Encanto (2021)

Encanto
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writer: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs)
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
Seen on: 3.1.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) had to flee her home together with her husband and her three children. On their flight, her husband didn’t make it, but Abuela got a gift, a miracle that gave her and her family magic powers and a safe haven in a magical house. Now the Mardrigal family uses their gifts to keep the village going. Everybody in the family got a different gift. Everybody but Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) that is. Now it is Mirabel’s little cousin Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) turn, and there is a certain tension in the air. What if Antonio doesn’t get a gift either? But even after Antonio is successful, there is something wrong – and Mirabel is determined to fix everything.

Encanto is sweet, touching and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, its colorful world-building and characters.

The film poster showing a house wrapped in flowers and the Mardigal family in its courtyard, with Mirabel at the front.
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Miss Julie (2014)

Miss Julie
Director: Liv Ullmann
Writer: Liv Ullmann
Based on: August Strindberg‘s play
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Seen on: 1.1.2022

Content Note: dubious consent

Plot:
It’s midsummer night and Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) is alone at home. That is, her father the Baron is gone and most of the servants are at the festivities, but Jean (Colin Farrell) and Kathleen (Samantha Morton) have stayed behind. Jean and Kathleen are an item and they are rather disturbed by Julie’s presence in their kitchen. Jean, with the power of propriety, tries at first to push Julie away, but when Julie, with the power of her social position, pushes back, both of them get caught in a sexually charged power struggle.

Miss Julie is an intense film with extraordinary performances that fails to subvert its heteronormative perspective in the slightest, thus becoming too hopeless for its own good.

The film poster showing Jean (Colin Farrell) standing behind Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain).
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Berthe Morisot (2012)

Berthe Morisot
Director: Caroline Champetier
Writer: Sylvie Meyer, Philippe Lasry
Based on: Beth Archer Brombert’s book Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat
Cast: Marine Delterme, Malik Zidi, Alice Butaud, Bérangère Bonvoisin, Patrick Descamps, François Dieuaide, Jeanne Gogny, Grégory Gadebois
Seen on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) and her sister Edma (Alice Butaud) are both very interested in painting, a passion they can both pursue as long as they stay unmarried. And that is something that they plan on. When a painting by Édouard Manet (Malik Zidi) scandalizes pretty much everyone, they are both intrigued, both by the painting and the man. Much to Edma’s disappointment, though, Manet shows more interest in Berthe.

Berthe Morisot is an overall well-made film about a woman who is often forgotten by art history. Unfortunately it seems more interested in her relationship with a man than in her person or her work.

The film poster showing Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) painting at the beach. The sea behind her dissolves into an impressionist painting.
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La folie Almayer [Almayer’s Folly] (2011)

La folie Almayer
Director: Chantal Akerman
Writer: Chantal Akerman, Henry Bean, Nicole Brenez
Based on: Joseph Conrad‘s novel
Cast: Stanislas Merhar, Marc Barbé, Aurora Marion, Zac Andianas, Sakhna Oum, Solida Chan, Yucheng Sun, Bunthang Khim
Seen on: 30.12.2021

Content note: (critical treatment of) colonialism, mention of rape

Plot:
Almayer (Stanislas Merhar) lives in the jungle in Malaysia, hoping to come to riches there, from trading or from finding gold. He is married to a Malaysian woman, Zahira (Sakhna Oum) whom he despises, much like he hates pretty much everything but their daughter Nina (Aurora Marion). When his patron Captain Lingard (Marc Barbé) comes to visit and insists that Nina needs an European education, to learn to be white, Almayer is reluctant to let Nina go, but gives in, even against Zahira’s protestations and attempts to run away with Nina. This decision further cements all of their desperation.

La folie Almayer is an interesting attempt to criticize colonialism that doesn’t always work as well as it should. But it does have many strengths that make it worth thinking about.

The film poster showing Almayer (Stanislas Merhar) sitting next to a record player, looking pensive.
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Totul nu va fi bine [Everything Will Not Be Fine] (2020)

Totul nu va fi bine
Director: Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu
Writer: Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 13.12.2021

“Plot”:
Just before Adrian Pirvu was born, his mother traveled from Romania to Ukraine on a business trip. Unfortunately that was just when the nuclear accident in Chernobyl struck, exposing both his mother and Adrian to radiation. As a result, Adrian almost lost his eyesight entirely. Doctors were able to save one eye, though. Now an adult, Adrian starts looking for people who are suffering similarly from long-term effects of the disaster. He finds Ukranian Helena Maksyom whose spine causes her problems and chronic pain. As they work on the documentary together, tracing Chernobyl’s lasting effects, the two fall in love.

