Ma Ge shi zuo cheng [A City Called Macau] (2019)

Ma Ge shi zuo cheng
Director: Shaohong Li
Writer: Man Keung Chan, Wei Lu, Geling Yan
Based on: Geling Yan‘s novel
Cast: Baihe Bai, Jue Huang, Gang Wu, Carina Lau, Tian Liang, Samuel Pang, Lu Wei, Le Geng, Xiaotong Yu, Xiaoming Su, Xianxu Hu, Eric Tsang
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 12.6.2020

Plot:
Mei Xiaoou (Bai Baihe) is a casino broker, meaning that she manages rich clients, finding them games and loans when necessary, all to keep them gambling and happy. One of her best clients is Duan Kaiwen (Gang Wu), who shows up every once in a while in Macau and knows to keep his head. Sculptor Shi (Jue Huang), to whom Xiaoou feels drawn very strongly, on the other hand gets quickly drawn into addiction. Both men will change Xiaoou’s life over the course of a decade.

A City Called Macau has an interesting premise, but it left too many things in the realm of vague references for me. I just couldn’t follow as character motivations and simply facts were left unclear for me.

The film poster showing a close-up of Mei Xiaoou (Bai Baihe).
Continue reading

Ar Condicionado [Air Conditioner] (2020)

Ar Condicionado
Director: Fradique
Writer: Ery Claver, Fradique
Cast: José Kiteculo, Filomena Manuel, David Caracol, Tito Spyck, Sacerdote, Filipe Kamela Paly, Wilson Medradas
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 11.06.2020

Plot:
Air conditioners are falling everywhere in Luanda, Angola. Housemaid Zézinha (Filomena Manuel) has asked the building security slash manager Matacedo (José Kiteculo) to repair the a/c of her employer, but it was never returned from the shop. Now, the employer is getting impatient and the retrieval of the a/c becomes increasingly more complicated. And why are the units falling anyway?

Ar Condicionado is a strange film, somewhere between SciFi and magical realism, creating an absolutely unique atmosphere that gives one an impression of Luanda itself – or at least I think it does, having never been there myself. It’s strange and evocative.

The film poster showing Zézinha (Filomena Manuel) and Matacedo (José Kiteculo) lying next to an air conditioner.
Continue reading

SEE Factory Sarajevo mon amour (2019)

SEE Factory Sarajevo mon amour
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 11.06.2020

Sarajevo mon amout collects five loosely connected short films that are all set in Sarajevo. Other than that, the films don’t have much in common, but I found all of them pretty strong in their own way, with The Right One and The Package particular stand-outs for me.

The film poster showing cartoonish eyes on a blue background. The directors' names are written in the irises.

More about each of the films after the jump.

Continue reading

Kmêdeus (2020)

Kmêdeus
Director: Nuno Miranda
Writer: Nuno Miranda
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 09.06.2020

“Plot”:
Kmêdeus was a fixture of street life in Cape Verde; a homeless eccentric whose philosophical ramblings inspired António Tavares to a dance piece. The film accompanies Tavares in his process and his dance, as well as trying to find out who Kmêdeus was, ultimately asking questions about the line between art and mental illness.

Kmêdeus is a short documentary that shines whenever it looks at the art part and stumbles when it talks about mental health/illness. It does have interesting parts, but it just doesn’t quite work.

The film poster showing António Tavares wearing a fish hat and a blanket.
Continue reading

Copwatch (2017)

Copwatch
Director: Camilla Hall
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 07.06.2020

“Plot”:
The documentary follows the copwatch group WeCopwatch, showing how they formed and how they operate: filming police officers at work in the hopes of mitigating excessive violence or to at least document it. It includes interviews with Ramsey Orta, Kevin Moore and David Whitt.

With the Black Lives Matter protests going on, Copwatch is, of course, very topical which is why it was included in the festival on short notice. And I’m glad that it was because it shows once more that these incidents of violence and murder by police are not isolated, singular cases but they happen a lot, all over the USA and have been going for about forever.

The film poster showing the hands of a Black person raised high.
Continue reading

Detrás de la Montaña [Beyond the Mountain] (2018)

Detrás de la Montaña
Director: David R. Romay
Writer: David R. Romay
Cast: Benny Emmanuel, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Renée Sabina, Enrique Arreola, Marcela Ruiz Esparza
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 07.06.2020

Plot:
Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) lives a quiet life with his alcoholic mother (Marcela Ruiz Esparza) whom he takes care off. He works as a clerk to write letters for analphabetic people and always looks forward to Carmela (Renée Sabina) who often comes to send letters to her boyfriend. When Miguel finds his mother dead at home, clutching a letter with his father’s name and address, Miguel packs everything and leaves to find the father he never knew, determined to kill him. But things don’t quite go the way he plans.

