The son of refugees from East Germany, Christian Petzold was born in Hilden, near Düsseldorf, in 1960. Having graduated in German literature and Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin, he trained at the German Film and Television Academy (1988-94), under tutors Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky, who were renowned for their achievements in the cine-essay and analytical documentary. Already a passionate cineaste with an abiding interest in screen history, Petzold emerged as a key member of the Berlin School, which has specialised in capturing the shifting social, political, economic and cultural mood of Germany since reunification in 1990.

Since first making an impression with the terrorist thriller, The State I Am In (2000), Petzold has done his best work in conjunction with muse Nina Hoss, who has proved herself to be one of Europe's finest actresses with her superbly modulated performances in Something to Remind Me (2002), Wolfsburg (2003), Yella (2007), Jerichow (2009), Barbara (2012) and Phoenix (2014). However, Petzold has opted not to collaborate with Hoss on Transit, an audaciously atemporal adaptation of a 1942 novel by the German Jewish refugee, Anna Seghers, which draws comparisons between the political conditions across the continent that once facilitated the Holocaust and are currently exacerbating the migrant crisis. 

Having escaped from a German concentration camp, Georg (Franz Rogowski) fetches up in Paris, where a journalist friend, Paul (Sebastian Hülk), urges him to leave before the Fascists controlling the city put it into lockdown. He asks Georg to deliver two letters to a celebrated Communist author named Weidel, who is staying in a nearby hotel. When Georg reached the Ryad, however, he learns from the chambermaid (Emilie de Preissac) that Weidel has committed suicide by slashing his wrists in the bathroom. She had asked a cop friend to dispose of the body in an unmarked grave and suggests that Georg takes the manuscript left on the desk so that she has no traces remaining of Weidel's inconvenient existence. 

Impulsively, Georg takes the typed pages and is wandering back to his neighbourhood when he sees Paul being rounded up by some uniformed men. He manages to escape when asked to show his papers and returns to his hideout, where he is given instructions to take the badly wounded Heinz by train to Marseilles. As they travel in a sealed compartment, Georg reads Weidel's manuscript, as well as the letters that his friend had entrusted to him. A narrator (Matthias Brandt) describes this action as we learn that the first was from the Mexican consul offering Weidel safe passage out of Europe, while the other was from his estranged wife, Marie, who implored him to meet her in Marseilles, as they desperately needed to talk. 

On discovering that Heinz has died, Georg leaves the train and wanders into the city. He is surprised when a woman mistakes him for someone else and taps him on the shoulder, but is very much taken by her elegance, as she walks away. Seeking out the Maghrebi neighbourhood, Goerg break the news of Heinz's death to his wife, Melissa (Maryam Zaree), and their young son, Driss (Lilien Batman) asks him to go in goal for a kick about in the courtyard. But Georg doesn't feel he can linger and checks into a hotel in the centre, where the woman at the desk informs him that he can only register if he has documentary proof that he is not going to stay for more than a few days. Despite feeling sure that she will betray him, he takes a room and determines to hand in Weidel's papers at the Mexican consulate in the hope that they offer him a reward. 

The next day, he sees the woman in black at the consulate, where he is frustrated by the fact that a conductor (Justus von Dohnányi) and an architect (Barbara Auer) insist on telling him their life stories while they wait to be called. He is mistaken for Weidel by the consul (Alex Brendemühl), who gives him transit papers to reach Mexico via Spain and the United States and he mentions that he had just been speaking to Marie before he arrived. Realising that the woman in black is Weidel's widow and that she has no idea he is dead, Georg decides to play along with the error and spends some of the money that the consul had given him on food (and we learn that the narrator runs the Mont Vertoux café where he eats).

He also buys a football for Driss and helps him repair his broken radio (as he was a technician before the Fascists took over). Melissa arrives home and is surprised to see him. She communicates with her son through sign language and she accepts that Georg is a decent man when he sings the childhood lullaby that had been playing on the radio when she had walked in. Having survived a raid on the hotel (and noticed the architect sharing his sense of shame on the landing, as they motionlessly watched a woman being dragged away), Georg takes Driss for a day out and leaves him with a chocolate sundae while he nips into the American embassy. In the foyer, he notices the conductor and the architect before he is called (as Weidel) to meet the consul (Trystan Pütter). He is reluctant to give a visa to a known Communist sympathiser, but Georg assures him that he is as tired of writing about the war as he once was about penning school essays about what he had done during the holidays. 

As he leaves, Georg sees that the conductor has collapsed and an ambulance pulls up as he crosses the street to collect Driss. Marie mistakes him for Weidel for a second time and turns away in confusion and disappointment. But Driss is also upset, as he has realised that Georg is planning to go away and pushes him over when he tries to console him. The boy refuses to answer the door when he visits the next day and then bars him from his room when he has an asthma attack that requires Georg to find a doctor. By chance, he tracks down Richard (Godehard Giese), who is Marie's lover and they get chatting about the problems of having to leave a loved one behind in order to reach safety. Richard also has transit papers for Mexico, where he is due to work in a hospital. But he can't bear the thought of leaving Marie behind and recognises that Georg is also feeling guilty about abandoning Driss. 

Aware that Weidel had planned to get Marie out of France, Georg feels responsible for her and comes to the apartment to see her. She is sorting clothes to sell and tells him how she had disembarked from a ship because she couldn't betray her husband. But he had failed to meet her in Marseille with the documents she needed and now feels desperate because Richard is going to give up his own place on a liner in order to smuggle her across the Pyrenees into Spain. When Richard comes home carrying rucksacks, Georg offers to secure a visa for Marie to accompany him and swears that he wants nothing in return for the favour. 

Convincing the American consul to give him papers for Marie, Georg tells him a story about a man waiting in Purgatory to get the pass he needs to enter Hell. After weeks and months of lingering, he discovers that he has been in Hell all along and the consul smiles quietly. Richard is sceptical about the authenticity of the paperwork and the café owner notices how Georg and Marie held hands at the table while waiting for him to return. She is relieved that Richard can finally leave, as he has been on her conscience. But, having seen him off at the dock, she returns to the apartment to inform Georg that she has no intention of leaving France, as she has to find her husband. He tries to tell her that Weidel is dead, but she doesn't believe him. At that moment, however, Richard drives up in a taxi, as he has been bumped off the ship by some more important passengers and Georg leaves the lovers to ponder their next step. 

Needing cheering up, Georg goes to see Driss, only to learn that he and Melissa had gone far away and that their apartment was now being occupied by around a dozen North Africans. As he walks, he is hailed by the architect, who is wearing a smart black dress. She invites him to dine with her, but insists she wants company rather than conversation. Nevertheless, they get chatting and she tells him about the bridges that had been built by her mentor. But, as he lights a cigarette while sitting on the city wall, Georg is appalled to find himself alone because the woman has jumped to her death. With the Fascists closing in on the South, she had grown tired of having to jump through hoops to obtain her exit papers and had taken what she felt to be the only way out. 

