FROM BAGHDAD TO THE BAY (OXFF2020) – Review by Diane Carson

Documentary director Erin Palmquist’s From Baghdad to the Bay takes the viewer on a roller coaster ride, following Ghazwan Alsharif from Baghdad to San Francisco, as the title accurately announces. With apologies to Charles Dickens, this modern-day tale of two cities does encompass the best of times and the worst of times for Alsharif.

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IN FLOWERS THROUGH SPACE (OXFF2020) – Review by Diane Carson

For anyone not conversant with the Fibonacci sequence, and that certainly includes me, In Flowers Through Space is an educational, cerebral and auditory experience that asks for one simple indulgence: abandon conventional, unadventurous ideas about music for at least its sixty-six minutes.

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True/False Film Festival 2020 – Diane Carson reports

With the good fortune to occur just before Covid-19 necessitated the tough decision of cancellation or postponement, the True/False Film Festival went on as usual the first weekend of March (Thursday evening, March 5 through Sunday evening, March 8, 2020) in Columbia, Missouri.

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FIRST COW – Review by Diane Carson

First Cow is a thoroughly absorbing story of atypical, three-dimensional characters. Director and co-writer (along with Raymond) Kelly Reichardt shows again an extraordinary ability to capture the look and feel of nineteenth century America, as she did in Meek’s Cutoff. Moreover, Reichardt doesn’t flinch from presenting the dirt and squalor, the struggle for the basics of food and shelter, and the violence barely suppressed and ready to erupt at any moment.

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HOPE GAP – Review by Diane Carson

Among the most popular and praised films from last year, Marriage Story dramatizes, often painfully, a young couple’s separation and alienation. As if adding a postscript, Hope Gap focuses even more intensely on the dissolution of a twenty-nine year marriage. However, instead of giving equal weight to wife Grace and husband Edward, the profile stacks the deck against Grace.

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THE BANKER – Review by Diane Carson

The Banker powerfully presents 1950s racism. In this truth-based narrative, blatant racism is, refreshingly, never sugar coated, always directly addressed, and leads to a question put to to the US Senate. “Why is it so important to you to exclude an entire race of people from the American dream?”

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VITALINA VARELA – Review by Diane Carson

A mesmerizing, profoundly moving film, Vitalina Varela unfolds in slow motion over two hours, but what a two hours. While Hollywood feeds us everything we need to know in quick bursts of easily digested information, Portuguese director Pedro Costa understates and refrains from explicit excess. Instead he invites the viewer to enter and thoughtfully consider, the painful world he depicts.

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INCITEMENT – Review by Diane Carson

Israeli director/co-writer Yaron Zilberman begins his film Incitement with news footage of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat with U.S. President Bill Clinton in the White House rose garden announcing the 1993 Oslo I Accord. Addressing Israeli Palestinian relations and hopes for peace, this official Declaration of Principles was a monumental event provoking a distressing aftermath.

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THE TRAITOR – Review by Diane Carson

Italian director Marco Bellocchio’s film The Traitor takes a deep dive into the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, spanning three continents and two decades. Based on real events, the traitor of the title is Tommaso Buscetta, a reluctant informant who becomes alienated from the criminal world of which he’s a part after September 1980 when heroin becomes the illegal product trafficked.

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