Detrás de la Montaña isn’t bad for a debut feature, but unfortunately, it really doesn’t treat its women very well and that took my appreciation for the film away pretty quickly.

The film poster showing Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) with a bandaid on his forehead in blue-green-pink lighting.
Continue reading

Volubilis (2017)

Volubilis
Director: Faouzi Bensaïdi
Writer: Faouzi Bensaïdi
Cast: Mouhcine Malzi, Nadia Kounda, Abdelhadi Talbi, Faouzi Bensaïdi, Nezha Rahile
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 06.06.2020

Plot:
Malika (Nadia Kounda) and Abdelkader (Mouhcine Malzi) have not been married long and are still in the process of building their life together. For now, they live with his family, which is uncomfortable in many ways, and work both – Malika as a house maid and Abdelkader as a security in a shopping center. Abdelkader takes his job very seriously. When he isn’t deferential, but outright aggressive to a shopper who is married to an important man, the consequences are dire for him. The resulting humiliation has him spiraling and threatens to bring down his life with Malika before it ever really began.

Volubilis packs a lot of social criticism – and while I usually love that, in this case, I just didn’t really connect emotionally with the film, making the criticism feel a lot weaker than it should have felt.

The film poster showing Malika (Nadia Kounda) and Abdelkader (Mouhcine Malzi) leaning close together.
Continue reading

Trade Me (Courtney Milan)

Trade Me is the first novel in the Cyclone series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 06.06.2020

Plot:
Tina Chen just wants to get her degree, so she can support her family properly and never have to worry about money again. Unfortunately, Blake Reynolds is also in her class, billionaire son of Cyclone Technologies. And when he makes some comments about being poor that drip with his privilege, Tina just can’t stick to her usual routine of keeping her head down. She calls him out and tells him that he couldn’t survive a month in her life. To her surprise, Blake approaches her later and proposes just such a change: he will live in her shoes for a while and she in his. It is too good an opportunity for Tina to make some extra money to pass it up, but it soon turns out that trading lives without getting close to each other is impossible.

After the entire thing with Milan and the RWA, I wanted to show my support for her by buying one of her books, and since I’m not much into historical romance, there weren’t that many options for me from her works. So I picked up Trade Me although I had my concerns about the premise. Would this turn into a “poor rich people have it hard, too” thing? I am glad to say that my concerns were completely unnecessary – Trade Me knows what it’s about politically, it’s a fun read and I very much liked Tina and Blake.

The book cover showing a white, blond man embracing an Asian woman.
Continue reading

Katte ni furuetero [Tremble All You Want] (2017)

Katte ni furuetero
Director: Akiko Ohku
Writer: Akiko Ohku
Based on: Risa Wataya‘s novel
Cast: Mayu Matsuoka, Takumi Kitamura, Daichi Watanabe, Kanji Furutachi, Anna Ishibashi, Hairi Katagiri
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 05.06.2020

Plot:
Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) is an introverted accountant who spends most of her time dreaming of her high-school crush Ichi (One) although she hasn’t seen him in years. When a colleague at work, Ni (Two) (Daichi Watanabe) starts showing an interest in Yoshika, it completely throws her and she decides that she needs to reconnect with Ichi (Takumi Kitamura) to see if she can finally win his heart. So she organizes a class reunion even as she starts dating Ni.

Katte ni furuetero looks like a pretty standard RomCom but it bucks the trend a little with its complicated main character and its sometimes pretty ambiguous developments. Whether you will like that will probably depend on just how sweet you expect and want the film to be. I am a little undecided about it myself.

The film poster showing Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) surrounded by small cut-outs of the other characters in the film.
Continue reading

Bride of Death (T.A. Pratt)

Bride of Death is the seventh of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 5.6.2020
[Here are my reviews of the other Marla Mason novels.]

Plot:
After the deal Marla made with Death, she returns from the underworld and her goddess status to be herself again on earth. But her divine self has left her human self with a clear mission: Do Better. And part of that doing better is hunting monsters. To find those monsters, she enlists Nicole – or rather Nicole’s head which is all that is left of her. As a chaos magician, Nicole can easily track the monsters and it’s not like Marla is leaving her any choice in the matter – although Nicole would much rather see Marla dead. They get on the road and pretty quickly, Marla is in much deeper shit than she anticipated – again.

Bride of Death focuses on Marla and shows how she’s changed. This makes Bride of Death an extra treat for fans of the series. Everybody else should start at the beginning.

The book cover showing a dark-haired woman with a hatchet and a head in a bird cage standing in front of highway and a white motorcycle.
Continue reading