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Saint Peter


Directed by Giulio Base/ writers: Francesco Arlanch, Salvatore Basile, Gianmario Pagano

Produced by: Luca Bernabei, Matilde Bernabei, Salvatore Morello, Fania (Fanio) Petrocchi

DOP: Giovanni Galasso/ Companies: RAI/ Lux Vide/ San Paolo Films

Production took place in Tunisia (Empire Studios)

Billy writes:

I stumbled on this  movie on the TUBI platform.

It features Omar Sharif as Peter, even while he is a great deal older than all the other disciples and Jesus. The opening images seemed promising in some ways, but also worry-some. We see Jesus on the cross, but the depiction doesn’t strike as ‘for real’. The area is deserted; there’s just a lonely cross standing there and Omar Sharif. Are we in some kind of a dream that Omar (I don’t know who he is portraying) is dreaming?

The camera swings around Omar Sharif, who looks quite elderly. Are we watching him, later in his life, ‘re-visiting’ the cross, as it were? Fascinating, until I find out that none of that is the case. It’s down to poor film making, it seems.

The camera flies around Omar Sharif and settle on an extreme close-up. Why is this happening? The film has only just begun. The audience has no idea of anything, and here we’re confronted with all of Omar’s wrinkles and teary eyes… 

There is no story as yet, and so this kind of extreme close-up alienates the audience. I’m beginning to consider moving on from this film.

I press on for another while, still curious what this film is about. The acting seems stiff, all the speaking is dubbed, and often out of sync (lip-sync). The drama that’s unfolding seems far-fetched. It feels like there’s plenty of ‘poor acting’. I wonder what kind of production this is. Later on I learn this film is Italian made, filmed in Tunisia. Some of the costumes seem a little overdone. I guess, while I’m having trouble settling into this movie, the film makers probably had difficulty finding the right approach, establish the right style. Perhaps they were trying to do something ‘new’ but weren’t exactly sure of what the ‘new’ actually was going to be.


Having watched both parts of this movie (3 hours in al), it certainly leavers a strong impression. Omar Sharif is uniquely cast in the role of Peter. He never gets any older; he is already an ‘older’ man at the beginning of the story/ the film. The Apostle Paul starts as a young man; he gets a great deal older. Peter looks Paul up in Rome. The film presents a story that is not in scripture, but it helps to take the story from the ministry of Jesus, via Peter, all the ay to Rome burning and the Christians being persecuted.

The story of the film is still in flux during the first half. It’s not clear what kind of film this is going to be. In the second half the story beings to make sense, in a way, but this is not the invented story of Christians in Rome, Romans in Rome, and Peter in Rome. 

In many ways this whole production is your typical TV drama; drama that is mostly emotional, with a spiritual coloring, but certainly not spirit led. Even so, Omar Sharif bring a beautiful and genuine vulnerability and humility to the role. He stands out by a mile. This whole project seems to have been written around him; for him. He gets to preach and does so beautifully; there’s a scene in which he breaks the bread and presents the wine; again, beautifully done.

The film is full of terrible ‘lines’, and full of drama that is typical TV stuff, not really believable, melodramatic, all designed to hold on to our attention etc.

The camera work leans on HAND-HELD and BIG DOLLY MOVES way too much. With all the classical looking sets and costumes, there should be more ‘classical’ camera work. More use of fixed camera positions and less moving camera.


The last scene of the second part kind-of summarizes the limitations and distortions-of-the story for the sake of a popular TV show. Peter is being crucified. As the nails are being driven in there’s no response from Peter. The Christians are all there, surrounding the cross (that is still lying on the ground), and feeling for their hero. The image is so totally unreal and sentimental. We’re now miles and miles away from the Biblical text. At the last moment Peter asks to be placed upside down, and the soldiers allow for this. To make this happen, they raise the foot-end of the cross and stand it upside down, to then simply hold it there. If the soldiers were to walk away, the cross would fall over.  Intense music. Intense music all the way through all 3 hours of this film. I’ll have to see what the impression of this film does to me over time.  My first thoughts are: 

-this is not the way to tell the story of Acts. And if this wasn’t the story of Acts, what was it? From Scripture we know that Peter did a lot of traveling, like Paul before he was taken prisoner. 

