September 2, 2016
In the documentary In The Land of the Enlightened two worlds collide visually, technically and spiritually. This is a hybrid documentary, meaning some shots were staged while others focus on the environment of Afghanistan and its people through an observational style. The cast, if you may call it that, are all real people. Some of the action scenes are rehearsed and others are presented as they happen. The blur between fiction and non-fiction is intentional, as Belgium Director and Photographer Pieter-Jan De Pue takes on a non-traditional view of how to craft a true story, with imagines elements that respond to a lived experience of Afghanistan, rather than real-life depictions. Shot over seven years, the documentary focuses on the lives of a group of children who are also fighters. Their lives are all about survival and war in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The new documentary Plaza de la Soledad is an artistic rumination on aging that presents interwoven stories of different low-income Mexican women who are in their golden years. Although the stories told by each of these women vary, what they all have in common is they are facing their later years as prostitutes. The documentary offers an unflinching and intimate examination of everyday life for these women who seldom have a voice and are often judged harshly.
With his directorial debut, Morgan, Luke Scott — son of Ridley Scott — can’t seem to see past his own ego to acknowledge inherit flaws in the script by screenwriter Seth W. Owen. In fact, Scott’s direction only enhances fundamental issues in this sci-fi/thriller’s logic. Scott’s seemingly giddy self-satisfaction at trying to present a twisting story is so much in the way of his storytelling that most people will see the film’s “surprise” ending coming within the first few seconds of the movie. All you have to do is not blink when you first see Kate Mara on screen to notice a tick that was supposed to be a quirk become a giveaway.
On the films of Jonas Trueba — a young Spanish filmmaker transcending his last name by prying at the fourth wall of cinema
August 27, 2016
His middle name is Groucho but his comedy is far from the Marx legacy that influenced his father, Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba, and though some aspects of his films recall the French New Wave, do not call his style retro. Jonás Groucho Trueba’s films have modern concerns about love in a modern age. He also uses cinema techniques that push the against the medium’s boundaries to represent his themes with an equally fresh perspective.
In Don’t Think Twice, comedian Mike Birbiglia once again taps into his sense for tragi-comedy to exorcise his demons by putting his personal struggles on the big screen. His previous movie, Sleep Walk With Me (Relationships and dreams collide in ‘Sleepwalk With Me’ — a film review) was a very personal re-telling of the end of a relationship gone awry. Now he turns to his career. Birbiglia wrote, directed, and co-stars in this new film that explores how individuals find a sense of belonging and how traditional markers of success, such as money and popularity, actually become obstacles that deter people from finding their own way.
One of the most powerful films you will see this year is Land and Shade (Tierra y Sombra). The 2015 winner of the prestigious Cannes Caméra d’or, the movie is simple but has that subtle quality of getting under your skin. The story revolves around very few characters, a family in the Valle de Cauca region in Colombia. It is a low-income family: the matriarch Alicia (Hilda Ruiz) and her daughter-in-law (Marleyda Soto) work in a sugar plantation in a brutal environment for very low wages. The matriarch’s son Gerardo (Edison Raigosa) has fallen ill of some sort of respiratory illness. Bed-ridden, he can no longer work on the plantation. Gerardo’s wife steps up to his job while taking care of him and their 6-year-old son. The action is set in motion when his estranged father Alfonso (Haimer Leal) returns to enter the constrained family dynamic.
August 20, 2016
Get ready, one of the most heart-rending movies of 2016 may be Little Men. It’s one of those films that will hit you like a ton of bricks with a final, subtle scene that encapsulates a somber sort of loss that is sadder in its seeming lack of significance. It’s just one moment that captures a change that no one wanted but no one could prevent. That director Ira Sachs (who co-wrote the script with Mauricio Zacharias) captures the moment with no sentiment and a brutal matter-of-factness will rip the rug from right under you.