Fences (2016)

Fences
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: August Wilson
Based on: his own play
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola DavisStephen HendersonJovan AdepoRussell HornsbyMykelti WilliamsonSaniyya Sidney
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Troy (Denzel Washington) and Rose (Viola Davis) have been married for a long time. Their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) is 18 and dreams of starting a football career. When a recruiter is taking interest in him, Cory is overjoyed. But Troy, who narrowly missed a career in baseball due to racist hiring practices, doesn’t allow Cory to meet with the recruiter, causing a rift in the family with his continuous attempts to control everything and everyone around him.

Fences is a beautifully acted film that has a couple of lengths and an ending that didn’t work for me, but definitely a film that drew me in regardless.

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Wives on Strike (2016)

Wives on Strike
Director: Omoni Oboli
Writer: Omoni Oboli
Cast: Omoni Oboli, Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo
Seen on: 5.4.2017

Plot:
Mama Ngozi (Omoni Oboli), Madame 12:30 (Uche Jombo), Mama Amina (Ufuoma McDermott) and another woman (Chioma Akpotha) are market women, wives and friends. Their lives move in rather set ways, but when Amina’s husband decides to marry off their 13-year-old daughter, they are not prepared to let him get away with it. Together they hatch a plan: they will go on strike and stop fulfilling what’s expected of them as wives to make their husbands see their true value and act accordingly.

I stumbled on Wives on Strike by chance (it was one of the films the airline I flew with offered) and when I read the description, I knew I had to watch it even though there was a risk that it would be rather horrible – often especially the films that attempt to be feminist are particularly awful. But it turns out that Wives on Strike is an entertaining, proto-feminist comedy that I rather enjoyed.

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Tanna (2015)

Tanna
Director: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Writer: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, John Collee
Cast: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Charlie Kahla, Albi Nangia, Lingai Kowia, Dadwa Mungau, Linette Yowayin, Kapan Cook, Mungau Yokay, Mikum Tainakou
Seen on: 4.4.2017

Plot:
On a small pacific island ruled by a volcano and the patriarchal structure of the tribes that live on it, Wawa (Marie Wawa) and Dain (Mungau Dain) are in love. But after altercations with another tribe, Dain – the Chief’s grandson – is supposed to marry a woman from that other tribe to cement their peaceful relationship. But Wawa and Dain can’t accept their separation easily.

Tanna is an unusual film that deserves to be seen, although it also has a few lengths that kept me at a bit of a distance from the film.

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A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Based on:  Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Abena Ayivor
Seen on: 3.4.2017

Plot:
Ruth (Rosamund Pike) works as a clerk and would mostly have a boring life if her sister (Laura Carmichael) didn’t drag her out every once in a while. On one of those outings, Ruth meets Seretse (David Oyelowo). He is charming, good-looking and taken by Ruth. But as Ruth discovers he is not just a student, but also the prince and future ruler of Bechuanaland. Despite the difficulties by their difference in status, the two want to get married, not anticipating that the real (diplomatic) scandal for both Bechuanaland and Great Britain is the fact that their relationship is an interracial one.

A United Kingdom covers a bit of history that is virtually unknown here (Austria or most likely Europe or the global North in general) and Asanta packs this fascinating story into an easily understood and emotionally engaging film with a great cast.

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Die Orestie [Oresteia]

Die Orestie
Director: Antú Romero Nunes
Writer: Aeschylus, translated by Peter Stein
Cast: Sarah Viktoria Frick, Maria Happel, Caroline Peters, Barbara Petritsch, Aenne Schwarz, Irina Sulaver, Andrea Wenzl
Seen on: 2.4.2017

Plot:
After Agamemnon (Maria Happel) returns home from war with Kassandra (Andrea Wenzl) as his trophy, his wife Klytameistra (Caroline Peters), who is living with Aigisthos (Barbara Petritsch), kills Agamemnon and Kassandra both, to avenge Agamemnon’s killing of Iphigenie, their daughter, a continuation of the family curse that weighs on Agamemnon due to his father and uncle sacrificing their own children to the gods. Agamemnon and Klytameistra’s son Orestes (Aenne Schwarz) vows to revenge the murder of his father too, continuing the spiral of blood and violence.

