Sonne [Sun] (2022)

Sonne
Director: Kurdwin Ayub
Writer: Kurdwin Ayub
Cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Thomas Momcinovic, Marlene Hauser, Lia Wilfing, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Plot:
Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. On a bored afternoon, they shoot a music video to Losing My Religion using the hijabs of Yesmin’s mother. The video goes a bit viral, and the three girls rise to celebrity in the local muslim community, asked to perform at various events. But Yesmin – the only one of them who actually wears a hijab – grows increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and her friends’ behavior.

Sonne is Ayub’s fictional debut and proves her great talent. The film is creative and funny, but also serious and insightful about the situation of diasporic Kurds, especially young women. I was really impressed by it.

The film poster showing Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) singing.
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The Hate U Give (2018)

The Hate U Give
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Writer: Audrey Wells
Based on: Angie Thomas’ novel
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, Common, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, K.J. Apa, Dominique Fishback, Lamar Johnson, TJ Wright
Seen on: 18.8.2022

Content Note: police brutality, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives in the rather poor, mostly black neighborhood of Garden Heights. But she has been attending the richer, white prep school a little outside of Garden Heights for a while, so she has been out of touch a lot with her childhood friends. So when she attends a party in Garden Heights and she runs into her former best friend Khalil (Algee Smith), she is overjoyed. When the party disperses in a rush after somebody pulls a gun, Khalil gives Starr a ride home. And then the police stop them for a traffic check – an encounter that Khalil doesn’t survive: he is shot by the police officer. Starr is left traumatized and the only witness – and she has to figure out how to deal with both facts.

The Hate U Give is a strong film with a slightly bewildering ending. But given the, unfortunately still timely, topic and Stenberg’s fantastic performance, it really hits home.

The film poster showing Starr (Amandla Stenberg) holding a sign with the movie title.
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Turning Red (2022)

Turning Red
Director: Domee Shi
Writer: Domee Shi, Julia Cho, Sarah Streicher
Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, Lori Tan Chinn, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Lillian Lim, James Hong, Jordan Fisher
Seen on: 10.7.2022

Plot:
Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) is a good girl, dividing her time between school – where she geeks out with her friends Miriam (Ava Morse), Abby (Hyein Park) and Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) over the boyband 4*Town – and the temple her mother (Sandra Oh) and father (Orion Lee) run. Things are good, even though her mother finds some rather embarassing doodles of a cute boy and embarasses Mei even further. But then Mei wakes up and has turned into a giant red panda. Everything is about to be different.

Turning Red is an adorable, fun, wonderful romp that fills a gap in kids’ movies in more than one way. I adored it.

The film poster showing Meilin as the Red Panda, surrounded by her friends Miriam, Priya and Abby.
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Delphinsommer [Dolphin Summer] (2004)

Delphinsommer
Director: Jobst Oetzmann
Writer: Regine Bielefeldt
Cast: Anna Maria Mühe, Samuel Finzi, Sophie Rogall, Tino Mewes, Birge Schade, Lena Stolze, Rainer Sellien
Seen on: 5.7.2022

Content Note: domestic violence, religious sects, suicide

Plot:
Nathalie (Anna Maria Mühe) moves with her mother Caroline (Birge Schade) and her step-father Gregor (Samuel Finzi) to Berlin. It’s a big change for them, not only because they were in a small town before. It will be the first time that Nathalie attends a mixed school as her religious family had made sure so far that she attended only girls’ schools. As they are welcomed by the Berlin chapter of their congregation, Nathalie is determined to adhere to her religious principles in Berlin, too. But she can’t help to start questioning things.

Delphinsommer is a TV movie and that does show at times. At times it’s a bit shorthanded, at times it’s a bit on the nose. But it is interesting enough to watch.

The film poster showing various stills from the film.

[Slight SPOILERS]

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Ava (2017)

Ava
Director: Léa Mysius
Writer: Léa Mysius, Paul Guilhaume
Cast: Noée Abita, Laure Calamy, Juan Cano, Tamara Cano
Seen on: 24.5.2022

Plot:
Ava (Noée Abita) has a rare eye condition that makes her go blind bit by bit. She just heard that this will happen sooner than expected, and her summer in the touristy town in which she lives with her mother Maud (Laure Calamy) and a baby sister is suddenly the last she might ever see. In trying to cope with that, Ava makes some very questionable decisions, starting with stealing Juan’s (Juan Cano) dog. Older, pretty and quite possibly criminal Juan intrigues Ava in general, and he becomes her path away from everything.

Ava is a challenging film, often a little surreal and ambiguous in its meaning. Your mileage may vary regarding how much you like it, but it is definitely a film that grabs attention.

The film poster showing Ava (Noée Abita) covered in mud aiming a gun at the viewer.
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Dramarama (2020)

Dramarama
Director: Jonathan Wysocki
Writer: Jonathan Wysocki
Cast: Nick Pugliese, Anna Grace Barlow, Nico Greetham, Megan Suri, Danielle Kay, Zak Henri
Part of: Transition International Queer Minorities Film Festival
Seen on: 30.1.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
It’s 1994. Gene (Nick Pugliese) has been friends with Ally (Danielle Kay), Oscar (Nico Greetham), Rose (Anna Grace Barlow) and Claire (Megan Suri) for pretty much all of high school, brought together by their love for all things dramatic, though all in different ways. Now high school is over and everyone but Gene is preparing to leave town for college. Rose has invited them all for a Victorian Murder Mystery / farewell party and Gene is dreading it a little bit as he hopes to finally come out to the group, and is very doubtful that his Christian friends will accept it easily. But when the final clue to the mystery goes missing and pizza is delivered by older, and way cooler high school drop-out JD (Zak Henri) who stirs up some resentments within the group, things become a little more dramatic than anticipated.

