Through the Looking Glass

Screening - AFDA Invite & Alice in Wonderland Have you ever wondered what that Vision Mission pop-up was about, every time you purchased a ticket at a Sterkinekor cinema or online via the Sterkinekor website? Granted I have always been aware that it was for some charitable cause or another, but I never truly  understood what it was for. As a result, I can shamefully admit that I would always skip past the ‘donate’ option.

Well, on Wednesday night I was privileged enough to obtain an invitation, courtesy of Sterkinekor and Vision Mission, to celebrate AFDA’s Vision Mission commercial award winners as well as be privy to a ‘secret’ screening of a highly anticipated blockbuster film.

It was at this mystery laden awards event that I came to understand what the Vision Mission was all about and why, from now on, I will choose to donate that minimum R2.50 extra whenever I buy a Sterkinekor movie ticket.

The Vision Mission is a Sterkinekor initiative which focuses on achieving various objectives related to eyesight and eye care. What this basically means is that Sterkinekor is dedicated to helping the 700 000 underprivileged South African youth who are annually diagnosed with and suffer from degenerating eyesight. Anyone who has glasses, or who knows of someone with glasses, can understand how expensive proper eye care can be.

In addition to this worthy cause, Sterkinekor entertainment is also a firm supporter and contributor towards the South African film industry. As a result, a collaboration was forged between Sterkinekor and AFDA, to not only increase awareness of the Vision Mission campaign but also to help shape the future of South African cinema.

AFDA (African Film and Dramatic Arts) AFDA, for those like myself who did not know, stands for African Film and Dramatic Arts. It is one of the leading outcomes based film schools in the world and is listed by the South African Council on Higher Education as one of the top six private universities in South Africa.

In association with Sterkinekor, fourth year and honours AFDA students were briefed, as part of their practical film studies, to produce commercials for the Vision Mission campaign. Out of all of the entries, only four of the AFDA student produced commercials were selected as finalists. Each of the four commercials were screened at the event, with the commercial entitled ‘Flying Glasses’ being chosen as the winner. In all honesty, it was by far the best commercial of the event and was the one I had chosen to win. Considering how each group of students were given the same limited resources, I was surprised at what the winning group had created, when compared to the competition. Congratulations to the winners!

Michael Bender, the Sterkinekor Group Marketing Executive, has this to say:

“We are very excited about this collaboration between Ster-Kinekor Theatres, our CSI project Vision Mission and AFDA; we basically offered AFDA students a practical internship of sorts – to create a real commercial for a real client. Apart from accepting the winning commercial as our new PSA for Vision Mission and giving it a screening platform via our cinemas nationwide, we are also considering screening the three runners-up at a later stage. The plan is to extend this partnership with AFDA even further, with Ster-Kinekor offering support in developing, unearthing & showcasing new filmmaking talent on our big screens”

So remember, for only R2.50 extra when you buy your next movie ticket, you could help prevent a child from going blind or you could give another child the gift of clear sight. A small price to pay to help ensure another persons long term happiness.

Screening - AFDA 01Alice in Wonderland - Alice

After the mini prize giving ceremony, it was time to watch the ‘secret’ screening.

By this time we had already guessed what film was going to be shown, courtesy of the decor and delicious snacks.

The film was none other than the highly anticipated Disney and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (3D)!

As eventful as the evening had been, this was by far the highlight that almost everyone was really looking forward to!

From the moment the first trailer hit the Internet, I have been looking forward to watching this film.  Primarily because Tim Burton was at the helm, a perfect fit for Lewis Caroll’s psychedelic and masterful set pieces. Sadly, even with all of the excitement, I was pleasantly disappointed.

It goes without saying that the art and visual style of the movie are incredible. It is like a mash between the colour palette of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the real world exaggerated styling’s of Sleepy Hollow. From the sets, to the make-up, to the the wardrobe, the movie is a visual delight.

With that said, I am not sure where they were going with the overall look and feel of the film. I say this because of the inconsistent use of computer generated imagery (CGI) and 3D. For example, the scenery is spectacularly rendered and has been given an amazingly dreamlike quality. Yet, all non-human acted characters and other story elements are all blatantly CGI driven, not unlike watching a movie such as Shrek or Ice Age.

Alice in Wonderland  - Mad Hatter As a result, the human acted characters such as Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska), The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and The White Queen (Anne Hathaway), all stick out like sore thumbs against the beautifully rendered backdrops and strangely rendered characters. In my opinion, the movie would have been better if it had been completely done in CGI. I mean, even the horses which the characters ride on are CGI driven, and badly at that. Although I thoroughly enjoyed The Red Queen’s large head, a fantastic stylistic choice which was done extremely well, I am still perplexed by the look of Stayne, the Knave of Hearts (played by Crispin Glover – the freaky guy from Charlie’s Angels who would steal their hair). I can understand that Burton may have wanted a Nightmare Before Christmas look to Stayne, but given that Glover is already a thin and lanky man; it just looked odd, very out of place and was poorly finished off. Stayne just looked so unnatural, not in terms of the length of the characters limbs, but the fact that his head never really looked ‘attached’ to his CGI body.

In terms of the 3D element, Alice in Wonderland has one of the best implementations of 3D in a film. Which is marred only by the occurrence of cheap parlour tricks made famous by movies such as Journey to the Centre of the Earth, where 3D is implemented for the sake of having something fly out at the audience. Gimmicky and annoying, but bearable.

Alice in Wonderland - QueensAlthough the dialogue is funny and suited to ‘Wonderland’, there are times when you just cannot make out what some of the characters are saying. A fact that is not made any better by the script writers’ decision to embrace Lewis Caroll’s affliction for creating weird, fanciful and strange gibberish like words. Never the less, the diction is forgivable. However, my biggest complaint with the movie has to do with the story. Look, the best way for me to describe the way I felt after watching the film, is that it was like watching a bad book to movie conversion. I would attribute the experience to that of watching a movie such as Eragon – scenes come and go with no real interconnection, relevance or explanation of what is going on. In Alice in Wonderland you constantly get the impression that there is more to the story than meets the eye, yet you are never given any additional details. Thus, you end up leaving the film with a most unsatisfied feeling. At least that was my experience.

As much as I admire Tim Burton and his work, I am disappointed with his rendition of Alice in Wonderland. Despite the fanciful visuals, the film only gives you a taste of all that is Wonderland, by simply giving the viewer a rushed glance of what could have been. No more and no less.

Verdict: 6/10.

On Sunday I am attending the pre-Oscar screening of NINE. So tune in again soon for my impressions of that film and the star studded event!

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!


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