As the day of his departure approaches, Georg keeps to himself for fear of bumping into Richard and Marie. However, she finds him at Mont Vertoux and they embrace warmly (much to the discomfort of the other customers, who are feeling uneasy at the news that cities further South are now being cleansed by the Fascists). They go back to his hotel room and Georg is touched by how fragile Marie seems, as she sparks out on his bed. The next morning, he leaves her in the same seat that Driss had occupied when he goes to the American consulate to collect their papers and she is relieved when he returns and assures her that everything is in order. In the taxi to the docks, however, Marie confides how excited she is that she will soon be reunited with her husband, as the Mexican consul had told her that he would be on the ship. 

Realising that he cannot disillusion her or cope with her disappointment when she learns the truth, Georg pretends that he has forgotten something and jumps out of the cab. He rushes to find Richard and gives him his ticket and documents so that he can join Marie on the Montréal. Risking his contempt, he asks for money so that it seems as if he is a lowlife trafficker to assuage any suspicions about his true motives. Desperate to unburden himself, Georg tells his story to the owner of the Mont Ventoux and asks him to keep Weidel's manuscript safe. 

As they talk, a woman bustles past him and Georg thinks he sees Marie. When he rushes into the street, however, there is no sign of her. The next day, as the Fascists close in on Marseille, Georg goes to the shipping office to check that Marie sailed aboard the Montréal. However, he learns that the ship hit a mine and sank with no survivors. But he is so sure that he saw Marie in the café that he waits at his usual table on the off chance that she will return, even as the troops begin rounding up suspects on the street outside. He looks up, as the bell over the door tinkles, and the film abruptly cuts to black without revealing who has entered. 

As the Talking Heads classic `Road to Nowhere' plays over the credits, Petzold leaves viewers in no doubt that he equates the Fascist attitudes that brought Europe to its knees eight decades ago with the recent rise in support for neo-Nazi groups around the world. Hence the decision to invert Jean-Luc Godard's gambit of using contemporary Paris for his futuristic noir, Alphaville (1965). There may be no mobile phones or laptops on view, but the backdrop for the action is very much the modern day to reinforce the script's contention that the migrants seeking to make a fresh start on the continent are being scapegoated in much the same way that the Jews were in the 1930s and 40s. 

Both KD Gruber's production design and Katharina Ost's costumes teasingly evoke the Nazi Occupation era and the present day, while Hans Fromm's CinemaScope photography captures the atmosphere of the different quarters of Marseille through which Georg wanders while trying to plan his future. Yet he never seems to belong anywhere, as Petzold drives home the enduring tendency of big cities to ghettoise their newcomers. Some might find the insistence on comparing the time zones contrived, especially as Petzold embraces the more melodramatic aspects of Seghers's novel and counterpoints the action with an unreliable voiceover. But the bold parallels will leave a deep impression with those who buy into a conceit that sometimes feels as though Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942) has been crossed with Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975) and Petzold's own Phoenix.

Conveying the fugitive's sense of being trapped by both his circumstances and his conscience. Franz Rogowski makes a compellingly enigmatic  protagonist. His friendship with Lilien Batman's Driss feels more authentic than his guilty passion for Paula Beer's Marie, who keeps mistaking Georg for her husband and yet who never comments on any similarity between them once they become better acquainted. Her relationship with Godehard Giese's Richard also raises its share of questions, while we never learn enough about Weidel to make any informed judgements about his status as a writer or his integrity as a man. We don't even get a full understanding of what drove him to suicide. But such unanswered quandaries add to the intrigue of a thriller that's more interested in conveying the characters' sense of limbo rather than in telling their stories.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the breaching of the Berlin Wall, it's easy to forget how restrictive life was behind the Iron Curtain. The extent to which pop music played a part in the relaxing of the state's grip on all aspects of daily life in the Soviet Union is examined by Kirill Serebrennikov in Leto, an affectionately stylised account of the friendship between Mike Naumenko of Zoopark and Kino frontman Viktor Tsoi that acquired added piquancy when the director was prevented from attending its premiere at Cannes by the fact he was serving a 20-month period of house arrest after being charged with embezzling funds designated for his Studio Seven theatre company. 

According to Serebrennikov's supporters, he had been victimised for speaking out against Russia's involvement in the Crimea and Vladimir Putin's persecution of the LGBTQ+ community. No doubt the trenchancy of the political messages in Betrayal (2012) and The Student (2016) contributed to the Kremlin vendetta. Yet, while this leisurely stroll down a monochrome memory lane presents an archly romanticised view of the pre-Perestroika era, it's anything but a work of harmless nostalgia, 

Some time in the early 1980s. Natacha (Irina Starshenbaum) and her friend use a ladder to climb through a back window of the Leningrad Rock Club in order to see Zoopark play to a youthful crowd who are forced to remain in their seats by the officious bouncers. Indeed, Natacha is made to lower a heart banner because any demonstrations of Western-style fandom are outlawed. Nevertheless, she manages to get backstage to congratulate band leader Mike Naumenko (Roman Bilyk, billed as Roma Zver) on his performance of `Trash', which is regarded as daringly subversive in the repressive climate imposed by President Leonid Brezhnev. 

Natacha is married to Mike, who wouldn't swap Mick Jagger's decadent lifestyle for his domestic bliss. While having a seaside picnic with his bandmates and their friends, Mike sings `Summer' to an acoustic guitar and welcomes Viktor Tsoi (Teo Yoo) and Liosha (Filipp Avdeev), who have been invited by his pal, Punk (Aleksandr Gorchilin), to play him some of their songs. Some of the entourage josh them, but they recognise the merits of `My Friends' and sing along with `Slacker'. Mike is suitably impressed and tells Natacha (who is taken with the soulful Viktor) that he is going to launch them as Garin and the Hyperboloids. As the night wears on, they light a bonfire and everyone strips down to splash in the sea, with the exception of Mike and Natacha, who look on with a benevolence that suggests they are content to create an atmosphere of hedonism without wanting to lose control themselves,  as they are aware that it won't take much for the authorities to clamp down on them. 

On the train back to the city, a patriotic passenger (Aleksandr Bashirov) berates the group for wasting the education that the state provided to copy such ideological enemies as The Beatles and The Sex Pistols. Punk gets dragged away by a KGB man and is punched in the nose. But he responds by breaking into a rendition of the Talking Heads anthem, `Psycho Killer'. A fight breaks out, with Viktor performing kung-fu kicks and the musicians running amok through carriages filled with ordinary people who provide the backing vocals to the song. Scratch animation effects provided by Dmitri Bulgakov (think a punkier version of A-Ha's `Take on Me' video add to the sense of surreality before Skeptic (Alexander Kuznetsov) produces a placard to reveal that this part of the episode didn't really happen. As the scene returns to normal, Skeptic gives the camera a wry shrug, as he looks back at the various drunks and deadbeats championing the Soviet way, as if they were superior beings to those daring to challenge the status quo. 

Back in their apartment, while Natacha dandles their baby son, Genia, Mike copies Western album covers in seeking inspiration for his own artwork. She notices Blondie's `Eat to the Beat' and mentions that Viktor had told her that New Wave music was the future. Mike is amused by her championing of Viktor, whose album he is helping to produce. We see Viktor and Liosha performing `Aluminium Cucumbers' before Mike sings `Sweet N' and Skeptic complains that Bob Dylan and Lou Reed use their music to protest about American society, while Mike merely muses about his missus. He pleads with him to write songs that reflect Soviet life and hands a gun to one of the band to shoot him if they don't think he's talking sense. As he slumps down, leaving a trail of blood on the wall, Skeptic springs to his feet and stomps past the camera grumbling that this incident never took place, either. 

