TIFF21 REVIEW: Yi miao zhong [One Second] [2020]

This is my only chance. The assumption is that our unnamed protagonist (Yi Zhang) is about to steal the reels of film that have just been loaded onto a motorcycle headed for the next town’s screening. He hides in the shadows as the two men bringing them out decide to hit the bar next door for a drink before the driver takes off. Yi skulks closer to the satchels as they leave, moving towards the windows to see that they have sat down and occupied themselves with conversation. With that…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Zalava [2021]

Below the waist. The inhabitants of Zalava were never meant to stay in one place. Their ancestors were nomads and now they’ve become farmers. So where then did the demons come from? Were they always here waiting for settlers? Did their relatives bring the evil with them? Or has the restlessness in their bones from staying in one place for so long simply made them stir crazy to the point of needing those spirits to provide context for their anxieties? They admit to the sergeant (Navid Pourfaraj‘s Massoud) from the…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: El otro Tom [The Other Tom] [2021]

You never keep your promises. Tom (Israel Rodriguez) is an uncontrollable youth in school and at home. Is it because he has ADHD? Probably. Is it also because he lives in a volatile household with a single mother who has justifiable anger issues augmented by people (Tom’s father Julien doesn’t pay child support) and institutions (government, education, medical) constantly failing them? Definitely. While all these issues are present throughout Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo‘s (based on her novel) El otro Tom [The Other Tom], however, it’s a single aspect of…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Les oiseaux ivres [Drunken Birds] [2021]

I’m scared I’ll forget her. We start at the end—the end of a cartel. Men climb the walls to go inside the now abandoned estate, walking amongst paintings and sculptures before stripping naked to take a dip in the indoor swimming pool while a giant portrait of their unwitting (and now imprisoned) benefactor looks on. One decides to don a fur coat as he rifles through the papers sitting on the kingpin’s desk. He picks up a note and begins to read before discarding it out of boredom. The voice…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Kun Maupay Man It Panahon [Whether the Weather Is Fine] [2021]

People are murderous these days. The ambition behind Carlo Francisco Manatad‘s Kun Maupay Man It Panahon [Whether the Weather Is Fine] is undeniable. Set in the aftermath of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan (aka Super Typhoon Yolanda), the film opens on Miguel (Daniel Padilla) waking to the fact that there’s no longer a house surrounding him and his couch. More sleepwalking in disbelief than searching with desperation, he moves to find his mother (Charo Santos-Concio‘s Norma) just as his girlfriend (Rans Rifol‘s Andrea) finds him. Everywhere they go has been shattered to…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Silent Night [2021]

Tonight’s all about truth and love. The easiest way to make sure your child actors are up to swearing on-screen is casting your own. That’s exactly what first-time feature writer/director Camille Griffin does for her film Silent Night—and it’s with good reason. Art (Roman Griffin Davis) and twins Thomas (Gilby Griffin Davis) and Hardy (Hardy Griffin Davis) have made a pact with their parents (Keira Knightley‘s Nell and Matthew Goode‘s Simon) to say whatever comes to their mind without fear of punishment or retribution since they’re all going to die…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Saloum [2021]

You’ll be sick to death of us by the end. The infamous “Hyenas”—three mercenaries running amok throughout Africa—are caught in the air with gold bars, the drug lord (Renaud Farah‘s Felix) they’ve been hired to extract, and a failed fuel tank leaving them with bad and worse options for an emergency landing. The Guinea-Bissau authorities won’t let them leave without a fight on the ground and they’ve surely alerted their Senegalese counterparts already, but Chaka (Yann Gael) knows of a secret beach from his past where they might be able…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Flee [2021]

This is where my story begins. Documentarian Jonas Poher Rasmussen went to a lot of trouble to keep his friend and subject of Flee a secret. It’s with good reason too since the story divulged is one that could feasibly send him back to Afghanistan despite living the majority of his life in his adopted country of Denmark. More than just using a pseudonym (Amin Nawabi), however, the interviews also become rotoscope animation as a means of amplifying anonymity. There are obviously still risks involved from the simple act of…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Paradis sale [After Blue] [2022]

Cut the bad weeds. It’s as though Roxy (Paula Luna) is standing at the gates of Heaven, being judged for what transpired during life on After Blue—a new planet devoid of computer screens post-Earth’s cultural destruction. Do we ever see the God she’s relaying her tale too? No. Or perhaps we are that God, judging her actions against whatever criteria we have in our own unprompted minds. The latter makes sense considering writer/director Bertrand Mandico operates under the cinematic Incoherence Manifesto that he co-wrote Katrín Ólafsdóttir. He “has faith in…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Costa Brava, Lebanon [2021]

I flushed hope down the toilet long ago. What can you do when your homeland is falling apart? The easy answer is stay or leave, but both options carry too much complexity to simply choose and be done. For starters, not everyone has that choice whether due to finances, family, or a myriad other possible reasons. And those who are able must dig deep within themselves to rationalize why. Do you leave because of greater opportunity? Do you stay because you want to be part of the solution? Or do…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Medusa [2021]

What did she do to you? Writer/director Anita Rocha da Silveira has created an evangelical town of purity in her Brazilian-set sophomore film Medusa. It’s the type of place all Christians wish they could send their children because they know they will be carried into God’s light. The young men form a militia group to honor His will against deviants that dare to embrace sin. The young women form a gang in the likeness of their heroine angel, donning white masks to confront and assault the so-called “sluts” and “whores”…

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