Kajillionaire (2020)

Kajillionaire
Director: Miranda July
Writer: Miranda July
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Mark Ivanir
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2020

Content Note: abusive parents

Plot:
Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) lives with her parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). They live rather unconvetionally, getting their money through full-time grifting. But their small crookery is never really enough and they dream of making it big some day. When Robert and Theresa meet Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) by chance, they ask her to join them for a big heist they’re planning. This throws Old Dolio completely for a loop and none of their lives will remain unchanged by that decision.

Kajillionaire looks like a comedy, and it often is funny, but there is an underlying sadness to it that really makes the film. I really liked the mix and the film.

The film poster showing Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) surrounded by a lot of stuff, all in front of a pink background.
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Hochwald [Why Not You] (2020)

Hochwald
Director: Evi Romen
Writer: Evi Romen
Cast: Thomas Prenn, Noah Saavedra, Josef Mohamed, Kida Khodr Ramadan, Ursula Ofner, Elisabeth Kanettis
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2020

Content Note: intense homomisic violence and general homomisia (both shown critically), critical treatment of racism against muslims, bimisia

Plot:
Mario (Thomas Prenn) is stuck in the little mountain village of Hochwald where he sticks out like a sore thumb – a flamboyant dancer, he really has no place in the conservative town. The only one who really seems to understand him is his best friend Lenz (Noah Saavedra) who escaped the village in pursuit of an acting career. He is back for a few days before heading to Rome where he wants to meet his agent. In an act of defiance, Mario joins him and they go to a gay bar. But while they are there, the gay club is attacked and many people die, including Lenz. Mario returns home, heartbroken, to find practically nothing but hostility in Hochwald. How can he go on like this?

Hochwald is really excellent queer cinema made in Austria. Fantastic setting, nicely set in scene and a very thoughtful approach to a very difficult topic. While I didn’t love every detail about it, I absolutely loved the film as a whole.

The film poster showing Mario (Thomas Prenn) in red disco light.
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Selva trágica [Tragic Jungle] (2020)

Selva trágica
Director: Yulene Olaizola
Writer: Rubén Imaz, Yulene Olaizola
Cast: Indira Rubie Andrewin, Gilberto Barraza, Mariano Tun Xool, Eligio Meléndez, Gabino Rodríguez, Shantai Obispo, Cornelius McLaren, Gildon Roland, Dale Carley, Ian Flowers, José Alfredo González Dzul, Antonio Tun Xool, Eliseo Mancilla, Marcelino Cobá Flota, Mario Canché
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2020

Content Note: sexualized violence

Plot:
1920. The Hondo River separates the jungle into Mexico and Belize. On the English-Belizean side, Agnes (Indira Rubie Andrewin) is unwillingly led to her wedding with Cacique (Dale Carley), accompanied only by nurse Florence (Shantai Obispo). When the two women make a run for it, they manage to cross over to the Spanish-Mexican side, but Cacique catches up with them there, killing Florence. Agnes dons her nurses uniform and gets out of there. She stumbles on a group of Mexican gum workers, led by Auscencio (Gilberto Barraza). Calculating that Agnes might be of use somehow, they take her captive, making a bad situation even worse for Agnes.

Selva trágica chose an interesting background for its story and kept me engaged throughout. It does have a few lengths, though, and didn’t quite convince, despite many good things. Still, overall I liked it.

THe film poster showing drawings of the main characters in a forest that is entirely painted in red.
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The World to Come (2020)

The World to Come
Director: Mona Fastvold
Writer: Ron Hansen, Jim Shepard
Based on: Jim Shepard‘s short story
Cast: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbott, Casey Affleck
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, domestic violence

Plot:
Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and her husband Dyer (Casey Affleck) live a rather simple life filled with hard work on their farm. When they get new neighbors in Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christopher Abbott), it means an end to their isolation. Or at least for Abigail and Tallie who quickly feel very drawn to each other. But that isn’t something that any one of them is prepared for.

How can you ruin Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby falling love? Ask The World to Come. It seemed promising but was, unfortunately, pretty much a disappointment.

Abigail (Katherine Waterston) talking to Tallie (Vanessa Kirby).
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Todos os Mortos [All the Dead Ones] (2020)

Todos os Mortos
Director: Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo
Writer: Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo
Cast: Mawusi Tulani, Clarissa Kiste, Carolina Bianchi, Thaia Perez, Agyei Augusto, Leonor Silveira, Alaíde Costa, Rogério Brito, Thomas Aquino
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2020

Content Note: ableism/saneism, [critical treatment of] racism and colonialism

Plot:
It’s 1899 and slavery has just been abolished in Brazil. The Soares family used to own slaves and ran a big plantation, which the family father is still trying to keep running. Meanwhile mother Isabel (Thaia Perez) lives with her daughter Ana (Carolina Bianchi) in their town house, while her other daughter Maria (Clarissa Kiste) became a nun. When Isabel becomes ill, Ana is convinced that only Iná (Mawusi Tulani) could help – Iná who used to be enslaved by them. But whether Iná – who was dismissed for practicising her religion – wants to help is another question.

