NBFF 21 review: ‘The Witches Of The Orient’ is an ace.

THE WITCHES OF THE ORIENT

Textile workers are transformed into an Olympic level volleyball team by their coach, whose unconventional techniques emphasize speed and aggression. The team has a record-setting winning streak and a triumph in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

THE WITCHES OF THE ORIENT manages to simultaneously be exhilarating and endearing. The film is a multimedia celebration of an unforgettable group of women who worked tirelessly for victory and pride. The film works its way through intimate sit-down interviews with team members, now in their 70s, to recreate the journey to the 1964 Olympics. These extraordinary women worked diligently under a coach that was deemed harsh and unconventional. To hear them speak about it now, they saw things very differently. They had respect and adoration for a man who took a chance on a group of women who had the weight of their country’s honor on their shoulders.

The soundtrack is incredible. Even though you know the outcome of the final game, watching the tape makes your palms sweat and your heart race. You’ll stand up, cheer, and cry happy tears alongside the team. It’s simply inevitable. The film could not be more relevant as we roll into this year’s Tokyo Olympics. This team paved the way for female athletes to defy the masses. While it continues to be an uphill battle of sexism and controversy for today’s athletes, The Japanese Volleyball Team in 1964 owned their naysayers. Director Julien Faraut gave NBFF 21 audiences a history lesson that charmed the pants off of audiences.

NBFF 21 review: ‘TALIGATE’ is heart stopping terror.

TAILGATE

A cocksure, road-raging family man finds himself pursued and terrorized by the vengeful van driver he chooses to tailgate.

The villain in this film initially appears completely unassuming. That’s the bait and switch that is Tailgate. A simple premise of road rage produces one of the evilest monsters of all time. The level of fright this film provides will blow your mind. My palms were sweating, my heart pounding from start to finish. The terror is relentless. Performances are all top-notch. I give extra credit to our youngest cast members, Roosmarijn van der Hoek and Liz Vergeer. Their keen ability to keep up with the adults is outstanding.

Our very good friend Steve Kopian, from Unseen Films, pointed out an important device in Tailgate that heightens its entire concept. This story occurs entirely during the day. In fact, it essentially happens in real-time. But it’s the daylight factor that makes it the most sinister. Every atrocious act occurs both in broad daylight and before innumerable witnesses. It is baffling and infinitely exciting. Congratulations to writer-director Lodewijk Crijns. Tailgate is one of the best films at this year’s North Bend Film Festival, without a doubt.


Showings – select to order tickets:

Review: ‘Dachra’ takes a familiar formula and annihilates it.

DACHRA

An investigation into witchcraft leads a trio of journalism students to a mysterious town marked by sinister rituals. Inspired by true events.

Dachra‘s initial formula is similar to The Blair Witch Project. Soon going off the rails into something we’d never imagined experiencing. What sets this film apart is remarkable cinematography and ghastly twists and turns. The runtime is lengthy but necessary to place you inside the shoes and minds of our three protagonists. Being thrown into a new culture is oftentimes shocking and uncomfortable. Dachra takes discomfort to the next level. The script forces the viewer to endure a deranged and prolonged experience of hospitality. As the mystery grows, so too does the terror. So many questions swirl as the film progresses. This isn’t just one story. Dachra has franchise potential, with sequels and prequels possible.

Sometimes a film has the ability to sear an image into your brain. It’s rare when one film does it over and over.  Hatem Nechi‘s camerawork is both dizzying and hypnotic. The long takes are impressive and eerily effective. There is real movie magic in Dachra. I am scarred by some of the things I saw. Performances are nuanced and skin-crawling. The practical fx are gag-inducing. The fact that this is writer-director Abdelhamid Bouchnak‘s first film is mindblowing. This story is very carefully curated to scare the hell out of the audience.  It’s the perfect storm of horror and history.

Dachra | Dekanalog US Trailer from Dekanalog on Vimeo.

DACHRA opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide on Friday, July 9th.

DACHRA is written and directed by Abdelhamid Bouchnak and stars Yasmine Dimassi, Aziz Jbali, Bilel Slatnia, Hela Ayed, Hedi Majri, Rahri Rahali.

Color
Arabic Language with English Subtitles
114 minutes
Not Rated

Review: ‘La Dosis’ explores who we are in the shadows.

La Dosis

Synopsis:
Marcos is an experienced nurse who works the night shift of a private clinic. He is successful and professional, though it is soon revealed that he uses his position to help suffering patients find early peace. A new nurse in the clinic, Gabriel, shakes the sector: he is young, intelligent, beautiful, and seduces everyone. He soon deciphers Marcos’ secret and the clinic becomes a battle of wits and seduction. Marcos retracts until he discovers that Gabriel also dabbles in euthanasia, though for different reasons. This revelation forces him to confront Gabriel and Marcos knows that only by exposing his own true identity will he be able to stop him. 

La Dosis is a dark psychological thriller that from the very first scene pushes viewers to consider the harsh and subjective balance between life and death. At its center is Marcos, the lead overnight nurse of the ICU unit in a private hospital. By now, audiences are accustomed to anti-hero protagonists, so it is not hard to find compassion for Marcos even as he makes the ethically murky decision to euthanize critically ill patients that are suffering in their final days. In a nuanced and complex performance, Carlos Portaluppi excels in infusing Marcos’ actions with compassion. Through the many moody silent stretches of the film, the audience watches Marcos alone in shadowed rooms and backlit hallways as the weight of his actions plays across his face. 

