The Legend of Maula Jatt review – Pakistani classic remake is Game of Thrones meets Gladiator

Entertaining new version of Pakistan cult movie follows a young noble boy spirited away to a poor village when a rival clan slaughters his parents

Imagine Game of Thrones crossed with Gladiator and you’ll have something like this entertainingly old fashioned action movie with epic levels of throat slashing, spectacular scenery and a fair bit of camp. Rumoured to be Pakistan’s highest-budget film, this remake of a cult classic from 1979 is the story of a young noble boy, Maula Jatt, who is spirited away to a poor village when a rival clan slaughters his parents.

After a flashback to that massacre we meet Maula (Fawad Khan) as a young man. The size of a well-fed bear, he earns a living fighting in gladiatorial games, pummelling poor souls from neighbouring villages. But the discovery of his past sets him off on a path of revenge against the Natt family responsible for killing his parents.

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Invisible Demons review – apocalypse now for pollution nightmare in Delhi

A despairing handwring of a film shows the effects of environmental crisis on India’s capital – with images as nightmarish as sci-fi

Environmental doom is coming: as the planet heats up, it’s all going to get much worse. Nothing new there – but, terrifyingly, this depressing snapshot of severe pollution in Delhi gives us a vision of apocalypse now. It’s a follow-up by Rahul Jain to another haunting documentary, Machines, about a Gujarat textile factory. Here he has captured some nightmarish images that genuinely look as if they could have been staged for a sci-fi film: patients in a hospital gasping into oxygen masks like victims of a chemical attack; streets engulfed by brown smog; waves of toxic white foam bobbing along a river.

This is a despairing handwring of a film. In a voiceover at the start Jain admits his own privilege, explaining that he “grew up in an air-conditioned world”. What the rest of the film demonstrates is the environmental injustice of India’s economic growth, how the poor are bearing the brunt. Clips from the TV news fill in the details: a 49C heatwave in Delhi (eight degrees higher than expected June temperatures). A news anchor explains that toxic air pollution is the third biggest killer in India, more deadly than smoking and terrorist attacks.

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My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years in Afghanistan review – desperately sad study of a boy’s life

Phil Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi have followed Mir for two decades in what is almost a brutal companion piece to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood

This documentary following one boy’s life in Afghanistan feels like a brutal, desperately sad companion piece to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Its co-directors, the British documentary-maker Phil Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi, first started filming Mir Hussein aged seven in 2002, and they haven’t stopped. They have already made two previous films – The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan (2004) and The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan (2011) – and this third gives us the complete picture: Mir pulled along by time’s current from boyhood to the present day, married with three kids in Kabul. To be honest, it’s the opposite of life-affirming.

The story begins in 2002, a year after 9/11. US troops have landed in Afghanistan. Seven-year-old Mir is living with his family in a cave in Bamiyan, having fled their village. They are grindingly poor, but little Mir giggles as he shows the film-makers his “bedroom” in the cave. He grins as a fighter jet roars overhead. “We thought that the Americans would rebuild our country,” Mir remembers on the voiceover, without a trace of bitterness.

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Raksha Bandhan review – women get a bad deal from dowry melodrama

Akshay Kumar is the noble-souled hero charged with marrying off his four sisters, while they are left mostly as figures of fun

Indian film-maker Aanand L Rai gives his very mediocre melodrama a campaigning message about the culture of dowry-paying, though you’ll have to sit through a lot of un-feminist movie to reach it. In truth, Raksha Bandhan is primarily a vehicle for Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, and its social purpose plays second fiddle to fanning his stardom.

Kumar plays Lala, a chaat seller in Old Delhi. Like Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Lala is in the predicament of finding husbands for his four sisters. He promised their mother on her deathbed not to tie the knot himself until marrying them off. The financial burden of saving for four dowries is a strain, and although his childhood sweetheart Sapna (Bhumi Pednekar) is waiting devotedly for him, her father issues an ultimatum: he’s got six months to offload his sisters.