Still without a name for their band, Liosha and Viktor are having problems arranging the latter's songs, as Viktor resents the fact that Liosha keeps changing the tone or the beat because he thinks they sound like something a kid might have composed. Viktor insists he is merely being a punk and stalks out of the session. He goes to see Mike and Natacha in their crowded communal lodgings and plays them `8th Grade Girl', Once again, he resists when Mike makes a suggestion for the chorus. But, as he is studying woodwork, Viktor gives them some gifts he has carved and Mike reminds him that he'll make much more of an impact with his music if he perseveres. 

Hoping to buy an electric guitar, Viktor makes some extra money with self-drawn posters and he is selling a Marc Bolan image to a spotty youth at a record fair when he bumps into Natacha. She is trying to find a copy of Aladdin Sane for Mike and tells Viktor about the part that David Bowie had played in her meeting her husband. They buy him a cup of coffee in a family heirloom teacup and take it on a trolley bus across the city. Suddenly, a bearded man behind them (Ilya Karpenko) starts crooning Iggy Pop's `The Passenger' and the lyrics are taken up by other people, as Viktor and Natacha move down the vehicle to find a seat. When they miss their stop, Viktor climbs out of the skylight and appears as an animated astronaut on the roof. Once again, Skeptic appears to inform us that this didn't actually happen. But he rather wishes it had. 

When she delivers the coffee (after having chatted to Viktor about Japanese culture), Natacha is disappointed that Mike only notices the fact it's cold, as she has enjoyed the eccentricity of the gesture that afforded her a little escape from the daily grind. But Mike is a decent sort and agrees to help Viktor, Liosha and their drummer, Oleg (Evgeniy Serzin), negotiate with Tatiana Ivanova (Yuliya Aug) so that she will approve their lyrics and allow them to play at the Leningrad Rock Club. She informs Viktor that his blue-collar attitude gives rock music a bad name and he is all set to flounce out. But Mike reminds Ivanova that the country is supposed to be championing the working class and she only relents when they convince her that Viktor is a satirist who is critiquing slacker attitudes rather than advocating them. 

Back at the apartment, they celebrate Viktor being accepted and T.Rex's `Children of the Revolution' plays on the soundtrack as they pop champagne corks and pass round smuggled albums like Bowie's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). The footage slips into grainy colour and is wedged between sidebars of scrawled notes to suggest this is part of a documentary being filmed about the rock scene. Natacha and Viktor share a misshapen tomato and she gets nervous when Mike walks in on them and tells Viktor that he wants a word. She hovers outside the door, dreading Mike telling Viktor to lay off his wife. But he is merely sharing a new track with him and she is able to continue her with chase crush.

When Oleg is drafted to fight in Afghanistan, Viktor and Liosha are left without a drummer and Mike is nervous about them playing at the club because they will sound more disco than rock and the crowd can sometimes turn on bands they dislike. But Viktor is unconcerned and Mike proves equally phlegmatic when Natacha reveals that she wants to kiss Viktor. Indeed, he seems more bothered by the fact that she would rather listen to Bolan than Lou Reed because he can sound a bit arrogant. 

On the night of Viktor's debut, Skeptic rushes on to the stage during Mike's rendition of `Rock`n'Roll Star' and gives him an electric guitar and urges him to rip up the joint. He charges into the audience and encourages the patrons to get on their feet and show some passion for the music they profess to love by storming the stage. Split-screen colour coverage cuts into the sedate monochrome footage and Ivanova joins the crowd in letting herself go. 

But, of course, this didn't happen, either and we slip backstage to see Viktor and Liosha looking nervous before they go on as Garin and the Hyperboloids. They decide to wear ruffled shirts and Ivanova reassures the Party overseer that they are a comedy group. The fact they are using a drum machine seems to make the audience uneasy and the response to `You Used to Be a Beatnik' is decidedly muted until Mike comes on to add an electric guitar solo and some licks to spice things up a bit. As soon as he appears, the audience starts clapping along and Natacha is hugely relieved. 

After the gig, Mike asks Viktor to walk Natacha home, as he has somewhere to go. In fact, he has to shelter from the rain in a phone box, where he meets a woman in a red dress (Elena Koreneva), who is angry because the phone keeps swallowing up her change. As she tells Mike about the hard time she has with her husband, she begins singing Lou Reed's `Perfect Day' and the chorus is taken up by women sitting on the staircase that Mike climbs when he gets out of the rain. Skeptic questions whether everyone will share Reed's idea of an ideal day, but he is happy to go along with things on this occasion. 

Meanwhile, Natacha asks Viktor to help her bathe baby Genia and is pleased that he is better with kids than Mike. She tells him she has permission to kiss him and, while they embrace, Mike plays a tape of Viktor singing `Vesna' for Boris (Nikita Efremov) in the hope of persuading him to let Viktor record an album. When Boris asks why they are in such a rush, Mike reels off his reasons: `Army, alcoholism, suicide, wife and kids, indifference to life - what else can happen to people in our country?' Having summed up the Soviet existence (and taken a swipe at Russian society four decades later), Mike gets home to find Natacha sleeping alone and curls up beside her. 

In the studio, Viktor dislikes the sound Boris is creating and Mike tells him to stop bellyaching, as he is cutting a disc and should be thinking about the kids singing it in hallways rather than fretting about achieving perfection. During the session, they add guitar to the backing track and everyone piles into the studio to record raucous vocals for the final chorus. But Mike wanders away, as we hear Viktor's `In the Kitchen' on the soundtrack and the scene shifts to a covert concert to launch the album. There's an impromptu press conference, during which Mike jokes about playing in a sports stadium with elephants and celebrated state-revered classical musicians. But Viktor would rather play an intimate show to faces he can see and his answer persuades Mariana (Yulia Loboda) to scrawl her phone number on his arm in eye liner. 

Natacha encourages Viktor to date Mariana, as she's a clever woman with a rebellious streak. Besides, she's worried that Mike is becoming uneasy about their closeness and they agree to return to being good friends. Mike's restlessness prompts him to dismiss the notion of recording his songs in English because he's only a pale imitation of the great British and American bands. He doesn't mind living in a swamp if he's the top toad, but he doesn't fancy being cast adrift on the open sea. As the band strikes up a distinctive version of `All the Young Dudes', Mike wanders the corridor and looks at the album covers lining the walls. He imagines his friends recreating images (in colour) by everyone from The Beatles to Echo and the Bunnymen and realises that he will never be remembered as fondly as his idols. 

Waking to find himself alone, Punk guzzles down a drink and turns to see a screen projecting in image of a beach. He takes a running jump and lands inside the frame, which turns to widescreen colour, as Punk strips naked and staggers towards the sea. On the television in another corner of the room, a documentary about corn production in the Kuban is playing and the elderly hostess tuttingly gives thanks to the Party. This leaps into the unknown marks a passage of time and Viktor and Natacha haven't seen each other for some time when he tracks her down to the shop where she now works. Mike is spending more time in Moscow and has developed a drinking problem and she smiles when Viktor confides that he thinks Lou Reed is a bit up himself. 

