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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