Pirmdzimtais [Firstborn] (2017)

Pirmdzimtais
Director: Aik Karapetian
Writer: Aik Karapetian
Cast: Maija Doveika, Kaspars Znotins, Dainis Grube, Kaspars Zale
Seen on: 28.6.2019
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Katrina (Maija Doveika) and Francis (Kaspars Znotins) have been a couple for a while and things can be a little tense between them. When they are assaulted by a biker (Kaspars Zale), they are both pretty shellshocked. Katrina turns to a police officer for help, leaving Francis feeling inadequate: he couldn’t stop the assault in the first place and now he isn’t even good enough to help afterwards. Determined to prove his worth, he seeks out the biker himself, but their confrontation goes differently than planned.

Firstborn has a strong first half, but then lost me in the second half, unfortunately, when it becomes muddled, confusing and a little boring. But there’s a lot of material for thought about masculinity in the film, so that’s something.

The film poster showing Maija Doveika and Kaspars Znotins.
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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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Gatta Cenerentola [Cinderella the Cat] (2017)

Gatta Cenerentola
Director: Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak, Dario Sansone
Writer: Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak, Dario Sansone, Marianna Garofalo, Corrado Morra, Italo Scialdone
Based on: Cenerentola, Giambattista Basile‘s take on Cinderella
Cast: Mariacarla Norall, Massimiliano Gallo, Maria Pia Calzone, Alessandro Gassmann
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 30.9.2018
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Content Note: sexualized violence, sexism, homomisia and racism

Plot:
Mia’s father was an engineer and he designed and built the Megaride, a huge ship with the most novel of technologies that lies in the port of Naples. But he was killed, leaving Mia (Mariacarla Norall) to grow up with her evil stepmother (Maria Pia Calzone) and her daughters. Growing up mostly ignored by everybody but her father’s bodyguard (Alessandro Gassmann), now that Mia is a teenager, her stepmother’s lover and the boss of Megaride Salvatore (Massimiliano Gallo) starts to take more of an interest in her.

Cinderella the Cat is an animation film for adults. And it appears that to make it perfectly clear that this isn’t a film for children, despite being animated and based on a fairy tale, the filmmakers decided that it should definitely have sexualized violence, sexism, homomisia and racism. No, thank you.

The film poster showing a young woman in a ball gown with a gun in her hands and the much bigger image of a man in sunglasses with a cigarette in his mouth.
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The Rider (2017)

The Rider
Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao
Cast: Brady Jandreau, Mooney, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Leroy Pourier, Cat Clifford
Seen on: 29.9.2018
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Plot:
Brady (Brady Jandreau) is a rodeo rider who has recently had a fall that resulted in a severe head injury. Now he’s barred from riding, let alone participating in rodeos. But if he can’t do that, he really doesn’t know who he is at all. Drifting between family and friends and the odd job he can do, Brady has to try and figure out if rodeo is worth the risk now that it’s even higher.

I very much loved Zhao’s first film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, so I knew I had to see The Rider, even though it meant adding an extra film to my already full /slash Film Festival schedule. And that little trip away from the festival was an excellent choice on my part as The Rider is a beautiful, sad and touching film that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.

The film poster showing a young man in a cowboy hat in profile, the horse he is sitting on just visible in the frame.
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Boar (2017)

Boar
Director: Chris Sun
Writer: Kirsty Dallas, Chris Sun
Cast: Nathan Jones, Bill Moseley, John Jarratt, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Hugh Sheridan, Chris Haywood, Ernie Dingo, Simone Buchanan, Christie-Lee Britten, Madeleine Kennedy, Chris Bridgewater, Melissa Tkautz
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 29.9.2018
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Plot:
A small town in Australia has been having some trouble with wild animals. Fences torn down, livestock going missing. But they don’t know that they don’t actually have problems with animals, plural, but instead one big animal, one fucker of a boar. As the boar starts attacking anybody who dares come into its outback, people start dying in big numbers.

Boar is everything you could want in a creature feature: it has a good sense of humor, nice characters and a good creature design. I mostly enjoyed it, even though there were some pacing issues in the second half.

The film poster showing a boar head with an open mouth and massive fangs in profile.
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Outlaws (2017)

Outlaws aka 1%
Director: Stephen McCallum
Writer: Matt Nable
Cast: Ryan Corr, Abbey Lee, Simone Kessell, Josh McConville, Matt Nable, Aaron Pedersen, Sam Parsonson, Eddie Baroo, Aaron Fa’aoso, Jacqui Williams, Adam T Perkins
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 28.9.2018
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Content Note: ableism, sexism, homomisia

Plot:
Paddo (Ryan Corr) is the second-in-command of the biker club Copperheads. With their leader Knuck (Matt Nable) in prison, he is running things, trying to keep everything as smooth as possible until Knuck returns. With Paddo’s girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee) pushing him to grab for power in the Copperheads, while Knuck’s wife Hayley (Simone Kessell) jealously guards his position it’s easier said than done. But it’s his disabled brother Skink (Josh McConville) who throws the biggest wrench in his attempts at balance when he gets involved with Sugar (Aaron Pedersen) in a drug deal that goes badly.