The production of the Oresteia walks the line between traditional setting and modern sensibilities. Ultimately it is visually striking and well-acted, but maybe a little too conservative.

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What Would Spock Do?

What Would Spock Do?
Director: Jon Brittain
Writer: Jon Brittain
Cast: Sam Donnelly
Part of: Fringe @ Rabenhof
Seen on: 1.4.2017

Plot:
Gary (Sam Donnelly) used to be a nerd. He loved Star Trek above everything else. But now that he’s an adult, he grew out of it. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself. Until he meets his new colleague Kira at work: she wears her hair like Spock. She wears a Star Trek pin. And she’s absolutely perfect. But what weighs more heavily: not being a nerd or being in love with Kira? Gary will have to decide.

What Would Spock Do? is an utterly charming one-man show that’s cute and funny and speaks to and probably for the outsider inside all of us, albeit sticking with a rather conservative narrative.

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Life (2017)

Life
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Cast: Ryan ReynoldsRebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare
Seen on: 29.3.2017

Plot:
Six astronauts/scientists on the International Space Station study samples that have just been successfully collected on Mars. They hope to find out more about the conditions on Mars, but what they find instead is actually life: a single cell organism that’s either dead or dormant – but it’s there. They can barely contain their excitement, especially when their attempts to revive the organism are actually successful. But they have never encountered a live form like this – and it quickly turns out that it’s more than they bargained for.

Life is a decent, albeit derivative film that works pretty well – at least if you don’t keep comparing it with the Alien franchise it is a little sibling of.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Based on: Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont‘s fairy tale
Remake of: Beauty and the Beast
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Hattie Morahan, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Seen on: 29.3.2017

Plot:
Belle (Emma Watson) lives in a small village with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), an inventor. Her life wouldn’t be so bad if the local library had more books and if village beau Gaston (Luke Evans) wasn’t constantly harrassing her with marriage proposals. Then one day, Maurice doesn’t return from the market as planned. When Belle sets out to find him, what she finds is an enchanted castle, where a Beast (Dan Stevens) is holding her father captive. Fearless as she is, Belle takes Maurice place. And she might just be what the Beast needed to break the curse that weighs on them all.

This live-action version of the film isn’t strictly necessary and there were a couple of things that really didn’t go all that well, but the film was nevertheless enjoyable and managed to capture the magic of the animated version at least in part.

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Emigranten [Emigrants]

Emigranten
Director: Agnieszka Salamon
Writer: Sławomir Mrożek
Cast: Denise Teipel, Cristina Maria Ablinger
Seen on: 27.3.2017

Plot:
A (Denise Teipel) and X (Cristina Maria Ablinger) both migrated to the same place and now share a small room. But that’s about everything they have in common: A is an intellectual, a studied woman who had to leave her country of origin for political reasons. X is an uncouth worker, a farmer who left looking for work and a better life. Forced together by circumstances and not particularly fond of each other, A and X spend most of their time going toe to toe with each other. But you can’t go toe to toe without also growing close in a way.

Emigranten is an interesting play and it’s made even more interesting by the production that re-imagines it in a fresh way. It was an insightful and very enjoyable evening of theater.

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Doua lozuri [Two Lottery Tickets] (2016)

Doua lozuri
Director: Paul Negoescu
Writer: Paul Negoescu
Based on: Ion Luca Caragiale‘s short story
Cast: Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Papadopol, Dorian Boguta, Nora Cupcencu, Andi Vasluianu
Part of: Let’s CEE Film Festival
Seen on: 25.3.2017

Plot:
Sile (Dragos Bucur), Dine (Dorian Boguta) and Pompiliu (Alexandru Papadopol) are all in need of money, so they decide to play the lottery together – and they win. Unfortunately, though, the ticket has gone missing. Or maybe it was stolen? Hoping to get it back, the three friends take to the road, but things become more difficult than anticipated and the merry chase even merrier.

Two Lottery Tickets doesn’t bring a new story, but it does manage to be quite funny regardless – that is, when it isn’t being sexist and antisemitic. Unfortunately, it is sexist and antisemitic a lot.

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