AILEY – Review by Loren King

Director Jamila Wignot blends performance, poetry and social consciousness in her documentary Ailey, about modern dance legend Alvin Ailey. Wignot crafts an impressionistic portrait of the artist and his time that’s reminiscent of the revelatory I Am Not Your Negro, the 2016 film about iconic writer James Baldwin.

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PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY – Review by Loren King

If underwater photographer, filmmaker and conservationist Valerie May Taylor didn’t exist, the movies would have to invent her. Lucky for us she does, and Sally Aitken’s revelatory and fascinating documentary Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story gives Taylor, now a spry 85, her well-deserved due.

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REBEL HEARTS – Review by Loren King

Like a more positive, but no less galling, companion to Ryan White’s 2017 Netflix doc series The Keepers, director Pedro Kos’s new documentary Rebel Hearts shows Catholic Church authoritarianism and hypocrisy from the point of view of nuns. The film is a lively and informative look at Los Angeles’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters, an order that ran their own college in Los Feliz outside of diocese rule.

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LES NOTRES – Review by Loren King

Among several recent standout films such as Groomed and Slalom that are about the sexual manipulation and abuse of young girls, director Jeanne Leblanc’s Les Notres (Our Own) distinguishes itself for its seeming “normal” depiction of small town life until it gradually turns dark and uncomfortable.

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THE COUNTY – Review by Loren King

Icelandic filmmaker Grímur Hákonarson’s The County is an evocative portrait of stoic dairy farmer Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir) as she quietly but forcefully challenges the co-operative that, over the years, has lost sight of its original, idealistic purpose. The co-op, under the leadership of Eyjólfur (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), has become an oppressive force to the struggling community of farmers, forcing them to buy products such as fertilizer at high co-op prices and restricting how they sell their hard-earned milk.

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Maria Sødahl on HOPE, Survival and Filmmaking – Loren King interviews

With her stunning drama Hope, Norwegian writer/director Maria Sødahl artfully uses a woman’s cancer diagnosis as the portal though which she examines nothing less than life, loss, marriage and mortality. Hope is deeply personal: Sødahl’s own cancer diagnosis forced her to take a nine-year hiatus from filmmaking after her acclaimed debut, Limbo, set in 1970s Trinidad. About four years ago, as Sødahl found herself ready to write again, her life-altering experience was something she simply could not avoid exploring in a script.

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HOPE – Review by Loren King

It takes remarkable insight and confidence to create a devastating portrait of a marriage inside a film about a woman facing her own mortality. That’s what writer/director Maria Sødahl does with searing Hope, Norway’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film Oscar. The film is so specific in its truthfulness that it isn’t a surprise to learn that it’s based on Sødahl’s own experience of a terminal cancer diagnosis that led to a nine-year hiatus from filmmaking. Of course, personal experience doesn’t always translate into art but in this case, it does.

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SLALOM – Review by Loren King

Slalom is one of the best of many recent strong films — Promising Young Woman, The Assistant, Groomed and Athlete A among them — that fit under the #metoo umbrella as they examine young women and girls exploited and harassed by predatory men. With its assured tone and sharp visual style, Slalom is a realistic coming of age film with a contemporary bite. It is a remarkable debut feature from French director and co-writer Charlene Favier that unwinds like a tightly balled fist.

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