She thinks back to the night they had kissed and they had realised that they couldn't put Mike through the agony of their being in love and had decided to keep things platonic. As Mike's `6 AM' plays in the background, we see him coming home to spoon with Natacha without knowing what had happened with Viktor. In the morning, she had reassured him that they are merely hand-holding teenagers, but he had replied that such innocence was much more dangerous than raging passion.

By the time Viktor's band get to play Leningrad Rock Club, they have adopted the name Kino and a New Romantic look devised by Mariana. As they start to play `Tree', Viktor sees Mike and Natacha arrive and stand in the aisle to watch. A caption gives Viktors dates (1962-90) and Mike's also appear (1955-91), as the camera roves across the rapt faces watching the performance. Mike goes for a smoke, leaving Natacha to gaze up at the stage and applaud silently, as the sound from the hall fades out and the credits start to roll to Kino's `Summer Will Be Over Soon'. 

What Serebrennikov and co-scenarists Michael Idov and Lily Idova don't reveal, however, is that Viktor Tsoi perished in a car crash (like Marc Bolan), while Mike Naumenko (who had parted from Natacha) succumbed to a cerebral haemorrhage that was either caused by an accident in his home or by a burglar. They also neglect to mention (for those unfamiliar with the current Russian music scene) that Tsoi's legend burns the brighter, because he wrote accessible pop songs, while Naumenko's lyrics were more cerebral (in a Lou Reed kind of way).

Only those au fait with Soviet cinema under Mikhail Gorbachev will also be aware that Serebrennikov has taken cues from Sergei Solovyev's Assa (1987), a cult crime thriller that did much to boost underground music into the mainstream, thanks largely to Viktor Tsoi's climactic cameo, in which he starts out singing `I Want Changes' to the patrons of a restaurant and winds up belting it out to a boisterous audience in a packed theatre. This sleight of hand clearly impacts on some of the transitions in Leto, as well as in the way in which classic tracks like `Psycho Killer', `Passengers', `Perfect Day' and `All the Young Dudes' are incorporated into the action to show how they came to form part of cultural consciousness by commenting on everyday reality at a time of growing dissatisfaction with a Politburo made up predominantly of out-of-touch old men. 

As Skeptic (Alexander Kuznetsov) keeps popping up to remind us, such episodes are purely figments of the film-maker's imagination and Serebrennikov has been criticised for serial inaccuracies by Tsoi's Kino bandmate Aleksei Rybin (who refused to let his name be used in the story) and Aquarium frontman Boris Grebenshchikov (who is shown producing Kino's debut album, 45), who witnessed events at first hand. That said, this is clearly a reverie rather than a biography and Serebrennikov can also counter that he has based his screenplay on Natacha's recollections, regardless of fanciful they might be in regard to the offbeat romantic triangle.

Wherever the truth lies, Serebrennikov cannily invokes the spirit of the age with the aid of production designer Andrei Ponkratov, costumier Tatyana Doimatovkaya and cinematographer Vladislav Opelyants, whose deft switches between glossy monochrome and cod Super-8 colour reinforce the time capsule nature of the project. Roman Bilyk (who formed the band Zveri in 2002) and the German-born, Korean-based Teo Yoo give good accounts of themselves as Naumenko and Tsoi (even though the latter's dialogue and lyrics were dubbed by others). But it's Irina Starshenbaum who contributes the most nuanced performance, as the maternal muse who senses that the insecure Tsoi needs her more than her self-assured husband. The mix of sadness and pride in her eyes in the closing scene says it all, as it implies a premonition that the artistic freedom the two men stove to attain will prove to be fleeting and illusory.

It's often presumed that the home invasion movie is a recent development, but strangers were intruding upon cosy domestic scenes as long ago as DW Griffith's The Lonely Villa (1909) and Lois Weber's Suspense (1913). The most striking thing about titles like Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997 & 2008) and Alexandre Aja's Haute Tension (2003) is that the interloper is a despicably sadistic and resourceful psychopath. But Elliot Feld knocks that concept for a loop in Killer Kate!, a slapstick slasher that seems to have been produced to showcase the talents of the director's wife. It won't be the first time that has occurred, either. But few ciné-billets-doux have been quite so grimly bonkers. 

Although she would much rather spend Halloween with her work colleague, Trent (Hunter Smit), thirtysomething Kate (Alexandra Feld) allows ailing father Hank (Larry Cedar) to shame her into attending the bachelorette party being thrown by her estranged younger sister, Angie (Danielle Burgess), While the siblings catch up during an awkward phone call, Terry (Brandon Bales) arrives at a family meeting brandishing a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire that he has christened Kate. He uses it to smash a balsa wood model of a house and annoys Jimmy (Grant Lyon), who is tired of his showboating. Their squabbling makes Christine (Tiffany Shepis) laugh and Tino (Preston Flagg) cry. But Briskman (Robert Donavan) has no time for their nonsense and informs them that they are going to go about their sordid business his way. 

Having agreed to spend the weekend in a remote cabin with Angie's teacher friends, Sara (Amaris Davidson) and Mel (Abby Eiland), Kate packs a case with a wonky wheel that evokes fond memories for both sisters of a family holiday at Niagara Falls. When they stop for Sara and Mel to have a fag break, they notice a battered black car pull up behind them. They are spooked when Briskman rolls down a window and asks if they need any assistance, but they drive on without giving him a second thought. While they head through the hills to the chalet, Jimmy and Tino try to work out how to put poison in champagne bottles without removing the corks. 

Arriving at the house (a self-catering let found on the LAB&B site), Sara confiscates everyone's phones and locks them in the boot of the car. They agree that Angie and Kate will share the master bedroom at the end of the corridor covered with crucifixes and that no one will get so drunk that they waste the rest of the weekend being hungover. While Mel and Sara smoke a joint and surf through TV channels showing horror movies and bad news bulletins, Kate and Angie try to catch up. But Kate can't help accusing Angie of over-dramatising her account of a bust-up with her clingy fiancée during his graduation ceremony and they have to agree to stop winding each other up for the duration. 

Mel and Sara unearth a bottle of champagne, but Kate doesn't want any and finds herself chiding Mel when she takes Sara to task for not taking medication when she feels unwell. She goes for a look around and wanders into the basement, where she finds a torch and some photographs and press cuttings held together with a bulldog clip. Kate fails to see the hooded figure standing behind her, as she heads outside with a growing sense of trepidation. 

On a brow overlooking the porch, Jimmy and Christine debate whether the champagne will have taken effect, while cursing Terry for refusing to stick to their timetable. As they whisper, Kate finds a muddy footprint on the decking and convinces the other three that there is somebody snooping around (even though Mel is sure it's only trick or treaters). When she calls Kate a party pooper and strides outside to prove that there's nobody there, Mel is axed in the back by Christine and Kate narrowly avoids being clouted with the baseball bat by the ski-masked Terry. 