-keen to go back to the text in scripture and study all the detail rigorously

-respect for Omar Sharif

-interesting use of the Peter character having some dreams, some ‘memories’ and an appearance of Jesus, even though all these were poorly done (as film, in my estimation)

-reconsider the use of music

-I wonder if there was a health-risk for Omar Sharif’ hanging upside down for the filming, for at least a short period of time. Keen to find documentation about the making of this (double) film, including the scripts development etc.

-I never ‘took’ to the Jesus moments. It felt so much like ‘some other actor shoved into this part’. It was all too easy, to much in close-up, I never warmed to this Jesus; quite the opposite… 


-the opening of the film was especially troublesome, and the film took a long time finding it’s groove


-the ‘concept’ of this film would possibly have worked better if the writers had focussed on the story set in Rome for the whole movie; story-wise, part 1 of this production hardly mattered. We could have accepted Paul arriving in Rome, as a prisoner, and later Peter following him there.

Saving Private Ryan


Billy writes:

Interesting production. Co-production it seems between a Jordan based team and one from Bulgaria. Filming was done in Bulgaria, if I have this right.

Using local actors, from Jordan? Actors speak Arabic, I think.  The film has been dubbed into many languages.

The acting is very poor; the lines are spoken extremely inexpressively and slowly.

The sets are beautiful; lighting is excellent. The film presents many great images; like paintings that talk. Such a strange mix of things. It all looks so very naive, but I hesitate turning this film down. God may be using it in amazing ways.

At the start of the film, we meet Luke, the writer-storyteller, who is writing his gospel. With his very long beard (that sits rather loose on his chin) Luke looks straight into the lens to gives us some explanation. Throughout the film we are taken back to Luke for more info. Quite unnecessary to have him in the film… 

The music is like the other elements in the film, unique quality and a feel of being authentic. But often the choice of music is all wrong; other times it’s OK. The composer has taken a sentimental approach which doesn’t enhance the drama.

Angels appearing are invisible since there is very strong light. Sadly, the voice over for those angels is some very odd sounding American voice; like you hear the thundering voice-of-God in old movies. Bad choice…

I watched the whole movie, looking for unique moments; they hardly happen. This Jesus is very wooden; he never loosens up. He is the opposite to the expressive Jesus in some of the USA gospel movies. Interesting. 

Schindler's List


Sense & Sensibilities - script written by Emma Thomson who also acts in the film. Emma Thomson got an Oscar for her script writing. Film is beautifully made; Kate Winslet does a fabulous job. The Brits at their best!

Shakespeare in Love



Film is directed by Roger Young/ Ben Cross is Solomon/ David Suchet is Joab (King David’s army commander)/ Max von Sydow is the old King David/ Rafaelle Mertes is DOP/  Ivan Kayne is Adonijah, G.W. Bailey is Azarel (the ‘joking’ father of Abishag), Maria Grazia Cucinotta is Abishag, Umberto Orsini is Nathan/ film is shot in Marocco.


The rivalry between Solomon and his older (?) brother Adonijah opens this film and is the dominant theme for the first half of this excellent movie. Roger Young's directing qualities are obvious; his mark of excellence is clealy recognizable. He has directed many Biblical film in the series ‘the Bible’ which started in the 1980s (if I’m correct). A great series with a couple of misses.

Max von Sydow does an excellent job as the older King David, who is hardly able to function any more; he rarely leaves his bed. The opening race between princes Solomon and Adonijah sets the scene nicely, even while it’s a little bit theatrical; not entirely believable.


Bringing in G.W. Bailey into the narrative doesn’t work so well; is not really needed, and too much of a distraction, I think. It stops the film from quickly moving to the depth where the story really lives. This is a story of deep conflict, first between 2 princes, and after that, within Solomon himself, how to be tough (essential for a king in these circumstances) while also being artistic and spiritual.

Good script writing how the film presents all the goings on behind the scenes at King David’s court; how Bathsheba is a power-house (in favor of Solomon), and how Joab, King David’s commander, is already preparing the way for Adonijah to be the next (puppet) king, instead of Solomon.

Good writing; good drama. This drama comes to a first climax when the 2 princes are both about to be crowned KING. Solomon is just ahead of Adonijah and therefor wins the contest. But that’s not the end of the drama. Now both Adonijah and Joab should be put to death (for treason). But King David gives Joab grace, and Solomon does the same for his brother. 