The fragile morality of Marcos’ world is shattered, however, by the arrival of Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers), a young charismatic nurse that immediately charms patients and hospital colleagues alike. Gabriel understands Marcos’ impulses at once, but it soon becomes clear that he has his own darker code. The discovery compels Marcos to reexamine the complex web of justifications that he has been telling himself for years. When is it mercy? When is it just power? Is there a difference? It also pushes Marcos toward action, even if he is putting himself at risk by exposing more egregious crimes. 

The most compelling scenes in the film are interchanges between Gabriel and Marcos as they confront, coerce, and ultimately conspire for and against each other. In one tense nihilistic exchange, Gabriel exclaims to Marcos, “We are the only ones who care about what we do. Have you realized that?” 

At its core, La Dosis is a complex meditation on power, the balance of which shifts subtly from scene to scene. It is not until the final shot that it is revealed who comes out on top.

LA DOSIS, the sharp slow-burn thriller from distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films, will be released on-demand and digital on June 11, 2021. The film world premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2020, and also played BFI Flare, the Fantasia Film Festival, and others.

Release Date:                        On VOD/digital on June 11, 2021
Directed by:                           Martín Kraut
Cast:                                       Carlos Portaluppi, Ignacio Rogers, Lorena Vega
Genre:                                    Thriller
Specs:                                    93 min
Distributor:                            Samuel Goldwyn Films

Review: ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ ultimately travels well.

Take Me Somewhere Nice

On the edge of adulthood, Alma leaves her mother’s home in the Netherlands and travels to her native Bosnia to visit the father she’s never met. But from the start, nothing goes as planned.

If I’m being honest, when the screen faded to black I genuinely abhorred protagonist Alma. Let me explain. Alma travels to see her estranged and hospitalized father. Upon arrival to her homeland of Bosnia, it is nothing but one mishap after another. As a young woman on her own in an unknown land, Alma chooses to dawdle aimlessly until her cousin can drive her to the hospital. The lack of urgency she displays throughout the film is confusing. Through distasteful encounters with men, young and old, she often uses her sexuality to advance her pace. The fact that she was left at a bus station, sans luggage or money, and didn’t end up dead is a baffling miracle in my view. Through the bizarre kindness of mostly strangers along the way to the hospital, she is eventually able to navigate to her father’s location only to be let down once more. Although, “let down” feels inaccurate. The nonchalance displayed by Alma is jarring. Whether it’s brazen sexual encounters or finding drugs in a suitcase, she is cool as a cucumber. It felt like this road movie was more of a waking dream.

As I had a few days to sit on Take Me Somewhere Nice, I was hit with a surprising epiphany. I was exactly like Alma in my youth! The careless way I used my sexual power, the reckless abandon I took with almost everything in my life. I was once fearless. At 41, I look at Alma with the eyes of 20 years of mistakes and growth. Writer-director Ena Sendijarević honestly gets everything right. Take Me Somewhere Nice is about a sheltered girl out in the world alone for the first time. It all makes sense now, even if her choice of her sexual partners makes me cringe. Taking a step back allowed me to appreciate her mindset in an entirely new light. Newcomer Sara Luna Zorić perfectly captures this generation’s bold nature. Watching her adapt to her surroundings is infuriating, awkward, and ultimately inspiring. I cannot leave this review without giving a standing ovation to the breathtaking cinematography. The colors, landscape, and smart camerawork are enthralling.

Take Me Somewhere Nice opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide today.

The film opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide this Friday, June 11th, 2021.

TAKE ME SOMEWHERE NICE is written and directed by Ena Sendijarević and stars Sara Luna Zorić, Ernad Prnjavorac, and Lazar Dragojević.

Bosnian, Dutch, and English Language with English Subtitles
91 minutes
Not Rated

Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule Review: ‘Last Film Show’ is a glorious nostalgic hug for movie lovers.

Last Film Show

When the magic of movies conquers nine-year young Samay’s heart; he moves heaven and earth in pursuit of his 35mm dreams unaware of heartbreaking times that await him.

Stunningly beautiful cinematography, including thoughtful close-ups and overhead shots of Samay’s mother cooking his lunches, will make you remember the impact a great film has on all the senses. Last Film Show is the perfect way to celebrate being back in person at Tribeca. Performances from every single cast member are triumphant. It feels like an ode to film lovers. You’ll fall head over heels in love with Bhavin Rabari in particular. It’s rare that child is so spectacular in a role that you forget that’s it’s a narrative and not a documentary. Last Film Show gives us everything we’ve been missing since this pandemic began. To say much more about the plot is truly a disservice. It’s one I implore you to see for yourself. We’ve missed this more than we realized. Last Film Show is a cinematic masterpiece.

TRIBECA 2021
WORLD PREMIERE / Spotlight Narrative Competition

 

Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

 

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 is back with a vengeance. Here’s what we’re stoked to see.

Tribeca Film Festival is back and it’s the 20th anniversary, baby. This year’s lineup not only features a slew of incredible new films but will also include titles that didn’t get the chance to screen at the 2020 festival due to Covid. Audiences can experience Tribeca in a multitude of ways. You can enjoy outdoor screenings or watch from the comfort of your couch with Tribeca At Home. There are podcasts, live talks, immersive programs, and so much more. This festival is reliable for churning out crowdpleasers and this year is no exception. Here is a mere handful of films we are excited to share with our readers.