While the three women cower in a locked bedroom, Jimmy berates Terry for leaving them outside and warns Christine that has no intention of allowing her brother to start smashing things up because Briskman will blame him for any damage to the property. Inside the bedroom, Sara hears a knock at the front door and runs along the passage to find a delivery guy (Ashton Jordann Ruiz) with the pizza Mel had ordered before giving up her phone. They bundle him into the bedroom, where Angie and Kate begin munching on pizza while working out what to do next. 

Their minds are made up when Sara dies from the poisoned champagne and the delivery guy convinces them to make a run for the nearest vehicle and getting the hell out of there. As they tiptoe across the living room, Terry pops up with the bat and hits Angie on the arm. The pizza guy escapes, closely followed by Sara, who wasn't that dead after all. Furious at being endangered, Kate spots her name on the bat and distracts Terry sufficiently to punch him in the mouth, grab Kate 2 and bury it in his balaclava'd skull. 

Unable to open the car door, Sara throws a rock at Christine and hits her in the eye. She tries to hide in a tool shed, but Christine smashes in the door and grabs the shears with which Sara had tried to stab her in the leg. Christine inflicts several wounds on Sara's thigh, but she manages to drive a narrow pipe through her guts and make her getaway. Stumbling to the ground, however, Sara proves an easy target for Christine to hack into her back before she collapses next to her victim. 

Not sure what to do next, Jimmy sits in the car and talks to his reflection in the rearview mirror. Ideally, he would like to drive away because he's an asthmatic rather than a psycho. But he suspects that Angie and Kate got a look at his face and he can't go back to his father if he hasn't done his bit in the killing spree. Meanwhile, Kate and Angie patch things up and bond over the cuddly rabbit that Kate had brought from home. She wishes Angie hadn't walked out and had stayed in better contact with Hank because he's not got long to live. After a good night's sleep, however, they are refreshed and ready to solve their problems. 

However, Jimmy has also dozed off in the car and he arrives in the living room while Kate is going through Terry's pockets looking for some car keys. Hoping that the women will be reasonable and let him slaughter them without any fuss, Jimmy produces a flick knife. But Kate pulls Kate 2 out of Terry's head and beats a retreat after Angie springs on Jimmy and knocks his glasses off. He chase Kate into an outhouse and the bat splinters in the struggle. Angie tosses a sharpened piece to her sister, who buries it into his rib cage. As he spurts blood, Jimmy explains that he's a bellboy at his father's motel and that he has people who rent the cottage killed (even though he owns that, too) because it hurts his feelings that they no longer check into his pride and joy. 

As a dying gesture, Jimmy gives Kate the car keys and tells her about the shotgun in the boot. With his and Terry's blood smeared across her face and Angie clinging to her bunny and wondering whether they should call the cops, Kate speeds off to the motel for a showdown with Briskman. Having blasted Tino on the reception desk, Kate leaves Angie in the car while she heads to Cabin No.2 to find her nemesis. He grumbles that the Motel California had been in his family for generations. But nobody cares about that kind of continuity or tradition any longer. She calls the place a dump and he retorts by branding her spoilt. Moreover, he taunts her that he had sent Jimmy, Terry and Christine to kill her friends to get the motel on the news, as there's no such thing in this sordid age as bad publicity. 

Kate has heard enough, however, and she silences Briskman with a single bullet to the chest. Returning to the car, she apologises to Angie for messing up her party. She wonders whether she'll have to go to court for killing all those strangers, but Angie assures her it was self-defence. However, she isn't looking forward to breaking the news to Mel and Sara's families or having to endure the memorial services at school. By contrast, Kate can't wait to see Trent. But they agree the first thing they need to do is see Hank and tell him they're friends again. 

Surely there's been a film about a deranged motel owner before? What was it called? Ah, well, never mind. Elliot Feld and co-writer/producer Daniel Moya don't overplay the Bates connection until the denouement. Instead, they set out to debunk a few genre staples and satirise the senses of superiority and entitlement that have infected society through our use (and misuse) of social media. The notion that the predators are shambling bunglers who can't bump off a small-time financier and three teachers is amusing enough and Grant Lyon plays the freaked Jimmy like a cross between Anthony Perkins and Phil Silvers. 

Splattered with gore for much of the closing sequences, Alexandra Feld also makes the most of her moment in the spotlight. However, the dialogue during her heart-to-heart with Danielle Burgess is more stodgy than poignant, while the banter with the willing, but undersold Amaris Davidson and Abby Eiland also clangs hollow, particularly during the extended discussion about Tums. Moreover, why don't Kate and Angie flee with the pizza guy when they have a chance or is the former having such an empowering time that she feels the need to keep killing? The characterisation isn't strong enough to hazard any informed guesses. But, with its competent photography (Daud Sani), production design (Stephanie Brewer), editing (Carter Feuerhelm) and scoring (John E. Hopkins), this does enough to entertain without suggesting the Felds are the new Paul WS Anderson and Milla Jovovich.

In 1989, documentarist Michael Moore announced himself on the global stage with Roger & Me, which examined the impact on his hometown of Flint. Michigan of Roger Smith's policy of closing down various historic General Motors plants. The operation in Dayton, Ohio survived that cull, only to be shuttered following the 2008 financial crisis. All was not lost, however, as the Chinese company, Fuyao, bought the premises to manufacture auto glass. But, as Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert reveal in American Factory, the management's plans to supplement the local workforce with homegrown labour sparked a showdown that put the enterprise's entire future at risk.

Over 10,000 people lost their jobs when GM closed the Dayton plant on 23 December 2008. But the re-purposing of the floor space by Fuyao brought employment to around a thousand, with the promise that more posts would be created once glass production begins. An American agent for the company gives his spiel to those at the start of the application process and there is barely a ripple when he mentions that this will not be a unionised shop. By contrast, the Chinese supervisor gives a frank assessment of the American character (and the national disinterest in sartorial finesse) in an introductory talk to the imported workforce that has been brought in to give the concern a truly global feel. 

Founder and chairman Cao Dewang flies in to prepare for the grand opening on 7 October 2014 and lawyer Rebecca Ruan-O'Shaughnessy translates as he speaks to the recruits, along with Vice-President Dave Burrows. He tours the compound and meets a few workers, who are just grateful to have pay packets again and don't hear him complaining about their fat fingers and ponderous working methods. But, Burrows quickly realises that Dewang is a man who is used to getting his own way and his pronouncements on Ohio's Ocober weather and the $35,000 repositioning of some already fitted garage doors suggests that management relations are going to be tense. 

As supervisor Daquin `Leon' Liang takes some of the Chinese staff fishing for carp, furnace off-loader Bobby Allen checks in for the night shift and is just glad to be back in work. Glass inspector Shawnea Rosser reveals that she lost her home and car when GM closed and forklift operator Jill Lamantia also had to endure foreclosure and is now living in her sister's basement. But things are just as tough for furnace engineer Wong He, who has been working for Fuyao since he was 18, but is now a long way away from his wife and two children. He finds the language barrier to be frustrating, as things always take so long to explain and one of the Ohio workers notes that everyone loses their temper in their own tongue before cooling down and trying to resolve things mutually. 

