Plot: Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returned to his hometown in the Outback just in time to investigate the murder of a young native girl – a murder the white rest of the police force doesn’t seem too interested in. Jay soon starts to suspect that the lack of interest may actually be active hampering from his colleagues, let alone the people around who all saw, heard and know nothing. Including Jay’s own daughter (Tricia Whitton) who doesn’t want anything to do with her father, but who knew the victim.
Mystery Road is atmospheric and Pedersen is a great lead, but I constantly felt like I was missing some context to understand what the fuck was actually happening. While that can make the appeal of a film, in this case, it was completely frustrating for me.
Plot: Mei Xiaoou (Bai Baihe) is a casino broker, meaning that she manages rich clients, finding them games and loans when necessary, all to keep them gambling and happy. One of her best clients is Duan Kaiwen (Gang Wu), who shows up every once in a while in Macau and knows to keep his head. Sculptor Shi (Jue Huang), to whom Xiaoou feels drawn very strongly, on the other hand gets quickly drawn into addiction. Both men will change Xiaoou’s life over the course of a decade.
A City Called Macau has an interesting premise, but it left too many things in the realm of vague references for me. I just couldn’t follow as character motivations and simply facts were left unclear for me.
Plot: Air conditioners are falling everywhere in Luanda, Angola. Housemaid Zézinha (Filomena Manuel) has asked the building security slash manager Matacedo (José Kiteculo) to repair the a/c of her employer, but it was never returned from the shop. Now, the employer is getting impatient and the retrieval of the a/c becomes increasingly more complicated. And why are the units falling anyway?
Ar Condicionado is a strange film, somewhere between SciFi and magical realism, creating an absolutely unique atmosphere that gives one an impression of Luanda itself – or at least I think it does, having never been there myself. It’s strange and evocative.
Sarajevo mon amout collects five loosely connected short films that are all set in Sarajevo. Other than that, the films don’t have much in common, but I found all of them pretty strong in their own way, with The Right One and The Package particular stand-outs for me.
“Plot”: Kmêdeus was a fixture of street life in Cape Verde; a homeless eccentric whose philosophical ramblings inspired António Tavares to a dance piece. The film accompanies Tavares in his process and his dance, as well as trying to find out who Kmêdeus was, ultimately asking questions about the line between art and mental illness.
Kmêdeus is a short documentary that shines whenever it looks at the art part and stumbles when it talks about mental health/illness. It does have interesting parts, but it just doesn’t quite work.
“Plot”: The documentary follows the copwatch group WeCopwatch, showing how they formed and how they operate: filming police officers at work in the hopes of mitigating excessive violence or to at least document it. It includes interviews with Ramsey Orta, Kevin Moore and David Whitt.
With the Black Lives Matter protests going on, Copwatch is, of course, very topical which is why it was included in the festival on short notice. And I’m glad that it was because it shows once more that these incidents of violence and murder by police are not isolated, singular cases but they happen a lot, all over the USA and have been going for about forever.
Plot: Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) lives a quiet life with his alcoholic mother (Marcela Ruiz Esparza) whom he takes care off. He works as a clerk to write letters for analphabetic people and always looks forward to Carmela (Renée Sabina) who often comes to send letters to her boyfriend. When Miguel finds his mother dead at home, clutching a letter with his father’s name and address, Miguel packs everything and leaves to find the father he never knew, determined to kill him. But things don’t quite go the way he plans.
Detrás de la Montaña isn’t bad for a debut feature, but unfortunately, it really doesn’t treat its women very well and that took my appreciation for the film away pretty quickly.
Plot: Malika (Nadia Kounda) and Abdelkader (Mouhcine Malzi) have not been married long and are still in the process of building their life together. For now, they live with his family, which is uncomfortable in many ways, and work both – Malika as a house maid and Abdelkader as a security in a shopping center. Abdelkader takes his job very seriously. When he isn’t deferential, but outright aggressive to a shopper who is married to an important man, the consequences are dire for him. The resulting humiliation has him spiraling and threatens to bring down his life with Malika before it ever really began.
Volubilis packs a lot of social criticism – and while I usually love that, in this case, I just didn’t really connect emotionally with the film, making the criticism feel a lot weaker than it should have felt.
Plot: Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) is an introverted accountant who spends most of her time dreaming of her high-school crush Ichi (One) although she hasn’t seen him in years. When a colleague at work, Ni (Two) (Daichi Watanabe) starts showing an interest in Yoshika, it completely throws her and she decides that she needs to reconnect with Ichi (Takumi Kitamura) to see if she can finally win his heart. So she organizes a class reunion even as she starts dating Ni.
Katte ni furuetero looks like a pretty standard RomCom but it bucks the trend a little with its complicated main character and its sometimes pretty ambiguous developments. Whether you will like that will probably depend on just how sweet you expect and want the film to be. I am a little undecided about it myself.
Plot: Many years ago, Sei (Gigi Leung) fled Macau and went to Taiwan, trying to forget her past. But when the news of Ling’s death reaches her, she has to return and confront it. When they were both barely adults, Sei (Fish Liew) and Ling (Jennifer Yu) met working in a massage parlor and they quickly became best friends. Their relationship was everything to them – until it wasn’t anymore. But looking back at it now, Sei may discover some things she hadn’t previously seen.
If you’re looking for a good cry, Sisterhood is ready and here for you. It’s such a nicely told film with such charming leads, I almost didn’t mind that it was another sad queer story.