SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Palm Trees and Power Lines [2022]

Don’t murder me, okay? It starts with a quick glance and a wink. Tom (Jonathan Tucker) sees that it’s a teenager looking his way when he does it. He knows he might have even made seventeen-year-old Lea’s (Lily McInerny) day by acknowledging her lusting over him with reciprocated approval. What happens next, however, is pure luck. Yes, he was surely waiting outside the diner in his truck to stalk her on the off chance she became isolated from her friends, but an opportunity to save the day couldn’t have happened…

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SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Something in the Dirt [2022]

You can only fall so fast. Directors Justin Benson (who also writes) and Aaron Moorhead go back to their roots with a lo-fi, (mostly) single locale sci-fi similar to their debut feature Resolution. Rather than a cabin in the woods, however, Something in the Dirt takes place within a cheap, lease-free, sight-unseen Los Angeles apartment. The tenant is a long-time area bartender named Levi (Benson) who’s hoping to jump ship and leave the city after his pursuit of something meaningful left him with only frustration. It’s within walking distance to…

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SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Alice [2022]

Don’t you see it? I wonder what the marketing push for Krystin Ver Linden‘s Alice would have looked like if Antebellum hadn’t already arrived on the scene first. Both films deal with the juxtaposition of slavery and our modern world in a similar way and yet the latter intentionally shielded its truth as a twist while the former exposes it as the point. Rather than deflect and/or deceive, this film’s campaign and synopsis have very clearly revealed that it does not take place during the 1800s. They do so by…

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SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Master [2022]

You can’t get away from it. There’s a great comical interlude about halfway through Mariama Diallo‘s feature debut Master wherein a practically all-white New England university puts together an advertisement for a newly formed “alliance for inclusion.” In it are the only two Black teachers at the school and two or three POC students that we’ve never seen until that moment. They talk about the initiative as if it’s some grand idea that will stop racism in its tracks despite a literal cross burning occurring mere days earlier. They talk…

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SUNDANCE21 REVIEW: In the Earth [2021]

You worried she’s going to get you? There’s a shared ambition during times like worldwide pandemics and it’s to find meaning in the chaos. We need to figure out cause and composition in order to create a solution, but there’s also a necessity for comprehension insofar as abetting the anxiety that inevitably rises from the moment’s uncertainty. Some of us go straight to the science as a result, (How bad is it? What can we do to stay safe? Who’s at a higher risk?), while others search their souls through…

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SUNDANCE19 REVIEW: Esto no es Berlín [This Is Not Berlin] [2019]

You’re not your parents. It opens in slomotion with teenage bodies wrestling and punching inside chaotic dust swirls, one boy (Xabiani Ponce de León‘s Carlos) caught isolated in the middle of the frame. He’s not looking to hit any of the others. In fact he’s barely dodging out of the way when they come too close. It’s almost as though Carlos isn’t even there, his mind and body separated as two halves of the same conflicted whole. He knows he should be present with his friends to show his machismo…

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SUNDANCE19 REVIEW: Dirty God [2019]

I thought it was love. How do you cope after an attack that leaves you visibly scarred for the rest of your life? This is the difficult question that director Sacha Polak looks to delve into with Dirty God. She (alongside cowriter Susie Farrell) crafts a scenario wherein the victim of such horror is a pretty young woman in South London who’s done nothing to deserve a fate she cannot outrun. She can’t even isolate herself with friends and family until ready for public re-assimilation since there’s a toddler involved…

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SUNDANCE19 REVIEW: The Last Tree [2019]

You want to be free? A child too young to understand the complexities of adulthood or desire to ask questions when the pain of their ramifications is still raw. A mother too proud to excuse the situation she created with the all too justifiable reasons able to imbue her with the strength necessary to offset a self-hatred fostering her projection of abusive anger. These two archetypes are intertwined within Shola Amoo‘s The Last Tree as though an ouroboros damning each other to the suffering their silence creates, the hindsight necessary…

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SUNDANCE17 REVIEW: Machines [2017]

“Poverty is harassment, Sir” The most pointed question asked by Rahul Jain‘s documentary Machines comes from the camera. By showing us the gigantic textile spools, looms, and washers with only their rhythmic clanks, booms, and bangs opposite the Indian workers applying dyes, mixing chemicals, and ensuring there are no jams to the same sounds, we must wonder which are the “machines” of the title. This is an assembly line of ancient metal units kept moving by a revolving door of migrant workers that start at the age of ten to…

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SUNDANCE17 REVIEW: Winnie [2017]

“The self no longer mattered. The country came first.” It’s difficult to truly capture a controversial subject in film. For a figure such as Winnie Madikizela Mandela, it may be impossible unless you ensure her perspective is included. This is a woman labeled terrorist by many countries, a wife who “tarnished” her heroic husband’s legacy. Yet the people of South Africa hail her as Nelson Mandela’s equal—maybe greater. She was the on-the-ground leader of the African National Congress (ANC) when he and others were imprisoned or exiled, the one person…

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SUNDANCE17 REVIEW: Axolotl Overkill [2017]

“Can you drown in the gene pool?” Playwright, author, screenwriter, and director Helene Hegemann has said (through her publisher) that, “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” The words were spoken after her debut novel Axolotl Roadkill earned critical praise, a spot as a finalist for a major book award, and multiple, potentially damning plagiarism claims. Hegemann was seventeen when it published and admitted to the cribbing as soon as it was brought to light. She blamed her generation’s penchant for mixing and sampling, for taking what’s bouncing…

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