Visszatérés Epipóba [Return to Epipo] (2020)

Visszatérés Epipóba
Director: Judit Oláh
Writer: Judit Oláh, Éva Zabezsinszkij
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 9.12.2020

Content Note: sexualized violence, abuse, pedophilia, old footage of kids in blackface and brownface

In the 80s there was a famous summer camp for kids in Epipo, Hungary. Led by charismatic teacher Pal Sipos, it was a camp filled with fantastic games that was almost magical for the kids who got to go there. But another part of the camp was abuse and humiliation – abuse that Sipos continued after the camp was shut down and he became a TV star. Now, decades later, the former camp kids are coming together again to try to work through their experiences and to reconcile their memories with the facts.

Return to Epipo is a highly personal and chilling look at the camp and the abuse that took place there, trying to answer the question how the camp could have been so great and so awful at the same time. It also looks at how what happened still affects the people who were there as kids. It’s insightful and also disturbing.

The film poster showing director Judit Oláh as a child smiling at the camera, a distortion across the image.
Continue reading

Once Upon a Boy (2019)

Once Upon a Boy
Director: Uri Levi
Writer: Ayala Bengad, Uri Levi
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 8.12.2020

Content Note: ableism

Ron lives with his family – mother, father, two brothers, one of them his twin – in Israel. His life is shaped by the fact that he has cerebral palsy, meaning that he is becoming less mobile at a steady pace, slowly graduating from crutches to a wheelchair. When his mother hears of a doctor in the USA who performs an operation that could restore some mobility and slow down the effect of the condition, she is dead set on getting Ron this treatment.

Once Upon a Boy shows an entire family trying to navigate life with a disabled family member and the difficulties that means. At times the film skirts a little too close to inspiration porn territory and some things may have deserved a little more critical interrogation, but it absolutely captures the parents’ struggle with the situation.

The film poster showing Ron's parents on a park bench, and himself in a wheelchair in front of that bench.
Continue reading

The Marriage Project (2019)

The Marriage Project
Director: Atieh Attarzadeh Firozabad, Hesam Eslami
Writer: Atieh Attarzadeh Firozabad, Hesam Eslami
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 8.12.2020

Content Note: ableism/saneism

Tehran psychiatric hospital has both women’s and a men’s ward, but the men and women live mostly separate lives. One of the doctors would like to make it possible for a few of them to get married, to fulfill their romantic and sexual needs. But his plans are met with a lot of doubt by the other staff, and a lot of excitement by the patients.

The Marriage Project was a hard watch for me. It was so full with paternalistic condecension for the patients, I was cringing my way through the film. In the moments I could look past this, there were some very touching moments, but overall I just don’t think the film realized how harsh things were for the patients it showed.

The film poster showing a man and a woman lying on top of a bed each, separated by a couple of meters between them.
Continue reading

Själö [Själö: Island of Souls] (2020)

Director: Lotta Petronella
Writer: Seppo Parkkinen, Lotta Petronella
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 8.12.2020

Själö is an island in the Baltic Sea. It used to house a psychiatric facility for women, but that facility has long been disbanded and now a research group is studying biodiversity there. There are no more permanent inhabitants but the echo of Själö’s history and the people who used to live there is still ever present.

Själö is a slow meditation on the impact of history and how we remember things. It’s an interesting topic, but unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find my way into the film. I drifted more alongside it than in it.

The titular island as seen from the water.
Continue reading

Êxtase [Ecstasy] (2020)

Director: Moara Passoni
Writer: David Barker, Fernando Epstein, Moara Passoni
Cast: Victória Maranho, Gigi Paladino, Alice Valares
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 6.12.2020

Content Note: anorexia

A young girl, soon woman (Victória Maranho), tries to find her place in the world. But there is not much she can control – except what she eats or doesn’t eat.

Êxtase is a deeply personal and very in-depth look at the world through the eyes of an anorectic girl, somewhere between fiction and documentary and far from the usual clichés of just “thinking that she is too fat”.

