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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Freeland [2020]

I have my own system. Adapt or die: it’s the capitalist way. And for a time it actually worked. Those with the ingenuity to improve an industry found themselves rising to the top with technological advances that others would have to adopt in order to remain competitive. An even playing field would be found, someone new would take that next step forward, and the rest would once again adjust. At a certain point in the past half-century or so, however, those improvements began coming at an accelerated pace. They’ve become…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Small Town Wisconsin [2020]

No big deal. Odds are that finding someone from Small Town Mid-West USA means finding someone with an unpleasant past. Economic strife leads to long hours. Long hours to drinking. Drinking to domestic abuse. And the cycle continues ad infinitum unless you’re lucky enough to extricate yourself from the black hole of familial history proving too heavy to bear. It’s why Alicia (Kristen Johnston) got out around the time her abusive, alcoholic father passed away. It’s why Deidra (Tanya Fischer) and her new husband Stu (David Sapiro) are looking to…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Tahara [2020]

Would you ever kill yourself? The word tumah in Jewish law is the state of being impure—ritually and morally. And it seems there are many reasons why you might fall under this category as stated in the Torah’s Book of Leviticus. Touch a corpse: impure. Touch something that already touched a corpse? Impure. Touch the decaying flesh of dead animals? Impure. Give birth? Impure: but only for seven (son) and fourteen days (daughter) depending on the baby’s gender. Have an “unnatural” discharge from your genitals (including menstruation)? Yes. You guessed…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Runaway [2020]

Tears in cornflakes taste awful. Every story can be tackled from multiple angles depending on its narrative intent and lead character. It’s therefore a conscious choice when selecting a focal point because everything that follows will inherently center him/her as the protagonist. While generally not a bad thing considering most stories we tell are purposefully drawn to lift up their subject in that way, some demand a more complex and nuanced approach. The reason is simple: certain events prove more important than any single player within. And that’s definitely the…

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