POSER (Nightstream Fest 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

As a world building exercise, Poser is deeply ensconced in the Columbus indie music scene, which is brought to life here in a variety of ways, including casting significant scene luminaries such as Bobbi Kitten. But this is no navel-gazing, regional subcultural circle jerk; sometimes dark, frequently self-depreciative and often dryly funny, there is a sad, bleak heart to Poser that is where its ultimate impact is contained.

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COSMIC DAWN (Nightstream Fest 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Jefferson Moneo’s Cosmic Dawn is far from the typical terrain of UFO conspiracy films as can be imagined – this is no X-Files fanfic and is all the stronger for it. This is largely informed by Moneo’s own experience with an alien encounter as a child, which – for sceptics and believers alike – undeniably manifests in the film in a sincerity and a sense of intimacy that films and television shows dealing with this subject so often miss.

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TO THE MOON (Nightstream Fest 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Running just over 80 minutes in length, To the Moon is a lithe, powerful little film written, directed and co-starring Friend and currently playing at the Nightstream virtual film festival. Set in one location with a key cast of only three characters, it uses its slender production context to great effect, granting each of the three central players enormous scope to flesh out their characters.

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BINGO HELL – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Exclusive Photos)

Aging and having your life revolve around bingo might sound like a living hell. But in Gigi Saul Guerrero’s sophomore feature – bingo is a bond. It tethers friends and neighbors together in a fun, regular ritual at the community hall which forms the foundations of their day-to-day lives. They share their highs and lows, accomplishments and losses, struggles and triumphs. If someone is going through a tough time, the others do what they can to help. They cut each other’s hair. They fix each other’s cars. They listen to each other’s family dramas, never afraid to speak up and call someone out if they are the one being the jerk.

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THE MANOR – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Belgian-born, US based filmmaker Axelle Carolyn has, across the organically evolving stages of her career in horror, gained an intuitive understanding of the genre few can equal. Tightly structured, The Manor leads towards the revelation of the horro sub-genre whose codes and conventions the film most comfortably adheres to (to reveal what this would spoil the movie). But perhaps much more importantly are the more socially minded aspects of The Manor which largely pivot around the medical gaslighting of an older woman.

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KNOCKING – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

After fifteen years of directing short films and documentaries, Swedish filmmaker Frida Kempff has turned to feature fictional filmmaking with her suffocatingly intimate portrait of mental illness, Knocking. A film both simultaneously subtle and confronting, with Knocking Kempff achieves the perfect balancing act that holds the humanity of those living with mental illness such as Molly at its core.

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SHAPELESS (Nightstream Fest 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Samantha Aldana’s Shapeless (2021), co-written and starring Kelly Murtagh who brought her own experience of bulimia to the film, is undeniably brave and compelling. Murtagh stars as Ivy, an aspiring singer in New Orleans who fronts her struggling band at night and works in a laundry by day. Her bulimia remains wholly invisible from those around her and defaulting to finding socially acceptable ways to work it around her peers without arousing suspicion or concern is second nature to her. But like so much in life, Ivy’s bulimia seems manageable until, suddenly, it is not.

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JACK BE NIMBLE (Nightstream Fest) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Jack Be Nimble is a dark, supernatural urban fairy tale, but the key to its power lies just as much in its extraordinary beauty as it does its bleak story and powerful performances. Grass, trees, water, flowers – as much as the cold hardness of the film dominates Jack’s life especially, there is something aggressively elemental, even organic in the building blocks that construct the world of Jack Be Nimble. One of the most beautiful yet simultaneously foreboding New Zealand films ever made (which is saying something), Jack Be Nimble is a masterclass in tone, form and the power of strong performances.

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NAME ABOVE TITLE (Nightstream Fest) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Name Above Title is bold, daring, wild, dark, sexy and perversely fun, all with an unexpected climactic twist that plants the film firmly in the territory of the audacious. Eurosleaze for a new generation, the spirit of neo-giallo is strong here, and along with filmmakers such as Yann Gonzalez, Nicolas Pesce, Peter Strickland, the Onetti brothers, and Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Conceição’s film is proof that neo-giallo – true neo-giallo – is a growing, enthralling, formally ambitious and conceptually dazzling terrain.

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THE GREENHOUSE – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Nightstream Fest)

Sometimes science fiction runs at you straight out of the gate, grabbing you by the throat with all the bells and whistles of its familiar iconography: spaceships! Nuclear monsters! Ray guns! And sometimes, those elements are so low-key that it is almost easy to miss that a film falls under the science fiction umbrella at all. It is in this second category that we find the melancholy reflection of grief, love, loss and letting go, The Greenhouse. A beautiful meditation on life, love, family and the fear of opening ourselves up to unknown futures, The Greenhouse is a confident, quiet treasure.

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