Notre-Dame du Nil [Our Lady of the Nile] (2019)

Notre-Dame du Nil
Director: Atiq Rahimi
Writer: Atiq Rahimi, Ramata-Toulaye Sy
Based on: Scholastique Mukasonga‘s novel
Cast: Amanda Mugabezaki, Albina Kirenga, Malaika Uwamahoro, Clariella Bizimana, Belinda Rubango, Ange Elsie Ineza, Kelly Umuganwa Teta, Pascal Greggory
Seen on: 25.8.2022

Content Note: colonialism, racism/ethnical violence, abortion, misogynoir

Plot:
1973. Notre-Dame du Nil is an exclusive catholic private school in the middle of nowhere in Rwanda. It is there that the (Hutu) elite of the country send their daughters to get their education, like Modesta (Belinda Rubango) and Gloriosa (Albina Kirenga). But there is also a quota for Tutsi girls like Veronica (Clariella Bizimana) and Viriginia (Amanda Mugabezaki). Nevertheless, things are harmonious. At least at first. With ethnical resentments brewing around them, the school doesn’t stay a safe haven for long.

Notre-Dame du Nil tells a strong story with good characters that sheds some light on Rwandan history in the microcosm of its setting.

The film poster showing a group of girls in white night-gowns having a pillow-fight.
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Fighting with My Family (2019)

Fighting with My Family
Director: Stephen Merchant
Writer: Stephen Merchant
Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn, Olivia Bernstone, Leah Harvey Dwayne Johnson, Thomas Whilley, Tori Ellen Ross, John Cena, Stephen Merchant
Seen on: 22.5.2022

Plot:
The Knight family – father Ricky (Nick Frost), mother Julia (Lena Headey) and their children Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh) live and breathe wrestling, though the possibilities in their English town are limited. But then the chance of a lifetime comes calling: Zak and Saraya can audition for Hutch (Vince Vaughn), a talent scout for the big leagues and their ticket to the WWE. Or at least, that’s what they hope.

I didn’t expect much of Fighting with My Family, apart from being able to watch Florence Pugh do her thing, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the film that turned out to be a warm, funny family movie that reminded me of the time I really loved wrestling.

The film poster showing Saraya (Florence Pugh) leaning in the corner of a wrestling ring with the other main characters of the film behind her.
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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)

In the Shadow of the Moon
Director: Jim Mickle
Writer: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall, Rudi Dharmalingam, Al Maini, Quincy Kirkwood, Sarah Dugdale
Seen on: 10.4.2022

Plot:
Locke (Boys Holbrook) is a police officer hoping for a big career move. When a mysterious killing spree hits Philadelphia, he connects the dots and traces the bodies and their unusual way of dying to a mysterious woman in a hoodie (Cleopatra Coleman). This realization is only the start of decades of obsession for Locke – and the end of his life as he knew it.

In the Shadow of the Moon has a couple of interesting ideas, but it didn’t quite win me over. I think that’s because it chose the – to me – wrong angle to tell its story.

The film poster showing half of Locke's (Boyd Holbrook) face. Superimposed over his shoulder is a street at night, a giant moon in the background, and Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) wearing a hoodie and holding a strang weapon in the front.
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Bilmemek [Not Knowing] (2019)

Bilmemek
Director: Leyla Yilmaz
Writer: Leyla Yilmaz
Cast: Emir Ozden, Senan Kara, Yurdaer Okur, Levent Üzümcü, Çetin Sarikartal, Ulascan Kutlu, Arda Aranat, Berke Bük, Sanem Öge, Özgür Daniel Foster
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 4.2.2022

Content Note: suicidal thoughts, (critical treatment of) homomisia, bullying

Plot:
Selma (Senan Kara) and Sinan (Yurdaer Okur) have been married for a long time, but there is a distance between them now that becomes harder and harder to bridge. Their son Umut (Emir Ozden) will soon leave for college – and who knows what will become of them then. But first they’re hoping that Umut will win a water polo scholarship and be able to go to college in the USA. When rumors abound within Umut’s team that Umut might be gay, his team mates start pressuring him, though, because he neither confrims nor denies it.

Bilmemek is a well-made film, but I did have my issues with the ending, I have to admit. Still, a lot of it was very engaging and interesting to me.

The film poster showing Umut (Eir Ozden) looking into the distance.

[SPOILERS]

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In the Tall Grass (2019)

In the Tall Grass
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writer: Vincenzo Natali
Based on: Stephen King and Joe Hill‘s novella
Cast: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Rachel Wilson, Harrison Gilbertson
Seen on: 5.1.2022

Plot:
Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) just wanted to take a quick break on their roadtrip when they hear a young boy crying for help in the field next to the road: he lost his way in the tall grass and can’t get back to the road. Becky and Cal head into the field themselves – and find that they can’t get back either. There is something strange going on in the grass.

In the Tall Grass is very notably a King/Hill adaptation. If that’s your thing, you will be well satisfied, though not particularly surprised. It is typical stuff after all. If that’s not your thing, you probably don’t need to try to see whether you like it anyway.

