REVIEW: Noche de fuego [Prayers for the Stolen] [2021]

Sometimes, our perception of what we see is not real. Everything that happens in the small town at the center of documentarian Tatiana Huezo‘s fiction debut Noche de fuego [Prayers for the Stolen] runs through the Mexican drug cartel. The men have all but left to find work elsewhere, sending money to pay off collectors. The women work in the poppy fields, scratching opium bulbs to pay bills and earn a semblance of “protection” by being useful to the cause. And the soldiers stationed there act tough with guns as…

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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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REVIEW: Arrebato [Rapture] [1979]

Suspended in pure pause. It’s not until heroin is mentioned that Ana Turner (Cecilia Roth) stops and reconsiders the offer to partake by boyfriend José Sirgado (Eusebio Poncela). She’s game for acid and coke, but that stuff causes addiction. It ruins lives. “Not if you don’t take too much,” he says—a line he recently heard from an acquaintance named Pedro (Will More). This guy is a basket case recluse who can barely muster two words while looking creepy in the corner of the room, staring daggers through the back of…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: El otro Tom [The Other Tom] [2021]

You never keep your promises. Tom (Israel Rodriguez) is an uncontrollable youth in school and at home. Is it because he has ADHD? Probably. Is it also because he lives in a volatile household with a single mother who has justifiable anger issues augmented by people (Tom’s father Julien doesn’t pay child support) and institutions (government, education, medical) constantly failing them? Definitely. While all these issues are present throughout Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo‘s (based on her novel) El otro Tom [The Other Tom], however, it’s a single aspect of…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Les oiseaux ivres [Drunken Birds] [2021]

I’m scared I’ll forget her. We start at the end—the end of a cartel. Men climb the walls to go inside the now abandoned estate, walking amongst paintings and sculptures before stripping naked to take a dip in the indoor swimming pool while a giant portrait of their unwitting (and now imprisoned) benefactor looks on. One decides to don a fur coat as he rifles through the papers sitting on the kingpin’s desk. He picks up a note and begins to read before discarding it out of boredom. The voice…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: La hija [The Daughter] [2021]

Nobody can know you’re here. The plan is simple, but risky. Javier (Javier Gutiérrez) has worked at a juvenile delinquent center for two decades, interacting with all kinds of troubled teens. After trying to conceive a child with his wife Adela (Patricia López Arnaiz) for almost as many, they’ve yet to succeed. As a result, Javier can’t help but see a new resident as a means to an end wherein both parties can benefit. Irene (Irene Virgüez) is fourteen, pregnant, and in love with a boy who’s currently in jail…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Matar a la bestia [To Kill the Beast] [2021]

When people cause you pain, it’s better to stay away. A beast has arrived at a small town on the border between Argentina and Brazil. People talk about it being the spirit of an evil man, transforming into different animals to stalk its prey. Women are told to be afraid just as they’re told they’ll be protected. Whether businessmen, men of God, or neighbors, no one will rest until the creature is caught. Except, of course, that it never will. Because while we see it as a bull watching from…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Sis dies corrents [The Odd-Job Men] [2021]

What could go wrong? It’s an important week for three handymen in Barcelona. Pep (Pep Sarrà) is retiring after decades on the job. Moha (Mohamed Mellali) is showing what he can do as his potential replacement. And Valero (Valero Escolar) is left to reconcile their swap’s extreme change to his routine with an empty stomach due to a last-minute attempt to lose weight before a family member’s wedding that weekend. There’s a bit of “old man yelling at clouds” with Pep’s last hurrah providing the opportunity to tell builders how…

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FANTASIA21 REVIEW: Muerto con Gloria [Ghosting Gloria] [2021]

Don’t be afraid of your senses, they are a wonderful gift. Sex is everywhere Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) turns. She can’t sleep because the people in the apartment above her are at it every single night like clockwork. A photographer takes antique images of couples outside the bookstore where she works—love captured with every smile. And her co-worker and best friend Sandra (Nenan Pelenur) has a new boyfriend each day to the point where Gloria never knows which beau she’s talking about. Gloria is tired, listless, and without any hope of…

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CANNES21 REVIEW: El Empleado y El Patron [The Employer and the Employee] [2021]

I’m sorry about what happened. All relationships are to some extent transactional, but none more than that between employer and employee. One provides capital and the other labor. This dynamic would be symbiotic in a perfect world since one can’t exist without the other: a boss cannot acquire the capital necessary to run a business without workers on the ground and those workers cannot live without a job with which to earn a steady wage. Even so, the disparity between them has grown exponentially throughout the past few decades. Executives…

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REVIEW: La Dosis [The Dose] [2020]

Important decisions are never easy to make. Despite being a film about euthanatizing ICU nurses at a provincial hospital in Argentina, Martín Kraut‘s directorial debut La Dosis [The Dose] actually begins with a miraculous attempt to bring a patient back to life after doctors had already declared her dead. That’s the kind of man Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is, though. On the job for two decades and counting, he knows when someone is beyond help and when their time has yet to arrive. He therefore grabs the paddles, shocks her two…

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