Furnace supervisor Rob Haerr likes Wong's work ethic and is sure they can iron out any difficulties and forge a team. He shows us phone photos of the Thanksgiving party he threw and recalls how excited the Chinese were to try out his guns. But not everything runs so smoothly. An `s' is missed off a foyer slogan proclaiming Fuyao to be `the world leading automotive glass provider', while an attempt to steer an old GM car into a display area is thwarted by some splintered planks. Even when Chairman John Gauthier and Vice-President Junming `Jimmy' Wang celebrate a Washington Post front page story about the company, they are frustrated by the reference to non-unionisation. But the 7 October ceremony goes well (in perfect autumnal weather) and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has high hopes the project can start putting the `Rust Belt' reputation to bed. 

However, he also slips in a comment about the union and Burrows is furious with him for trying to make himself look good at Fuyao's expense. Daweng informs Gauthier that he will be gone if he doesn't knock this business on the head and even threatens to close the factory if the union gets a hold. Fortunately, he isn't present when a demonstration to potential customers goes badly wrong when a flaw in the glass causes a windscreen to shatter and one of the female workers predicts a confrontation because they are caught in between clients wanting quality glass and the bosses targeting profits. Safety expert John Crane is also unhappy with the working conditions for some of the furnace staff and Allen remarks in voiceover that it's often unbearably hot and that the bigwigs don't seem to care. 

Daweng comes to speak to the Chinese staff and reminds them that they are in Ohio to change American perceptions of their race and culture. The camera crew fly home with him and he complains on the plane about American workers being lazy and argumentative. A deputation from Drayton visits the Fuyao base in Fuqing in Fujian Province to see how differently the Chinese employees go about their day, from communal singing in the mornings to short meal breaks. Supervisor Curt McDivitt chats with his counterpart and accepts that American workers are only interested in their pay and take weekends for granted. He jokes that he wishes he could put duct tape over their mouths to stop them gabbing on the job and his opposite number thinks he is being serious. When interviewed, some glass cleaners shrug off the fact they rarely get to see their children because they either work long hours or miles from home. They take what they can get and accept that sacrifices have to be made, even if it means picking through broken shards for recyling without safety gloves (a sight that appals the visiting Americans). 

At the Fuyao Workers Union and Communist Party Headquarters, Shimeng He (who just happens to be Daweng's brother-in-law) boasts that everyone is a member of the union, which is approved because its purpose is promote unity not fan discontent. He explains that the workers need to remember that they will sink the boat if they don't pull in the same direction and the same spirit infuses the staff jamboree that Daweng hosts in a vast hall, at which workers perform songs praising the company and its ethos. Looking on, the Americans seem bemused by a rapping troupe of cheerleaders who extol the benefits of lean manufacturing. But, after half a dozen couples get married on the stage, one member of the delegation is overcome with emotion and wonders why feuding states can't get along when it's so clear that all people are alike. 

Cross-cutting from a firework display and workers leaving the party with goodie-bags, life seems very different at Fuyao Glass America. The staff relations officer gets it in the neck from a man who is outraged that a lunch area is to converted into a workspace. He also objects to the screens showing scenes of happy Chinese children that have no bearing on his daily life, while there's a degree of resentment when McDivitt tries to line his team up for briefing, as he had seen done in Fuqing. There are also concerns about the growing number of accidents and Crane bemoans the fact that health and safety come low down on a company's priorities, as they don't generate any profit.

Lamination specialist Cynthia Harper worries about  access to fire doors, while Lamantia describes how she refused to take the loads demanded by her Chinese supervisor because her forklift isn't strong enough. Bobby Allen is left on crutches after getting the first workplace injury of his career, while the local news starts reporting on a spate of similar accidents. In a bid to prevent the Chinese workers from being infected by unionism, Jimmy Wang hires a `union avoidance consultant' named Eric, who shows them how direct communication between management and staff breaks down when union reps become involved. Daweng also flies in blames Gauthier for letting things get out of control. He even hints that he has been hostile towards the Chinese and has him replaced by Jeff Daochuan Liu, who has spent half of his 53 years in the United States. Burrows is also sacked and we see Liu addressing the workforce at a Christmas lunch to promise better things in 2017. Daweng also puts in an appearance, but looks peeved at having to wear a baseball cap and only gladhands a couple of Ohioans as he beats a hasty retreat. 

For all the glumness, however, Lamantia has been able to find a new apartment and is relieved to be getting back on her feet. Haerr and Wong continue to rub along famously. But Crane keeps having to referee feuds between American staff and their Chinese supervisors and we see one of the Fuyao hierarchy tell his imported employees that Americans are an over-confident bunch who are like donkeys who need their fur stroking in the right direction or they'll kick out. He urges his staff to show that they are the superior people and they nod sagely. But the Daytonians are not prepared to lie down and grievances are aired at unofficial meetings. 

The lobbying for a union continues, with one man parading through the factory with a placard before he is asked to leave and he tells the camera that someone has to be Sally Field (from Martin Ritt's 1979 labour relations drama, Norma Rae). But, while the locals are prepared to support the Chinese staff that are being exploited more callously than they are, the majority of them feel that the Americans are workshy clods, who should be coerced into working Saturdays and doing overtime, as they are putting the well-being of the company in jeopardy. Yet, Wong admires the way many of his colleagues have two jobs to make ends meet and can't afford to spend all day at Fuyao. 

At the Local 696 Hall, United Auto Workers members spill the beans on their experiences at the factory and they concur that Ohio has given Daweng grants to entice him to invest in the community and been betrayed by his failure to ensure the working conditions meet American standards. Democratic Congressman Fred Strahorn speaks about the dignity of labour and promises to stand on the barricades beside them. Contrast the enthusiastic reception he gets with the lukewarm response to Liu increasingly daily pay by $2 in return for longer hours and greater loyalty. Yet there are those who want the activists to butt out because they don't want Fuyao to quit Dayton and dump them back on the scrapheap. Consequently, the `No' campaign gathers momentum, although Fuyao isn't willing to leave things to chance and brings in consultants from the Labour Relations Institute, who are covertly recorded telling staff that, while they can't be fired for striking, they can be `permanently replaced',

A caption reveals that Fuyao paid LRI over $1 million to coax the workers into rejecting a union. We also learn that Lamantia has been fired for her part in the struggle and Burrows pops up to say note that Daweng seems to have taken the first two letters of the company name to heart where the US workforce is concerned. He tells Liu he is tired of coming to Dayton to sort things out and is glad to hear he has shipped out the trouble makers, as he wants young, hungry people who are prepared to accept his way of doing things. As the UAW vote approaches. Wong recalls the Chinese proverb that a mountain cannot house two tigers and he is dismayed that there has been so much discord. 

Leon is overjoyed by the size of the `No' majority and Liu invites workers to trust him to resolve their issues over time. He also announces that one lucky worker will get to go to Shanghai on Fuyao and he urges the employees to abet his company in helping to make America great again. Back in China, Daweng confides that he often pines for the simple life he enjoyed as a boy and isn't a fan of the newfangled. But he also feels pangs of guilt for having contributed to the onrush of modernism and sometimes wonders whether he has improved his homeland or helped pollute it. 

