The New 10 Commandments

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Venue: Edinburgh International Film Festival

EDINBURGH -- December marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' 30-point Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so "The New Ten Commandments," which examines several of its articles from a contemporary Scottish perspective, is nothing if not timely. The subjects addressed by the Declaration -- entitlements to life, liberty, privacy, fair trial, etc. -- are ever topical, of course, ensuring this impeccably well-intentioned, thought-provoking compilation a lengthy tour of film-festivals, especially those favoring political and social issues.

While the passionately polemic "Ten Commandments" has a little more cohesion and consistency than most portmanteau projects, that's not entirely a benefit, as half the sections adopt a similarly dutiful, TV-documentary approach. Indeed, it's only with chapter five -- Kenny Glenaan's "The Right To Life", examining Scotland's high suicide-rate in a starkly spare, sobering manner -- that any particularly distinctive directorial presence is discernible.

A strong middle continues with novelist Irvine Welsh and critic/fest-programr Mark Cousins' "The Right To Liberty," a news-montage mashup of Scottish history and culture over the past three decades, which obliquely illustrate the plight of a half-Scots long-time Death Row inmate. Though impressively edited and scored, this episode peters out into a trite conclusion. No such problems for the most striking and memorable segment: "The Right Not To Be Tortured" by visual artist Douglas Gordon, in which nightmarish chiaroscuro close-ups of abbatoir livestock are accompanied by haunting bleats and sinister noises-off.

If Gordon's superb contribution represents the project's apogee, the nadir is closer "The Right To Freedom of Thought." A smugly self-congratulatory ode to the power of cinema from co-directors Tilda Swinton and Mark Cousins, it's an rather odd way to illustrate an article that's essentially concerned with religious observance. Regardless of Swinton's sky-high current profile, the segment doesn't pull its creative weight here. On a wider level, these inspiring assertions of human rights aren't really "commandments" as such. And anyone familiar with the UN Declaration may wonder why key articles specifically relating to work, family and education aren't included especially since two of the sections (Welsh/Cousins and Glenaan) actually deal with the same article.

Production company: Lansdowne Productions.
Directors: Kenny Glenaan, Douglas Gordon, Nick Higgins, Irvine Welsh, Mark Cousins, Tilda Swinton, Sana Bilgrami, Alice Nelson, Doug Aubrey, David Scott, Anna Jones. Executive producers: Ewan Angus, Carole Sheridan. Producers: Nick Higgins, Noe Mendelle. Director of photography: James Alcock, Freddy Bonfanti, Ian Dodds, George Geddes, Minttu Mantynen, Scott Ward. Music: Jim Sutherland. Editors: James Alcock, Patricia Gomes, Klaus Heinecke, Timo Langer, Ninon Liotet, Cassandra McGrogan, Aldo Palumbo, Brian Welsh. Sales Agent: Lansdowne Productions, Glasgow.
No rating, 101 minutes.


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