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The Wall of Shadows review – climbing film overturns smiling Sherpa stereotype

Eliza Kubarska’s documentary follows the plight of the Nepalis expected to take huge risks to aid western leisure pursuits

Like Jennifer Peedom’s 2015 film, Sherpa, this climbing documentary is more interested in the Nepali ethnic group than the westerners who hire them – chipping away at the stereotype of Sherpas as smiling, uncomplaining helpers. The director is climber and documentary-maker Eliza Kubarska whose film follows Ngada, who has eight Everest ascents under his belt. He is agonising about whether to guide a trio of experienced climbers – two Russians and a Pole – on an expedition to the unclimbed eastern face of Kumbhakarna, a more dangerous and difficult climb than Everest.

The reason Ngada is willing to risk it is that his 16-year-old son, Dawa, is a gifted student who dreams of becoming a doctor, but there is no money to pay for his education. Some of the scenes in the family’s home feel staged, or at least reconstructed, as Ngada and his wife, Jomdoe, bicker about whether he should take the Kumbhakarna job. Jomdoe cooks for Ngada’s expeditions and is no slouch. While pregnant she lugged a 25kg load to base camp; she says it’s mad to climb the mountain. You can see her point when Kumbhakarna looms into view, a fearsome hulk of rock and ice. The expedition is plagued by heavy snowfall and Ngada wants to call it a day, fearing an avalanche, but if he doesn’t climb, he doesn’t get paid. The trio press ahead.

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Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It review – infantile grossout horror-comedy

Kazakhstani caper sends Dastan off for one last fishing weekend with his mates before the baby arrives, but horror descends in more ways than one

Deliverance meets The Hangover in this wacky-but-slapdash horror-comedy from Kazakhstan. It’s juvenile, crass and gross-out, with funny bits depressingly few and far between. Daniar Alshinov is Dastan, a man who is under the cosh of his pregnant wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva); her only personality trait is that she’s a nagging ballbreaker. Though to be fair, most of the characters here feel like one-dimensional stereotypes.

As a last hurrah before the birth of the baby, Dastan has arranged to go fishing with two old buddies. One of them, Arman (Azamat Marklenov) owns an online sex toy business, so arrives with a camper van full of cheapo factory seconds blow-up dolls. Things get steadily more unhilarious from there. An excruciating set piece on the road involves one of the trio pissing in bottle and throwing it out the window; only the window is shut. More comedy mishap ensues on the dinghy, when a fishing hook catches Arman in the ear, ripping clean through the ear lobe (weirdly, with very little blood).

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There Will Be No More Night review – chilling meditation on modern warfare

Éléonore Weber’s documentary, air-strike footage of pilots on night missions, could work well in a gallery

This hypnotic meditation on modern warfare from Éléonore Weber is an experimental cine-essay that feels closer to a gallery installation than a documentary. Watching it is a bit of a test of concentration: 75 minutes of helicopter airstrike footage from American and French missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clip after clip of pilots following what’s on the ground hundreds of metres below. Who is that in their crosshairs: a Taliban fighter holding a Kalashnikov or a farmer with a rake? Farmers know that they get mistaken for fighters, so run and hide their tools when they hear helicopters. Which of course makes them look suspicious.

In the cockpit, we hear American voices: “Request permission to engage.” “We got a guy with an RPG.” This is the notorious video WikiLeaks dubbed Collateral Murder, a US airstrike filmed from an Apache helicopter in 2007. The rocket-propelled grenade launcher turned out to be a camera tripod belonging to a Reuters photographer, who was one of a dozen civilians killed in the attack. It’s impossible to watch and not think of computer games. “Kill! Kill! Kill” we hear in another video – you can almost feel the itch to shoot everything that moves.

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Piano to Zanskar review – charming doc on a quixotic musical mission

Michal Sulima follows piano tuner Desmond O’Keeffe’s expedition to transport a piano to a village school high in the Himalayas

The lesson to be learned from Michal Sulima’s documentary is that if you’re planning to transport a piano to a village school in the Himalayas by yak, it’s advisable to first meet a yak – or at least Google one beforehand. Not having done due diligence, when 65-year-old piano tuner Desmond O’Keeffe turns up in India he discovers that yaks are a bit too titchy to carry his 100-year-old Broadwood & Sons up and down mountains.

There is a lot of charm to this film about O’Keeffe’s quixotic (bonkers would be another way of putting it) expedition to deliver a piano to a village in Zanskar, northern India – making it the highest in the world. He’s an endearing eccentric who says he can’t face retirement on a deckchair “eating lemon drizzle cake”. He got the idea for the trip from a customer at his Camden Market workshop, who’d planned to take a piano with her to teach at the school, but got pregnant and couldn’t travel. Somehow, the idea glued itself to O’Keeffe’s imagination. The village is a two-day trek from the road – and in the end the piano is carried by porters.