The film poster showing a grass field with a bloody hand stretching up out of it.
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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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Kaviar [Caviar] (2019)

Kaviar
Director: Elena Tikhonova
Writer: Robert Buchschwenter, Elena Tikhonova
Cast: Margarita Breitkreiz, Darya Nosik, Sabrina Reiter, Georg Friedrich, Simon Schwarz, Mikhail Evlanov, Joseph Lorenz, Robert Finster
Seen on: 20.10.2021 (somehow missed to review this one)

Plot:
Nadja (Margarita Breitkreiz) works as the personal translator and all around organizer for Igor (Mikhail Evlanov), giving her in-depth knowledge of his dealings, little of which is actually legal. Nadja doesn’t really like it, but she has two kids and not that many options. When Igor hatches a new plan though – buying the Schwedenbrücke in Vienna (a bridge in the city center) to build an estate on – this is easier said than done, even in Vienna where people are willing to be very flexible for profit. Enter Klaus (Georg Friedrich), the husband of Nadja’s best friend Vera (Darya Nosik). Klaus has been waiting for an opportunity to make a deal or two with Igor and is sure that he can provide the necessary connections. The money that needs to change hands does give Nadja, Vera and Nadja’s nanny Teresa (Sabrina Reiter) an idea, though. Maybe this time it is them who get to be rich.

Kaviar is an entertaining film that makes fun of both Russian and (and even more so) Austrian business men. With its feminist undertones and its perfect political timing, it’s certainly a film to see.

The film poster showing Nadja (Margarita Breitkreiz) biting her lip, with Vera (Darya Nosik) and Teresa (Sabrina Reiter) behind her. Below them are Ferdinand (Simon Schwarz), Igor (Mikhail Evlanov) and Klaus (Georg Friedrich) toasting with champagne and a suitcase full of cash.
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Ceniza negra [Land of Ashes] (2019)

Ceniza negra
Director: Sofía Quirós
Writer: Sofía Quirós
Cast: Smashleen Gutiérrez, Humberto Samuels, Hortensia Smith, Keha Brown, Yulius Melvin Brown Rudolf, Adeysha Garrido Morales, Krisly Hernández Harris, Danna Murillo Carpio
Seen on: 13.11.2021

Plot:
Selva (Smashleen Gutiérrez) lives with her tata, her grandfather (Humberto Samuels) and his girlfriend Elena (Hortensia Smith). The relationship between 13-year-old Selva and Elena is tense, and her tata isn’t all that fit anymore. When she can, Selva escapes into the forest for games that feel almost ritualisitc with her friend Winter (Keha Brown). When Elena disappears, Selva has to shoulder even more.

Ceniza Negra is an interesting film. It’s highly symbolic and therefore also a little vague – sometimes maybe a little too much so. But altogether it is a very nice character study.

The film poster showing Selva (Smashleen Gutiérrez) in profile, almost just a silhouette, in front of a blue background. Above her head are light spots that look painted.
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Proxima (2019)

Proxima
Director: Alice Winocour
Writer: Alice Winocour, Jean-Stéphane Bron
Cast: Eva Green, Zélie Boulant, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller
Seen on: 10.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism

Plot:
Sarah (Eva Green) is an astronaut at ESA. Or she hopes to become one – so far, she has been preparing while taking care of her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) mostly on her own as she is separated from Stella’s father, astrophycisist Thomas (Lars Eidinger). When Sarah finally gets the call she’s been waiting for, when she is finally assigned a mission, things change quickly and drastically for Sarah and Stella. Sarah has to go to Russia for her mission training, Stella has to move in with Thomas. Both knew this was coming, but living it brings more challenges than expected.

Proxima is a quiet film, focusing on the trivialities of space travel in a way that feels entirely revolutionary and gives it a new, feminine-coded take we very much needed.

The film poster showing Sarah (Eva Green) in her astronaut suit holding her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant), behind them a rocket getting ready to lift off.
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6 Underground (2019)

6 Underground
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, Dave Franco, Corey Hawkins, Lior Raz, Payman Maadi, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Kim Kold, Lídia Franco, James Murray
Seen on: 21.7.2021

Content Note: white saviorism

Plot:
A few years ago, a tech billionaire faked his own death to become One (Ryan Reynolds), the leader of a mercenary group set to kill the dictator of Turgistan Rovach (Lior Raz), to put his more liberal brother Murat (Payman Maadi) in power and free Turgistan with the move. But the first mission he and his team of five, only known as numbers Two (Mélanie Laurent), Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Four (Ben Hardy), Five (Adria Arjona), and Six (Dave Franco), go on is an utter disaster – and does not bode well for their overall goal.

After watching F9 and Black Widow, I wanted to keep up the action comedy mood. When I saw the preview still on Netflix for this film, I felt like Ryan Reynolds would probably show me a good time. What I missed was that this is a Michael Bay film, and it’s absolutely one of his worse ones. Dammit, 6 Underground was really and truly bad.

The film poster showing the 7 recruits in various action poses, with One (Ryan Reynolds) taking the center.
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