Werewolves Within

SYNOPSIS:
After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
When everyone is talking about a film before it even premieres you know you have to check it out. The pairing of Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson is pure comic genius. The screenplay from Mishna Wolff gives this duo a chance to shine and the audience nonstop belly laughs. In fact, this ensemble cast will blow you away. The hidden social commentary inside a werewolf mystery heightens everything. You do not want to miss this one.
Virtual Screening
Available Starting

Thu June 17 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Poser

Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. Enter Bobbi Kitten, an enigmatic, striking and talented half of a popular, indie pop duo, who takes Lennon under her confident wing—unwittingly entangling herself in a dark obsession.
This is a film that will connect with multiple generations. It’s a story about finding your niche but that’s a really glossy explanation. The script is nuanced in a way that you will not see coming.
Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23.


Settlers

Remmy and her parents, refugees from Earth, have found peace on the Martian outskirts—until strangers appear in the hills beyond their farm. Told as a triptych, the film follows Remmy as she struggles to survive in an uneasy landscape.

An unexpected feminist tale, Settlers script makes the heart beat faster, ceaselessly begging the question, “What would you do to survive?”

Available Starting

Fri June 18 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


How It Ends

In this feel-good apocalyptic comedy, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) embarks on a hilarious journey through LA in hopes of making it to her last party before it all ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

Having a massively successful run on the festival circuit, Zoe Lister-Jones stars in a cameo-filled, riotous, and thoughtful film about coming to terms with the traumas of our childhood. You will laugh (a lot) and cry. This one will undoubtedly hit all the right notes.

Available Starting

Mon June 21 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


We Need To Do Something

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.

This is one of the first titles to get picked up before its premiere. That always makes a film extra buzzy. The idea of being trapped in a bathroom with my family already gives me anxiety. Add on the horror element and you’d push anyone’s nerves beyond their breaking point.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Ultrasound

**World Premiere** – Midnight

Driving home late at night during a heavy rainstorm, Glen experiences car trouble. Near where his car gets stuck, he spots a house, knocks on the door and is greeted by an oddly friendly middle-aged man, Arthur, and his younger wife, Cyndi. The strange couple pours him a drink, and then more drinks, followed by an unexpected offer that Glen can’t refuse. Elsewhere, a young woman, Katie, is feeling emotionally weighed down by a secret romantic arrangement that feels like a textbook case of gaslighting. And at the same time, in a nondescript research facility, medical professional Shannon begins questioning her role in a bizarre experiment, fearing that she’s doing more harm than good.

When I tell you that you aren’t ready for Ultrasound, I mean that as the highest compliment. This is a film best viewed totally unaware of the plot. Frankly, that’s not too difficult as the script provides dizzying twists over and over again. This is a film that people will be talking about. It’s one you’ll want to watch again and again.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Claydream

A modern day Walt Disney, Will Vinton picked up a ball of clay and saw a world of potential.  Known as the “Father of Claymation,” Vinton revolutionized the animation business during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.  But after 30 years of being the unheralded king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream came crumbling down at the hands of an outside investor, Nike’s Phil Knight.

The poster alone screams nostalgia for a generation brought up on Saturday morning cartoons. With sitdown interviews and behind-the-scenes clips, fall in love with Will Vinton and his creations all over again.

Available Starting

Sun June 13 – 7:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


No Man Of God

In 1980, Ted Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man.  NO MAN OF GOD is based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier and an incarcerated Ted Bundy in the years leading to Bundy’s execution.

We often hear about how charming Ted Bundy was. Director Amber Sealey‘s No Man Of God puts the audience in the room with him as writer Kit Lesser used actual transcripts from Bundy and Hagmaier’s conversations. Brimming with complexity and boasting amazing performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood, leave your expectations at the door. 
Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. This purchased film will remain available to stream on demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST


Creation Stories

 Creation Stories charts the true story of the rise and fall of Creation Records and its infamous founder, Alan McGee; the man responsible for supplying the “Brit Pop” soundtrack to the 90s, a decade of cultural renaissance known as Cool Britannia.  From humble beginnings to Downing Street soirées, from dodging bailiffs to releasing multi-platinum albums, Creation had it all. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, fights and friendships… and not forgetting the music. Featuring some of the greatest records you have ever heard, we follow Alan through a drug-fueled haze of music and mayhem, as his rock’n’roll dream brings the world Oasis, Primal Scream, and other generation-defining bands.

Drugs, music, risk, and passion drove Allen McGee to change the face of music in the 90s. Creation Stories comes at you like a freight train with a visceral energy that makes you wanna get up and dance. If you are a fan of Trainspotting, also penned by Irvine Welsh, this is right up your alley. Be on the lookout for our upcoming interview with director Nick Moran!

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

This is another film that is best experienced without prior knowledge of the plot. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To comes out of left field in a genre-bending tale of morality. The emotional gut-punch that the film becomes will consume you.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 21 runs from June 9th to the 20th. For more information visit https://tribecafilm.com/festival and stayed tuned to Reel News Daily for reviews and updates.

Review: ‘Two Lottery Tickets’ wins big.

TWO LOTTERY TICKETS

After two petty criminals jack his fanny-pack and the winning ticket, the three guys spend what little money they have tracking down the thieves. Although all three guys are easy marks with zero talent for sleuthing, their wild goose chase around Dinel’s apartment complex precedes a road trip to Bucharest, where the two thugs might be about to cash in on the €6 million jackpot.