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Romantic Road review – upper-class boomers on a polite Bollywood adventure

An elderly English couple take a 5,000-mile road trip across India and Bangladesh in their Rolls-Royce in this gentle travel documentary

Here’s a gentle, low-stakes travel documentary about a couple’s 5,000-mile road trip across India and Bangladesh in a vintage car. Jan and Rupert Grey loaded up their 1930s Rolls-Royce and set off from Mumbai. In interviews, Jan has described them as “an elderly English couple driving an elderly English motor”. But in all honesty, these two are a pair of ageless evergreen boomers, recreating a backpacking adventure on the hippy trail they did in the 60s.

There are some mildly hairy moments along the way: mechanical trouble inevitably; and a spot of bother with anti-government rebels. Rupert gets roped into acting in a Bollywood movie, a small part playing a detestable colonial-era governor. The nastiness doesn’t come naturally to him but the aristocratic vowels do. Rupert, a prominent media lawyer, is the great-grandson of 19th-century prime minister Earl Grey.

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‘Stop patronising me and give me an interview’: the female journalists speaking up for India’s poor

India’s only all-women news organisation is the subject of an award-winning documentary. The film-makers explain their inspiring courage and energy

A woman explains how a group of four men repeatedly broke into her house and raped her; six times so far. Did she go to the police? Yes, but officers refused to investigate. Instead, they threatened her and her husband. “These men can do anything. They can even kill us,” the victim says to the reporter, Meera, who is filming on her smartphone. As Meera leaves, the woman’s husband tells her that she is their only hope. “We don’t trust anyone except Khabar Lahariya.”

Khabar Lahariya is India’s only all-female news organisation. Based in Uttar Pradesh, its journalists passionately believe in reporting rural issues through a feminist lens.

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Funny Boy review – Sri Lankan rites-of-passage tale clashes with political reality

Arush Nand is very good as a gay Tamil boy in Deepa Mehta’s coming-of-age drama set in a period building to civil war

There is something a bit soapy and melodramatic about this queer coming-of-age drama from Sri Lanka, picked up by Ava DuVernay’s company Array and released by Netflix. It’s the tale of a gay Tamil boy, Arjie (played first by Arush Nand and later Brandon Ingram), growing up in the 1970s and 80s as tensions escalate between Tamils and the Sinhalese majority. The storytelling works better in the first half, with some heart-tugging scenes as puzzled little Arjie struggles to understand why boys are not allowed to wear lipstick and play the bride in dress-up games.

Nand plays it beautifully. Arjie is an irrepressibly sunny eight-year-old from a privileged family, but his aunties smirkingly call him “a funny boy” – or as his cousin puts it, “a sissy”. His father is perpetually disappointed that his son is not interested in cricket. Only his cool well-travelled auntie, Radha (Agam Darshi), understands him, painting his toenails red in secret and taking him to the theatre. Every now and then, director Deepa Mehta switches young Nand for the actor who plays teenage Arjie (Ingram), and the older boy becomes a bystander to his childhood, watching on with an emotional ache.

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Cemetery review – elephant heads for the graveyard in hardcore art piece

Carlos Casas’s film – half documentary, half experimental essay – is a near-wordless evocation of a ‘celebrity’ Sri Lankan elephant’s confrontation with death

Carlos Casas’s Cemetery arrives on the arthouse streaming service Mubi, a slow sensory film with a magnetic pull of strangeness; it may test the endurance of even Mubi’s hardcore highbrow audience. Somewhere between an experimental art piece and a nature documentary, there’s no story here in the normal sense, and it’s almost entirely wordless. Which is not to say that Cemetery is silent; wildlife audio recordist Chris Watson has put together a wondrously rich sonic landscape of nature sounds.

The setting is Sri Lanka, where an elderly elephant called Nga makes his way to the mythical elephant graveyard. In the first chapter Nga and his human keeper – a mahout – live alongside each other deep in a forest. Casas has said that Nga is a well-known elephant in Sri Lanka, as famous as George Clooney; though surely he’s more of a Bogart – lugubrious and leather-faced.

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