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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TO KILL THE BEAST (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

To Kill the Beast is a succinct and elegant film. Admirable for this lack of flab (a rare treat in today’s cinema landscape), Augustina San Martín’s pacing is impressive; never rushed, despite its short run-time it has a powerful rhythm, and reveals a filmmaker who understands the value of silence and stillness as much as noise and action. A highly sensory film focused largely on Emilia’s initial investigation that evolves into a journey of self-discovery.

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KICKING BLOOD (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

While there’s certainly elements here of previous cult bloodsucker films such as Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1995), Kicking Blood is very much its own beast, a not altogether easy thing to do in the much-trampled terrain of the vampire movie. With its breathtaking cinematography and effectively low-key performances, Kicking Blood is marked a unique spirit of slick delirium, where desire and ennui make strange yet effective bedfellows. For all its focus on supernatural beings, Kicking Blood is fundamentally a tale of humanity and the different shapes frailty and vulnerability can take.

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THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The Girl and the Spider is carried by an ambient, undefined intensity that works in curious tension with its micro-dramas and unspoken personal dramas that makes it consistently intriguing. Henriette Confurius’s performance itself makes the film worth visiting; Mara could be grafted as-is into a much nastier film and be a perfectly comfortable fit, and The Girl and the Spider knowingly plays with these elements of her personality through its carefully chosen iconography.

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