Romania’s hit film Two Lottery Tickets is the most enjoyable buffoonery you can think of. In his second feature, writer/director Paul Negoescu takes a story from writer Ion Luca Caragiale and sends us on a €6 million fool’s errand. Local pushover Dinel’s wife fled to Italy with her boss two years ago. He is depressed and going broke trying to raise enough money to bring her back home. Drinking buddy Sile, a womanizing gambler, convinces him to spend his last few euros on a lotto ticket. Against all logic, Dinel’s idiotic chosen numbers end up being the winner. After two thugs steal his bum bag with the ticket inside, Dinel, Sile, and local conspiracy theorist Pompiliu must follow the clues by annoying neighbors, evading the police, and generally being ridiculous. It’s the sincerity of these three men simply being themselves that makes Two Lottery Tickets both loveable and hilarious. Actors Dorian Boguță, Dragoș Bucur, and Alexandru Papadopol all deliver lines in a way that makes you smirk and cringe. This is a film that has such comic ease to it. Once in a while, you come across a film that is like a cinematic hygge (because that’s a thing I just made up but you totally know what I mean, so whatever). Two Lottery Tickets has all the makings of that film you want to tell your friends about. Negoescu and cast have given viewers such relatable characters. In fact, if you watch it in a group setting, someone in the room is probably a Dinel, a Sile, or a Pompiliu. It is truly that delightful.

TWO LOTTERY TICKETS opens in U.S. theatres and virtual cinemas on Friday, May 21st, 2021. Check out the trailer below.

TWO LOTTERY TICKETS is written and directed by Paul Negoescu and stars Dorian Boguță, Dragoș Bucur, and Alexandru Papadopol.
Color
Romanian Language with English Subtitles
86 minutes
Not Rated

Review: Political allegory ‘The County’ milks it for all it’s worth.

presents

The County

After the global success of his Un Certain Regard winner RAMS, director Grímur Hákonarson returns to his native Iceland with another humanist farmland fable. Bitterly funny and deeply affecting, THE COUNTY plays out a timely political allegory against a jaw-dropping natural landscape, aided by a brainy, tenacious anti-heroine and Hákonarson’s dry Nordic humor.

Inja is left in the lurch with a nearly bankrupt dairy farm after the sudden and suspicious death of her husband. Under the thumb of the local Co-op, she discovers the shady dealings of those in charge and the effects on her fellow farmers. As she pushes back on social media, life gets more complicated. Inja becomes the Co-op’s target. Once our leading lady has had enough of patriarchal monopoly, her response is so satisfying you’ll be unable to repress a smirk. She must convince her neighbors there’s a better way than living in fear. The County is cinematically stunning. The script is brimming with unexpected moments. It’s one we can cheer for.

What I loved about this film was watching the tenacity of a woman pushed past the breaking point. Using wit and pure gumption, Inga helps a community that’s being taken advantage of. Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir‘s performance is out of this world. She is funny, powerful, gutsy, and yet completely vulnerable and grounded. The film doesn’t simply rely on the natural cinematic landscape but smartly uses its scope to tell this story. The script has a beautiful flow to it.  The ending is celebratory in a refreshing way. The County perfectly portrays the passion of a woman in her pursuit of doing what’s right.

THE COUNTY is written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson, and stars Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, and Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson.

THE COUNTY opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide Friday, April 30th, 2021.

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘SUPERNOVA’ makes your heart race and your head spin.

SUPERNOVA

Three men, one place, and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller, and disaster cinema.

Up close, hand-held camera work intensifies the manic energy that radiates from this cast. This tragic and explosive story stems from a hit-and-run. With the world in upheaval over police action, this film focuses on the reactions of a small town department. When the mysterious driver flees on foot, chaos reigns when the incident becomes personal. The performances are astonishing. The screenplay is genius. You’re getting multiple narrative stories by watching the reactions of family, coworkers, and onlookers all at once. A naive rookie, a Chief close to retirement, hooligans in the crowd, a female officer’s first day, those connected to the victims, and a villain so loathsome your head will spin. These characters simultaneously clash in Supernova as events play out in real-time. There is not a moment to breathe. The quietest moment is the opening shot. Once the actors enter the frame the energy ramps up and become increasingly intense. Writer-director Bartosz Kruhlik plays with empathy and power dynamics in such an intelligent way. The complexity of the story just keeps growing. Your heart will race, you’ll seethe with anger, Supernova is that good.

SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN’ wows with mystery and misery.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.

Simply beautiful cinematography and one hell of a leading performance consume the audience in BAM’s Kino Polska’s New York premiere of NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Alec Utgoff as Zhenia gives an intoxicating performance. There’s something about his gaze that puts you at ease. You’re fully aware there’s a complexity tied to his childhood in Chernobyl. The dialogue from his clients never lets you forget. The nuance of this role is enthralling. The darker mystery slowly makes its way to light as he does his massage and, unbeknownst to them, hypnosis on his clients. They reside in a wealthy, gated estate outside the city. From the outside, each house essentially a replica of the next. Inside, the residents gossip and confess their trauma and innermost thoughts. Sinister undertones always linger. Zhenia’s unique ability to connect with people is merely the beginning of his capabilities. That talent isn’t something that can be hidden indefinitely. The score is haunting and meaningful, heightening this carefully crafted film. Trust me when I say, this movie is special. You’ll be as hypnotized as Zhenia’s clients. NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is bursting with endless intrigue. It’s a journey that you will never see coming.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

Polish Cinema comes to your living room courtesy of BAM’s film program ‘Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema’

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

I NEVER CRY
Dir. Piotr Domalewski
2020, 98min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Zofia Stafiej, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Kinga Preis

Seventeen-year-old Ola sets off to Ireland to bring her father’s body back to Poland after he dies in a building site accident. But never mind her dad, Ola wants to know if he had saved the money for a car he had promised her. Dealing with a foreign bureaucracy in her own streetwise way, Ola finally gets to know the father who had been largely absent in her life. A bittersweet coming-of-age drama that explores the perplexity of family bonds, illustrating the gloomy landscape of today’s Europe.


