SMALL BODY (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

In the introduction to the screening of her feature debut Small Body, Italian filmmaker Laura Samani reveals its origins were in 2016 when a man told her about a local legend that held stillborn babies could be brought briefly back to life long enough to be baptized. Instantly fascinated by the story, Samani learned that official history frequently put men in the center of these stories and – as is her nature – she was willfully drawn to find the cracks in that assumption, and to discover where women fit.

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YUNI (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

internal lives of young people in Indonesia is filmmaker Kamila Andini’s primary focus, but Yuni is as much a sensory, immersive portrait inviting us into the world of her characters as it is an exercise in pure storytelling. With Yuni’s signature passion for all things purple (so much so that she engages in minor theft), the her world – her ‘true’ world – is one filled with color and movement, particularly when hanging out with her friends, chatting about Instagram, cute teachers, sexuality and more serious things, like their school’s attempt to introduce virginity exams to verify the ‘purity’ of its women students.

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QUICKENING (TIFF 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

In Quickening, Shelia Chaudhary (Arooj Azeem) is a young woman at a crossroads. A 19-year-old performing arts student at university, she is passionate about her studies and finds herself immersed in a world at school seemingly a million miles away from that of her opulent family home where she lives with her traditional Pakistani family in suburban Ontario. Darting between college parties with her friends and Pakistani community gatherings with her parents, the identity tug-of-war the young woman finds herself in escalates rapidly when, after a sexual encounter with a young man in her class that she has had a crush on, Sheila learns she is pregnant.

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BEBA (TIFF 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Deeply intimate and unfiltered, Rebeca “Beba” Huntt talks of her experience as an Afro-Latina artist raised in a one-bedroom apartment in New York with her two siblings and her immigrant parents. The documentary speaks explicitly to the intergenerational aspect of trauma linked to race, class and gender. Huntt pushes herself through the search for self in a range of ways, spanning from aggressive to poetic, frequently straddling both simultaneously.

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WHERE IS ANNE FRANK (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

We are told in Where is Anne Frank’s prologue that writer/director Ari Folman’s parents were sent to Auschwitz the same week as famed diarist Anne Frank. That was part of the inspiration for this animated feature examining her life from the perspective of Kitty, the imaginary friend Anne chose as recipient of her feelings and experiences in her diary. Kitty magically materializes in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, innocent of what happened to her dear friend. She must seek out the answers to her whereabouts. In that way, Folman sets up a clever and insightful way of both explaining the Holocaust to young viewers, and considering in what ways we are currently in danger of repeating history.

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THE STARLING (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Eventually everyone gains expert status on loss. If you think you’re immune, you aren’t. This is something director Theodore Melfi banks on with his new film The Starling a dramedy in which parents Lilly and Jack Maynard are grappling with grief from losing their baby daughter Katie to SIDS. The Starling works the extended metaphor of Lilly’s inability to control a bird in her garden that repeatedly attacks her while protecting its nest as a reference reference the grieving parents’ inability to deal with their sadness. The film works and reworks that metaphor and others to such an exhaustive degree that it might as well be the audience members getting dive-bombed à la Tippy Hedren in The Birds.

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THE GUILTY (TIFF2021)- Review by Leslie Combemale

“Broken people save broken people.” That’s how Christina Vidal as Sgt Denise Wade explains Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Joe Baylor in Antoine Fuqua’s incredibly tense new film The Guilty. If the movie proves one thing, it’s that nothing is simple, and nothing is what it seems. Here, Fuqua teams up with Gyllenhaal in a pandemic-era story that unfolds in real time, bringing the audience on a gripping 90 minute wild ride, while the cameras stay almost exclusively in one room.

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ENCOUNTER (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

An alien threat leads decorated soldier Malik (Riz Ahmed) to kidnap his sons Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) and take them across the Southwest desert highways in Encounter, the latest genre-bender by English director Michael Pearce. The film, which is also co-written by Pearce, affirms him as a talent with vision, showing he has an ability to intermingle the tensions unique to psychodrama and sci-fi actioners, while offering a showcase for Ahmed, an actor who, with Malik, is adding to his arsenal of unforgettable performances.

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Women @ New York Film Fest 2021 – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

The 59th edition of the New York Film Festival runs from September 24 – October 10, 2021. According to our rough calculations, over a third of the features in this year’s NYFF were directed by women, which include nearly half of the films in the “Currents” slate, which emphasizes “new and innovative forms and voices” within contemporary cinemas, and 40% of the “Revivals.” Nine of the features in the coveted “Main Slate” were directed by women, many of them highly anticipated releases. Here’s a rundown…

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Telluride Film Festival 2021 Wrap – Diane Carson reports

As always, the Telluride Film Festival offered an awe-inspiring, diverse selection of contemporary and historically notable films, too many to see even with the extra day added to the 2021 Labor Day weekend. Of the thirty-eight main selections, the six chosen by guest director Barry Jenkins, the compilation programs of Student Prints, Calling Cards, and Great Expectations programs, I managed sixteen screenings. It’s a feast that always leaves me, now in my twenty-fifth year of attendance, ecstatic for the medium and frustrated that I can’t see every offering.

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