Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Similar Subjects

Welcome to what may be the final edition of this weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After spending a number of weeks looking at actors who tend to play the same characters, it’s time to spotlight two films with eerily similar plots that came out at roughly the same time. There are surprisingly more examples than might be obvious, and this series will examine the similarities and differences between the two (or three), and how their simultaneous releases affected each other.

The Bang Bang Club / 5 Days of War

Release dates: April 22, 2011 / August 19, 2011

The similarities: Both were dramatizations of journalists right at the center of real international conflicts that you probably haven’t heard of since they both showed in fewer than ten theatres.

The differences: The former had actors portraying real people, war photographers in South Africa in the early 1990s, while the latter told a fictional story about reporters set against the backdrop of the South Ossetia War between Georgia and Russia in 2008. Director Steven Silver made his feature film debut with the former, while “Die Hard 2” director Renny Harlin made his most serious film in years with the latter.

The releases: Neither was good. The former fared somewhat better in that it showed at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and was nominated for a handful of Genie Awards (Canada’s Oscars). The former made about $125,000 domestically from nine theatres, and the latter pulled in an embarrassing $17,479 in six theatres. Both received negative reviews, with the former being criticized for not being hard-hitting enough, while the latter was perceived as heavily and problematically pro-Georgian.

Which one is more likely to be remembered? Neither. I’ll remember the latter more because I had the opportunity to talk to director Harlin and star Andy Garcia, who portrayed Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. I also saw it with a friend who had been living in Russia for the past few years, who was impressed but also shocked by its pro-Georgian slant. I would argue that both films are affecting and captivating portraits of war that should be seen by more people than had the chance to see them.

No comments: