Deathcember (2019)

Deathcember (I saw the version split into two films)
Part of: /slash Filmfestival Christmas screening
Seen on: 19.12.2019

Deathcember is an advent calendar in movie form, giving us 24 (plus some extra) Christmas-themed films to count down until Christmas. The films vary in style and tone, but they are all filled with (a) holiday spirit.

As with most anthologies, Deathcember has some clear winners and a few that were not for me (with the former being more present in the first volume and the latter more in the second volume), but I assume that the favorites and unfavorites will vary from person to person. It was definitely nice that they included more than the usual token female director (although there could have been more people of color involved). I was a little worried that so many short films in less than three hours would get a little too much, but it was surprisingly not-exhausting (I was glad that they showed the version split into two volumes). In short, it was a very fun evening. There are definitely worse ways to pass time during the holiday season.

After the jump, I talk about each of the segments individually. If you prefer to be surprised what’s behind those doors, you probably shouldn’t continue. But I won’t give away spoilers.

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#Female Pleasure (2018)

#Female Pleasure
Director: Barbara Miller
Writer: Barbara Miller
Seen on: 19.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Deborah Feldman, Leyla Hussein, Rokudenashiko, Doris Wagner and Vithika Yadav are five very different women from five very different countries and communities. But all five of them fight for a juster society for women, especially when it comes to their sexual self-determination and general bodily autonomy.

#Female Pleasure is a very interesting documentary. Despite the often very heavy and not at all positive topics, it manages to maintain a sense of sweetness and a sense of humor that I found quite enjoyable. But above all, it makes important and good points.

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Touch Me Not (2018)

Touch Me Not
Director: Adina Pintilie
Writer: Adina Pintilie
Cast: Laura Benson, Tómas Lemarquis, Christian Bayerlein, Grit Uhlemann, Hanna Hofmann, Seani Love, Adina Pintilie
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 6.11.2018
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Plot:
In this mix of fiction and documentary, Laura (Laura Benson), Tómas (Tómas Lemarquis) and Christian (Christian Bayerlein) share their journey of (re-)discovering intimacy, looking for connections and overcoming their fears by finding them.

Touch Me Not is a fantastic film. It’s touching, interesting, smart and full of insights. It’s not only a film about intimacy, it is a film that’s intimate itself, sharing something very valuable.

The film poster showing the upper body of a naked woman, throwing her head back mid-orgasm.
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Cassandro, the Exotico! (2018)

Cassandro, the Exotico!
Director: Marie Losier
Writer: Antoine Barraud, Marie Losier
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 5.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Saúl Armendáriz has spent over 25 years as the luchador Cassandro el exotico! and he has the body to show for it: aches and metal pins keep him both together and from continuing his career. But it’s not the only reason he finds himself in a difficult position: he is also gay and in the macho world of lucha libre, this is yet another fight – but one that Cassandro seems to have won. Nevertheless, facing the rest of his life, he has to figure out how to deal.

Cassandro the Exotico! is a mediocre documentary about a very interesting subject. Thanks to Cassandro and his charisma, it’s easy to look past the film’s weaknesses and enjoy it.

The film poster showing Cassandro in full Lucha Libre gear.
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Las hijas del fuego [The Daughters of Fire] (2018)

Las hijas del fuego
Director: Albertina Carri
Writer: Albertina Carri, Analía Couceyro
Cast: Disturbia Rocío, Violeta Valiente, Rana Rzonscinsky, Ivanna Colona Olsen, Carla Morales Ríos, Erica Rivas, Sofía Gala, Cristina Banegas
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 5.11.2018
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Plot:
Two women on a road trip: one wants to shoot a porn film, the other wants to see her family. They used to be lovers once, now they are again. They pick up a third woman and as they drive through Souther Argentina, they meet more women, discovering themselves and each other through sex, talking and traveling together.

Las hijas del fuego is basically high concept porn. Some parts of it worked for me, others didn’t so much. But it’s an interesting attempt in any case.