But again, that’s not the end of the drama. King David dies and is ‘laid-to-rest’; the absence of the powerful elder king opens the door to more behind-the-scenes manipulations by the same ‘traitors’. As soon as Solomon finds out about this, he orders for both Adonijah and Joab to be killed. The drama is taken to the next level, as -with difficulty- the new king’s orders are carried out. 

The usually kind King Solomon has now shown his ugly (killer) side; it seems, it was a necessary thing to do.

Interesting to think that, following in David’s footsteps, Solomon also wrote lots of POETRY. He wrote ‘Proverbs’, ‘Ecclesiastes’ and ’Song of Songs’. That is a major achievement.

The second half of the (TV) film opens with the building of the temple. Solomon has lots of children; he loves them all. Bathsheba dies. Screen tittle: 7 years pass. The building of the temple has been completed; the arc is now brought in. Prayers and ceremony etc. Solomon speaks with Jeroboam, the worker who has been promoted to being an advisor to the king. 


Visit by the Queen of Sheba. Salomon falls in love; Sheba decides to stay; they have a son together. Solomon wants this son to be his heir; the council, including Zadok the High Priest and Nathan the prophet refuse. In the end Sheba returns to her home country. Solomon is distraught. Through a series of scenes, we see how Solomon refines the art of wisdom through to the point of him beginning to ‘lose it’. Song of Songs; Ecclesiastes.


We see the deterioration of Solomon’s grip on himself, and thereby his country. He continues to allow idol worship to the point where he participates etc. His council Jeroboam is unhappy; so are Zadok and Nathan. Solomon has a ‘chance’ meeting with a (young) prophet who speaks about the kingdom being torn away from Solomon’s house (after his death). Jeroboam tells Solomon he is leaving him and his ‘government’. We see the same (young) prophet prophecy to Jeroboam: the kingdom will be torn into two parts: 10 tribes (Israel) and 2 tribes (Judah & Benjamin). (This film doesn’t mention Benjamin.)

The same prophet shows up one more time: he speaks to Solomon directly in his court. Solomon considers killing the man; the prophet calmly says: ‘I would think carefully before you do that!’

Solomon is on his death-bed, speaking to his young son Rehoboam; it is already kind of obvious that this young man doesn’t have the wisdom required to be a successful king. Solomon dies. Rehoboam speaks to the 10 northern tribes; they are not speaking to him, and in no rush to call him king. Jeroboam (who had fled to Egypt) turns up: he speaks on behalf of the 10 tribes; they want less taxes, and no forced labor etc. 

Young Rehoboam takes advice from the elders, and from his young councillor. He rejects the elder’s advice, to show mercy, and accepts the opposite advice, increase the burdens. Jeroboam asks the 10 tribes leaders: do you want to serve this new king? They all say NO. They walk away: you’re on your own. The Kingdom is now split. Last image is of the TEMPLE. It stood for 360 years.

This is an excellent film, done on a limited budget, no doubt. The overall story comes through loud and clear; a great achievement, I think.


Lots of quality dialogue; strong characterizations. The crowd scenes, not bad at all. I can’t escape the feeling that many of the Moroccan extra’s  didn’t (don’t) speak/ understand ENGLISH. But their crowd-director worked very hard, together with a translator, to help those extras understand what is/ was going on. And their enthusiastic participation is excellent. 

Again, I feel that Roger Young has done a superb job, with a very limited budget. This is clearly the level of (old style) TV film, not cinema film. Since the making of this film, budgets for TV films have increased enormously. But what I like about this film so very much, is that this approach gives priority to the Biblical story. A grand Hollywood approach would have changed the biblical story beyond recognition (for the sake of money).


There are a few turns in the script that are not quite believable, but, on the other hand, they are useful creative inventions that produce quick results in the story-telling department. It is a kind-of PLAYFULNESS that works well in terms of telling a complicated story with limited means.

Quite shocking to see how the great Solomon gradually loses his greatness; as a result the whole country suffers; end-result: the splitting of the kingdom. It all produces much pain.

Interesting to consider that the brilliant WISDOM of Solomon has another SIDE to it. Too much wisdom took Solomon into VANITY, as he became unable to serve his God or his country. The need was great, but Solomon had become BLIND to it. This is what the film clearly communicates. 

