REVIEW: Los tiburones [The Sharks] [2019]

Did you catch anything? When we first meet fourteen-year old Rosina (Romina Bentancur), she’s running away from her actions. Down through the trees she goes, heading towards the beach as someone chases behind. We soon learn that her pursuer is her father (Fabián Arenillas‘ Joaquin) and her crime is hurting her sister Mariana (Antonella Aquistapache). She says it was an accident and he believes it was, but we can tell she’s speaking more about the injury than the deed. No one wants to maim a sibling no matter how frustrated…

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REVIEW: El hoyo [The Platform] [2019]

Obviously. We say the same thing whenever a new dystopian vision is released: it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was said when Brazil bowed and again with Snowpiercer and High-Rise after. And now it’s director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia‘s turn as El hoyo [The Platform] hits the zeitgeist in the middle of a pandemic that’s revealed empires to be as naked as Hans Christian Andersen’s emperor. Will we band together in the face of widespread adversity and recognize—sometimes for the very first time—that we must protect the most vulnerable…

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REVIEW: Saria [2019]

No more stupid questions about love. Tragedy struck the Guatemalan orphanage Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in March of 2017 as forty-one teenage girls perished as a result of a preventable situation. Some survived to tell their side of the story: the rampant physical and sexual abuse by their custodians, the protests and attempted escape leading to their quarantine, and the possibilities of how the fire that killed their compatriots began. Writer/director Bryan Buckley has taken these accounts and the establishment’s history to weave a gritty drama out of…

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REVIEW: Dolor y gloria [Pain & Glory] [2019]

Compassionate and controlled. A lot has been said about Pedro Almodóvar‘s latest film Dolor y gloria [Pain & Glory] being autofiction, but the director says it best himself when explaining that the character (Antonio Banderas‘ Salvador Mallo) “wasn’t me, but was inside me.” There’s power to that statement because it accepts the notion that everything an artist creates is born from within. So the comparisons are unavoidable as a rule regardless of whether or not you write your script to be about a director who then lives in a set…

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NYFF19 REVIEW: Así habló el cambista [The Moneychanger] [2019]

Enjoy every penny earned and spent. Mr. Schweinsteiger (Luis Machín) ran a good game in Uruguay by helping unsavory folks launder money through him for a percentage. He was smart too, refusing to work with politicians knowing they’d eventually screw something up and drag his name down with them. Unfortunately, however, the man he willingly took under his wing as a logical successor and future son-in-law proved greedier than he was intelligent. Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler) did what Schweinsteiger wouldn’t because the dollar signs were too attractive to be ignored…

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REVIEW: Jauja [2014]

The desert devours everything. Colonialism, Manifest Destiny, and any other act by a foreign nation to claim the land of an indigenous people as its own are performed with a desire for power and prosperity. It’s about ego and entitlement—the search to create a mythology that glosses over genocide for the “heroism” of a brute that stumbled upon something he didn’t like to think wasn’t automatically his to own. So while Jauja itself is a fabled city of riches and happiness, writer/director Lisandro Alonso uses the word to describe conquest…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Ema [2019]

You’ll forget all this. There’s a lot to unpack in Pablo Larraín‘s dance film Ema. From two lead characters as unreliable to the plot as they are fickle with each other to an elaborate scheme preying on the weaknesses of man and the pleasures of flesh, it’s tough to know what the director wants us to laugh at: the wildly unorthodox situations he’s created or the sociopathic characters within. I think his hope is the former as his talk after the screening heard him admitting he didn’t like the reggaetón…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Mientras dure la guerra [While at War] [2019]

But we’re Christians. Director Alejandro Amenábar spoke very briefly before the screening of his latest film Mientras dure la guerra [While at War] and the main sentiment was this: “It could happen anywhere.” He doesn’t, however, just mean rebellion or uprising. He doesn’t mean a coup or military dictatorship either. What he and co-writer Alejandro Hernández share via the parallel journeys of Don Miguel de Unamuno (Karra Elejalde) and General Franco (Santi Prego) is that just fights always run the risk of becoming unjust very fast. This truth is ultimately…

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REVIEW: Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas [Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles] [2019]

I think I’ve been lost since I got here. Before surrealist legend Luis Buñuel found himself directing multiple films a year during the 1950s on the way to creating French classics like Belle de Jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in the 60s and 70s respectively, he became a persona non grata when it came to European benefactors thanks to his feature debut L’Age d’Or labeling him a heretic and almost getting his producer excommunicated by the Pope. With Salvador Dali at his side, the Un Chien Andalou…

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REVIEW: Gloria [2013]

Are you always this happy? While sitting next to her ex-husband (Alejandro Goic‘s Gabriel) at their adult son’s birthday party, Gloria (Paulina García) peers at old wedding photos and comments about how naïve they were. He of course tries shifting those sentiments by exclaiming they were in love, but she just smiles and repeats “naïve” once more. If you couldn’t quite put your finger on what type of person Gloria was before this moment, this cementation of present strength and clarity should make it crystal clear afterwards. She now knows…

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REVIEW: Zama [2017]

Europe is best remembered by those who were never there. A man speaks about a fish rejected by the water it needs to breathe, swimming back and forth to fight that current of repulsion and stay alive in the hopes of earning an opportunity to be desired, valued, and worthy of the life God has given to it. He could very well be talking about the titular put-upon protagonist of Lucrecia Martel‘s Zama. The character’s name is Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho) and he’s desperate for validation whether…

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