TIFF19 REVIEW: This is Not a Movie [2019]

This is where the match was lit. The reason Yung Chang picked This is Not a Movie for the title of his documentary on renowned journalist Robert Fisk stems from his subject’s inspiration for pursuing that line of work. Fisk talks about watching Alfred Hitchcock‘s Foreign Correspondent as a boy and thinking its lead led a life of excitement that most people only ever dream about. So he pursued the career despite parents wishing for another direction (before their pride of having a son at The London Times kicked in)…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Pelikanblut [Pelican Blood] [2020]

I’m the lucky one. Writer/director Katrin Gebbe is not messing around with her latest film Pelikanblut [Pelican Blood]. What starts as a psychological drama about a mother desperate to provide her new daughter the love necessary to free her from the demons of a traumatic past gradually escalates into a supernatural thriller augmenting what science attempts to prove. So while the explanation of a piece of artwork depicting a pelican that pierced its chest to reanimate its dead children with its blood first appears as metaphor, it just might be…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Pesar-Madar [Son-Mother] [2019]

Would you do it? Directed by Mahnaz Mohammadi (her feature fiction debut) and written by Mohammad Rasoulof (a renowned Iranian filmmaker), Pesar-Madar [Son-Mother] is about exactly what its title infers. The labels themselves are somewhat subverted, though. Split into two halves with interstitials, “Son” actually centers on Leila (Raha Khodayari) while “Mother” stars Amir (Mahan Nasiri). The reason for the switch is that these sections prove as much about who’s not on-screen as who is. In a conservative culture balanced upon reputation, these characters are ultimately forced to sacrifice their…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Nobadi [2019]

Stop calling me bloody master! Heinrich Senft (Heinz Trixner) is alone on his little patch of land within a gated senior citizen community, his pension sustaining ready-made meals and the care for his dog Argus. When the latter passes away suddenly in the night, Heinrich has nowhere to project his grief but the veterinarian who sold him the vitamins he’s quick to blame for the pet’s demise. Unable to afford to have her pick the body up, he decides to bury it in the backyard despite being ninety years old…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Tammy’s Always Dying [2019]

I just want to play the game. You have to give credit to any story that allows its despicable characters to be despicable without also demanding forgiveness from their victim. This is especially true in tales concerning a parent and child considering society seems to crave this ideal that the former is due some benefit of the doubt they’ve never earned. Screenwriter Joanne Sarazen refuses to go that route. She won’t pander to audiences by making Tammy MacDonald (Felicity Huffman) anything but the narcissistic, alcoholic screw-up devoid of self-control she…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: I Am Not Alone [2019]

My spirit has survived. Despite the title of Garin Hovannisian‘s documentary on Armenia’s 2018 “velvet revolution” being I Am Not Alone, journalist/activist/Congressman Nikol Pashinyan was exactly that at the movement’s beginning. Word came down that former president Serzh Sargsyan was to be voted in as the nation’s latest Prime Minister—an unjust and demoralizing development considering he had used the last term of his presidency to change laws and ensure that new office would effectively keep him in controlling power. Because Pashinyan refused to simply let that happen without a fight,…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: The Report [2019]

It’s based on science. It matters that Diane Feinstein and other Senators (John McCain included) fought to make the Intelligence Committee’s report on “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” public because it held information the American people needed to know about how the CIA conducted itself after 9/11. While many would say the fact nobody has been prosecuted or held accountable since for what was laid out is the most important takeaway, however, I’d disagree. To me writer/director Scott Z. Burns distilled it in one line of dialogue during his cinematic adaptation of…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Tenki no ko [Weathering with You] [2019]

Or maybe not not. Teenagers get plenty of flack these days with derogatory labels thrust upon them by older generations refusing to truly look outside their window at how much the world has changed. They’ve a lot to shoulder with the pressure of living up to impossible and antiquated expectations, confusion as to a future and identity they can’t quite decipher yet, and the crippling reality that the world around them is literally crumbling via war, genocide, and climate change. Kids used to run from home as a means of…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Just Mercy [2019]

Trees swaying in the breeze. The story of Walter McMillian’s incarceration and subsequent time on death row is a powerful one with themes spanning police corruption, Southern racism, and justice itself as a means of finding truth rather than convenience. This is an innocent man with a concrete alibi sentenced to death because of coerced testimony and everyone intimately involved with the case knows. Since the victim was a white teenager and McMillian (Johnny D.) a black man caught having an affair with a white woman in the past, none…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: The Australian Dream [2019]

We heard a howl. The story of AFL superstar and Australian of the Year-recipient Adam Goodes should resonate for Americans who’ve been following the crusade of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. From his minority background, stalwart fight against injustice, and the resulting sports-wide fan backlash—their similarities are endless. The people loved Goodes because he left everything on the field and checked every “gladiator” box as far as playing through debilitating injuries to carry a team on his back towards a championship. They loved him so much that they initially let…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Love Child [2019]

There’s no going back. The year “2012” doesn’t pop-up on-screen at the beginning of Eva Mulvad‘s documentary Love Child because it’s an era-specific story. No well-known international news headline is about to arrive as motivation for why Sahand and Leila fled Iran for the hope of sanctuary far, far away. The real reason for that date is perhaps even more heartbreaking when proven to be a simple case of timeline logistics. This is when the couple’s story starts and we’ll eventually see more demarcations as it continues forward. What they…

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