Solomon & Sheba producing a son, and Solomon wanting to make this child his heir is not in scripture, if I’m correct. Dramatically is worked very well; in terms of Biblical story-telling, it was a bridge-too-far (for me).

Deplorable condition in the kingdom. In some ways Solomon became a typical Oriental despot.

In some ways, the exact situation Samuel had warned against, now becomes reality.

In the course of his reign, Solomon looses the spirit of modesty; he gradually becomes conceited, haughty, despotic. He ends a pathetic figure (Vanity of vanities). Greatest sin: his loss of devotion to Jehovah. He brings in many, many wives, most of whom are from foreign lands; they bring their idols. Solomon gets involved with their idol worship. Over time, he looses his Hebrew Faith. Idol worship taking place in the temple in Jerusalem; an abomination.

The Hebrews are getting tired of the heavy tax burden; unrest develops, and eventually an uprising. Surrounding nations bring their forces together to oppose the Hebrew king.

Hadad in Edom revolts; trade from the Gulf of Akabah is cut off.


In the north King Razon of Syria seizes (grabs) Damascus; this is a big loss to Solomon.

One of his own workers: Jeroboam of Ephraim, revolts. Solomon wants to kill him; he flees to Egypt. The Hebrew Kingdom has weakened considerable under Solomon.

During his reign there was no war. After completing the building of the temple, Solomon got very busy building other structures, and after that he built up several cities, and many, many fortresses throughout his kingdom. 

Altogether Solomon never took the time to develop the temple worship and build the spiritual/ religious life of his people. No prophet involved, it seems. HIs poetry was beautiful, but in his life he contradicted much of his own writing.  

Some Like it Hot

One of my favorite films; a vintage classic black & white master-piece!

Son of God

Billy writes:

Produced by Roma Downey & Mark Burnett. Diogo Morgado is Jesus/ Downey is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

This film could well be a personal spiritual/ religious exercise by Roma Downey. She invested into this film hugely. Her husband Mark Burnet supports her strongly in this effort; they are the couple behind this project. They are producers of TV drama, and have been successful enough to be in a position to do this huge project: the Bible, a TV series with 5 or so one-hour episodes of Old Testament stories, and then another 5 episodes of the story of Jesus. (I might have this slightly wrong; will have to double check). 

For TV this work is very ‘filmic’, even though it leans on dialoge heavily (like episodic TV does - actors talking a lot). At the same time this work is too fleeting, too casually dipping in & out of (Bible) stories; not sufficiently focussed on digging deep through just 1 story, to justify the label: FEATURE FILM.

Some time ago I saw the first 5 (or so) episodes; well cast, beautifully shot, fast moving, great music, excellent editing, and yet, so very POOR when it comes to properly telling the stories; we just fly right over it all, touching on all the expected (religious) images, satisfying a religious audience without challenging anybody. We just get confirmed in what we already knew; get our religious itch nicely scratched, and move on. For me the question became: WHAT’S THE POINT OF DOING THIS? WHAT IS THE FILM MAKER TRYING TO ACHIEVE? Not clear at all.

The first series then moves into the gospel story, but I haven’t made it that far into the series; will have to do that piece of homework, one of these days.

If I understand this correctly, Downey & Burnett have -kind of- interrupted the work on TV drama series ‘the Bible’ and ‘the Bible Continues’ by somehow deciding to do ’Son of God’. The sets are the same, but almost all the actors are different, between the TV series (2 x 12 episodes) and the feature film, Son of God.

So we get the gospel story twice, filmed on the same locations and sets, but with 2 separate casts. Wow! What made then decide to do this?

I need to spend a little more time on the TV series to get a better feel of this work, but I have now seen ‘Son of God’ including a half hour Making Off item with interview bits with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. The couple speak very passionate about the film; Roma Downey is in AWE of Diogo Morgado. Being an actress, originally (before becoming a producer), she plays the mother of Jesus in this film, and has a strong presence throughout the passion which covers the last half hour of the movie.

So this film is to her, what ‘The Pasion of the Christ’ is to Mel Gibson; a spiritual, religious exercise. 

