Les lèvres rouges [Daughters of Darkness] (1971)

Les lèvres rouges aka Le rouge aux Lèvres
Director: Harry Kümel
Writer: Pierre Drouot, Harry Kümel, Jean FerryManfred R. Köhler
Cast: Delphine SeyrigJohn KarlenDanielle OuimetAndrea RauPaul EsserGeorges JaminJoris ColletFons Rademakers
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 16.6.2017
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Plot:
Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) just got married very quickly and without the knowledge of Stefan’s family. On the way to them, they take a break in an empty seaside resort. Stefan is in no hurry to reach his family, while Valerie wants things settled. As they discuss when to move on, other guests arrive: the beautiful Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) and her assistant Ilona (Andrea Rau). The countess takes an interest in Stefan and Valerie, and vice versa.

At the festival, the film caught me at the wrong moment and I wasn’t particularly taken with it, but noted that another watch under better circumstances would probably yield a different result. I have since re-watched it and I have to admit that it was much better this time, even if it probably won’t become a favorite of mine.

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Downriver (2015)

Downriver
Director: Grant Scicluna
Writer: Grant Scicluna
Cast: Reef IrelandKerry FoxRobert TaylorHelen Morse, Thom GreenCharles GroundsSteve MouzakisLester Ellis Jr.
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 15.6.2017
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Plot:
James (Reef Ireland) was just released from prison on parole, after having served time for drowning a little boy when he was a child himself. As he returns to his hometown, he has to face his past, both in the shape of the boy’s still grieving mother (Helen Morse) and his former best friend Anthony (Thom Green) who has a decidedly cruel streak. Haunted by the events, James is determined to find the boy’s body that’s still missing and to give closure to everybody involved.

Downriver was an exhausting bit of cinema. Watching it felt like wading through muck: possible, but way more work than walking on hard ground would be. And is that extra work really necessary when the road is right there?

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Mãe Só Há Uma [Don’t Call Me Son] (2016)

Mãe Só Há Uma (literally: You Only Have One Mother)
Director: Anna Muylaert
Writer: Anna Muylaert
Cast: Naomi NeroDaniel BotelhoDani NefussiMatheus NachtergaeleLais DiasLuciana PaesHelena AlbergariaLuciano BortoluzziJune DantasRenan Tenca
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 14.6.2017
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Plot:
Pierre (Naomi Nero) gets along well with his mom Aracy (Dani Nefussi) and his sister Jaqueline (Lais Dias). He spends most of his time with his band, taking advantage of the small bit of fame by having lots of sex with both boys and girls, while working out his (gender) identity. But then Pierre is informed that Aracy, the woman he has always known as his mother, actually stole him from Gloria (Dani Nefussi) and Matheus (Matheus Nachtergaele), and she stole his sister, too. As Gloria and Matheus try to reconnect with their son – who they insist on calling Felipe – Pierre can’t accept this new version of his family.

Mãe Só Há Uma tells a pretty incredible story with a lot of sensitivity and insight. It’s sometimes a little long and the ending felt a little frustrating, but it’s definitely worth it regardless.

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AWOL (2016)

AWOL
Director: Deb Shoval
Writer: Deb Shoval, Karolina Waclawiak
Cast: Lola KirkeBreeda WoolDale SoulesBill SageTed WelchBritne OldfordLibby GeorgeCharlotte Maltby
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 14.6.2017
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Plot:
Joey (Lola Kirke) doesn’t really have many options in her small hometown. One of the few ways to get out is to join the army, so that’s what she does. It is just then when Joey meets Rayna (Breeda Wool) and falls in love with her. And Rayna seems to like Joey, too. But she’s also married and has two children, which spells trouble for everyone involved.

AWOL has an interesting setting and Kirke is really strong, but other than that, I pretty much ended up hating the film.

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Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (2016)

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four
Director: Deborah S. Esquenazi
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 14.6.2017
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“Plot”:
In the early 90s, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez, all around 19 and 20 years old, were accused of gang-raping two young girls. Despite the fact that there was no evidence, the fact that the four are lesbians and latinas, coupled with the Satanic Panic, they were swiftly convicted for 15 years, Ramirez even for almost 40 years. But they continued to fight to prove their innocence.

