliated to discover that she has not been home. He bars her from seeing Amanullah and Fayyaz is disappointed when he doesn't invite her to move in permanently so she can take care of him. Saleem is embarrassed by the incident and tells Haider to keep his wife under control (but doesn't say why).
Mumtaz discovers she's pregnant and lets slip to Nucchi that she wants to run away. Biba catches the other dancers asking Haider about her body and she is angry with him when he tells her that he doesn't want her to have surgery because he likes her the way she is. They go back to her room and start making out, but Biba is furious when Haider assumes a submissive position and she throws him out. He forgets his shoes and Mumtaz notices when he gets home and flinches when Haider bursts into tears when she tells him she's expecting his son.
During the party for Amanullah's 70th birthday, everyone makes a fuss of Mumtaz. But she is distracted and goes into the courtyard to play tag with her nieces. Nucchi reminds her of her condition, even though she's envious of the fuss being made because her sister-in-law is expecting a boy. That evening, Haider finds Mumtaz sitting in the bathroom with a bottle in her hands. He says nothing about it, as they chat about the day. Heading for bed, he pulls the door over to give his wife some privacy.
But Mumtaz kills herself and a distraught Haider is surprised to see Biba among the mourners. After the funeral, Saleem criticises Mumtaz for killing her child and both Haider and Nucchi berate him. The latter insists they were all to blame to failing to see the signs and she makes sure Haider knows he is very much responsible.
With Biba moving on to a new venue, Haider takes a train to Karachi. She had told him about the ocean and Mumtaz's childhood memories had increased his desire to go for a paddle. On the train, he remembers the night he had knocked on Mumtaz's door and offered her a way out of their arranged marriage. He had promised that she could continue to work and joked that he would enjoy being a babysitter to his nieces. They had parted with bashful compliments and a vow to meet again on their wedding day. Stumbling towards some rocks in the low tide, Haider is left with his memories and some decisions to make.
Briefly banned in Pakistan for presenting a negative image of the country and its values, this brims with positive messages, even though Sadiq has the nous to convey them through the lives of his characters rather than through cumbrous pronouncements. The story ends tragically, but it also has a vibrancy that captures the simple joys and frustrations experienced by ordinary people on a daily basis.
Echoing Sadiq's New York short, Nice Talking to You (2018), the first meeting between Haider and Mumtaz is achingly sweet and makes the desperation of her plight all the more painful and poignant. Much of the controversy has centred on the trans aspect of the picture, which is actually underdeveloped, as we learn little of Biba's past and her own reaction to finding love with a man who treats her with gentleness rather than aggression. But it's Rasti Farooq who gives it a soul, as she tries to honour the bargain that her husband keeps breaking in struggling to deal with the constraints and expectations imposed by his father and older brother.
Ali Junejo makes the conflicted Haider highly empathetic, especially as he is able to identify with the issues facing both Mumtaz and Biba, who is played as a self-sufficient diva riven by fragility and fear by Alina Khan, who had previously headlined Darling. Sarwat Gilani also impresses as the mother of four girls who attempts to assert her self-worth in a household in which she is very much taken for granted. But so is Haider, whose bid to please his father by emerging from his brother's shadow brings nothing but shame and sadness.
Yet Sadiq is careful to ensure that no one is depicting as the villain of the piece, as he seeks through slow-simmering scenes to show a society in hesitant transition. He's ably abetted by cinematographer Joe Saade, who deftly adapts the 4:3 aspect ratio frame to the tonal changes echoed in Kanwal Khoosat's production design, as the scene shifts from the bustling family home, the gaudy nightclub, and Biba's cramped quarters, where a green neon light plays upon the faces of the lovers as they share their first kiss.
Saade also captures a sense of the city, which allows Sadiq daringly to explore the clashes between conservative conformism. Muslim morality, and queer questioning. Perhaps someone will now take a chance on another provocative dance-related drama, Zindagi Tamasha (aka Circus of Life, 2019), which was directed by Sarmad Khoosat (who is one of Joyland's many producers, along with Riz Ahmed) and is still banned in Pakistan.
Previously been known for her acting and writing work on pictures like Leonardo D'Agostini's The Champion and Simone Godano's An Almost Ordinary Summer (both 2019), Giulia Louise Steigerwalt makes an accomplished debut with Settembre. Based on true-life stories that she had heard and stored away, this latterday commedia all'italiano is the latest presentation from the splendid folks at CinemaItaliaUK.