The film poster showing a clam in front of a black background, looking like a vulva.
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Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018)

Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Director: Gabrielle Brady
Writer: Gabrielle Brady
“Cast”: Arthur Floret, Poh Lin Lee
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 4.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Poh Lin Lee is a trauma therapist working with asylum seekers on Christmas Island, part of Australia. They are held in a detention center at the heart of the island that seeems otherwise like an idyllic tourist spot, especially in the season of crab migration that is quite a spectacle. Poh Lin has her work cut out for her with the desperate people she is supposed to councel without being able to offer much in the way of hope. As the crabs migrate and the Chinese islanders perform their yearly ritual for the hungry ghosts – people who died on the island without a proper burial – Poh Lin has to figure out how she can deal with everything.

That Island of Hungry Ghosts wouldn’t be exactly easy watching was clear from the get-go but I nevertheless didn’t expect it to hit me quite as hard as it did. Feeling more like a feature film than a documentary, Brady gets to the truth of the matter, and it really isn’t a pretty one. But it is a great film, even if it left me wanting a drink.

The film poster showing the sea hitting rocks.
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Nervous Translation (2017)

Nervous Translation
Director: Shireen Seno
Writer: Shireen Seno
Cast: Jana Agoncillo, Angge Santos, Sid Lucero, Nafa Hilario-Cruz
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 3.11.2018
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Plot:
Shy Yael (Jana Agoncillo) is only 8 years old, and yet she spends most of her time on her own at home. Her father works abroad, but she has letters he speaks on tape that she listens to a lot. Her mother (Angge Santos) works closer to home, but when she finally comes home in the evening, she has no energy left for Yael. When Yael sees the advertisement for a pen that is supposed to be able to translate thoughts and feelings into writing, she is transfixed – maybe this will be the way for her to communicate.

There was a lot I liked about Nervous Translation, but the film didn’t really click for me. Maybe it just was too quiet a film programmed too late in the evening, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t connect with it as much as I would have liked.

The film poster showing a girl, a man, a woman, a cassette player and a cassette as cutouts over a beige background.
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Joy (2018)

Joy
Director: Sudabeh Mortezai
Writer: Sudabeh Mortezai
Cast: Anwulika Alphonsus, Mariam Sanusi, Angela Ekeleme
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 3.11.2018
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Plot:
Joy (Anwulika Alphonsus) is a sex worker in Vienna, although she is originally from Nigeria, like pretty much all of the people around her. When a new woman, Precious (Mariam Sanusi), is brought in, Madame (Angela Ekeleme) instructs Joy to show her the ropes. But Precious is not ready to accept that her life is supposed to be what Joy has already accepted for herself and her rebellious nature brings both of them a lot of trouble.

Joy is a well-researched film that packs a lot in its comparatively short runtime. But whether it caught me on the wrong day or it’s actually lacking something, I failed to get into the story on an emotional level, making the film feel flatter than it should.

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Premières solitudes [Young Solitude] (2018)

Premières solitudes
Director: Claire Simon
Writer: Claire Simon
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Following a group of teenagers from the same school in the Parisian suburbs, Premières solitudes listens to their conversations, their reflections, their plans and doubts and dreams.

Teenagers can be the cutest, and Premières solitudes is a film that makes sure we don’t forget that fact. As much as I liked the individual teens, the film is at its strongest when it studies the structures that become apparent in their conversations.

The film poster showing drawings of groups of teenagers and their shadows.
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Drift (2017)

Drift
Director: Helena Wittmann
Writer: Helena Wittmann, Theresa George
Cast: Theresa George, Josefina Gill
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2018
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Plot:
Two women spend time at the North Sea together. It is pleasant, but it is also finite and when they have to part, one (Josefina Gill) leaves for Argentina, while the other (Theresa George) heads to the Atlantic Ocean that carries her to her new destination.

Drift is an experimental film and I can image that it can develop quite a pull if you manage to lose yourself in it. I didn’t manage and the talk with the director after the film didn’t help improve my impression of the film either.

The film poster showing a grainy image of the ocean.
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