Totul nu va fi bine is an usual film, and a surprisingly personal one. While it is a bit of a pity that the actual Chernobyl disaster takes a backseat to the relationship of the two filmmakers, there is something precious about the resulting film.

The film poster showing the top of a high-rise with two people walking along it, but the image is turned 90 degrees. There is also a smaller image of Helena Maksyom and Adrian Pirvu cuddled together.
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Shadow Game (2021)

Shadow Game
Director: Eefje Blankevoort, Els van Driel
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 9.12.2021

“Plot”:
Every year, or rather every day, more refugees attempt to get to Europe for a bit of safety and hope for a future. Among them are a lot of teenage boys, who have crafted a “game” out of their attempts to cross various borders within Europe, hoping to finally get to the countries where they can stay.

Shadow Game follows a handful of teenage boys from the Middle East and Africa who are on their ways into Europe, or stranded along the way, painting a harrowing picture of the inhumane and shameful policies and practices of the European countries. It’s not easy to take, but even more important for it.

The film poster showing a teenage boy looking down at the camera, above him just blue sky.
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Fly So Far (2021)

Fly So Far
Director: Celina Escher
Writer: Celina Escher
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 9.12.2021

Content Note: abortion, miscarriage

“Plot”:
Teodora Vásquez had a miscarriage under the most dramatic circumstance, shortly before the baby was due to be born. Since she lives in El Salvador with some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, she faced murder charges next and was sentenced to decades in prison. There she connected with other women imprisoned for the same “crime” of losing a child, and together they started fighting for a change.

Fly So Far is an emphatic call to action and solidarity in the feminist fight. I can very much recommend it.

The film poster showing Teodora Vásquez in front of some microphones. Behind her we can see a barbwire fence.
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Cargo (2017)

Cargo
Director: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Writer: Yolanda Ramke
Cast: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Bruce R. Carter, Kris McQuade, Natasha Wanganeen, David Gulpilil, Anthony Hayes, Caren Pistorius
Seen on: 4.12.2021

Content Note: (mention of) rape, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Andy (Martin Freeman), his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their baby Rosie are one of the few unaffected survivors of a pandemic that turned most of humanity into zombies. They survived by staying on their houseboat and far away from others. But then the rest of the world catches up to them and Andy finds himself alone with Rosie – and infected. Now he is on a tight deadline. If he doesn’t find somebody to take care of Rosie within 48 hours, she is doomed. In his search, he crosses path with teenager Thoomi (Simone Landers) who is trying to protect her family in her own way.

Cargo is an entertaining zombie movie that sticks more with the drama than with the horror. It does have a couple of pacing issues, but overall it’s a good watch.

The film poster showing Andy (Martin Freeman) walking through the outback with a baby on his back. He is holding a machete and behind him are three zombies in the distance.
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Lazzaro felice [Happy as Lazzaro] (2018)

Lazzaro felice
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Writer: Alice Rohrwacher
Cast: Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Tommaso Ragno, Sergi López, Natalino Balasso, Carlo Tarmati, Pasqualina Scuncia, Nicoletta Braschi
Seen on: 30.11.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Inviolata is a small, secluded village that is pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. The people there live poorly and work hard as tobacco farmers for the Marchesa Alfonsina De Luna (Nicoletta Braschi) who comes to her estate only rarely. Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) is one of the workers, a sweet and obedient young man who is always pleasant and does whatever he is told – and he is told to do a lot. On one of the Marchesa’s visits, Lazzaro meets her son Tancredi (Luca Chikovani). Tancredi sees an opportunity in using Lazzaro to pretend that he was kidnapped, but that ruse backfires and changes all of their lives forever.

Lazzaro felice is interesting in many ways, but it did lose me along the way at some point – around the same time that it seemed to lose track of what story it is trying to tell in the first place.

The film poster showing Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) half hidden behind tobacco leaves.
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Passing (2021)

Passing
Director: Rebecca Hall
Writer: Rebecca Hall
Based on: Nella Larsen‘s novel
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Alexander Skarsgård
Seen on: 24.11.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) used to be close friends in school, but haven’t seen each other in years. When they run into each other, they discover that their loves have taken very different paths. While Irene married a Black man (André Holland) and is involved in charity projects to help the Black population, Clare married a white man (Alexander Skarsgård) and her entire social circle, including him, thinks she’s white herself. Irene is taken aback and a little afraid that Clare will be discovered through her, while Clare is desperate to reconnect with the Black community she lost. One thing is for sure, though:they are both inexorably drawn to each other.

Passing is an excellently crafted and above all beautifully acted film that manages to get the most out of its story, although I can’t quite forgive its ending.

The film poster showing Irene (Tessa Thompson) in front of a black background and Clare (Ruth Negga) in front of a white background. Both have their backs turned to each other.
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