Sundance (2022) reviews: ‘The Cathedral’ & ‘Framing Agnes’ are two very different films retelling the past.

THE CATHEDRAL

An only child’s account of an American family’s rise and fall over two decades.

Fascinatingly stylized look at the memories that compromise our childhood, The Cathedral is a unique entry in the Sundance 2022 NEXT section. Writer-Director Ricky D’Ambrose uses static camera work to capture angles a child might see, either themselves or from physical photographs from an album. Interspersed with news clips and commercials from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, the sets, and costumes nail the eras. The Cathedral is narrated by an unknown female voice, recalling the family history in a frank, rather emotionless manner. There are jarring moments due to the lack of sensitivity. They speak volumes and, they make you squirm. There’s something about a multigenerational household that can ruffle feathers. The awkward exchanges from grandmother to grandson, the one-sided conversations from volatile phone calls, and those infamous family gatherings are all things we can relate to from our childhoods. 

Performances run the gambit between harsh, exuberant, uneventful, and that is what makes them so realistic. Our memories are but a collection of random references. The anxiety we carry as adults may stem from events such as divorce and/ or prolonged exposure to familial toxic masculinity. At least for many in my generation. The Cathedral shows us D’Ambrose’s ability to captivate an audience in the most unexpected ways. I’m eager to see what comes next.


Cast: Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Geraldine Singer, William Bednar-Carter.

North American Premiere. Fiction.


FRAMING AGNES

After discovering case files from a 1950s gender clinic, a cast of trans actors turn a talk show inside out to confront the legacy of a young trans woman forced to choose between honesty and access.


If you think trans history is something new, Sundance 2022 documentary Framing Agnes is about to blow your mind. Director Chase Joynt, sociologist Kristen Schilt, historian Jules Gill-Peterson, and trans actors Zachary Drucker, Angelica Ross, Silas Howard, Jen Richards, and Max Wolf Valerio all play dual roles. The doc is structured in reenactments of the 2017 discovered files from Dr. Harold Garfinkel’s UCLA gender health study in the 1950s. Christine Jorgensen‘s glamourized story plays as a backdrop for the media. In many ways, trans women find it difficult to avoid. Through the UCLA transcripts, we learn about the varied physical and emotional difficulties they endure daily. The interviews are presented in a 50s era talkshow format, spotlighting the sensationalized platforms of the past all the way to the Katie Couric interview with Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox. This experimental mesh of styles would also present well in a live stage format. It’s an important film that further enlightens us of the plight of the trans community. Framing Agnes melds past and present in a beautiful way. While it’s a personal film for the cast and crew, it will also hit home for a wide range of viewers.


For Sundance 2022 full line-up, tickets, and more click here!


Review: ‘CONFETTI’ Raises Awareness with Heart & Charm 

CONFETTI

How far would a mother go to reverse her child’s fate? Based on writer/director Ann Hu’s story, that’s the question facing Lan (ZHU ZHU), who travels with her 9-year-old daughter Meimei (HARMONIE HE) from their small town in China to New York City.

Inflicted with a learning disability, Meimei is considered a strange and dumb girl, an outcast in her school and community. What no one recognizes, however, is that she possesses a gift waiting to be unlocked. The world seen through her eyes is unique and filled with magic. When her mother learns that Meimei suffers from dyslexia, as do 1 in 10 people worldwide, she will stop at nothing to help her, including leaving her life in China behind and venturing alone with Meimei to New York City, braving a place she knows nothing about and speaking not a word of English.


Confetti is a heartfelt film that aims to tackle complicated issues of immigration, dyslexia, and the barriers that parents will overcome to provide a better life for their children. 

While the story centers on a dedicated mother (Zhu Zhu) leaving her small town in China on a quest to find the best education for her daughter (Harmonie He) with learning disabilities, it morphs into an analysis about social norms, expectations, and conformity. What is the likely fate for a child who is different? What if the standard model of education shouldn’t be “one size fits all”? In Confetti, tenacity and radically good luck make all the difference. But what about children that are even less fortunate? 

Confetti is a refreshing insight into the Asian American immigrant experience that is not frequently centered. Director Ann Hu should be commended for elevating complex intersectional stories like this one, even if some plot points feel a bit disjointed or unfinished. Charming performances by Zhu Zhu and Harmonie He animate a touching story of perseverance and sacrifice. 

The film will be released in theaters on August 20, 2021, and stars Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas, Marco Polo), Amy Irving (Crossing Delancey, Yentl)Helen Slater (Supergirl), and Harmonie He.


Writer, producer, and director Ann Hu’s 35mm debut Shadow Magic was one of the top box office hits in China and won both the Chinese Academy Award and Presidential Award in China for Best Film among other international prizes. The film premiered at the 2000 Sundance film Festival and was released by Sony Classics in 2001. Following the success of Shadow Magic, Ann Hu directed and produced Beauty Remains.  After a successful festival run, the film was released theatrically by Emerging Pictures in 2005 and was also a top performer in China.

Zhu Zhu is an acclaimed and award-winning Chinese actress who is up-and-coming in the US. Zhu Zhu made her U.S. theatrical debut in the Wachowski’s film CLOUD ATLAS, appearing opposite Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and can also be seen in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS opposite Russell Crowe. She then went on the play the female lead in Netflix’s original series MARCO POLO and starred in the Indian film TUBELIGHT directed by Kabir Khan alongside India’s most popular actor Salman Khan, which made her the first Chinese actress to star in a Bollywood film. She also recently appeared in box office hit, PACIFIC RIM UPRISING.


Liz’s Review: ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ will have book club fans approval

306835id1k_TIWILY_FinalRated_27x40_1Sheet.indd Yes, I am in a book club. There. I said it. I own it. It is awesome. This past year we have been focusing on books that have been picked up for film production. We have a lot to see over the next 12 months. Selections like Wild, Beautiful Ruins, The Vacationers, Gone Girl, and so on. Jonathan Tropper’s novel This Is Where I Leave You was on my list as soon as it was released in 2009, although I only recently got around to reading it. As a bibliophile, I found myself laughing out loud from the get go. The tremendously descriptive imagery, the seemingly familial story, the witty banter, all grabbed me right away. As a fan of the book, Tropper‘s page to screen translation was a huge success. Read More →