JARVIS CARR reviews Ben Berman’s debut feature, The Amazing Johnathan Documentary. As its title states, the focus of Ben Berman’s documentary began as ‘The Amazing Johnathan’, the stage name of John Szeles, an American magician who gained fame in the 1990s for the bravado, blood and banter in his act. Whether appearing to snort an entire jar of cocaine or by pushing the same plastic straw through (almost) all of his orifices on stage, The Amazing Johnathan inspired the likes of Penn Gillette and Carrot Top – the next generation of Las Vegas magicians-turned-celebrities. In 2014, Johnathan was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given one year to live. He decides to embark on a farewell tour: cue documentary crew. It starts as one has grown to expect this kind of documentary to. We are introduced to Szeles via an external narrator – in this case, an Amazon Alexa –…Continue Reading

THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY

JARVIS CARR reviews Hogir Hirori and Shinwar Kamal’s wartime documentary, The Deminer. There is no music to accompany Colonel Fakhir in the introductory scene of The Deminer (2017) as we sit and watch him deactivate one of the six hundred IEDs (improvised explosive devices) which span his decade-long military career. Instead he stands alone in a wide shot which envelops a vast and empty field lined with dozens of mines; one man driven by a perseverance derived from his own family, a hope that he may make a difference despite the futility of the task he faces. The documentary is comprised of three sources: interviews from Fakhir’s son and wife (Abdullah and Sheyma Fakhir), footage from his personal camcorder depicting both his footage from the Iraq war, and of his ongoing battle against the Islamic State who planted an indefinite number of mines in Mosul. One such tape shows Fakhir and his…Continue Reading

THE DEMINER

THEO MERTEN-MANCER reviews The Accountant of Auschwitz, a documentary about the recent trial of Oskar Gröning, a surviving member of the SS. A study released on Holocaust Remembrance Day this year found that two thirds of American millennials are unaware of what the Auschwitz extermination camp was. Survivors in their late 70s or older may remember experiencing the Second World War as children, however it seems that details of the conflict and surrounding events are fading from living memory. Matthew Shoychet’s new documentary serves as a contemporary reminder of the dreadful atrocities committed in the concentration camps of World War Two. Beyond this, The Accountant of Auschwitz explores crucial questions of justice and accountability. The documentary revolves around the 2015 trial of Oskar Gröning, a 94-year-old former SS officer who was charged as an accessory to the murder of over 300,000 victims in Auschwitz. His defence is one of moral disengagement:…Continue Reading

The Accountant of Auschwitz