AWARE: GLIMPSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The documentary Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness is a heady experience – dare I say spiritual? – that stirs feelings of awe and wonder, humility and connection. In exploring how six people examine and probe just what consciousness is, the film creates a contemplative openness that words alone might find hard to describe. It’s a remarkable film.

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WHAT SHE SAID – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Trauma has a ripple effect, something that the empathetic indie drama What She Said recognizes. examining the anger and sadness experienced by a victim of rape. A year after she was raped, Sam has escaped to her family’s cabin over Thanksgiving to work on her dissertation. She’s also toying with the idea of dropping the charges before her rapist’s upcoming trial. When family and friends show up, the gathering becomes a millennial Big Chill-style encounter about the trauma.

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RUSHED – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Greek life on campuses is ripe for compelling stories. New York Magazine’s The Cut published an article just this month exploring the racism and classism in fraternities and sororities, using the University of Alabama’s sororities as an example. Rushed makes tangible the grief of the parents of a pledge who died during hazing, but the overall setup feels as if we’ve been here before.

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UNAPOLOGETIC – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Filmmaker Ashley O’Shea tracks two women, PhD candidate Janaé Bonsu and rap activist Ambrell “Bella Bahhs” Gambrell, who advocate for criminal justice reform. This is often thankless work, and it’s tricky to balance their personal and professional lives with their grass-roots efforts and their politics. Yet they’re determined to stay the course. Black women have too long shouldered other people’s burdens, they note. Here, they encourage one another, stand up to be heard, and listen.

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THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Amanda Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World follows four teens who hunger for the chance to challenge themselves, so much that they opt to study abroad for a year. Each chooses a country that outranks the United States in math or science on the Programme for International Student Assessment, colloquially called the PISA test.

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QUEEN OF THE BEACH – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Shooting a video in India for a church mission, Canadian filmmaker Christopher McDonell stopped by the beach in Goa to clear his head like so many other tourists drawn to the lush shores. He wound up making a friend who would captivate him for roughly a decade. Shilpa Poojar is just nine years old and selling clothing at a small booth to support her family when McDonell meets her in 2008 in his documentary, Queen of the Beach. She has responsibilities beyond her years, but Poojar also is precocious with charisma to spare.

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VAL – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Before he earned the nickname “Iceman” and became a 1990s icon as Batman, Val Kilmer loved goofing around in front of and behind a camera. He’s collected a treasure trove of footage throughout his life that the documentary Val pieces together into an immersive narrative about his love of art, acting, and family.

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LORELEI – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Regrets and yearnings for second chances haunt the hardscrabble lovers of Lorelei, a character study with natural performances that rise above its sometimes sluggish pace. After serving fifteen years for armed robbery, Wayland walks out of prison into the open arms of his biker gang and into a halfway house at a local church. He doesn’t expect to see his high school sweetheart there, in a support group for single moms.

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HOW IT ENDS – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Poets have wondered whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, in fire or in ice. The Los Angelenos in the quirky yet poignant comedy How It Ends aren’t quite as philosophical in the shadow of a meteor about to strike the Earth. Yet such circumstances call for reflection, facing fears, and resolving past regrets.

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