MR. JONES
Dir. Agnieszka Holland
2019, 119min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of world WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.


NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.


SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Three men, one place and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller and disaster cinema.


KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN
Dir. Mariusz Wilczynski
2020, 88min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Fleeing from despair after losing those dearest to him, the hero hides in a safe land of memories, where time stands still and all those dear to him are alive. Over the years, a city grows in his imagination. One day, literary heroes and cartoon childhood idols, who in the consciousness of the successive generations are forever young and wearing short pants, come to live there, uninvited. When our hero discovers they have all grown old and that eternal youth does not exist, he decides to return to real life. And the amazing characters living in his imagination lead him back to the real world.


EASTERN
Dir. Piotr Adamski
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

In a dystopian world regulated by an inexorable, patriarchal code, the Nowak and Kowalski families have been embroiled in a vendetta for years. When the Nowaks’ son dies at the hand of Klara Kowalska, his sister, Ewa, is faced with a choice between carrying out revenge in the name of honour on the one hand and her own life and freedom on the other.


THE TASTE OF PHO
Dir. Mariko Bobrik
2019, 84min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

A Warsaw-based Vietnamese cook struggles to fit into the European culture, which his ten-year-old daughter has already embraced as her own. A story about love, misunderstanding and food.

Review: “BLOODTHIRSTY’ overflows with music and metaphor.

BLOODTHIRSTY

Grey, an indie singer, whose first album was a smash hit, gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend/lover Charlie, they arrive at his mansion, and the work begins. But Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is, and begins to discover the family she never knew. What will it take to become a great artist and at what cost to her humanity?

The music is not only a major plot point but a character of its own. Lauren Beatty brings Lowell’s songs to life with an honest folk/pop vibe. They are haunting. Combined with the string-heavy score, the soundtrack enters bone-chilling territory. Wow. Now that most of us have watched Framing Britney Spears we understand the mental health pressure of pop stardom. To see that explored in Bloodthirsty on a more literal level was incredibly intriguing. A controlling father figure, isolation, and a strict diet all enhanced by horror make this story ceaselessly engrossing. Separately, there is a family and loyalty dynamic. It’s a brilliant combination of genres.

Greg Bryk as Vaughn is scary. His manipulation skills are daunting. He’s very punchable and I do mean that as a compliment. He infuriated me and made me so uncomfortable. I guess that means he’s done his job well.  Lauren Beatty, who was phenomenal in Bleed With Me (also directed by Amelia Moses), gives us a vulnerability that is consuming, pun fully intended. She’s got genre darling potential in spades. Here, she is allowed to challenge the audience’s perception of reality. What would you sacrifice for your art? Bloodthirsty will have you questioning the creative process long after the credits roll. 

 

 

Website: http://www.brainmedia.com/films/bloodthirsty

Directed by Amelia Moses (Bleed With Me), conceived and written by mother-daughter duo Wendy Hill-Tout and singer-songwriter Lowell, and featuring the original music of Lowell, BLOODTHIRSTY stars Lauren Beatty (Bleed With Me) and Greg Bryk (The Handmaid’s Tale). The film premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020 and opens In Select Theaters and On-Demand on April 23.

 

Review: ‘The Knot’ is a battle between karma and pride.

THE KNOT

Shirish and Geeta, a middle-class couple, have a car accident one night. Their differing reactions to the fallout from the accident open up fissures in their relationship and puts to test their values and beliefs.

Before we were married, my husband and I lived in India for a year. We pretended to be married to avoid the social scrutiny. We purchased a scooter to get places on the weekends and took rickshaw rides as infrequently as possible because of Westerner price gouging. The streets were always overflowing with vehicles and people. Before I continue, I feel I must preface this review with the fact that my husband and I are white. We were born and raised on the east coast of the United States. Once we arrived in India, we dove headfirst into the culture, food, and local customs. It was all so new to us. We would be forever changed by our time there. The social structure in India is a caste system. The disparity between the upper class and the lower class is astounding. In the US, it’s easier to hide. There is a bit more visual nuance. In India, it’s much more black and white. In Ashish Pant‘s The Knot, a young, affluent couple is forced to confront that very social construct after a sudden accident. The foundation of their marriage begins to crack as the lies they tell one another and themselves will have dire consequences.

