Every once in a while, you’ll come across a film burning so brightly it threatens to melt the celluloid. Well, Pablo Larraín’s Ema is a film which radiates with that sort of creative intensity. The Chilean auteur’s radical, exhilarating exploration of a desperate young mother on the edge is singed with flame from start to finish: Ema is burning up inside as she manipulates countless lovers into a hurricane of emotional violence, all in-between sessions of reggaeton dancing and literally setting the city ablaze with a flamethrower. Wild as that may all sound, Larraín’s newest film emerges as an emotionally honest, resonant work about a woman who is determined to forge her own path.Continue reading “LFF ’19: Pablo Larraín’s ‘Ema’ Is a Hypnotic Cocktail of Sex, Dance, and Family Drama”
There’s few things more unfair than cancer.
It’s a particularly cruel demon, a greedy and indiscriminate condition that cuts lives too short and too harshly. Perhaps cancer’s worst sin is its tendency to provide hope that it quickly snatches away; the cycles of remission cut every bit as deeply as the initial blow, if not even more violently. This is the tragic reality for many of those with cancer and their families. The long process of your own body turning against you prepares you for your end, but are you ever really prepared?
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.
We all hate growing up: paying bills, paying rent, paying taxes, getting a job. It feels like a constant struggle to figure it all out while you’re just trying to keep your head above water and seem put together. It is a feeling that may seem difficult to convey, but Chicago-born screenwriter McKenize Chinn is able to do it in her film, Olympia. This film captures the anxieties and fears of trying to get your proverbial shit together while staying true to your dreams.
Olympia is about Chicago-native Olympia (Chinn) who is trying to figure it all out on the eve of her 30th birthday. She is a talented artist, but hasn’t been able to use it to make a living — instead, she is a receptionist at a nondescript office, doing menial work that’ll pay the bills. She has a wonderful, and recently successful, boyfriend, a loving sister, and a sick mother. She is insular, shut off from the world, and scared of telling anyone how she is truly feeling — she doesn’t want to seem weak or incompetent. Olympia is stuck at a crossroads and is trying to figure out what it really means to be an adult. She learns being an adult is messy, complicated, hard, beautiful, and no one really ever has it figured out. Continue reading “Chicago ’18 Review: In ‘Olympia’ There’s No Cutoff For Trying to Get Your Life Together”
If you’ve seen one crime film, you feel like you’ve seen them all. Men with guns and more money than they know what to do with shoot each other over drugs, all while (poorly) trying to protect their families. It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again, and one that serves as the structure for Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s latest film, Birds of Passage. However, Birds of Passage seeks to change this perception of the crime film. Using the perspective of an indigenous group in Colombia, rather than the typical cartel hotshots, we see the effects of the drug wars on a culture, their traditions, and their way of life. This unique lens creates more sympathy, pain, and heartbreak than typically seen in the genre.
This epic tale follows a family over twenty years, as ambitious Rapayet (José Acosta) becomes involved in the American drug trade. Rapayet is part of the Wayuu, an indigenous group that lives in the northernmost part of Colombia. As part of tradition, Rapayet must acquire a hefty dowry to marry Zaida (Natalia Reyes). To acquire the dowry, he turns to selling weed to Peace Corps volunteers. In a rather on-the-nose, yet poignant moment, a white Peace Corps volunteer yells, “Long live capitalism!” to Rapayet and his partner, Moises. Capitalism will prevail, no matter the cost. As what started as a means to a dowry because a full-fledged business, Rapayet and his family begin to lose sight of Wayuu way. Zaida’s mother and village matriarch, Úrsula (Carmina Martínez), tries to keep them on the right path, but even her eyes are clouded by the opportunities provided by capitalism.
Jim Cumming follows a lot of people on Twitter. In fact, as I’m writing this, about twenty-two thousand of them. I am not one of them, but a good friend of mine is, who decided to visit me over the course of the Film Festival Cologne. He told me about a very short, likeable social media interaction with Cummings and his interest in the now fully-fledged feature film Thunder Road after seeing its short film prototype of the same name – a brilliant one-take tour de force. Sure, I had heard about the film’s buzz from Sundance, but the consideration to actually go see it after spotting it on the festival lineup, came only by then. American independent filmmaking is tough, but Cummings found his own way to spread the word by actively sending out screeners and interacting with people. It’s likely a lot of work, but it paid off. And it did not pay off for a letdown – from a cinematic standpoint, Thunder Road is an impeccably crafted standout of recent American independent film.
This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.
The Germans have a word for acknowledging their Nazi past. Known as “Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” it literally means “coming to terms with the past,” describing the process by which the country tries to learn from the mistakes it made during the 30s and 40s, most significantly the Holocaust. This process makes Germany quite a unique country, as no other major nation-state can claim to have gone through quite the same amount of personal soul-searching.
This dream of awakening her home country of Romania is the mission of Mariana, an artist who wants to put on a reenactment of the Odessa Massacre of 1941 in which between 25,000 to 34,000 Jews were either shot or burned to death by Romanian troops. I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, is named after a quote that was used to justify the process. According to her, its a part of history glossed over by Romanians, who prefer to remember the time they joined the Allies three years into War. A pertinent clip from the Romanian film The Mirror, released in 1994, shows just how deep the distortion of history goes, displaying Ion Antonescu — the Romanian leader — as a sympathetic character who only “deported” non-Romanian Jews, instead of killing them. This is a blatant lie and something that Mariana is determined to deconstruct.