‘The Golden Glove’ is a fascinating tapestry of decay

Fatih Akin, Turkish-German director with international acclaim, has a reputation. His background as the child of Turkish immigrants is irrefutably ingrained into his films, which work through a headstrong voice that continuously offers a refreshing perspective in the overwhelmingly white realm of contemporary German auteur cinema. His cinema is angry and often more focused on its morally ambiguous character’s journey than the ever-present politics of their situation. This is an approach that doesn’t always work out: 2017’s In The Fade slightly stumbles when it shifts from a political testimony of judicial failure to personal revenge tale, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to watch how Akin’s clings to this kind of storytelling and attempts to dissect the personal implications of the political.
He continues this narrative attempt with his newest film, The Golden Glove, an adaptation of a novel based on a real-life case, and sparked controversy in the 2019’s Berlinale competition as a result. Critics of national and international outlets harshly criticized the unflinchingly graphic story of serial killer Fritz Honka, who centers the films politically loaded narrative and whose violent acts against women leave a deep feeling of unease and disgust in the viewer’s gut. It’s absolutely legitimate criticism, but busy festival schedules and a perhaps biased (and understandable) attitude against the serial killer narrative might have blocked out the film’s qualities as a rich and engaging study of the marks of psychological violence that the wars of the 20th century left on German society.

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It’s More Complicated Than Serial Killers in ‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’

We’re a society that loves serial killers, but only a certain image of serial killer: a white man with a tortured past who can easily be slapped on a t-shirt and lauded as some kind of perverse hero. Filipino director Raya Martin taps into this obsession with his adaptation of Felisa Batacan’s award-winning novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles (it was also the first Filipino crime novel). But, instead of glorifying or deifying the killer, Martin instead portrays him, and the entire case, with nuance and pain, depicting a world unseen by most Western audiences.

In a rain-soaked Payatas, reminiscent of the dreary city in Se7en, two Jesuit priests, Gus Saenz (Nonie Buencamino) and Jerome Lucero (Sid Lucero), are assisting in the investigation of a potential serial killer who is targeting young boys in the slum district. Seven bodies have been found in a local garbage dump, each missing his face and genitals. Saenz and Lucero, forensic investigators as well as priests, are working against time and the police to solve this case, fighting tooth and nail for resources. While they are investigating these murders, they are also combating the rampant sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Both men are trying to do good by the Lord, but are confronted with a more harrowing reality.

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