1% isn’t exactly a revolutionary film, tackling a generally well-known conflict. But despite that and the fact that nothing much actually happens, it is engaging throughout and I enjoyed it, though I didn’t love it.

The film poster showing the main characters leaning around a huge "1%".
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Lowlife (2017)

Lowlife
Director: Ryan Prows
Writer: Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Ryan Prows, Maxwell Michael Towson
Cast: Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna, Santana Dempsey, Mark Burnham, Jose Rosete, Jearnest Corchado, Clayton Cardenas
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018
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Plot:
El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate) is a full-time luchador who never takes off his mask. Not even when he’s at home with his girlfriend Kaylee (Santana Dempsey), who is expecting their child. Kaylee’s adoptive father Teddy (Mark Burnham) is the local crime lord. He is ruthless and El Monstruo is his enforcer, desperately ignoring the extent of Teddy’s crimes. Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), on the other hand, desperately needs Teddy’s help: her husband needs a kidney and Teddy may be the only one able to get her one that fits. Meanwhile Teddy’s accountant Keith (Shaye Ogbonna) picks up his friend Randy (Jon Oswald) from prison, where he spent the last decade, taking the fall for Keith, and he finds Randy a changed man indeed. In a rather explosive fashion, their stories come together at the motel Crystal runs.

For some reason, I expected Lowlife to be a comedy. It is not. In fact, it’s pretty hard and very dark, despite a couple of funny moments. Once I had adjusted my expectations accordingly, I was very impressed by the film.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film.
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O Animal Cordial [Friendly Beast] (2017)

O Animal Cordial
Director: Gabriela Amaral
Writer: Gabriela Amaral, Luana Demange
Cast: Murilo Benício, Luciana Paes, Irandhir Santos, Camila Morgado, Jiddu Pinheiro, Ernani Moraes, Humberto Carrão, Ariclenes Barroso, Eduardo Gomes, Thais Aguiar, Diego Avelino
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018
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Plot:
Things are slow in Inácio’s (Murilo Benício) restaurant, meaning that there is more room for his temper to flare up – as it does often, especially with his cook Djair (Irandhir Santos), but also with customer. The waitress Sara (Luciana Paes) tries to do right by them all, but especially Inácio whom she feels drawn to. But everybody’s night takes a turn for the worse when armed robbers storm the restaurant and rack up the tension.

O Animal Cordial started off pretty nicely, but then didn’t manage to retain the tension necessary to keep me invested in the film and the characters.

The film poster showing a man looking in a broken mirror.
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Saat po long: Taam long [Paradox] (2017)

Saat po long: Taam long
Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Nick Cheuk, Lai-Yin Leung
Cast: Louis Koo, Yue Wu, Ka Tung Lam, Chris Collins, Tony Jaa, Jacky Cai, Ken Lo, Hanna Chan, Vithaya Pansringarm
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2018
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Plot:
Lee Chung Chi (Louis Koo) is a police officer in Hong Kong. He is tough and good at his job, but when his teenaged daughter Wing Chi (Hanna Chan) disappears in Thailand, his position at home helps him very little. Nevertheless, he goes to Thailand, hoping to help in the investigation and to find his daughter again. In Thailand he finds officers Chui Kit (Yue Wu) and his partner Tak (Tony Jaa) who are in charge of the case, although not necessarily happy with having to deal with Chung Chi as well. But when Wing Chi’s disappearance leads to a criminal conspiracy, they need all the help they can get.

Paradox is a very cool film that manages to transcend its basic thriller set-up by a healthy dose of criticism of the system and really fantastic fight scenes. I enjoyed every second of it.

The film poster showing the faces of five men under a yellow background with the silhouette of a girl walking in front of it.
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Puen Tee Raluek [The Promise] (2017)

Puen Tee Raluek
Director: Sophon Sakdaphisit
Writer: Sopana Chaowwiwatkul, Supalerk Ningsanond, Sophon Sakdaphisit
Cast: Bee Namthip, Apichaya Thongkham, Panisara Rikulsurakan, Deuntem Salitul, Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen, Benjamin Joseph Varney, Teerapop Songwaja
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2018
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Plot:
In 1997, Ib (Panisara Rikulsurakan) and Boum (Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen) are best friends. The two girls both come from rich real estate families, but when the financial crisis hits, their lives are forever changed. 20 years later, Boum (Bee Namthip) has risen from the ashes of the crisis and is working hard to restore her family’s company to its former glory, despite another financial crisis looming on the horizon. She agrees to a plan to finish building the high-rise started in 1997 but never finished. But as the project starts to get off the ground, Boum’s daughter Bell (Apichaya Thongkham), now the same age as Boum and Ib were back then, starts exhibiting worrisome behavior.

The Promise starts off strong, setting up its characters and the story nicely and creating good tension. But unfortunately, it completely spiralled out of control in the second half, making me wish that it had done a little less.

The film poster showing two women looking at the camera in front of a black background with a ghostly face behind them.
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