The Knot is a morality tale and a relationship movie. Geeta and Shirish are forced to confront their own flaws and the power dynamics in their marriage. Shirish’s obsession with status comes to a head with Geeta’s attempts to dissolve her guilt. Performances across the board are wonderful and the look of the film is lush. The Knot makes a point to show the realities of the country. This authenticity is key to the film’s success. The traffic is a chaotic free-for-all. We lived in Hyderabad. Drivers didn’t use their turn signals, instead, they would honk their horns. From the audio in the film, it sounds as if little has changed since 2009. It’s indescribably dangerous. We often wondered how many hit-and-run deaths were hidden due to the normalized practice of bribery. The film slyly grapples with the hierarchy at its worst. Pant uses subtle shifts in language, music, and dialect to illustrate caste. It’s such an intelligent and daring screenplay. The Knot boasts an explosive finale. The very last pan of the camera and the breaking of the fourth wall is chilling. Bravo to Ashish Pant for making such a fearless debut film.

THE KNOT WORLD PREMIERED ON MARCH 31, 2021 AT THE SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

SXSW21: What we’re excited to dive into at this year’s virtual fest.

SXSW21 is virtual, allowing it to reach a wider audience. Screenings begin Tuesday and we’re already salivating at the lineup. Here are just a few films we’re excited to watch.


NARRATIVE:

RECOVERY

Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Screenwriters: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Producers: Scott Christopherson, Stephen Meek, Abi Nielson Hunsaker
Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home. Cast List: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Anne Sward Hansen, Julia Jolley, Baylee Thornock, Jessica Drolet, Stephen Meek, Tyler Andrew Jones, Noah Kershisnik, Justin Call (World Premiere)

It’s officially been a year since we locked ourselves in our homes. If anyone can make pandemic humor relatable, it’s Whitney Call and Mallory Everton with their improv and sketch comedy background. Also, the fact that they’ve known each other forever, I’m guessing that will only help make this the most believable chemistry between co-stars. 

WITCH HUNT

Director/Screenwriter: Elle Callahan, Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico. Cast List: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, Christian Camargo (World Premiere)

I know women who practice witchcraft. To think their wellbeing could ever be put in jeopardy is a terrifying thought. Originally slated to screen at SXSW2020, it’s time to share this film with the masses. The synopsis alone gets the gears turning on possible political parallels from the past few years.

PAUL DOOD’s DEADLY LUNCH BREAK

Director: Nick Gillespie, Screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, Nick Gillespie, Producer: Finn Bruce
When Paul’s chances of winning a national talent contest are ruined and his dreams of fame are slashed, he plans a deathly revenge rampage!! 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders! Each wrongdoer dispatched in a fitting manner by the sparkly suited Paul! Cast List: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, Pippa Haywood (World Premiere)

Here is another cast list that grabbed my attention right away. Plus sequins and murder aren’t usually synonymous. British humor gets me every single time.

JAKOB’S WIFE

Director: Travis Stevens, Screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, Producers: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Travis Stevens, Inderpal Singh
The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast List: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere)

Travis Stevens gave me one of the most gagworthy practical FX-filled films in 2019 with GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR. Starring genre queen (and Timelord in my own mind) Barbara Crampton and the legendary Larry Fessenden, the buzz around this newest work is electric. Crampton’s uncanny ability to own the screen with a glance will undoubtedly captivate audiences, yet again. Also, knowing that Stevens is a huge horror fan himself (his producer credits give him away as does his totally down-to-earth Twitter feed) gives me the warm and fuzzies knowing that he’ll take care of audiences in all the ways we need.


DOCUMENTARY:

LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD

Director: Jeremy Workman, Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert J. Lyons
Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s most acclaimed domino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph. Executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran. (World Premiere)

My kids (and I) have become obsessed with toppling videos on YouTube. Once you go down that rabbit hole, you’re not coming out. The sheer patience it must take to build these feats is something I cannot even fathom. Knowing that this entire doc centers on a young woman at the top of her game encourages me to watch with my kids. I have a feeling SXSW audiences may do the same.

THE LOST SONS

Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producer: Gagan Rehill
1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed. (World Premiere)

This is a story I was slightly familiar with from its 20/20 broadcast. Since we’re all true crime junkies now, The Lost Sons should garner a sold-out audience.


SHORT FILMS:

THE THING THAT ATE THE BIRDS

Directors/Screenwriters: Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham
On the North Yorkshire Moors, Abel, Head Gamekeeper, discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. (North American Premiere)

Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER will be premiering the horror short film by writer and director duo Sophie Mair (Ella, And the Baby Screamed) and Dan Gitsham (Ella, And the Baby Screamed), The Thing That  Ate The Birds. They had me at the title. Since horror is my jam, and the name alone instills a sense of fear and anxiety, I have to know what “The Thing” is!

NUEVO RICO

Director: Kristian Mercado, Screenwriters: Kristian Mercado, Juan Arroyo
A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that changes their lives forever and propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but they soon discover that their newfound fame comes at a deep price. (World Premiere)

Animation with edgy social commentary will catch my attention every time. Filmmaker Kristian Mercado Figueroa is known for this skill. With the voice talents of Orange Is The New Black alum Jackie Cruz, this one caught my eye from its press still alone.

STUFFED

Director: Theo Rhys, Screenwriters: Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-Rea
Stuffed is a short musical about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and the man she meets online, so afraid of aging he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans. (North American Premiere)

You had me at the categories Horror and Musical. Since Sweeney Todd, Repo: The Genetic Opera, and Anna and the Apocalypse, I’ve been dying for more genre musical goodness. STUFFED may just fill that void even in short form.

MARVIN’S NEVER HAD COFFEE BEFORE

Director: Andrew Carter, Screenwriters: Andrew Carter, Kahlil Maskati
Marvin Wexler tries coffee for the first time and desperately tries to talk about it with anyone who will listen.

