CABRINI – Review by Loren King

Director Alejandro Monteverde means to educate and inspire as the film traces the diminutive Italian nun’s journey to New York from Italy in the early 1900s with the intention of establishing charitable missions. Settling with her group of five other nuns and joined by a young prostitute in the notorious Five Points where newly arrived Italians struggle to survive in grotesquely inhumane conditions, Cabrini battles virulent discrimination and indifference to eventually build orphanages and hospitals that will serve the Italian immigrants shunned by the rest of New York.

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SHAYDA – Review by Loren King

In her compelling feature debut about a young mother’s flight from domestic abuse, Australian-Iranian writer/director Noora Niasari creates tension that simmers from the first scene to the last frame. Zar Amir Ebrahimi is superb as the title character, a Iranian woman living in Australia in 1995 with her young daughter Mona (Selina Zahednia). Shayda is attempting to leave her abusive husband, Hossein (Osamah Sami), a medical student who intends to move back to Iran with Shadya and Mona, despite Shayda’s steps to obtain a divorce. Fearful that the angry Hossein will abduct Mona, Shadya and her daughter take refuge in a women’s shelter run by the non-nonsense but compassionate Joyce (the excellent Leah Purcell.

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THE TASTE OF THINGS – Review by Loren King

The Taste of Things features elaborately prepared meals that will send a hungry viewer running to the fridge or the concession stand. But of course the film is about much more than food. It’s about chefs as artists who lovingly and painstakingly prepare their creations and about memories evoked by even the simplest dishes. It’s about the passage of time; the change of the seasons; the quest for perfection; about love, beauty and the light the fills the 19th century French farmhouse kitchen in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

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FITTING IN – Review by Loren King

Fitting In is about 16 year-old Lindy (Maddie Zeigler) as she navigates the rough waters of sex, gender and body image after she is diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a surprisingly not uncommon congenital condition that means she doesn’t menstruate, has a small vaginal canal and no uterus. This fact will be an education to many but there’s nothing clinical about the film which handles its story and characters with both humor and substance.

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PASANG: IN THE SHADOW OF EVEREST – Review by Loren King

What an illuminating introduction to Pasang Lhasa Sherpa, the first Nepali woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1993. Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest is an inspirational, against-the-odds documentary that gives an unsung hero her due. But director Nancy Svendsen also crafts a fascinating look at the cultural and political climate of Nepal at the time. Women were second class citizens. Although women from India, France and Britain were among the adventurous climbers making the daring trek up and down Everest, (aided by Sherpa, the native ethnic minority in Nepal), Nepali women did not have the resources, institutional backing or financial support to do so. That’s what makes the story of Pasang’s quest so captivating and moving.

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MAY DECEMBER – Review by Loren King

With shades of Hitchcock and Bergman’s Persona, May December keeps viewers guessing and off kilter, in a good way. Subtle, strange and riveting, Todd Haynes and his two compelling leads present a stylish mix of tabloid sensation and a psychological portrait; it’s a heady mix of irresistible but uneasy entertainment.

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REMY AND ARLETTA – Review by Loren King

The coming of age teen friendship indie Remy and Arletta is distinguished by the distinct voice and vision of Micaela Wittman who adapted her recent eponymous novel. Wittman stars in the film as Remy, a floundering high school senior who lives in a shabby motel room with her abusive, alcoholic mother. It’s an unflinching depiction of a pivotal time in the young woman’s life — Remy lives under the erratic tyranny of her religious zealot mother. She has little escape in the oppressive open sprawl of Arizona where Christmas trees are wreaths are sold in a sun-drenched lot.

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ANATOMY OF A FALL – Review by Loren King

The title Anatomy of a Fall, not to mention the striking US poster graphic of a prone body, brings to mind Otto Preminger’s 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder and Saul Bass’s iconic poster art. Although Anatomy of a Fall is just as riveting a courtroom drama, it’s an unconventional one. Director and co-writer Justine Triet keeps the viewer engaged but off-kilter and she adroitly layers surprises and ambiguity. That’s just right for a film about what’s heard but not seen; the fine line between reality and fiction; how memory might not be trusted; and how two people can recall the same events with shaded perceptions.

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SHE CAME TO ME – Review by Loren King

Writer and filmmaker Rebecca Miller’s first film since the too-little-seen Maggie’s Plan starring Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore and Ethan Hawke in 2015, She Came to Me is a charming fairy tale about finding romance in a magical New York. In her films and works of literature, Miller has always delivered a strong personal voice and characters, particularly women, that are individual, flawed and fully human.

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OUR FATHER, THE DEVIL – Review by Loren King

What an extraordinary debut feature from Ellie Foumbi. She blends compelling visuals such as reflections in glass and solitary shots of central character Marie (an exquisite Babetida Sadjo) with an intense story that’s both wrenching human drama and gripping thriller. Marie is an African immigrant living in France and working as head chef at a retirement home. Her life is upended on a random work day when she comes face to face with the newly arrived African priest Father Patrick. But Marie knows him as the young soldier and warlord Sojo who, as part of a violent militia back in Africa, killed her family and then kidnapped, raped and tortured her.

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