DOCNYC21 REVIEW: Adrienne [2021]

I wasn’t supposed to find her dead. I hadn’t seen any of Adrienne Shelly‘s work at the time of her death, but you couldn’t follow the film world in 2006 without hearing about what happened. The news sites latched onto the assumption of suicide early on only to discover what happened was murder—the culprit found, arrested, and confessed shortly afterwards. And amidst that tragic whirlwind during the final two months of that year, Shelly’s latest film as writer/director/star, Waitress, was in submission at Sundance. It would eventually bow at the…

Read More

DOCNYC21 REVIEW: Messwood [2021]

Kids win. Coaches lose. You can’t avoid questions about race when you’re talking about a situation such as that at the center of Emily Kuester and Brad Lichtenstein‘s documentary Messwood. The title is the name that was coined when two high schools a mile apart on the same street separated by a stream joined forces to field a competitive football team. Shorewood High is predominately white and bolstered by the highest median income level in Milwaukee. Messmer High is predominately Black and saddled with a student body that can barely…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: Catch the Fair One [2021]

You wish it was me on that wall. Kaylee (Kali Reis) hasn’t fought much since her sister Weeta disappeared two years ago. She’s waiting tables at a diner and sleeping in a shelter now, estranged from her mother (Kimberly Guerrero‘s Jaya) and really only in touch with her trainer/friend Brick (Shelly Vincent). The latter is with her at the beginning, taping her hands up to ready for a boxing match. We don’t see it, though, and don’t know who it is against. This is intentional because it may not have…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: Landlocked [2021]

I don’t want to mess this up. Nick’s (Dustin Gooch) mother just passed away. One more source of stress to go along with marriage, parenthood, and the reality that a year of not taking a paycheck is about to end with the opening of his own restaurant. You can’t blame him for being scatterbrained and temperamental, but something about the way he’s internalizing his anxiety seems off. His wife Abby (Ashlee Heath) calls him out on it too. She knows the pressure he’s facing and what the future holds for…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: Cólera Morbo [Rage] [2021]

The crow never forgets. Everyone collided one fateful day in 1993. Beatriz (Liseth Delgado) and Lizeth (Karen Osorio) left school and cheered up sad little Mateo (Sebastián Carreño) before a speeding car passed and crashed a few feet away. Engulfed in flames, the driver (Carlos Fernando Pérez‘s Carlos Cota) screamed as he fought to escape the wreckage. The teens ran to the burning man to suppress the fire with their jackets, saving him until an ambulance could arrive. It was a harrowing moment captured on a roll of film inside…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: Life After You [2022]

I’m glad we can talk about anything. There’s a moment at the beginning of Sarah T Schwab‘s adaptation of Life After You that tells you all you need to know about the central mother/son relationship of the story. Linda (co-writer Florencia Lozano) finds Danny (Jake Ryan Lozano) smoking outside after just having cleaned up the mess he and a friend left behind in the living room the night before. She takes a shot at the friend’s mother, he smiles. She tells him that she’s glad they tell each other everything…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez [2021]

I have faith in the revolution. It’s easy to pick out two of the talking heads in Susan Stern‘s documentary about her husband Spain Rodriguez entitled Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez. Robert Crumb, the artist behind Fritz the Cat, has his own documentary (from Terry Zwigoff) in the Criterion Collection and Art Spiegelman, the artist behind Maus, has the only Pulitzer ever awarded to a graphic novel. To someone like me who has never really delved into the world of underground comix, it takes those touchstones of mainstream…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: We Burn Like This [2021]

None of this has ever gone away. Even though she had just experienced the racial abuse of a redneck throwing a glass bottle at her Native American roommate Chrissy B. (Devery Jacobs) before screaming, “Go back to your country!”, Rae (Madeleine Coghlan) doesn’t quite believe she might have been targeted herself upon finding an anti-Semitic flyer in their door handle. She wonders aloud how such hatred could still exist in America, completely missing the correlation to what happened the other night. And it’s understandable. Those of us who have gone…

Read More

BIFF21 REVIEW: Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago [2021]

You’re really writing history here. The concept is inspired: create a documentary about Chicago, Illinois in the 1950s by way of the fictionalized autobiographical stories written over the course of forty years by Barry Gifford—thus also making it into a documentary about the acclaimed author’s early life. Much like those stories, director Rob Christopher also seeks to use his film Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago as a vehicle to put us into that time and place rather than simply talk about it. So while Gifford’s voice can be heard giving…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More