I grew up a tea drinker. I loathed just the idea of coffee until I was in my 30’s. Now I have 10 bags in different flavors and roasts and an obnoxious coffee maker in my apartment. I remember the joy of discovering this drink that fuels my days and some of my nights as a writer and a Mom.


You can find the full lineup of events and grab yourself tickets at

SXSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: ‘Keep An Eye Out (Au Poste!) is an uproarious meta masterpiece.

KEEP AN EYE OUT (Au Poste!)

Belgian funnyman Benoît Poelvoorde (Man Bites Dog) is Commissaire Buran, a good, bad cop interrogating Fugain, (Grégoire Ludig), an average Joe who discovered a dead body outside his apartment building. As the film begins, Fugain must, on an empty stomach, explain how and why he happened to leave home seven times in one night before coming across a corpse in a puddle of blood. Since he’s the investigation’s only suspect, Fugain’s anxiety is already sky-high when Buran leaves him alone with Philippe, a one-eyed rookie cop with bizarre speech patterns and a few minutes to live.

The 110% commitment to the absolute absurd is what makes Keep An Eye Out (Au Poste!) so phenomenal. It has an authentic Monty Python level of rapid-fire, totally ridiculous tone to the dialogue. You’re just smirking the entire time. Whatever these guys were selling I was buying. I gutturally laughed out through the entire 73-minute run. Also, can we please normalize these kinds of runtimes? Great, concise storytelling. I’m here for it.

Chief Inspector played by Benoît Poelvoorde is a real prick but in the best way possible. The perfect foil for Ludig. He isn’t really listening to anyone and meanders between genius and complete moron. His presence is commanding. Grégoire Ludig plays the completely unsuspecting Fugain. His character goes on the journey of a lifetime. Ludig is the “straight man” of the cast, which isn’t saying much. In an American version, he’d be played by Paul Rudd; genuine comic timing in an everyman sort of way. His charming panic becomes our panic. It’s a true testament not only to his talents but the magnificent script. The nonchalance of the entire thing will floor you. Enter Philippe, the underling assigned to watch Fugain when the Chief is called away. Actor Marc Fraize was honestly my favorite thing about the entire film. I wanted to put him in my pocket and take him with me. His loveable, quirky oaf delivery was something unto itself. He really completed the circle of greatness for me, personally.

The storytelling style is a mix of interrogation and creative recreations of Fugain’s official statement. All while attempting to hide another matter in plain sight. The cinematography is beautiful; something akin to a Wes Anderson film with its very distinct color palette. The visual gags are to die for. You will not know which end is up. It’s dizzying and meta, and once it takes off it doesn’t let up for a minute. It’s like watching a tennis match of wit and weirdness. I could not recommend KEEP AN EYE OUT more.

KEEP AN EYE OUT (Au Poste!) opens tomorrow in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide.

A list of theatres and virtual cinemas can be found HERE.

Final Girls Berlin 2021 review: ‘Time Of Moulting’ (Fellwechselzeit) will take patience.

TIME OF MOULTING

In a small town in 1970s West Germany, Stephanie is an intelligent and lively child living an insular life with her parents. She senses that something is wrong in her family, something that cannot be put into words, and she pushes against it where she can. Unspoken maladies lurk beneath the surface of everyday life and insidiously seeps into who she is. Neither she nor her parents have contact with others, and she falls into a symbiotic relationship with her mentally unstable mother Sybille. Sybille has never really left her own childhood behind and lives a life amidst objects and shadows of the past. Stephanie’s father offers neither support, love, nor normalcy. Stephanie withdraws more and more into herself and the passing years bring only ageing, but no future with them. Stephanie flees early from her life’s narrowness and hopelessness into an inner world of dark fantasies, which are nourished by traces of the past. Fellwechselzeit is a heavily atmospheric and harrowing portrait of the ways in which oppressive and repressed family dynamics can influence and infect the lives of younger generations– not tangible, not namable, but inexorable. Inner abysses form the only escape route for an undernourished soul.

You have to stick with filmmaker Sabrina Mertens‘ style choice here. TIME OF MOULTING is one of the most intentional slow-burn films establishing the cyclical nature of mental illness I’ve ever seen outside of a documentary. As the camera sits and watches these drawn-out, often silent scenes, we get a small peek inside the world of a family that has chosen isolation. The film does a 10-year time jump only to find our young protagonist worse off than before. She has been simmering in the childhood of her mother and is acting out with self-harm and increasingly violent drawings and fantasies. This film is not for everyone. You have to have the patience to make it to the end. The visual impact of Time of Moulting is massive. We hear over and over that the family cat has urinated on the furniture. We see each room accumulate more garbage/objects. Stephanie’s fascination with her grandfather’s slaughterhouse tools will make you so uncomfortable you will feel it on your bones. Performances are outstanding. This film challenges the audience to its breaking point.

DIRECTED BY SABRINA MERTENS, GERMANY, 2020

Starring Zelda Espenschied and Miriam Schiweck

Final Girls Berlin 2021 review: ‘DARKNESS’ will make your skin crawl.

DARKNESS

Stella, 17-year-old, and her younger sisters, Luce and Aria, are locked inside their house with bars on the windows. Outside is the Apocalypse: two-thirds of humanity is dead since sunlight has become too strong and only men can go outside. Their claustrophobic life is brightened up by some special games, such as the air party. But their father gets angry: he would like them to completely erase the past. The girls stay locked in their house, alone, with no food until things begin to break down and puncture the delicate shell of their cloistered existence.

