TIFF 22 review: ‘CHARCOAL’ is a fiery and biting feature debut from writer-director Carolina Markowicz.

CHARCOAL

In her brilliant feature-film debut, writer-director Carolina Markowicz brings TIFF22 audiences a one-of-a-kind dramedy in CHARCOAL (CARVÃO). Irene and Jairo find themselves barely scraping from the money earned from their Charcoal factory, saddled with an ailing father and precocious 9-year-old son, Jean. Suddenly offered money to hide an Argentinian drug kingpin, things get weird for everyone. 

Rômulo Braga plays Jairo with passion, but not for his wife. Jairo is a miserable soul. Braga brings a slovenly and combative manner that breaks in private. 

How do you keep a nine-year-old from spilling the beans? Jean Costa brings the perfect amount of sass to the role of young Jean. His performance is so natural you might think he’s improvising each line. 

Cesar Bordon is Juan. His confusion only matched by his oblivious, holier-than-thou nature. His scenes with Costa are incredibly amusing. But it is his feisty chemistry with Jinkings that you’ll remember most.

Maeve Jinkings plays Irene with slick confidence and a fearless attitude. She is never intimidated by Juan’s presence. On the contrary, she sees him as a nuisance and a necessary means to an end. Jinkings casual delivery under pressure makes Markowicz’s screenplay shine. It’s a real wow.

I was entirely unprepared for the dark humor in this undeniably genius script. You’ll find yourself smirking as Juan prepares for his unexpected pitstop. After his arrival, the hilarity ensues with the utmost seriousness. Almost every scene drips with sarcasm, and it is glorious. One of the best films at TIFF22, CHARCOAL boasts twist after twist. Part satire, part social commentary, do not miss it.


Brazil, Argentina, 2022
Portuguese, Spanish
WORLD PREMIERE
107 minutes
Director
Carolina Markowicz
Cast
Maeve Jinkings, Cesar Bordon, Jean Costa, Romulo Braga, Camila Mardila, Pedro Wagner, Aline Marta
Cinematography
Pepe Mendes


Fantaspoa 2022 review: ‘SUBJECT’ is a uniquely mesmerizing fantasy.

SUBJECT

A famous novelist moves into a house near an isolated, strange village in an attempt to break his writers block. Soon, ideas emerge – as do strange sightings and mysterious pages, seemingly written by the former resident of the house


Attempting to ward off writer’s block, Max’s agent rents him a house in a small, isolated village. When Max finds his words in an old notebook inside the writing desk, it’s the beginning of pure chaos. Mystery compounds as the enigmatic yet cheerful townspeople come into contact with Max. Everyone in this town is slightly off-kilter. Writer-director Leo Falcão has done a splendid job keeping you on your toes, playing with language and magical realism. 

Is Max experiencing madness like Jack Torrance in The Shining? Something strange haunts this town, and Max is the only one out of the loop. Performances across the board are wonderful. I felt as if I were attending a ping pong match as I watched these fully fleshed-out characters coexist with Max. I needed to solve the complexities of the story. Falcão understands how to hold the viewer in the palm of his hand.

The costumes are like eye candy. With colors that pop, they have a strategic effect akin to Beetlejuice. The cinematic framing draws you into the already engaging narrative. The camera leads you to clues placing you inside the mystery like a passerby on the street. It’s immersive and ceaselessly intriguing. With an ending I did not see coming, Fantaspoa 2022 audiences will find themselves scratching their heads but unable to take their eyes off the screen. SUBJECT completely enchanted me. 


SUBJECT screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.

For more information on the festival, please visit www.fantaspoa.com.


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.


Iuli Gerbase’s Eerily Prescient Sundance Sci-Fi Opens in Select Theaters January 14, 2022

Including The Quad Cinema in NYC and The Laemmle Royal in LA

On Digital/VOD March 1, 2022