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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

BIFF19 REVIEW: Buffaloed [2020]

Debt never dies. Leave it to an actual Buffalonian to write a screenplay set in the city without one mention or frame of snow. Only they know what else the Queen City has to offer above cheap jokes about blizzards and cold because they’ve grown up amongst the eccentric characters found in every corner bar or Bills game that can hate the person next to them despite still supplying a high-five if a touchdown is scored. So when Brian Sacca mocks the chicken wing feuds (Anchor Bar or Duffs?), fandom,…

Read More

BIFF19 REVIEW: Clover [2020]

You don’t kill your friends. It wasn’t wise to borrow money from local mobster Tony Davolio (Chazz Palminteri), but brothers Mickey (Jon Abrahams) and Jackie (Mark Webber) didn’t have a choice. Running a bar isn’t easy these days and the added pressure of trying to keep one afloat after generations of family ownership forces their hands to make a deal with the Devil. After a shared history allows for a single extension on payment without increasing the vig, Jackie decides to gamble what they owe (recouped in full) the night…

Read More