BERLINALE21 REVIEW: La Mif [The Fam] [2021]

We’re a fam now. The big draw to Fred Baillif‘s fictional look inside a residential care facility housing teenage girls is the fact that he refuses to pretend his setting is anything more than a “safe space.” It’s a place to find separation from whatever heinous environment they’ve left and begin the healing process. Some will inevitably be sent back to the place they sought to escape. Some will remain until their eighteenth birthday and suddenly have to figure out what it means to live alone. And no matter how…

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SLAM21 REVIEW: Nulle trace [No Trace] [2021]

What would I gain? Not knowing is the point. At least that’s what writer/director Simon Lavoie says in his director’s notes for Nulle trace [No Trace]. He’s not looking to create a film with narrative propulsion or mainstream appeal within an industry he’s actively seeking to rebel against. He instead wants to go back to the art by engaging audiences with form, sensory input, and ideas. Lavoie’s goal is to therefore embrace an unspoken “pact” with viewers that allows for a benefit of the doubt where understanding and intent are…

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REVIEW: アーヤと魔女 [Âya to majo] [Earwig and the Witch] [2020]

I shall give you the worms. Those familiar with Diana Wynne Jones‘ children’s book Âya to majo [Earwig and the Witch] will be surprised to find Gorô Miyazaki‘s cinematic adaptation beginning with a chase scene pitting a red-headed woman on a motorcycle against a yellow Citroën on her tail. They weave in and out of traffic with impossible speed and maneuvering before we see the first bit of magic used to create some extra distance. That’s when a cut occurs for us to watch the unknown redhead walk through a…

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REVIEW: آن شب‎ [The Night] [2021]

There’s no way out. While playing a game of “mafia,” Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) are tasked with figuring out who amongst them (it’s an evening with friends rounded out by two more couples) are gangsters and who are citizens. The idea is to therefore lie if you’re the former. Pretend you’re innocent and point your finger elsewhere in hopes that the majority of players choose to “kill” the wrong person. A poker face is king and in this case salvation for those searching for one last victory…

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REVIEW: Martin Eden [2019]

Beauty is demanding. Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is a man without a home. He’s too ambitious to become a working class cog with little to no room for education and he’s too much of a rugged realist to play the aristocratic elite’s hypocritical games. So the former calls him lazy. The latter calls him undeserving. And yet he somehow finds himself with a foot firmly planted in both worlds regardless thanks to a charming likeability that turns him into the puppy by their side that he later rails against via…

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REVIEW: Дылда [Dylda] [Beanpole] [2019]

He’ll heal us. World War II has left Stalingrad in shambles. Buildings are destroyed. Families are torn apart. And meaning has all but disappeared in the face of atrocities that won’t simply go away. The head doctor at the city’s hospital (Andrey Bykov‘s Nikolay Ivanovich) tries his best to hold morale by saying that “peace is on its way” and yet the words can’t help but feel hollow. He lost everyone in the war himself and now he’s tasked with pretending that a soldier devoid of movement anywhere but his…

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REVIEW: The Truffle Hunters [2021]

Now I’ll rest and drink some wine. There are few better examples depicting the erosion of human civility at the hands of capitalism than the continuous comparison being made between two generations of men in Piedmont, Italy throughout Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw‘s documentary The Truffle Hunters. One is represented by the aging hunters accustomed to old ways of decency and respect like Aurelio Conterno: a man who tells a meal partner that he plans to die without divulging his best locations for white Alba truffles. Gianfranco Curti epitomizes the…

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ANOMALY20 REVIEW: Schlaf [Sleep] [2020]

Am I awake? The nightmares are never-ending for Marlene (Sandra Hüller). One second she’s watching television with her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) and the next finds her screaming in the dark, desperate to grab hold of a bedside journal with which to draw what she’s seen. It’s a house she can’t recall visiting. It’s a suicide by hanging, a suicide by rifle, and a suicide by blade. Over and over the images flicker upon her eyelids because the drugs offer little reprieve. If not for leafing through an on-board…

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ANOMALY20 REVIEW: De kuthoer [The Columnist] [2019]

Here’s to life. Never read the comments—a universal rule for all writers who publish, share, or create on the internet. No matter what you say or how you say it, there will always be a troll ready to disparage your work or you personally. They don’t need a reason beyond their ability to do so. They don’t need a salient point either. And it’s precisely because they possess neither that they ultimately live rent-free inside the minds of everyone they attack with artificial anonymity. One doesn’t even have to read…

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DOCNYC20 REVIEW: Colectiv [Collective] [2020]

We’re no longer human beings. We’re of an era when everything good instills mixed feelings thanks to how far our species has fallen where the realm of empathy is concerned. It’s so demoralizing that we’ve been forced to hail those willing to do the bare minimum as heroes simply because they haven’t caved to the power of money’s so-called “great equalizer” … yet. How much buys your silence? How much for your complicity? How about your active participation? The old adage says everyone has a price because it’s very often…

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DOCNYC20 REVIEW: The Letter [2020]

Funda mkota. The subject of married directing duo Maia Lekow and Chris King‘s The Letter isn’t just one piece of correspondence. It’s instead a type that’s been gaining traction more and more in Kenya as younger generations have sought to take land from elders by way of religiously motivated murder. The way they do it is simple: declare the landowner a witch. Create a laundry list of ills, place the blame around the neck of an unsuspecting senior citizen, and threaten them with a violent end by the blade of…

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