Francesca (Barbara Ronchi) is in a rut. Husband Alberto (Andrea Sartoretti) barely communicates with her and spends his evenings playing cards, while teenage son Sergio is starting to lead his own life. She confides her misery to best friend Debora (Thony), who is eminently sympathetic because her spouse, Marco (Andrea Venditti), is cheating on her with another woman.
Adding to Francesca's worries is a hospital appointment because Doctor Gugliemo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is worried about an ultrasound result. He is also going through a bad patch, as his wife has left him and he seeks solace in an 18 year-old street prostiture called Ana (Tesa Litvan). She is alone in Rome, having come from Eastern Europe to find employment. Her ambition is to go to beauty school, but she also has a crush on Matteo (Enrico Borello), who works on the bakery counter at the local supermarket. He asks to accompany her to Mass and she worries about how she is ever going to tell him the truth.
Sergio (Luca Nozzoli) is also shy and has a crush on classmate, Maria (Margherita Rebeggiani). However, his pal asks her out first and she confides in best friend Simona (Arianna Ascoli) that she has no idea wht to do with boys. As he is acting as intermediary, Sergio offers to give Maria some tips and even drops his trousers so she doesn't get a shock at how ugly male genitalia is. Maria has watched some porn links that Simona has sent her, but she is still puzzled by kissing and Sergio helps her practice through a strip of clingfilm so that his mate will still be her first kiss.
Much to their mutual surprise, Francesca and Debora have just had their first kiss after the former receives bad news from the hospital. They are interrupted by Alberto and say nothing more about the matter, even though each felt a pang of longing. By contrast, Gugliemo is stung when Ana tells him about Matteo and bluntly informs him that he is far too old for her. Moreover, she introduces him to Matteo as a friend of her grandfather's, when they bump into each other at a burger van.
Confused by her embrace with Debora, Francesca tries to coax Alberto into discussing the distance that has grown between them. He is too busy to talk, however, and Francesca and Debora wind up cuddling on the sofa after supper and joking that life would be easier if they moved in together. Sergio and Maria also share secrets, while he shows her how to put a condom on a toothpaste tube. He confesses to having been unable to rise to the occasion with a girl on holiday and Maria reassures him that things will be better with the right girl.
Matteo invites Ana to spend the day at the beach with his friends. She is nervous, but everyone makes her feel welcome and she enjoys feeling part of the group, as they share sandwiches and beer. Reluctant to let Marco see where she lives, Ana insists on being dropped at the bus stop. He gently kisses her goodnight and she likes him so much she feels compelled to tell him she's a prostitute.
As Francesca tucks him in, Sergio also confides that he's smitten with a girl in his class and she scootches him over to cuddle. She's woken next morning by a call from the hospital and she arrives on a high after finding a spliff in her son's room. Gugliemo informs her that the MRI scan has discovered nothing of concern and she is so relieved that she decides to follow Alberto when he goes out that evening. Much to her annoyance, she learns that he really does go to play cards and stumbles into the nearest bar for a red wine.
She is surprised to find Gugliemo sitting next to her and he admits that he thought she would be happier after being given the all-clear. Francesca tells him about Alberto and he reveals how he had lost his wife by ceasing to think of them as a couple. On a train journey on a sweltering day, he had only bought one drink from the buffet and had consumed it by the time he returned to their seat. He regrets his selfishness and realises that he risks losing Ana by putting his own feelings before hers.
As Gugliemo drops Francesca home at 3am, they are confronted by Alberto and a scuffle breaks out. Returning from an assignation, Marco intervenes and takes Alberto to casualty for stitches to a head wound. Debora joins them and sits next to Francesca, as Alberto continues to question why his wife was out so late with another man. Marco backs his pal, only for Francesca to expose that he had been with his mistress rather than playing cards and Debora brushes off his protests of innocence.
Exasperated, Alberto goes to the vending machine. When he only buys a drink for himself, Francesca clasps Debora's hand and announces that they are moving in together. She suggests that the boys take one house and they'll take the other. Debora nods and they leave together, with their husbands feeling stunned.
Lying on his bed, Gugliemo decides the time has come to put his life in order. He goes to Ana's spot and beckons her towards his car. She is reluctant to get inside, but he offers to put her through beauty school and let her live in his apartment while she studies. Thrilled at being given a chance to realise her dream, Ana accepts and ventures back to the bakery in the hope that Matteo can forgive her. Maria is also delighted when Sergio invites her to a concert and she clings to him on the back of a borrowed scooter.
