INTERVIEW: Benh Zeitlin, co-writer/director of Wendy

Beasts of the Southern Wild was the indie darling of 2012 having racked up prestigious festival wins en route to four Oscar nominations. Despite being credited to “Court 13” as a collective at the beginning of the end credits, the driving force behind the film was New York native and current Louisiana resident Benh Zeitlin. He earned two of those nods as director and co-writer while also serving as co-composer alongside Dan Romer. It was the type of whirlwind ride that propels many filmmakers straight to Hollywood and yet Zeitlin…

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BERLINALE20 REVIEW: La déesse des mouches à feu [Goddess of the Fireflies] [2020]

I feel like I’m wasting my life. Die-hard grunge fan (and drug dealer) Fred (Noah Parker) tells Catherine (Kelly Depeault) she can’t play her Hole cd because Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain. It’s a remark that was probably half joke and half memorial that leads into Keven (Robin L’Houmeau) dropping the necessary wisdom of knowing Love wouldn’t have been able to stop him if she tried. Cobain wasn’t a victim. He lived hard and walked a road of his own making to an end he ultimately embraced enough to pull…

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Posterized Propaganda January 2020: The Top 10 Movie Posters of 2019

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column (with a special year-end retrospective today) focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably. So many posters proved their greatness this year by being bold enough to make interesting choices where composition is concerned. I’m still talking about…

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OIFF19 REVIEW: סיבת המוות [Cause of Death] [2019]

I can’t stop thinking about it. Director Ramy A Katz leaves three text cards at the end of his Cause of Death to share responses to the film that were supplied by the Israeli police department, Ministry of Health, and the medical examiner of Officer Salim Barakat’s body upon his death at the scene of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2002. Each statement possesses one commonality that doesn’t make sense when read after watching Salim’s brother Jamal’s unofficial investigation into what happened a decade later. It’s…

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OIFF19 REVIEW: Mafak [Screwdriver] [2019]

I didn’t even cry. You hate to think of the United States as a warzone and yet that’s exactly what it is in many respects. Whether a for-profit prison system leaving a largely Black population disenfranchised, unemployable, and haunted or caged children who crossed the Southern border for asylum only to be scarred by the psychological torture of being indefinitely ripped from their parents, minorities across our country are being held as prisoners of war without any concrete conflict on the books. Multiply this tragedy by a thousand and you…

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ANOMALY19 REVIEW: VFW [2019]

Same mud. That co-writer Matthew McArdle remains shocked even after seeing the film he and Max Brallier wrote on the big screen shows how tough the accomplishment proves. Best friends since childhood, the two began their script for VFW with transparent intentions as far as harkening back to the no-holds-barred VHS gems they’d scour video store shelves to find. Using John Carpenter‘s Assault on Precinct 13 as inspiration, they created a group of aging vets decades-removed from service yet still thick as thieves with a drug-fueled, zombie-esque horde threatening to…

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ANOMALY19 REVIEW: Bacurau [2019]

A feast of fear and terror. It’s been awhile since Teresa (Bárbara Colen) last stepped foot in Bacurau, the small Brazilian village where she was born. Escape has proven the only way to become known outside of one’s neighbors since those who remain entrenched by choice (or necessity) are more or less the sole providers of their own survival. This notion might have begun in the abstract with the obvious contrast between a big city like São Paulo and their humble abode, but it’s been made overtly true with food…

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OIFF19 REVIEW: Advocate [2019]

It’s always heavy. The crucial truth within Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche‘s documentary Advocate arrives courtesy of their subject Lea Tsemel. She explains how there will be no end to the violence between Israelis and Palestinians until a human understanding of the motives can be reached. Israel’s staunch stance as the unequivocal victim was a lie from the beginning since we all know about the number of people that were displaced upon its creation. So to blindly accept their designation of Palestine as a terrorist community rather than a…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Online Billie [2019]

It’s simple until it all gets complicated. Despite opening Online Billie with a glimpse of the titular camgirl (Valentine Payen-Wicaksono‘s Esther/”Billie”) engaged in a chat room session, she’s not the lead character. Director Lou Assous and co-writer Xavier Bazoge have very clearly created her as a hypothetical instead—a test with which their surrogate in the story (Baptiste Lorber‘s Jules) can confront his biases and wrap his head around the revelation that the woman he’s falling for is a sex worker. This isn’t inherently a problem for the whole considering his…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Working Man [2019]

It’s just something I need to do. The title Working Man only deals with one aspect of Robert Jury‘s film about the effects of a rust belt town’s last factory closing. Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) is a “working man,” but his breaking-in to continue working without pay while his neighbors (also laid-off) think he’s gone crazy isn’t a product of compulsion. No, he does this because it’s the best excuse he has to escape home. As the opening prologue alludes with Allery calling his son’s name to no avail, this…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Foosballers [2019]

“It was truly like a religion” Sports documentaries are generally allowed to make some assumptions. Talk about baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or soccer can gloss over the structural details and rulebooks because those coming to watch a story about a certain player or team are already fans of the game itself. When you move into a fringe sport in the vein of foosball, however, filmmakers like Joe Heslinga can’t afford that luxury. So he and writer Mike Wagstaffe must find a balance between the personalities of the top players, the…

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