FOR SAMA – Review by Loren King

“We never thought the world would let this happen.” That’s the haunting phrase from 26-year old filmmaker and activist Waad al-Kateab, who chronicles her life during the five years that her beloved city of Aleppo, Syria was destroyed by the corrupt government of Bashar al-Assad. If not turning away is how we must confront the violence, inhumanity and senselessness of war, this brutal, heart-wrenching film is essential viewing.

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ROSIE – Review by Loren King

Rosie blends human heartbreak and social realism. Anyone living even remotely close to the edge likely understands that homelessness isn’t a moral failing but a widespread social problem created by economics and greed. But scripter Doyle and director Breathnach don’t preach or moralize; they’ve told a complicated story with elegant simplicity.

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OPHELIA – Review by Loren King

Reexamining classic texts from a different perspective, particularly minor or neglected characters, is an enticing idea fraught with possibility and peril. Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead looked past Hamlet to the bit players. But what about Shakespeare’s women? Kudos to director Claire McCarthy and to Semi Chellas who adapted Lisa Klein’s young adult novel, for having the imagination and guts to take one of Hamlet’s most under-explored characters, the tragic Ophelia, and put her center stage.

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HOLY LANDS – Review by Loren King

French novelist-turned-director Amanda Sthers, whose credits include You’ll Miss Me (2009) and Madame (2017), adapted her novel, the family drama Holy Lands, with its characters changed from French to American. With its themes about patriarchal abandonment, loss, regret, resentment and miscommunication, the movie is all over the place, with tones that shift from melodrama to black comedy. But the performances from a veteran cast led by James Caan make it worthwhile.

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MAIDEN – Review by Loren King

The timing could not be more perfect for the exhilarating, inspirational Maiden, director Alex Holmes’s documentary about the first ever all-female crew, led by a novice British skipper, that competed in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race. I’m not sure how well-known this story is outside England, or outside sailing circles, but seeing it unfold onscreen, with a captivating cast of real-life characters and stunning archival footage of the grueling race, one is thankful that it’s been so memorably revisited and brought to general attention.

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ASK FOR JANE – Review by Loren King

The recreation in Ask For Jane of a not-so-distant past in the US, when abortion was illegal and women risked literally everything to terminate pregnancies, would be compelling and important at any time. That this film, the debut feature from Rachel Carey, is out now when, day-by-day, states are passing laws that outlaw abortion and Roe v. Wade is in jeopardy, makes it especially devastating.

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BULL – Review by Loren King

Bull, the powerful, poetic debut feature from writer-director Annie Silverstein, is a portrait of an unlikely interracial and intergenerational friendship that develops between a 14 year-old Krystal, called Kris (Amber Havard), whose mother is in jail, and her middle-aged neighbor Abe Turner (Rob Morgan of Mudbound), a former star bull rider who now wrangles thrashing bulls at modest rodeos.

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