Meu Nome é Bagdá [My Name Is Baghdad] (2020)

Meu Nome é Bagdá
Director: Caru Alves de Souza
Writer: Caru Alves de Souza, Josefina Trotta
Cast: Grace Orsato, Karina Buhr, Marie Maymone, Helena Luz, Gilda Nomacce, Paulette Pink, Emílio Serrano, William Costa, João Paulo Bienermann, Nick Batista
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 12.12.2020

Content Note: sexualized violence, police brutality

Plot:
Baghdad (Grace Orsato) cruises the streets of Sao Paulo with her skateboarding crew. When she isn’t out and about she hangs with her single mother (Karina Buhr) and little sister (Marie Maymone), and her mothers friends. Baghdad is little interested in school or anything but improving her skating abilities. But her group of friends is mostly boys, except for her and Vanessa (Nick Batista). Until they meet another group of female skaters.

My Name Is Baghdad is a wonderful film that takes a sharp look at how a girl really can’t ever be one of the boys – but she can be lucky to be one of the girls. It’s sweet and touching and has great energy.

The film poster showing Bagdá (Grace Orsato) hugging her skateboard.
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Las ranas [The Frogs] (2020)

Las ranas
Director: Edgardo Castro
Writer: Edgardo Castro
Cast: Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli, Nahuel Cabral, Gabriela Illarregui, María Eugenia Stillo
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 12.12.2020

Plot:
Barbara (Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli) is one of the women called Las ranas – the frogs. That means she visits her boyfriend (Nahuel Cabral) in prison as much as she can. The prison is far and the visits are a strenuous addition to her everyday struggle to raise enough funds just to live. But she unfailingly goes, bringing food and whatever else is allowed and even what isn’t. Sometimes she also brings their daughter.

Las ranas is a fiction film that feels very much like a documentary. That has advantages but also disadvantages, and here and there I was wishing it would stick more to narrative conventions for fiction.

The film poster in simple grass green with a black frog on it.
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Sommerkrieg [Summer War] (2019)

Sommerkrieg
Director: Moritz Schulz
Writer: Moritz Schulz, Tetiana Trofusha
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 11.12.2020

Content Note: fascism, abuse

“Plot”:
Jasmin and Jastrip are both looking forward to summer camp. Only their summer camp is a very special one: Azovez camp is organized by a nationalistic militita group that has been instrumental for Ukraine’s fight against Russia. And the camp is there to raise the next generation of patriots and soldiers.

Sommerkrieg gave me chills. It not only wonders why children would want to go to a war camp with military drills, it’s also a matter of fact depiction of right-wing extremists brainwashing children.

The film poster showing Jasmin and Jastrip in military style shorts and yellow shirts, cradling wooden machine guns.
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Ploshcha [Kalinovski Square] (2007)

Ploshcha
Director: Yuriy Khashchevatskiy
Writer: Yuriy Khashchevatskiy
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 11.12.2020

Content Note: police violence

“Plot”:
In 2006, Belarus had presidential elections, re-confirming Alexander Lukashenko as the president. But the election turned out to be fraudulent and protestors took to Minsk’s main square. Khashchvatskiy details the events leading up the election and how the protestors were “handled” by police – including mass arrests and violence – to silence dissidence.

With current events in Belarus, Ploshcha is an incredibly topical documentary still. It’s irreverent tone also makes it more fun than I thought possible, given the content. I guess it’s an instance of gallows humor, but it works.

The film poster showing a young man in a crowd of people, surrounded by militia.
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The 8th (2020)

The 8th
Director: Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2020

Content Note: abortion

“Plot”:
Ireland was long known for having the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. But after 35 years of near constant organizing, the campaigns against those laws were finally successful. In a 2018 referendum the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution was overturned.

The 8th is a nice documentary, showing us how much hard work went into the campaign and how long people fought for their rights, and fortunately was also able to give us the happy end in the success of 2018. It’s a satisfying ode to activism.

The film poster showing a group of protester above a large figure 8.
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In My Blood It Runs (2019)

In My Blood It Runs
Director: Maya Newell
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

“Plot”:
Dujuan lives with his mother and his siblings in Alice Springs. His grandmother tells him that he has inherited is grandfather’s healing power. It’s important to her that Dujuan gets to know his Aboriginal heritage and learns to speak Arrernte. For Dujuan, too, it is important: he is never more at home than when he returns to the traditional lands. But unfortunately, Dujuan also has to attend a state school where he is always an outsider.

In My Blood It Runs is a wonderful portrait of an extra-ordinary boy who has his work cut out for himself. Between poverty and prevalent racism, he finds strength in family and tradition, underscoring the importance of communities for BIPOC everywhere.

The film poster showing Dujuan crouching in the desert.
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Dope is Death (2020)

Dope is Death
Director: Mia Donovan
Writer: Mia Donovan, Sofi Langis
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 9.12.2020

“Plot”:
1973 in New York. Faced with a heroin epidemic and no real support outside their community, Mutulu Shakur, along with people from the Black Panthers and The Young Lords, opens an acupuncture clinic that is supposed to help with getting people clean. Their radical and holistic approach was successful and its legacy is still present today.

Dope is Death is an interesting look at community organizing efforts and Black (and brown) history in the USA – a history that is way too easily forgotten. It does run a tad long, though, and loses a little in the last part. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeing.

The film poster showing Mutulu Shakur making the Black power fist.
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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

“Plot”:
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.
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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

“Plot:”
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.
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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

“Plot”:
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.
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