As he lights incense in a temple and wanders around his palatial home, one suspects the lachrymose sincerity is a little crocodilic. There's less ambiguity about Haerr's feelings after being fired for being too slow at retrieving data on his computer. He claims to have learnt a lot from the Chinese and will always remain friends with Wong, whose wife and children seem to have joined him in Ohio. Allen remains at the plant, but Daweng has plans to replace workers with robots and his underling crows about automation meaning standardisation in rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of terminating four American workers. 

A closing caption claims that, by 2030, 350 million people will have to find new kinds of jobs because of automation. Over footage of American and Chinese people leaving their factories in their markedly different working attire (in an echo of the Lumière clip of the family photographic business in Lyon), we are left with the thought that the very future of work is uncertain and that governments and businesses need to examine the implications before they become a terrifying reality. But Bognar and Reichert snap us back to the case in hand by noting that FGA became profitable in 2018. The worker balance is now 2200 Americans and 200 Chinese, while new staff are still only paid $14 an hour. However, only the press notes contain the information that a Fuyao worker was accidentally killed at the plant in March 2018 and one needs to Google to discover the victim was 57 year-old forklift driver, Ricky Patterson, who died after being trapped between his machine and a pallet containing 2000lbs of glass. 

Having already been Oscar nominated for their 2009 short, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, Bognar and Reichert are on familiar territory in this watchful, if not particularly revelatory Netflix presentation. Despite maintaining a laudable balance, they clearly identify with the locals who had hoped that the former Moraine site would restore the good old days. But Cao Daweng (who had offered the directorial duo a commission that they rejected to remain impartial) had very different ideas and the co-directors leave it rather late to reveal that the billionaire had grown up in poverty during the Cultural Revolution in presenting him (admittedly with plenty of help from himself) as an egotistical fat cat whose contempt for his fat-fingered American workforce smacks of the same xenophobia that he detects in the Daytonian attitude to his party line-towing shock workers. 

The clash of socio-industrial cultures is wittily counterpointed by Chad Cannon's score, as Bognar and Reichert highlight how little effort is made by either side to get along, let alone collaborate or, heaven forfend, integrate. But it's hard to see how the cash-strapped Ohio workers could have laid on a welcome similar to the one Fuyao laid on for the touring party that was cannily timed to coincide with the holiday season. Indeed, it's one of the film's shortcomings that we learn nothing about the wider political and economic community's response to Daweng's initiative or the inducements that prompted him to select the old GM premises in the first place. Once again, the press pack proves more forthcoming, as it alludes to his desire to associate himself with the onetime behemoth's prestige rather than starting from scratch in purpose-built premises. 

Sadly, not even the supplementary material can fill in the chasmic gaps left by the film-makers in profiling the salt-of-the-earth, but sometimes unrealistic Daytonian workforce, which seems incapable of rousing itself from the American Dream. Only Haerr, Lamantia and Allen are followed in any detail and their trails keep going cold (although they are better served than their white-collar colleagues, whose cavalier treatment barely merits a mention - as if they were quislings who got what they deserved). Similarly, Wong He is the only member of the largely anonymous Chinese contingent to reveal anything about himself and one is left to speculate why this might be so. 

But the biggest missed opportunity - especially considering that the film bears the imprint of Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground production company - lies in the chance to place this microcosm in the grander scheme of Sino-American relations, as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping circle each other while flexing their muscles and blowharding about a trade war.

Having produced Episode of the Sea (2014) in conjunction with the residents of the Dutch fishing village of Urk, Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan team up with Tolin Alexander for the trickier task of profiling the Maroon people of Suriname in Stones Have Laws. What makes this such a delicate assignment is that Suriname is a former Dutch colony and the Maroons are descended from the African slaves that were transported across the Atlantic by traders from the United Provinces. By making their subjects active collaborators at every stage of the filming and editing processes, however, the three documentarists allow the Maroons to dictate which aspects of their lifestyle and cultural heritage they want outsiders to see. 

In voiceover, a Maroon man describes his people's flood myth, as we see static shots of the spectacular river scenery. As a section called `Pouring Libations' begins, we hear an off-screen conversation about whether to trust the film crew and to remember the oaths they have sworn about protecting their traditions. One woman suggests they should stick to sharing things they have seen for themselves, although a man points out that this prevents them from mentioning the past, as they only know about it from what they have heard rather than what they have witnessed themselves. 

A shot reveals the elders sitting beside the river debating how to handle their visitors and they agree that it might do them some good if more people knew about their situation. But they also concur that they should allow the gods and the spirits of the Old Time People to determine what information they divulge. As we see droplets of water splash on to the dry ground, we hear one of the elders pray to the gods for guidance and, as the camera roves around a room full of carved artefacts, a door opens and light floods inside, as though permission has been granted. 

In `Forest Spirit', we learn about the time of slavery and how a warrior called Forefather Lanu came from Africa to work on a sugar plantation. When he went into the fields belonging to the owner of a house slave named Osima from the Kingdom of Dahomey, Lanu asked her for a drink and she served him forbidden cane juice in her master's glass. He was so outraged that he beat Osima to death and her corpse was thrown at Lanu's feet. Her spirit entered his body and he fled into the woods, where he was possessed by the forest god, Wamba. Under his influence, Lanu was able to negotiate his way to the lands occupied by the Ingi, where he settled and never had to see another white face again.

Leaving the river to venture into the jungle, `Forest Pantheon Salute' is accompanied by a drum beat, as the camera lingers over tree bark and foliage, Birds circle above the tree tops, as the vibrations caused by the drumming make what looks like glittering spawn dances on the surface of a shallow puddle. In `Red Brothers', we are told that the fugitive slaves followed the route laid down by the red brothers. We also discover the fact that the remnants of a wise Ingi woman are hidden in a jar at Godo, which means `bend of the river'. It was also home to Gungulukusu, who made the first boat from a Kan Kan Tree, even though the wood would usually be considered too soft. But it gave the craft a pliability that prevented it from being dashed on the rocks. Today, it's forbidden to cut down Kan Kan Trees, but the Ingi protected their ancestor when he built the first boat. In return for this indemnity, the Ingi had to promise not to kill snakes after they were banished from the river.  

Following shots of the rushing river and its waterfalls and rapids, we follow the camera into the jungle to gaze at the tree tops in `Go With the Charm'. But we don't tarry, as `Fighting the Whites' reveals how escaped slaves feared other black men they encountered in case they had been sent by the slavemaster to recapture them. Any flight led to brutal reprisals designed to deter future attempts. One of the people the Maroon ancestors met in the forest was Kwasi Mukamba, who seemed keen to help them, as he taught them how to cure ailments. But he was a traitor, who brought colonial soldiers to the camp and was punished by having an ear cut off .

Sitting around a campfire, some elders reveal that the moral of the story is to avoid giving away too much information all at once. Instead, one should follow the example of an old man with a cane and take a few steps and rest before continuing. Two men laugh, however, as withholding knowledge can also be a dangerous thing, as it doesn't get passed on and is lost to the community. Yet they promptly censor a story about how members of the Awana, Dombi, Papoto, Biitu, Nasi and Langu clans had all lived together in the village of Kumako. One day, however, the whites had lured the women and children into the open by calling `Koodende!', which was the word that hunters used when returning with their catch. 