Neatly tying up loose ends, while leaving each situation tantalisingly hanging, this is a delightful first feature by Giulia Louise Steigerwalt. Alberto and Marco are boorish caricatures, while there's something a little sinister about an ageing gynaecologist (no matter how sad he is) seeking solace with a teenage migrant prostitute. But the female characters experiencing varying degrees of first love are deftly delineated, with Francesca recognising the sole dependable in her life as her uncertainties mount, Debora trusting in feelings she never knew she had, and Maria discovering that there is much more to dating boys than flutters of the heart.
It might have been helpful to know more about Ana's reasons for coming to Italy and how she wound up streetwalking. However, she manages to bring about Gugliemo's redemption without undue religiosity, while the innocence of her relationship with Matteo is truly touching and brings to mind Guilietta Masina's faith in fate in Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria (1957). Such little touches emphasise the sophistication of Steigerwalt's approach.
Croatian Tesa Litvan is winningly down to earth as Ana, with the scene of her putting on lipstick ahead of the beach trip mirroring Margherita Rebeggiani's experiments with make-up before she washes her face before her mother sees her. The ease of her rapport with Luca Nozzoli is also charming, as is his bedtime chat with Barbara Ronchi, who poignantly conveys the emotional numbness of a woman whose dreams have been dashed and whose fears seem about to be realised. Her bond with singer-actress Thony is beautifully judged, especially as they search for meaning in each other's eyes following their first kiss.
Editor Gianni Vezzosi seamlessly links the episodes, while Vladan Radovic's photography is equally efficient, as it favours close-ups to capture thought and emotion. Cristina Del Zotto's production design is also full of neat details, such as the unwashed dishes cluttering the dispirited doctor's darkened apartment, the unappreciated cosiness of Francesca's home, and the kiss-height snapshots stuck to the indoor mirror of Maria's wardrobe. It's unlikely to happen, but it would be nice to know how everyone is getting on in three or four years time.
Film as family therapy has become an increasingly common in documentary film-making. Many of these exposés are brutally honest in dealing with disease or dysfunction and, consequently, they often make for excruciating viewing, as they force the audience to intrude upon private grief.
Albert and David Maysles's Grey Gardens (1975) and Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans (2003) are often credited with creating the template for the domestic documentary. As each was made by outsiders looking in, however, the originator of what might be called auto-actuality is Jonathan Couette's Tarnation (2003), which chronicled his relationship with his schizophrenic mother.
One suspects that Nira Burstein is familiar with the film or has seen several like it, as Charm Circle is very much in its mould. Having started out making narrative shorts in 2011, Burstein spent six years recording her parents and two sisters at the eponymous cul-de-sac in the New York borough of Queens. The resulting debut won an audience award at the prestigious Sheffield DocFest and Burstein has gone on record as hoping that it can start a conversation about mental health because `the personal is universal'. But this is a difficult watch on many levels
Uri and Raya Burstein love living on Charm Circle, as it offers all the suburban comforts and conveniences. The Glass House they share with several cats and their eldest daughter, Judy, is wall-to-wall clutter and confusion, as both Raya and Judy have mental health issues. Yet, from old home movies, it's evident that this was once a happy Jewish family, with Uri making good money from real estate and Raya thriving as an occupational therapist.
For all their problems, Raya and Uri seem an eccentrically affectionate couple. But he disapproves of the fact that youngest daughter Adina (who lives in Olympia, Washington) is about to enter into a polyamorous marriage with two non-binary people named Aggie and Sylo. She is upset because he's basing his objection on Jewish law, when she knows he picks and chooses religious tenets to suit himself.
As a youth, Uri harboured hopes of being a conductor and met Leonard Bernstein. However, he drifted into a band named Easy Street and his opportunities fizzled, although he is forever strumming along to self-composed songs or playing keyboards with insouciant grace (in spite of wrist trouble). Raya is also a talented musician and met Uri in the choir at Queens College. With a masters from Columbia, she was prospering before giving birth to her girls and starting to experience psychological problems.
By this stage, Judy had also been evaluated and Uri is frustrated that she has been diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, when even someone as prestigious as Oliver Sacks was unable to determine her condition. We see Judy and Raya quarrelling over buying some sweets at the corner store and making up outside. Nira asks her father how it felt to hear that his first-born had issues and he curses the fact that doctors put labels on Judy without really understanding her case.