Eerily the perfect film at this moment in our history, three girls wait in locked down isolation as their father scavenges for food in an uninhabitable world outside. The sisters pass the time with make-believe skits, attending to a strict schedule that revolves around their hyper-aggressive dad and reminiscing about their dead mother. But something else is very wrong here. Very, very wrong. Due to the current global pandemic, a phrase I am still not used to writing 11 months in, Darkness will resonate on a personal level, especially for parents. The film also has a similar circumstantial setup as ONLY one of my favorite films from Tribeca Film Festival 2019. But perhaps ends up more reminiscent of a certain M. Night Shyamalan film. All three young actresses giving stunning performances and they have a great screenplay to work with. If I’m being nitpicky, the runtime could be cut by 10-15 minutes as Stella pushes past her physical boundaries. The camera work puts you in the shoes of the sisters. Sometimes claustrophobic, other times disorienting. The full picture slowly reveals itself to be far more disturbing than you might think. There are clues sprinkled throughout but at the heart of it, Darkness is about emotional manipulation and physical abuse. It’s absolutely chilling. This film would easily garner a larger audience on any of the genre centric platforms. I’m excited to see where it ends up landing.

DIRECTED BY EMANUELA ROSI, ITALY, 2019

Starring Denise Tantucci, Valerio Binasco, Gaia Bocci, Olimpia Tosatto
German Premiere

Sundance 2021 review: ‘Luzzu’ shines in its authenticity.

LUZZU

Jesmark, a Maltese fisherman, contends with a newfound leak in his wooden luzzu boat. Barely getting by, he sees his livelihood—and a family tradition from generations before him—imperiled by diminishing harvests, a ruthless fishing industry, and a stagnating ecosystem. Desperate to provide for his wife and their newborn son, whose growth impediment requires treatment, Jesmark gradually slips into an illicit black-market fishing operation.

I have actually spent a few days on the island of Malta. When I met my husband he told me that his heritage was Scottish, Irish, and Maltese. I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. I’m half Italian and was completely unaware of the small, bustling island off the coast of Italy. Even with my little experience in the area, I can attest to the authenticity you get in LUZZU. Pre-pandemic, it was filled with tourists taking ferry boats from Sicily or to the smaller island of Gozo, where they actually filmed some of Game Of Thrones. It boasts crystal blue waters and ancient architecture. It also contains kind, hardworking locals that have been thriving in the fishing industry for a long, long, time. Now, things are changing and everyone is being forced to adapt. LUZZU takes all that local beauty and then gives us a weighty story we can sink our teeth into.

Jes is down on his luck in every way possible. He’s not catching anything that he can sell. His new son is not growing as he should. His mother-in-law doesn’t respect him. Jes dives headfirst into the black market fishing industry. While he fixes his luzzu (which is his wooden fishing boat) by hand, he snatches up any side hustle that comes his way. It’s heartwrenching to watch him struggle. You just want him to make it. As the danger grows, so do the emotional consequences.

Alex Camilleri- Maltese America filmmaker of LUZZU

To think this cast isn’t filled with professional actors is mind-blowing. They are beyond phenomenal. Jesmark Scicluna as Jes will tear at your soul. He leaves his heart in the ocean along with his family’s history. Combined with the handheld camerawork, Luzzu is immediately grounded and compelling. It puts us right alongside Jes. This story is universally relatable as the stress and anxiety that comes with being a parent, especially one with special needs, is oftentimes overwhelming. Add in circumstances beyond your control and you will do anything to protect them. The issues of identity are far more than surface level. The ending may destroy you. It felt devastating but incredibly honest. Sundance audiences will respect writer/director Alex Camilleri‘s choice to be bold in his storytelling. I cannot wait to see what comes next, especially since his upcoming film will also be set in Malta. If Luzzu is any indication, we’re just getting started.

Sundance 2021 review: ‘The Pink Cloud’ is closer to reality than fiction.

The Pink Cloud

Giovana and Yago are strangers who share a spark after meeting at a party. When a deadly cloud mysteriously takes over their city, they are forced to seek shelter with only each other for company. As months pass and the planet settles into an extended quarantine, their world shrinks, and they are forced to come to terms with an accelerated timeline for their relationship. With all their other interactions governed by screens, and with the strain of isolation setting in, Giovana and Yago struggle to reinvent themselves and reconcile the differences that threaten to tear them apart.

The film opens with a disclaimer that catches you off guard. Pretty quickly you realize it’s not a ploy, it’s necessary. The parallel to our current global situation is astounding. It’s as if the writer/director Iuli Gerbase got a glimpse into the future. It’s confounding.

This is a relationship film in lockdown circumstances. Yago and Giovana experience all the normal stresses of dating in a compressed timeline. Children or no children, work/life balance, philosophy, regrets, keeping it fresh. There’s humor in the darkness, but the darkness is much deeper.

The visual juxtaposition of how beautiful the clouds are and the fact that they’re deadly is not missed. The montages of how they pass the time are fantastic. Technology, like our present real-life, makes almost all things possible from learning and entertainment. But, obviously, the downside of social media comes into play. From conspiracy theories and depression, it’s all there. The Pink Cloud is frighteningly familiar and yet completely unique. Sometimes it’s just all too much. This film isn’t shy and I respect that. This is one of my favorite films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival.