Fences (2016)

Fences
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: August Wilson
Based on: his own play
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola DavisStephen HendersonJovan AdepoRussell HornsbyMykelti WilliamsonSaniyya Sidney
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Troy (Denzel Washington) and Rose (Viola Davis) have been married for a long time. Their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) is 18 and dreams of starting a football career. When a recruiter is taking interest in him, Cory is overjoyed. But Troy, who narrowly missed a career in baseball due to racist hiring practices, doesn’t allow Cory to meet with the recruiter, causing a rift in the family with his continuous attempts to control everything and everyone around him.

Fences is a beautifully acted film that has a couple of lengths and an ending that didn’t work for me, but definitely a film that drew me in regardless.

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Wives on Strike (2016)

Wives on Strike
Director: Omoni Oboli
Writer: Omoni Oboli
Cast: Omoni Oboli, Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo
Seen on: 5.4.2017

Plot:
Mama Ngozi (Omoni Oboli), Madame 12:30 (Uche Jombo), Mama Amina (Ufuoma McDermott) and another woman (Chioma Akpotha) are market women, wives and friends. Their lives move in rather set ways, but when Amina’s husband decides to marry off their 13-year-old daughter, they are not prepared to let him get away with it. Together they hatch a plan: they will go on strike and stop fulfilling what’s expected of them as wives to make their husbands see their true value and act accordingly.

I stumbled on Wives on Strike by chance (it was one of the films the airline I flew with offered) and when I read the description, I knew I had to watch it even though there was a risk that it would be rather horrible – often especially the films that attempt to be feminist are particularly awful. But it turns out that Wives on Strike is an entertaining, proto-feminist comedy that I rather enjoyed.

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A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Based on:  Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Abena Ayivor
Seen on: 3.4.2017

Plot:
Ruth (Rosamund Pike) works as a clerk and would mostly have a boring life if her sister (Laura Carmichael) didn’t drag her out every once in a while. On one of those outings, Ruth meets Seretse (David Oyelowo). He is charming, good-looking and taken by Ruth. But as Ruth discovers he is not just a student, but also the prince and future ruler of Bechuanaland. Despite the difficulties by their difference in status, the two want to get married, not anticipating that the real (diplomatic) scandal for both Bechuanaland and Great Britain is the fact that their relationship is an interracial one.

A United Kingdom covers a bit of history that is virtually unknown here (Austria or most likely Europe or the global North in general) and Asanta packs this fascinating story into an easily understood and emotionally engaging film with a great cast.

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Doua lozuri [Two Lottery Tickets] (2016)

Doua lozuri
Director: Paul Negoescu
Writer: Paul Negoescu
Based on: Ion Luca Caragiale‘s short story
Cast: Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Papadopol, Dorian Boguta, Nora Cupcencu, Andi Vasluianu
Part of: Let’s CEE Film Festival
Seen on: 25.3.2017

Plot:
Sile (Dragos Bucur), Dine (Dorian Boguta) and Pompiliu (Alexandru Papadopol) are all in need of money, so they decide to play the lottery together – and they win. Unfortunately, though, the ticket has gone missing. Or maybe it was stolen? Hoping to get it back, the three friends take to the road, but things become more difficult than anticipated and the merry chase even merrier.

Two Lottery Tickets doesn’t bring a new story, but it does manage to be quite funny regardless – that is, when it isn’t being sexist and antisemitic. Unfortunately, it is sexist and antisemitic a lot.

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Tiszta szívvel [Kills on Wheels] (2016)

Tiszta szívvel
Director: Attila Till
Writer: Attila Till
Cast: Szabolcs Thuróczy, Zoltán Fenyvesi, Ádám Fekete, Mónika Balsai, Lídia Danis, Dusán Vitanovics
Part of: Let’s CEE Film Festival
Seen on: 25.3.2017

Plot:
Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and Barba Papa (Ádám Fekete) are best friends who dream of action. When they meet Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy), a former firefighter who has to use a wheelchair since an accident, they find the perfect place for their fantasies in his bitter and rough personality and the fact that he works for the mafia as a hitman. Zoli and Barba are looking for adventure and money – Zoli needs a life-saving surgery he can’t afford – and so they become Rupaszov’s assistants.

Tiszta szívvel is not only a very entertaining and well-made film, it’s also excellent disability representation (at least for disabled men). I wish there were more films like it.