He's supportive, but less sympathetic towards Raya, who was variously diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic during the 20 hospitalisations that followed a breakdown around the time Judy was 12. Raya looks to be in a daze in footage from the time, yet still managed to complete her education, hold down a job as an occupational therapist, and raise her daughters. Now, she wishes that Uri would show her more physical affection, as over a decade has passed since they last had sex.
The pressure of trying to keep the family together got to Uri and forced Nira to grow up quickly at the age of eight. Raya apologises to her for not being around, as we see poignant archive clips of Uri sitting with the girls on the sofa to sing a song about how much they are missing their mom. She blamed Uri for her problems and Nira and Adina each feels guilty for moving out of a household that was falling apart.
Adina comes for a visit and she opens the windows in Uri's bedroom to let some air in. Nira is coaxed before the camera to pose with her mother and siblings before they go to a karaoke bar together. Shortly afterwards, however, Raya loses her job for giving hot drinks to small children and Uri despairs at how venal the world has become. He still refuses to attend Adina's wedding and she breaks off contact with him. Nira discusses his moods with Raya and admits that she has often worried that they will drive each other to murder/suicide.
Unable to cope with Uri's attitude, Raya takes Judy to a hotel in New York for a break. She admits she can't really afford the room, but she needs to create some distance. Uri comes to see her and tells Nira that he has stuck by Raya when all the signs told him to back away. He visited her in the hospital when her parents stayed away and has tried to hold the family together, but wound up being the villain. As they chunter on the pavement, Uri drops to one knee to propose. But, while Raya accepts, she insists they sleep together and he sneers jokingly that they've already done that at least three times.
The whole family graces Adina's big day and it all passes off well, with plenty of hugs. Over a montage of domestic scenes, Uri reflects that he has always been aware that things were unconventional. But he had made a pact for life and rationalised that the Burstein spin on normality was only slightly different from everyone else's. However, he has now agreed to try therapy to rebuild his relationship with Raya and they decide to sell The Glass House after 28 years and start afresh.
This revelation comes somewhat out of the blue and there is a rushed feel to the scenes of Uri and Raya clearing out their belonging to leave spick-and-span emptiness. They are last seen tottering along together in bright sunlight, en route to goodness knows what future. It's an optimistic, if contrived conclusion. But one is left with nothing but uneasy feelings and an overwhelming sense of sadness after having encroached into what should have been private space.
One is always reminded after watching these confessional documentaries of Leo Tolstoy's line from Anna Karenina about unhappy families being unhappy in their own way. The Bursteins are fortunate in being able to cling together through their myriad adversities and tolerate each other's frailties and foibles. It's to be hoped that the film benefits them and anyone enduring similar situations. But watching these trustingly vulnerable people turn dysfunction into a way of functioning is deeply discomfiting.
Despite making a solid start with several acclaimed shorts and the narrative features, The Warrior (2001) and The Return (2005), Asif Kapadia is best known for the documentary triptych that is comprised of Senna (2010), Amy (2015), and Diego Maradona (2019). He has visited the polar regions of our embattled planet before in Far North (2007). But he returns for a markedly different kind of project, Creature, a record of the Akram Khan ballet that was performed by the English National Ballet at Sadler's Wells in September 2021, after an 18-month delay caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Choreographer Khan took his inspiration from Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein, and Georg Büchner's unfinished 1836 play, Woyzeck. However, it's impossible to avoid comparisons with Guillermo Del Toro's The Weight of Water (2017), which won both the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Somewhere in the frozen Arctic, Creature (Jeffrey Cirio) is held in a wooden shack at what is either a prison camp or a research centre. No explanation is given for his presence or for the experiments to which he is subjected. However, it is suggested that plans are being made to blast off from a dying planet and that Creature is being assessed on his reaction to isolation and extreme temperatures.
While attempting to rouse a cleaner named Marie (Erina Takahashi), Creature is driven to distraction by distorted extracts from President Richard Nixon's telephone conversation from July 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon. There's a biting irony in the fact that the man who would escalate the war in South-East Asia comments on their location in the Sea of Tranquility and hopes that their mission brings peace to the nations of Earth.
As the speech becomes more fragmented, as though being sampled by a scratch DJ, the phrase `because of what you have done' becomes accusatory rather than acclamatory and lacerating jags of Vincenzo Lamagna's spiky score whip into a cacophony. Creature is no longer alone, as various male and female figures gyrate alongside him. Among them is a Captain (Ken Saruhashi) in a greatcoat, who places a helmet on Creature's head that sends him into spasms. He is the monitored by a Doctor (Stina Quagebeur) in a white coat. Some of the others seem to seek contact with him, others remain aloof. But Creature's gaze remains on Marie, as she becomes caught up in the commotion.