The film poster showing a young woman (Victoria Maranho) laying sideways on the floor. Only her head can be seen in a circular blue cutout over a white background.
Continue reading

Sunless Shadows (2019)

Sunless Shadows
Director: Mehrdad Oskouei
Writer: Mehrdad Oskouei
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 5.12.2020

Content Note: domestic violence, abuse

Two prisons in Iran. One is a juvenile detention center for girls who murdered their husbands, fathers, or other male family members. The other houses some of their mothers and sometimes sisters who were a part or instigators of the murders.

Sunless Shadows looks at incarcerated girls and women in Iran, wondering about a society that leaves murder as the only option out of abuse and how families are tangled up in love despite and because of everything.

The film poster showing one of the incarcerated girls looking out the door of their cell.
Continue reading

Las Mil y Una [One in a Thousand] (2020)

Las Mil y Una
Director: Clarisa Navas
Writer: Clarisa Navas
Cast: Sofia Cabrera, Ana Carolina Garcia, Mauricio Vila, Luis Molina, Marianela Iglesia, Pilar Rebull Cubells, Victoria Cussigh
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 5.12.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia and transmisia, sexualized violence

Iris (Sofia Cabrera) spends her time playing basketball and hanging out with her cousins Darío (Mauricio Vila) and Ale (Luis Molina). When she sees Renata (Ana Carolina Garcia) in the neighborhood, she is immediately intrigued. She tries to find out more about Renata until Renata notices her and asks for her number. But there are many rumors going around about Renata and Iris is not sure about how to proceed.

Las Mil y Una left too many open questions for me to be really satisfying, I’m afraid. There were some very interesting things here, but everything remained much too vague.

The film poster showing Renata (Ana Carolina Garcia) and Iris (Sofia Cabrera) leaning against a brown wall.
Continue reading

Santa Olivia (Jacqueline Carey)

Santa Olivia is the first novel in the Santa Olivia series by Jacqueline Carey.
Finished on: 5.12.2020

Santa Olivia is a small town caught in the no man’s land between the USAmerican and the Mexican border wall. Officially, neither the town, nor its people exist – there is just the USAmerican military base next to it. And yet, here they are. Among the people in Santa Olivia is Loup, daughter of an escaped enhanced human out of a military project and one of the poor women of Santa Olivia who fell in love with the fugitive. But her father had to move on and her mother died, so Loup only has her bigger half-brother Tom to take care of her. Growing up in an orphanage, careful not to show the superstrength and -speed that she inherited from her father, Loup soon finds that the town may be in need of a hero. Only, what can a single hero really do?

I remember grabbing Santa Olivia a few years ago from a bargain bin somewhere and having finally read it, I am very glad I did. It is an interesting take on superheros, set in a highly political world and has a queer protagonist. It’s basically everything I could have hoped for.

The book cover showing a woman in a long blue blowing coat, her face in shadows.
Continue reading

On Outer Space, Love and Resistance – Short Films

On Outer Space, Love and Resistance was one of the short film programs at the this human world Film Festival.
Seen on: 4.12.2020

Content Note: sexualized violence/rape

The four short films are very different in tone and style, but all of them are special indeed. I’ll be thinking about them all for a while yet.

More about each of the films after the jump.

Continue reading

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange (2020)

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange
Director: Iryna Tsilyk
Writer: Iryna Tsilyk
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 4.12.2020

Ganna and her four children live in the Ukraine, in the middle of the war zone. They are working on a small film together that is supposed to capture the lives of the people around them. And it is supposed to help the oldest daughter, Myroslava, to get into film school – she wants to become a cinematographer. But capturing what it is like to live in a war zone while still living in a war zone is not easily done.

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange is a beautiful documentary about growing up in a war zone, about creating art there, but above all about family.

The film poster showing the drawing of a long ladder. At the bottom is a trapdoor through with a young woman with a camera is emerging. At the top, the legs of the woman can be seen under another trapdoor.
Continue reading