SKATER GIRL – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The idea that one small step can change a person’s life anchors the warmhearted Skater Girl. Expectations around gender and caste are conflicts that director Manjari Makijany packs into the film. Skater Girl feels overstuffed at times with plot threads and skateboarding montages. Yet its uplifting moments have the thrill of watching a skater catch air.

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PORT AUTHORITY – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

In Port Authority, writer-director Danielle Lessovitz weaves a tender story of love, family, and self-discovery around a white youth unable to express himself and a black trans woman who only wants honesty. Twenty-year-old Paul arrives at New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal from Pittsburgh, aiming for a fresh start. After fighting off a couple of guys who try to steal his phone on the subway, he falls in with Lee who takes Paul to a shelter.

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PROFILE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The thriller Profile takes the concept of creating a different life online and immerses it in real-world intrigue. Filmed as if the action takes place via internet interaction entirely via desktops and cell phones, it depicts an undercover journalist trying to infiltrate the ISIS recruitment network by mimicking other radicalized Western young women on social media.

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HONESTY WEEKEND – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Honesty Weekend takes the reliable comedic recipe of tossing several couples together during a road trip or a vacation, a la The Four Seasons, The Big Chill, and Flirting with Disaster. Laughs and tough truths inevitably ensue. Here, writer-director Leslie Anne Thomas adds an intriguing layer: having one married couple in counseling swear to unflinching honesty.

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DUTY FREE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Rebecca Danigelis loves being professional and precise. A hotel housekeeping supervisor for years, hair coiffed and makeup in place, she checks that everything in a room is just so. “You take things that look like nothing and make them look great,” she says. Then the hotel decides to reorganize and eliminates her position. At 75, she feels like she was “tossed away,” with little prospect of employment.

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THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Some tattoos have such design and craftsmanship, they’re works of art. But what happens when a tattoo transforms someone into living artwork, effectively dehumanizing them? The Man Who Sold His Skin, an Oscar-nominee for Best International Feature Film, puts this dilemma on display through Sam, a Syrian refugee who consents to a full-back tattoo of a visa, then finds that this literal stamp of freedom confines him in other ways.

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SHIVA BABY – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Watching college student Danielle endure a shiva that becomes her personal hell in the comedic drama Shiva Baby will trigger sparks of recognition in anyone who’s lived through similar gauntlets. Weddings, reunions, and even funerals often have that surface interaction with people we haven’t seen in ages and various insecurities underneath.

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I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING) (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the crux of the story in I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), but it adds a relatable layer to this endearing feature about a single mom’s daylong hustle to earn cash for an apartment. A small story with large stakes for its main character, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) reminds us there’s a lot going on in someone’s life, even when they insist all’s well. It’s an appeal for empathy with a lot of heart.

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