Dramarama is a funny and extremely sweet film that doesn’t work like your usual coming out film – and I loved that. As I loved the entire film.

The film poster showing Oscar (Nico Greetham) dressed up as Sherlock Holmes, Claire (Megan Suri) dressed up as Alice, Rose (Anna Grace Barlow) dressed up as Miss Havisham, Ally (Danielle Kay) dressed up as Mina Harker and Gene (Nick Pugliese) dressed up as Doctor Jekyll.
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Mid90s (2018)

Mid90s
Director: Jonah Hill
Writer: Jonah Hill
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin
Seen on: 30.12.2021

Content Note: domestic violence, child abuse, homomisic and ableist slurs

Plot:
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives with his mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) and his bigger brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). Things aren’t easy at home. Stevie gets beaten up regularly by Ian, and Dabney is rarely present, usually caught up with some man or another. When Stevie stumbles upon a group of skaters, he hopes to find the community there that he lacks at home. He takes up skating and gets to know the boys. But they are older and wilder than him.

For some reason, I thought that Mid90s would be a light-hearted film. It is not, and it disabused me of that notion within the first 30 seconds or so. Once I readjusted my expectations, I found it quite good in many ways.

The film poster showing Stevie (Sunny Suljic) photographed slightly from below against a blue sky with white clouds.
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Mixtape (2021)

Mixtape
Director: Valerie Weiss
Writer: Stacey Menear
Cast: Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Audrey Hsieh, Olga Petsa, Nick Thune, Jackson Rathbone
Seen on: 20.12.2021

Plot:
Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) lives with her grandmother Gail (Julie Bowen), as her parents died when she – and they – were very young. Gail rarely talks about them and Beverly never really knew them, so when she finds some of their stuff, it’s like a gift. She discovers a mixtape with songs that were meaningful to her parents among the stuff, but unfortunately, the tape gets eaten. So she sets out to find the songs with the help of her new-found friends Ellen (Audrey Hsieh) and Nicky (Olga Petsa), as well as grumpy record store owner Anti (Nick Thune).

Mixtape is a cute film that doesn’t hide big surprises, but executes its story well enough – and thankfully with a good soundtrack.

The film poster showing Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) lying in the grass, chewing gum and listening to a walkman. Around her a snapshots of film scenes.
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Alice Júnior (2019)

Alice Júnior
Director: Gil Baroni
Writer: Luiz Bertazzo, Adriel Nizer Silva
Cast: Anna Celestino Mota, Emmanuel Rosset, Thaís Schier, Surya Amitrano, Matheus Moura, Katia Horn, Igor Augustho, Marcel Szymanski, Cida Rolim
Seen on: 2.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia

Plot:
Alice Júnior (Anna Celestino Mota) was the first trans participant in Brazil’s Teenage Top Model and has built quite a social media following from there. She is well-accepted in her school and she hopes to finally get her first kiss soon. That’s when her father Jean Genet (Emmanuel Rosset) announces that he got a new job and that they’d have to move to the middle of nowhere. Alice Júnior is horrified at the idea of leaving her life behind, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. Settling into a new place is hard enough as is, but harder still when you unwillingly leave a good place and land in a school where transmisia is still alive and well. Fortunately, though, Alice Júnior is not easily discouraged, and there are some nice people in the new place as well.

Alice Júnior is a fun, sweet film with an engaging heroine. It is also a take on being a trans teenager that is different from the (few) stories we usually get to see about this topic. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing a pink and blue headshot of Alice Júnior (Anna Celestino Mota).
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È stata la mano di Dio [The Hand of God] (2021)

È stata la mano di Dio
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri, Renato Carpentieri, Massimiliano Gallo, Betty Pedrazzi, Biagio Manna, Ciro Capano, Enzo Decaro, Lino Musella, Sofya Gershevich
Part of: surprise film at the Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2021

Content Note: sexism, fatmisia, ableism, domestic violence, sexualized harrassment

Plot:
Fabietto (Filippo Scotti) is a teenager in Naples with a large, boisterous family. Pretty much everyone around him is talking about Diego Maradona and whether he will come to play for Naples or not. There is a note of chaos in the implication of that possibility – a chaos that is well familiar to Fabietto and his family who live it everyday. That chaos lies in Fabiè’s crush on his aunt Patricia (Luisa Ranieri), and his parents Saverio (Toni Servillo) and Maria’s (Teresa Saponangelo) relationship, and the entire extended family. It’s not easy growing up in these circumstances, but Fabiè doesn’t really have a choice there.

I absolutely hated The Hand of God. It’s a film that isn’t just set in the 80s, it’s also stuck in times long past with its sense of humor. I’m honestly not sure if I actually remember all the things I should be writing Content Notes for. In any case, I was really pissed that I saw this.

The film poster showing Patricia (Luisa Ranieri) standing in a dilapitated, but formerly very grand room in front of a giant chandelier that is lit, but resting on the ground.
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