Southwest of Salem tells an absolutely shocking story for which Esquenazi finds the right tone – not an easy achievement.

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Dohee-ya [A Girl at My Door] (2014)

Dohee-ya
Director: July Jung
Writer: July Jung
Cast: Doona BaeSae-ron KimSae-byeok SongHie-jin JangMin-jae KimSeong-kun Mun
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 12.6.2017
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Plot:
Young-Nam (Doona Bae) is a police officer who was just transferred to a small seaside town. It was a punitive measure, but what her misconduct actually entailed is unclear to her new colleagues. And since Young-Nam is stand-offish, they’re not bound to find out anytime soon. One night Young-Nam finds Do-Hee (Sae-ron Kim) at her door, a young girl from the village who seems taken with Young-Nam. Do-Hee’s family is difficult and Young-Nam gives her more and more space in her own life.

Dohee-ya may have bitten off a little more than it can chew, making the film feel a little crammed and too long. That being said, it still has many strengths and is definitely worth seeing.

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Spa Night (2016)

Spa Night
Director: Andrew Ahn
Writer: Andrew Ahn
Cast: Joe SeoYoun Ho ChoHaerry KimTopher ParkJose A. SolorioIl AhnLinda HanHo Young Chung
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 10.6.2017
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Plot:
David (Joe Seo) comes from a traditional Korean-American family and he’s a good son, expected to work at the family restaurant and to attend college and make a better life for himself. But when they have to close the restaurant, their carefully laid dreams and plans fall apart. That circumstance gives David a little freedom, though, to make his own choices. Without his parents’ knowledge, he ditches his SAT course and gets a part-time job in a Korean spa where he discovers a thriving gay subculture that speaks to him.

Spa Night is an incredibly heavy film. It’s not the most pleasant experience to watch it, but it’s extremely good cinema.

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Barash [Blush] (2015)

Barash
Director: Michal Vinik
Writer: Michal Vinik
Cast: Sivan Noam ShimonHadas Jade SakoriDvir BenedekAmit MuchtarIrit PashtanBar Ben Vakil
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 10.6.2017
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Plot:
Naama Barash (Sivan Noam Shimon) doesn’t have it easy. Her parents are constantly fighting, her sister, who is in the army, disappears and the only thing that gives her respite is to hang out with her friends, getting drunk and high. But then there’s a new girl in school: Dana (Hadas Jade Sakori). Dana is exciting and new and seems invulnerable and Naama finds herself falling in love quickly and confusingly.

Barash is a sweet coming-of-age film that doesn’t quite work as well as it could and should have. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

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Lovesong (2016)

Lovesong
Director: So Yong Kim
Writer: So Yong Kim, Bradley Rust Gray
Cast: Riley KeoughJena MaloneCary Joji FukunagaJessie Ok GraySky Ok GrayNeal HuffRyan EggoldMarshall ChapmanBrooklyn DeckerAmy SeimetzRosanna Arquette
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 9.6.2017
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Plot:
Sarah (Riley Keough) has been best friends with Mindy (Jena Malone) since about forever. But with adulthood, their ways have separated a bit. Sarah is married to Dean (Cary Joji Fukunaga) and has a small daughter Jessie (Jessie Ok Gray), while Mindy lives a wilder life. But when Sarah and Mindy reconnect and go on an impromptu road trip, their relationship starts to change.

I enjoyed Lovesong the longest time, despite a couple of issues here and there. But the ending left me disappointed and a little bitter.

[Slight SPOILERS]

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She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014)

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
Director: Mary Dore
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 9.6.2017
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“Plot”:
Tracing the feminist movement in the USA in the late 60s, the documentary looks at the history of the modern feminist movement through interviews with some of the major players from that time.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry has interesting insights into the history of the feminist movement and tries very hard to not just include white feminism, but reproduces the lack of trans feminism in Second Wave Feminism and only touches on lesbian activism, which I found a pity. Nevertheless, it was a good watch.

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