Chicago ’18 Review: In ‘Olympia’ There’s No Cutoff For Trying to Get Your Life Together

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”

Chicago ‘18 Review: ‘Birds of Passage’ is a Crime Drama of Epically Beautiful Proportions

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.

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Film Festival Cologne ‘18 Review: ‘Thunder Road’

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.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,’ Brilliantly Speaks Truth to Power

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.

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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.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘Miriam Lies’ Is a Harsh yet Necessary Coming of Age Story

In Latin America, there is no event more important for young girls than the quinceañera. Families will save up every extra penny to make sure that the celebration is a lavish affair, welcoming the girl’s progression into adulthood with a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. For Miriam (Dulce Esther Rodríguez Castillo), however, her 15th birthday is loaded with dread, as she has a secret that she doesn’t want the rest of her family to know about.

She has a boyfriend named Jean-Louis, who she only knows from chatting online. One day, she goes to meet him at a natural history museum, but upon seeing his face, something holds her back. She doesn’t talk to him, and runs away, explaining to her mom that he didn’t turn up. At first, this seems like natural shyness, but it slowly becomes clear that it’s because he’s black. The resulting film is a piercing tale that functioned both as a well-worked character drama and a seething critique of a racist society.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘Jumpman’ is a Very Different Kind of Superhero Movie

The corrupt heart of contemporary Russia is mercilessly exposed in Jumpman, a savage look at a society that has lost its way. Telling the story of a boy who uses his rare ability to feel no pain to jump in front of cars in order to blackmail their owners, Ivan I. Tverdovsky has created a savage exposé of a world in which nothing matters other than the pursuit of capital.

It starts with Denis (Denis Vlasenko) being dumped at an orphanage. As he grows older, he gets diagnosed with congenital analgesia, which means that he doesn’t feel pain in the same way other people do. This ability to withstand intense physical pressure makes him a favourite with the fellow boys, who tie him up with a hose and pull it on from either side to see how long he can last. Then one day, his mother (Anna Slyu) returns to the orphanage and takes him back to Moscow. Once there, they devise their dastardly money-making scheme.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: Tradition is Fatal in Turkish Drama ‘Brothers’

This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

Tradition is meant to bind us together, but when those customs are based in violence, those binds can be a noose, choking us into a cycle of bloodshed. This is certainly the case in Turkish drama Brothers, which displays the devastating effects of living by ancient customs.

It starts with the seventeen-year-old Yusuf (Yiğit Ege Yazar) in a juvenile detention centre near the tail-end of his sentence. He is a quiet and brooding boy, with a constant chip on his shoulder. He seems always on the verge of anger, almost starting a fight over a mistimed football tackle. One day he is released on probation and picked up by his brother Ramazan (Caner Şahin), who believes a good way of celebrating is by buying him a prostitute. This pretty much sums up the perpetual misunderstanding between the two, who cannot find a way to truly relate to one another.

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