Plot: Right in Manhattan, there is an old firestation that has been transformed into a communal center. During the day, it is an educational space, offering political workshops and talks. During the night, it becomes a club playing house music. The thing that unites those halves is the prison-industrial complex in the USA as the center gives space to former inmates to share their experiences, to activists to campaign for prison abolishment and traces the way house music was developed by Black and Latinx communities as a form of liberation.
Bring Down the Walls takes a look at the strength that lies in community, activism and music, especially when they come together. It is an unusual perspective on the prison-industrial complex, but a welcome one.
Plot: Baghdad (Grace Orsato) cruises the streets of Sao Paulo with her skateboarding crew. When she isn’t out and about she hangs with her single mother (Karina Buhr) and little sister (Marie Maymone), and her mothers friends. Baghdad is little interested in school or anything but improving her skating abilities. But her group of friends is mostly boys, except for her and Vanessa (Nick Batista). Until they meet another group of female skaters.
My Name Is Baghdad is a wonderful film that takes a sharp look at how a girl really can’t ever be one of the boys – but she can be lucky to be one of the girls. It’s sweet and touching and has great energy.
Las ranas Director: Edgardo Castro Writer: Edgardo Castro Cast: Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli, Nahuel Cabral, Gabriela Illarregui, María Eugenia Stillo Part of: this human world Film Festival Seen on: 12.12.2020
Plot: Barbara (Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli) is one of the women called Las ranas – the frogs. That means she visits her boyfriend (Nahuel Cabral) in prison as much as she can. The prison is far and the visits are a strenuous addition to her everyday struggle to raise enough funds just to live. But she unfailingly goes, bringing food and whatever else is allowed and even what isn’t. Sometimes she also brings their daughter.
Las ranas is a fiction film that feels very much like a documentary. That has advantages but also disadvantages, and here and there I was wishing it would stick more to narrative conventions for fiction.
“Plot”: Ireland was long known for having the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. But after 35 years of near constant organizing, the campaigns against those laws were finally successful. In a 2018 referendum the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution was overturned.
The 8th is a nice documentary, showing us how much hard work went into the campaign and how long people fought for their rights, and fortunately was also able to give us the happy end in the success of 2018. It’s a satisfying ode to activism.
“Plot”: 1973 in New York. Faced with a heroin epidemic and no real support outside their community, Mutulu Shakur, along with people from the Black Panthers and The Young Lords, opens an acupuncture clinic that is supposed to help with getting people clean. Their radical and holistic approach was successful and its legacy is still present today.
Dope is Death is an interesting look at community organizing efforts and Black (and brown) history in the USA – a history that is way too easily forgotten. It does run a tad long, though, and loses a little in the last part. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeing.
Content Note: sexualized violence, abuse, pedophilia, old footage of kids in blackface and brownface
“Plot”: In the 80s there was a famous summer camp for kids in Epipo, Hungary. Led by charismatic teacher Pal Sipos, it was a camp filled with fantastic games that was almost magical for the kids who got to go there. But another part of the camp was abuse and humiliation – abuse that Sipos continued after the camp was shut down and he became a TV star. Now, decades later, the former camp kids are coming together again to try to work through their experiences and to reconcile their memories with the facts.
Return to Epipo is a highly personal and chilling look at the camp and the abuse that took place there, trying to answer the question how the camp could have been so great and so awful at the same time. It also looks at how what happened still affects the people who were there as kids. It’s insightful and also disturbing.
“Plot”: Själö is an island in the Baltic Sea. It used to house a psychiatric facility for women, but that facility has long been disbanded and now a research group is studying biodiversity there. There are no more permanent inhabitants but the echo of Själö’s history and the people who used to live there is still ever present.
Själö is a slow meditation on the impact of history and how we remember things. It’s an interesting topic, but unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find my way into the film. I drifted more alongside it than in it.
“Plot”: A young girl, soon woman (Victória Maranho), tries to find her place in the world. But there is not much she can control – except what she eats or doesn’t eat.
Êxtase is a deeply personal and very in-depth look at the world through the eyes of an anorectic girl, somewhere between fiction and documentary and far from the usual clichés of just “thinking that she is too fat”.
Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia and transmisia, sexualized violence
Plot: Iris (Sofia Cabrera) spends her time playing basketball and hanging out with her cousins Darío (Mauricio Vila) and Ale (Luis Molina). When she sees Renata (Ana Carolina Garcia) in the neighborhood, she is immediately intrigued. She tries to find out more about Renata until Renata notices her and asks for her number. But there are many rumors going around about Renata and Iris is not sure about how to proceed.
Las Mil y Una left too many open questions for me to be really satisfying, I’m afraid. There were some very interesting things here, but everything remained much too vague.