Suddenly, Creature is alone in silence, with four guards around the wall. He is joined by another man who squirms across the floor as though he is scrubbing it. They dance together before the Doctor arrives with her entourage. She forces Creature to trot around in a circle like a show pony, with each click of her fingers seeming to impact upon him.
Creature rushes to Marie and clings to her in the hope she can shelter him from the relentless bombardment. But the Captain forces them apart before a blue-coated Major (Fabian Reimair) enters the room. He proceeds to climb on top of a table that has suddenly appeared and he orders the helmet to be placed on Creature's head. He presides over a strutting dance, as Marie looks on helplessly as a creaking door is opened and Creature is cast out into the frozen wilderness.
Marie is distraught and pleads with the Doctor to have Creature brought back inside. A minion is sent to fetch him and the Major swaggers past his prostrate form, as the Doctor looks on concerned. Once it's been established that they will recover, Creature is left alone with Marie. He joins her by the table and starts to flirt with her. She demurely resists, but he pushes her across the floor on her wheeled mop bucket and they duet.
They are not left alone for long, however, with the Major having Creature restrained while he parades around Marie. A flashing image of a rocket seemingly speeding into space causes everyone to join in a circling dance, in which they periodically pause to clap above their heads. Creature is excluded from the ritual and is held back when he tries to join in. He beset by a combination of extreme heat and the repetition of the phrase `outside temperature', as the lights dim and the Creature's body is racked.
The Doctor intervenes, as Creature is held aloft by four minions. As she examines her patient, the Major lines up the other dancers in ranks, while Marie pirouettes behind them in a pool of light. The bolero beat intensifies, as the Creature insinuates himself in the ranks and breaks into a comic prance. He enlists the help of Andres (Victor Prigent), who is amused by his antics.
However, the hijinx distracts everyone from the Major's concerted attempt to seduce Marie. She tries to back away, but he pursues her and sweeps her into his arms. As he presses her against the wooden planking, however, Creature rushes over to rescue her. The Doctor looks appalled by the Major's behaviour. But he has the Captain restrain Creature and tosses a necklace of beads on to the floor before giving the order to hurl him into the icy wasteland.
The room empties. But the Captain feels Creature has been mistreated and puts on his helmet to venture into the blizzard. Marie devotes herself to scrubbing the planks until the door opens and the Captain drags Creature inside. He is wearing his greatcoat and is barely conscious, as the Captain staggers back outside as a voice mutters about the beauty of the world.
Coming round, Creature approaches Marie, who is frightened (and puzzled by the presence of what seems to be a dead Arctic fox). They dance together before the Major returns to divest Creature of the coat and wrestle him to the floor. Sonic blasts paralyse Creature as the dancers march past him in stylised step. The Major tries to force Marie to don the helmet and points upwards to warn her that they have to leave. Creature pulls off his vest to warm the fox, as the Major throttles Marie for trying to give Creature the helmet. As he leaves the room, the rocket blasts off and the screen goes black.
A choir plain-chants as the lights come up. Creature hauls himself over to Marie and is crushed to find her lifeless corpse. He clasps her to himself, as he tries to revive her with dance and even with dunking her head in the mop bucket. As he takes her in his arms, slats start dropping off the walls and shafts of light flood into the room. Darkness descends again, however, with a thick liquid seeming to bubble in the murk. The screen whites out suggesting something apocalyptic before the credits roll.
While there's no denying the artistry on display in this kinetically filmed stage transfer, it will either prove thrillingly innovative or insufferably pretentious depending on your perspective and understanding of modern dance and classical kathak. For those who find it an impenetrable language, this will be a terpsichorean torment that is relieved only by the sinewy athleticism of Jeffrey Cirio and the occasional sense of satisfaction at fathoming a modicum of meaning from what appears to be a consciously elusive enterprise.
The performers are mesmerising, even if it's not often clear what they are striving to convey. Andy Serkis contributes the voices that punctuate Stephen Griffiths's unsettling sound design, which crackles away behind the Vincenzo Lamagna score that veers between driving stridency and stealthy serenity. Daniel Landin's camera often elects to spectate from the stalls, but it also joins the dance, with its sinuous movements being deftly laced together by editor Sylvie Landra. Considering Kapadia had never even seen a ballet before he took on this project and had only 10 days to prepare, he acquits himself remarkably well. But this lacks the accessibility and inclusivity of his documentary work, even though it shares several of its themes.