Roma Downey is deeply emotional invested in the story, and in her relationship with Jesus (and by extension with Diogo Morgado). I can only respect that. This is the way her FAITH functions; it is a deeply emotional experience for her, and she projects that into/ onto Mr. Morgado who plays an emotional Jesus. Almost every line the actor speaks as Jesus has a strong emotional undercurrent. In the credits I read that Mr. Morgado had a speech-coach by his side, during filming. It shows; the way he uses deep breath support, and the way many of his lines are ‘breathy’ which brings out the emotion. It looks like the vocals of the Jesus actor have had plenty of attention in post production sound; plenty of extra boost. Many lines may have been dubbed; at times they probably used a combination of location sound and a dubbed studio recording (of the same lines). There is much that can be done in post (if there is a budget) to improve on the sound.

The cast for the film (S of G) seems better than the TV series cast. Perhaps I should say, they’re better balanced. We get a better feel of several of the disciples and how they ‘hang-together’. There are a few interesting bits of dialoge between the disciples, while Jesus is busy elsewhere. Nice work.

Is it because I have been seeing too many gospel films (trying to see them all), I very quickly reached the point where I began to ‘not-like’ this Jesus anymore. It present me with a bit of a dilemma. I love Jesus, he is my savior, so how can I not love this Jesus? He never puts a foot wrong…  But Diogo Morgado presents a Jesus who is so very sweet, so very smily, so very good looking, so extremely kind. It’s like the actor is acting the ‘nicest man on earth’; I find this difficult to engage with.

The light brown hair on his head (a wig), and the short beard give such a ‘perfect religious image’; it is the blond Jesus that white America loves; quite religious really. It is way out of line from what the people in the (gospel) story represent: an interesting mix of races, where  the darker skins are the norm. This blond, very white skin Jesus is too northern European (or North American). WHY WOULD THE PRODUCERS DO THIS? 

I think it is Roma Downey’s choice; she loves the traditional, religious Jesus; the one she grew up with, alongside millions of other church going North Americans.


The Jesus in the TV series is a man with black beard & hair, and a dark enough skin; ethnically he fits in just right with the rest of the people in that region (and in the film). And according to scripture that is how it was; Jesus didn’t stand out for his good looks, or his ‘different color skin & hair’; He blended in.


Did the producers (Burnett & Downey) consider making a feature film with the same cast that acts the gospel in the TV series? I imagine, they must have looked into it. If I hear correctly, the feature film only came as a kind of surprise, alongside the TV series. The whole operation was already in place (locations available, production office & staff in the locality, camera crew & lots of equipment in place); to make a feature film, especially with the same (TV series) cast would have been the obvious route to take. But, for some reason, they decided to do a whole separate feature film with a different cast. Wow. I’m keen to read up on this story behind the story.

Jesus, in this film, speaks ever so slowly; making his every word come from ‘another realm’; every word a gem of wisdom to be heard (and never forgotten).

Together with lots of intense music this slow way of speaking produces a strong dramatic effect that continues through the whole movie. I’m not sure if I like it. For me, it is an exhausting experience; not so much inspiring. But an interesting choice, all the same. This Jesus behaves (and speaks) so very different from everybody else. He compensates this 'otherness' by being the nicest guy in the world. The people obviously LOVE HIM.

While I question the racial profiling of ‘this’ Jesus, I also wonder why he is squinting his eyes so much; he does it almost the whole time. Why? Was it simply that the actor had trouble with the local brightness (of the son)? You would think that Jesus, having grown up in this region, would have no trouble opening his eyes. Was the squinting, by the Jesus actor, part of a (more or less) constant smile? The same actor appeared in the making off (half hour); in that interview he looked so much better. His face was relaxed; his eyes were OPEN; even his hair was dark. My, it would have been so much better to have him in the film like this! I do realize that there is no actor who can portray Jesus the ‘right’ way; ‘right’ just doesn’t exist. Everyone will fall short.

An awful lot sf story material is left out; I really regret that. So many great moments in the different gospels; this film only gives us a few brief high-lights. This is something the whole series seems to suffer from; we just dip in & out of stories; it is all too quick and easy. Even gospel scenes that are in the film are cut back severely; important things Jesus did & said (according to the written gospel) have been left out of this film. I regret  that enormously.

Disciple John is featured at the very beginning of the film, as the older man (many years have passed since the gospel story), now banished to the island off Padmos. This is where John begins to speak to us (the viewer) without looking into the lens. Through this device, we get used to John being kind-of narrator; his narrating voice is used here & there in the film. At the end of the film, we are taken back to the older John who is the only disciple still alive (at that point in time). Not so bad, this small-scale narrative device. 