Todos os Mortos gets some things very right, and others not at all. Overall the good outweighs the bad, I’d say. I liked it, even though it didn’t blow me away.

The film poster showing a collage of the main characters of the film.
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Lúa vermella [Red Moon Tide] (2020)

Lúa vermella
Director: Lois Patiño
Writer: Lois Patiño
Cast: Rubio de Camelle, Ana Marra, Carmen Martínez, Pilar Rodlos
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2020

Plot:
Rubio (Rubio de Camelle) has saved many a sailor in the area, but now he is missing himself and just as the red moon is nearing the earth, threatening to wake monsters. Three witches (Ana Marra, Carmen Martínez, Pilar Rodlos) come to town, looking for Rubio.

Lúa vermella was, unfortunately, a sleeping pill of a film. I was hoping that I would be able to fall into the film’s mood, but it just didn’t work. Instead I was constantly on the verge of falling asleep.

The film poster showing a huge red glowing blob over a landscape in red light, with a few figures in white sheets like ghosts.
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Nomadland (2020)

Nomadland
Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao
Based on: Jessica Bruder‘s book
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Tay Strathairn, Cat Clifford
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2020

Plot:
Fern (Frances McDormand) used to live in a factory town. But after the factory closed, the town disbanded and after her husband’s death, Fern decided to hid the road. She customized her van and is now traveling through the USAmerican west, from temporary job to temporary job, finding companionship with other nomads like her.

With Nomadland, Chloé Zhao is now at three of three beautiful, touching films that shed a light on some of society’s most vulnerable people, the hardships they face, but also the resilience they have. I absolutely loved it.

The film poster showing the word NOMADLAND made up from five different licence plates.
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ADN [DNA] (2020)

ADN
Director: Maïwenn
Writer: Mathieu Demy, Maïwenn
Cast: Maïwenn, Louis Garrel, Fanny Ardant, Marine Vacth, Dylan Robert, Caroline Chaniolleau, Alain Françon, Florent Lacger, Henri-Noël Tabary, Omar Marwan
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2020

Plot:
Neige (Maïwenn) has a large, loud family who only rarely see each other altogether. But her grandfather’s (Omar Marwan) birthday is one such occasion where they only barely keep a lid on the various conflicts in the family. A short while later, the grandfather dies and with him goes the last tangible connection the family has to Algeria. This prompts Neige to explore her roots, even as the family conflicts keep brewing.

ADN is a well-acted film that nails the family dynamic and managed to make me both laugh and cry. But at the same time, there were some things that I found a little strange.

The film poster shwowing Neige (Maïwenn) in a crowd of people, she is the only one in focus.
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La nuit des rois [Night of the Kings] (2020)

La nuit des rois
Director: Philippe Lacôte
Writer: Philippe Lacôte
Cast: Bakary Koné, Steve Tientcheu, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Issaka Sawadogo, Abdoul Karim Konaté, Denis Lavant, Jean Cyrille Digbeu, Laetitia Ky, Macel Anzian
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2020

Plot:
La Maca is the most infamous prison in Ivory Coast, ruled by inmate Blackbeard (Steve Tientcheu). But Blackbeard’s health is not what it used to be, making him a target for others who would like to take his place. The night of the Red Moon is approaching, a pivotal night of storytelling. When Blackbeard spots a new prisoner, he immediately makes him the new “Roman” (Bakary Koné), the new storyteller. Roman doesn’t have much of a choice but be Roman, although he would rather keep his head down. But if he doesn’t settle quickly into his new role, a lot is at stake for him, Blackbeard and the prison at large.

La nuit des rois is a movie of two parts that are both missing an important ingredient and didn’t really come together for me.

The film poster showing Roman (Bakary Koné) in front of an empty prison cell.
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Jetzt oder morgen (2020)

Jetzt oder morgen (literally: Now or Tomorrow)
Director: Lisa Weber
Writer: Lisa Weber
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2020

“Plot”:
Claudia is a young mother who lives with her son, her mother and her brother in a small apartment in Vienna. Claudia’s brother has a job, she and her mother live off benefits. Claudia talks about finishing school, getting a job, getting her own apartment. But when the question is whether she should do it now or tomorrow, the answer is always tomorrow.

Jetzt oder morgen perfectly captures how difficult, downright impossible, it is to find your feet from a precarious position. It does so with respect for Claudia and her family and with a sense of intimacy that is as beautiful as it is important.

The film poster showing Claudia and her kid lounging around in bed. He is looking at a book, she is looking at her phone.
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