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Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight
Director: Barry Jenkins
Writer: Barry Jenkins
Based on: Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue
Cast: Alex R. HibbertAshton SandersTrevante Rhodes, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris
Seen on: 14.3.2017

Plot:
Chiron, called Little (Alex R. Hibbert), grows up in a rather rough neighborhood in Miami. One day, as he runs from bullies, drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) find him and, together with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe), they offer Chiron a place where he can find the safety his own mother (Naomie Harris), an addict, is unable to give him. And Chiron, who struggles not only with being bullied but also with his crush on Kevin (Jaden Piner) and what that means for his life, needs sanctuary maybe more than most. But things don’t last and as Chiron grows to an adolescent (Ashton Sanders) and then a young man (Trevante Rhodes), he continues to fight and find a place in this world where he can just be.

Moonlight is a beautiful, emotional film that tells a story from an unusual and very much needed point of view. It’s a film very every frame is in the right place, the soundtrack complements the story perfectly and it hits every emotional beat for maximum effect. It’s amazing.

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Lion (2016)

Lion
Director: Garth Davis
Writer: Luke Davies
Based on: the autobiography A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose
Cast: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek BharatePriyanka BoseDavid WenhamRooney Mara
Seen on: 10.3.2017

Plot:
Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives with his family in Khandwa. He adores his big brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) and when Guddu leaves to take a job for a day, Saroo tags along, the start of an oddyssey that leads him to Calcutta without any means to contact his family, or any clear idea where they are. Finally Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham). Many years later, the by now grown Saroo (Dev Patel) tries desperately to find out about his origins and what happened to his biological family.

Lion is practically the epitome of a tear-jerker and it worked very well for me. Meaning I was emotionally invested the entire time and sobbing a lot.

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Les innocentes [Agnus Dei] (2016)

Les innocentes
Director: Anne Fontaine
Writer: Sabrina B. KarineAlice Vial, Anne Fontaine, Pascal Bonitzer
Cast: Lou de LaâgeAgata BuzekAgata KuleszaVincent MacaigneJoanna KuligEliza RycembelKatarzyna DabrowskaAnna PróchniakHelena SujeckaMira MaluszinskaDorota KudukKlara Bielawka
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 7.3.2017

Plot:
Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) works at a doctor for the red cross just after World War 2. She finds herself dispatched to Poland to take care of the concentration camp survivors and the French soldiers stationed there. It is in the hospital there that a young nun, Maria (Agata Buzek) from a near-by convent finds Mathilde and begs her to help them at the convent as well: they were raped by Russian soldiers and many of them are pregnant as a result. And not only do these pregnancies come with the usual dangers, but should anybody find out about their state, they would risk losing the convent, their home, entirely.

Les innocentes tackels a hard topic and it does so with a lot of sensitivity, but also a couple of lenghts. But I did enjoy it and the push it makes for solidarity among women.

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Ya umeyu vyazat [I Know How to Knit] (2016)

Ya umeyu vyazat
Director: Nadezhda StepanovaSergey Ivanov
Writer: Tatyana Bogatyreva
Cast: Alina KhodzhevanovaVladimir SvirskiyIrina Gorbacheva
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 3.3.2017

Plot:
Tanya (Alina Khodhzevanova) realizes one day that nothing about her life really makes sense to her. Her father is an alcoholic, her boyfriend brings other women home – while she’s there -, her mother is distant. She really has no joy in her life. Her conclusion is to attempt suicide. But it doesn’t work out that way and she finds herself in a psychiatric hospital where she starts to knit – both literally and figuratively.

I Know How to Knit was described as a dark comedy, a heartwarming tale in dire circumstances. Unfortunately, all I found were dire circumstances and depression, and very little humor.

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The Eagle Huntress (2016)

The Eagle Huntress
Director: Otto Bell
“Cast”: Aisholpan NurgaivRys NurgaivDaisy Ridley (narrator)
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 3.3.2017

Plot:
Aisholpan dreams of one thing and one thing only: she wants to become an Eagle Huntress and prove her skills in the big annual competition where all of Mongolia flocks together. The only problem is: girls don’t become Eagle Hunters. But Aisholpan’s father Rys doesn’t care too much about these traditions and he wants to see his daughter succeed as well. So together they embark on the training mission.

The Eagle Huntress tells a good story that I enjoyed watching, even through its more manipulative moments.

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