Jesus pays John a visit on the island, as John has just given us an update; the hands of Jesus are still pearced (holes is his hands) and we (the viewers) are given a close view of this. Scripture doesn’t give us this story; it comes across to me as slightly fake; somewhat along the lines of the ever-so-smiley-sweet-Jesus-that-is-such-a-very-nice-guy, saying ‘hi’ to John.  To me, this is more ‘sentimental’ than ‘spiritual’; something most of the film suffers from (sentimental archer than spiritual).

There’s a scene of the Romans beating down a protest about a water-provision situation; a local (political) issue; lots of people protesting. Suddenly the Roman army comes out of hiding and apply intense and quick violence. Interesting this; no such scene in the scriptures, but it gives us an impression of the tense stand-of between the Jews and the Romans. 

King Herod (or is it Antipas) doesn’t seem to be featured in this film (or did I briefly fall asleep?). 

It seemed to me that Pilate’s wife has too much of an upfront influence; she acts like she is in charge, or at the least she & her husband are sharing the job. Overdone, for my liking.

The calling of the tax collector beautifully done. The multiplication of the (bread) loaves and the fishes - fabulous work. Near the beginning of the film, when Pilate is traveling towards Jerusalem; the road is blocked. What happens next is shocking and sets the scene powerfully for all that is to follow. 

Good CASTING with the actor in the Pilate role; I get a sense of his ruthlessness and his Roman identity. (Something that seems missing often in gospel films, regarding Pilate.) Cajaphas is also good casting and effective together with the other Pharisees. Good casting also of the disciples and the 2 (or 3) women. 

The adulterous woman is brought to Jesus; they accuse her and are ready to kill her (by stoning). Interesting to have ‘Jesus’ pick up a stone, hold it high (as if ready to throw it) and then he says: “I’ll give my stone to whoo-ever…” 

Jesus praying in Gethsemane alongside Cajaphas praying in the temple, and Pilate praying to his idols. Interesting.

In Gethsemane Peter cuts badly into an ear; Jesus heals the ear - great moment. I’m glad that is there in the film.  Peter denies Jesus (in the courtyard); done with 3 quick denials in the one scene. Interesting choice. Usually it is three separate scenes.

Jesus is forced to carry his cross, up the street (up the hill). Jesus is suffering badly; blood everywhere; he kisses the cross.

On his way to Golgotha, there is this scene between Jesus and his mother. This moment is not given in any of the gospels (I don’t think); but a beautiful moment in any case. The relationship Jesus - his mother is central to this film.  A black man is recruited to help Jesus carry the cross; they carry the cross together. Beautiful.

There are many more beautiful moments in this film, and touching ways in which the Biblical story is given. Good thought has gone into the script writing, even though way too much is left out, and (as said before) some scenes that are in, cut the Biblical information short.

At the top of the hill, on the place of the crucifixion, Jesus crawls to the cross. His mother’s presence and her responses have a deep impact on the whole sequence. Once on the cross we get many extreme close-ups of Jesus; sometimes just his mouth, or his eye. Too close for me; the camera getting closer doesn’t bring us closer to Jesus. 

Jesus is laid in the same tomb that Lazarus had been in. Once we’re here in the story, the rest goes really fast. No scene between Jesus and Peter, regarding Peter’s denial (x 3) (Jesus asking him ‘Simon Peter, do you love me?’, and telling Peter to ‘Look after my sheep’); sadly it was all left out.

Production values are high (much work done in post production); a lot of great music helps a great deal. Great color grading of the filmic images.

I read, the film made very good money in the cinema. In many ways this film was the crowning glory of the whole BC and AD series. But sadly, it seems, no fresh vision in any of it.


After the gospel story, the episodes in the AD the Bible Continues seem to loose their way, in progression.  Way too much talk; too little focus on the early church. Paul features here & there, but the drama largely stays in (and around) Jerusalem. 

For reasons not entirely clear, Downey & Burnett lost their steam at this point; the best of Paul is still to come (later on in Acts), but this project didn’t get to it.

Son of Man (2006, Mark Dornford-May director)

Strictly Ballroom

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