The survivors fled Kumako and lived in Timba and Hwenye before establishing a safe haven on the top of Bakakununu mountain. As there was only one route to the top, the ancestors cut rolling logs and unleashed them on the white soldiers when they tried to attack, and the men and women in the circle chuckle with satisfaction at the thought of the Dutch troops having to scarper down the slope to avoid being crushed. Drifting away from the fire, the camera looks up into the nocturnal trees, as birds and insects provide a unique soundscape that almost sounds as though they are joining in with the laughter.

In `Willing Woods', we see three young men picking leaves from the undergrowth and snapping off small twigs. They then daub themselves with white handprints before shredding the foliage into a large bowl and using it to wash themselves in the stream. Part of the ritual sees them sip and spurt water over each other as a means of purification. We see them chopping down a sapling and shaping the structure of an arch that is used to seek the wisdom of the forest. If the `azan' balanced on the arch has fallen off, this is taken as a negative response to a request and we learn that it took four appeals to the spirits for permission for this settlement to be granted.  

A man explains how spirits disturbed from trees or animals can take up residence inside a human and change their personality. So, if someone is possessed by the spirit of a tayra, a rodent that likes sugar cane, they will develop a sweet tooth. Anyone receiving a caiman spirit will be able to dive for catfish. While one of the youthful trio shapes the leaves from a branch to sit atop this altar, we hear him pray to the gods and inform them of the plans that the community has for the spot. He admits that a degree of clearing will be necessary, but hopes that they will be guided in their actions so that they do the right thins. A cauldron sparks into flame and the smoke billows through the trees to give the site an eerie sense of sanctity. 

Fire is used to create space for crops in `Clearing', as we hear three women singing the praises of Foremother Pansa, who had brought rice from Africa. They take only what they need and leave the bushels in the sun to dry, while singing about life being too short to waste it on worries. Back in the village, some men are discussing the ancestral truce with the whites and how a border was established between them as Mawasi, When the Dutch sent a boat loaded with tools and utensils as a peace offering, the Maroons had been suspicious and has sunk it. According to one women, the cargo is still at the bottom of the river, while a man sharpens his machete on a stone because the treaty only existed on paper, as skirmishes continued for many years. 

Two men pray to the forest gods in `Falling Tree', as they seek permission to fell a tree to make a boat. One man begins chopping the trunk with an axe, but his companion tells him to stop doing things the old-fashioned way and returns with a chainsaw. This does the job in a fraction of the time and another chainsaw appears to let them cut the groove to shape the craft. They also use a block and tackle to pull this clear and seem pleased with their handiwork.

As a woman reveals that the forest gives the people small signs to warn them about changes in the weather, we see high clouds and a low-level shot of the river to accompany a caption reading, `The Flood'. The female voice describes how their ancestors had known something was about to happen because parrots, toucans and vultures came to seek sanctuary in the village. However, they didn't understand the message and a man admits that they had failed to notice a change in the river conditions. Others take up the story (without dating it), as the waters began to rise and houses were swamped and people started to flee. Climbing animals scampered to the treetops, but small land mammals drowned and even the shallow water fish perished as the tide rose. 

Praying to the gods for permission to leave and guidance to safe ground, the ancestors had tried to take their valuables with them, but an underwater shot suggests that much was lost. Moreover, they didn't know how to take some things with them and a show of a motorboat on the river reveals that the settlement is now on an island and that the people have to sail to the forest when they need to get supplies. 

As we see small children scurrying mischievously through the village, the older men deliver the punchline that the flood came about because the Americans needed electricity to melt aluminium and they created a reservoir for hydro power. One man claims that the whites set their mind to something and it gets done, even if it costs lives. People died during the space programme, but they got to the Moon and looked down on a dam that was the size of an ant. We see the wooden huts in the settlement that are very modern and functional and, thus, nothing like the traditional dwellings that were swept away in the deluge. A man complains that the interlopers have changed the way the weather behaves and he worries that another flood will destroy their community. They feel sorry for people in a similar plight elsewhere in the world and three women clap hands in time to a song about returning to Africa and simpler times. 

Gliding away from the camp, the camera passes trees sticking up from the water and we even see a tree stump rising up from what has become a beach. We also see the ugly dam that defaces the landscape and nothing more needs to be said. The discovery of gold in the hills has also impacted upon the area, as the local Okanisi or Samaaka don't want to dig in the `Bowels of the Earth' for riches, unlike those from Saint Lucia, who have flocked to make their fortunes. Now, the resident clans have also started to dig because they can't use their forests any longer and the only alternative is to head for the big city to look for work. But they constantly live in fear of the damage that quicksilver and cyanide can do to the environment. 

A woman removes tree roots with her children, as she talks about the Chinese practice of clear-cutting and their habit of blocking streams to secure a source of drinking water. The locals deeply resent their belief that their needs are more important than those of the indigenous population, who can see flora and fauna dying out because of the mismanagement of the natural resources. The woman carries the greenery she requires to her boat and her family paddles back to home. Three men stand beside the river and lament the fact that the ancestors who sought sanctuary in the forest as escaped slaves realised that the trees and the stones have their own laws that need to be respected. But, with the foreigners decimating the jungle, it soon won't be possible to hear the whispers of the gods in the wind rustling the trees. Five men clap and chant about outsiders wrecking the forest. Nearby, older villagers debate whether the film-makers can be trusted when they edit the footage. The camera tilts on its axis to give a canted view of the scene, as people chip in while doing their chores. They hope they come out of it well. but there's no way of knowing with whites. 

Closing shots of the boat being tempered in a fire and gliding views of the unspoilt land abutting the river play under the credits that explain the shooting conditions and list the names of the Maroon contributors. For all the protestations of playing fair and treating the Surinamese as equal collaborators, however, there is something slightly duplicitous about suggesting that these people still cleave to an ancient lifestyle and wear traditional attire when they sport Western clothing while cutting down trees with chainsaws. This is a very different form of stage-management from that employed by Robert Flaherty in shaping reality for Nanook of the North (1922) and Man of Aran (1934), however, as the co-directors and the Maroons clearly felt this was a justified gambit, as it rather amusingly jolts the audience out of any patronisingly romanticised notions of primitive nobility.

But for all the ethnographic fascination of the historical anecdotes, the insights into the animist belief system and the demonstrations of timeless trades and crafts, the emphasis is primarily on the `disappearing world' aspect of the Maroon existence, as foreign powers (predominantly the Americans and the Chinese) seek to exploit the weakness of the government in Paramaribo to drive the occupants off their pristine land and desecrate it for its ores and minerals (regardless of any long-term damage to the eco-system or the human and animal life that depends upon it. 

Responsible for the visuals, the sound and the editing, Van Brummelen and De Haan deserve nothing but praise for the look and tone of the film. The self-guying way in which they allow themselves to be linked with untrustworthy intruders only adds to the sense that they forged a genuine bond with the Maroons, who drolly adopt an air of unwordly naiveté, as though they were encountering such pioneers of ethographic cinema as Margaret Mead, John Marshall or Jean Rouch. Such is the global reach of modern methods of communication that complete seclusion is now a rarity. But Van Brummelen and De Haan allow the Maroons to update their oral tradition without compromising it and, in the process display a non-impositional and non-appropriational tact from which many other documentarists could learn.