TIFF ‘19: ‘Pelican Blood’ Is A Disturbing Examination of What a Mother Will Do For Her Child

What would you do for your newly-adopted daughter? Give her the best education possible? Address her behavioral problems head-on? Take lactation medication to breastfeed her so she feels closer to you? Yes, all this happens and more in Katrin Gebbe’s film, Pelican Blood, a disturbing look at the depths a mother will go to prove her love for her (adopted) child.

Wiebke (Nina Hoss) is a horse trainer who, in the film, is focused on getting horses ready to be a part of the police force. She and her daughter Nicolina (Adelia-Constance Giovanni Ocleppo) live a peaceful and idyllic life surrounded by animals. But the family dynamic shifts when Wiebke decides to adopt another daughter, a five-year-old girl from Bulgaria named Raya (Katerina Lipovska). While everything seems great at first, Raya slowly reveals her violent and aggressive side, symptoms of an attachment disorder that makes her dangerous. She tries to set the house on fire, threatens to kill Wiebke and Nicolina, and bullies all of her classmates relentlessly. Wiebke must figure out a solution to keep her other daughter and herself safe.

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TIFF ’19: ‘Murmur’ Is A Search For Love In The Form Of Senior Rescue Dogs

With a long puff on an e-cigarette, we meet Donna, a woman with a love of red wine and not much else. But beneath the cloud of vapor and bottles of alcohol lies a deeply sad person who is searching for some larger purpose. Shot like a documentary with a careful and thoughtful gaze, Heather Young’s directorial debut Murmur is a gorgeous, yet heart-breaking, film about addiction, loneliness, and trying to feel loved. 

Donna (Shan MacDonald) is a recovering alcoholic who was recently convicted of driving while drunk. She is ordered to complete community service, which she does at a local animal shelter. There, she finds joy in motherless kittens and sad senior dogs. As she scrubs their cages and files down their toys’ sharp edges, she is able to feel useful; she can finally take care of something and feel loved in return. She particularly connects with a sick dog named Charlie who has a slew of medical conditions including a heart murmur. Donna believes she can give him the best life possible in his remaining months. But, once she gets a taste of being a caretaker, it spirals into another addiction that bleeds into her need for alcohol. She brings home cats, dogs, hamsters, and fish until her home is covered in pets. 

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Cinepocalypse Review: Gigi Saul Guerrero’s ‘Culture Shock’ Slaps Patriotism in the Face and Delivers a Dose of Horrifying Reality

The Fourth of July, the day of America’s independence, is a day full of red, white, blue, hot dogs, sun burns, and beer. It’s an excuse to have the day off to go to the pool, cook outside, and relish in the summer sun. But, it’s hard to celebrate America with our current track record of human rights issues on the U.S.-Mexico border. Gigi Saul Guerrero addresses this reality in Culture Shock, her feature film debut and the Fourth of July installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark film series. Guerrero contrasts the idyllic nature of the Fourth of July picnic against the real lives of those trying to come into the United States to show what the real American dream looks like: dark, dirty, violent, and fueled by the capitalist machine.

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Cinepocalypse Review: Pollyanna McIntosh’s ‘Darlin’ Is A Daring Directorial Debut

In 2011, Lucky McKee made a little film called The Woman about a feral woman captured by a white man. In his attempts to tame her and make her ‘civilized,’ a disturbing and disgusting story unfolds about power. In her directorial debut, Pollyanna McIntosh continues to address issues of power in the sequel to The Woman, Darlin’

McIntosh previously starred as the titular Woman in McKee’s 2011 film, so needless to say she’s familiar with the story of a feral cannibal living in the woods. While The Woman was about the Woman, Darlin’ is about, you guessed it, Darlin’ (Lauryn Canny). She is a young girl who was raised by the Woman (McIntosh reprises her role as the cannibal), so she is also a feral cannibal. However, she is deposited at a hospital for a soon-to-be-revealed reason (she’s pregnant) so she can get the care she needs to deliver a healthy baby. Despite her lifestyle, the Woman isn’t completely devoid of common sense.

But, the hospital doesn’t discover her pregnancy. They don’t know what to do with a girl with no records, so they ship her off to a Catholic boarding school for orphan girls. Here, the bishop (Bryan Batt) wishes to tame Darlin’ to show the healing power of Jesus Christ so his parish won’t be shut down. Jesus loves profiting off the lives of others. Here, Darlin’ is taught how to read, write, speak, and exist as what society deems as normal. But while Darlin’ is brainwashed by Catholicism, the Woman is searching the countryside for her and her unborn baby. The film switches between these two plot lines until their strange intersection. 

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