BERLINALE22 REVIEW: Queens of the Qing Dynasty [2022]

We’re both needing something. Our introductions to writer/director Ashley McKenzie‘s leads in Queens of the Qing Dynasty are not to be forgotten. Whether Star’s (Sarah Walker) open-mouthed and fully dilated thousand-yard stare in a hospital bed after her latest suicide attempt (this time for drinking poison) or An’s (Ziyin Zheng) voice regaling the women nurses with a Chinese song while their supervisor drawls “Old Macdonald” in response, the notion that we’re dealing with two eccentrics in a world that may never understand them is abundantly clear. It’s therefore only right…

Read More

BERLINALE22 REVIEW: Super Natural [2022]

Have we started yet? Less a film than an experience, Jorge Jácome‘s Super Natural is the sort of work that only achieves the sort of transcendence it aspires towards if the viewer is willing to meet it halfway. Unfortunately for me, doing so is easier said than done considering most of the narration (subtitled computer noises reminding me of videogames that don’t have the budget to hire voice actors) is very clearly trying to engage with me throughout. That device can work when the questions being asked are rhetorical in…

Read More

BERLINALE22 REVIEW: Stay Awake [2022]

It’s kind of scary to think about it. Ethan (Wyatt Oleff) doesn’t have to say anything when he shows up at his brother Derek’s (Fin Argus) work unannounced. They’ve gone through this too many times not to know the reason for any impromptu visit: Mom (Chrissy Metz‘s Michelle) is missing again. So, they get into the family car, flip their middle fingers at the office of the doctor who prescribed her first bottle of medication (and continues to refill it despite years of failed rehab stints), and check all the…

Read More

BERLINALE22 REVIEW: The City and the City [2022]

I’ll calm down when you wake up. Directors Christos Passalis and Syllas Tzoumerkas describe their film The City and the City as the untold story of Thessaloniki, Greece. It isn’t that because there’s a lack of interest, though. No, this story is one that the majority Christian city doesn’t want told. Why? Because it damages their narrative. This is their home and that’s all anyone needs to know. To believe the start and end of a place’s history lies with those currently in power not only exposes you as a…

Read More

BERLINALE22 REVIEW: Geographies of Solitude [2022]

It’s been a process of discovery. Considering the Wikipedia page for Sable Island states a population of zero (minus the six-to-twenty-five rotating personnel team from the Meteorological Service of Canada), the text labeling Zoe Lucas as a “full-time inhabitant” at the end of Jacquelyn Mills‘ Geographies of Solitude seems to confirm what we presume throughout its duration: this twenty-five-mile-long and one-mile-wide crescent sand dune off the coast of Nova Scotia is a world of one. It’s been that way for forty years, ever since Lucas returned following a brief stint…

Read More

BERLINALE22 REVIEW: Mis dos voces [My Two Voices] [2022]

We’re doing great. The title to Lina Rodriguez‘s documentary Mis dos voces [My Two Voices] says it all. Her three subjects (as well as her) are Latin American immigrants living in Canada with similar journeys full of insight, experience, and perseverance that are important for those about to follow in their footsteps and those lucky enough to never have to do the same. The idea of two voices is steeped in the idea of past versus present, but also identity considering the challenge of that shift. They want to hold…

Read More

BERLINALE21 REVIEW: Tabija [The White Fortress] [2021]

Something always comes up. The line between fairy tale and horror proves a thin one in Igor Drljaca‘s Tabija [The White Fortress] thanks to the differing perspectives of young love in Sarajevo. Whether Faruk (Pavle Cemerikic) and Mona (Sumeja Dardagan) believe a life together may yet be possible for them despite coming from opposite social and economic worlds doesn’t factor in because they’re just teenagers buckling under the pressure of outside forces that refuse to let them be free. So while the idea of a happily ever after is nice…

Read More

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…

Read More

BERLINALE20 REVIEW: La déesse des mouches à feu [Goddess of the Fireflies] [2020]

I feel like I’m wasting my life. Die-hard grunge fan (and drug dealer) Fred (Noah Parker) tells Catherine (Kelly Depeault) she can’t play her Hole cd because Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain. It’s a remark that was probably half joke and half memorial that leads into Keven (Robin L’Houmeau) dropping the necessary wisdom of knowing Love wouldn’t have been able to stop him if she tried. Cobain wasn’t a victim. He lived hard and walked a road of his own making to an end he ultimately embraced enough to pull…

Read More

BERLINALE19 REVIEW: Kameni govornici [The Stone Speakers] [2019]

We need both spiritual and physical healing. Writer/director Igor Drljaca takes us on a contemplative tour through four towns in Bosnia-Herzegovinia with his documentary Kameni Govornici [The Stone Speakers]. We never hear him speak nor watch any of his subjects respond. All we hear are their disembodied words atop static portraits of them standing against the backdrop of their environment and all we see are the remnants of and creation from destruction post-World War II and civil ethnic unrest. There are the locals lamenting their dying land as its unable…

Read More

BERLINALE19 REVIEW: Ringside [2019]

You can hit people and you can’t get in trouble. Boxing became the way two fathers in Chicago could keep their sons off the streets. Kenneth Sims Sr. was a brawler back in the day before turning his passion into a career as a coach. Destyne Butler Sr. was a pugilist aficionado who succumbed to the allure of drug dealing before getting out of the game. They therefore knew how easy it was to fall into a hole that seemed impossible to climb and what it took to do exactly…

Read More