MEDUSA (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Medusa is wild, glamorous, and marked with a dark, slick fury. But it’s not all surface sheen; Anita Rocha da Silveira is clearly no one’s fool and has little interest in subtlety in her take-down of the hypocrisy and violence of the religious right. While set in contemporary Brazil, there’s a universality to the film’s tale of young women caught in the contradictory frenzy of the unrelenting gaze of others – male and female – which, of course, contains a power that the film’s very name underscores with its ancient, mythic potency.

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YAKUZA PRINCESS (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Rachel West

Directed by Vicente Amorim and based on the graphic novel Samurai Shirô by Danilo Beyrouth, Yakuza Princess is set in São Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. Hyper-violent Yakuza Princess offers little intrigue to audiences with a tired script and a emotionless performance by Japanese singer-songwriter Masumi in her film debut.

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KING CAR (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

King Car is fluffy fun. Outside of some tonally inconsistent sex scenes between the minor character of Mercedes – an erotic performance artist – and the central sentient car of the film’s title, this could otherwise quite easily pass as a contemporary riff on the old after school specials. There are heavy boys’ adventure tale vibes here, given a modern angle by basically combining elements of Knight Rider and Christine, pushing it all through a rather explicit socialist lens and adding a good dollop of environmental didacticism for good measure.

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QUEEN OF LAPA – Review by Diane Carson

Luana, a sex worker since age, is a nationally recognized activist who established a safe hostel where transgender sex workers to live and work. Filmmakers Theodore Collatos and Carolina Monnerat hang out in the hostel, following the ladies day to day, overhearing conversations, watching brief performances and visiting the streets. What becomes obvious, and as one says, “We’re like a family. . . we cry, we love, we fight.”

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INVISIBLE LIFE – Review by Martha K Baker

Best not confuse Terrence Malik’s stunning study of a conscientious objector with Karim Aïnouz’ study of two sisters. Mallik’s film is entitled A Hidden Life and Aïnouz’ is Invisible Life. Both detail life in the shadows, but the South American film wrenches in a different way, the way of sorority.

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THREE SUMMERS – TIFF19 Review by Pam Grady

Acclaimed Brazilian actress Regina Casé—a Special Grand Jury prize winner at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival for her work in The Second Mother—delivers a richly empathetic and immensely likeable portrait of a striver whose heart is as big as her ambition in Sandra Kogut’s diverting drama.

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Bacurau – TIFF 19 Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A ‘human safari’ tour business brings blood-thirsting North Americans to South America to let loose with their desire to kill in what what their intrinsic racism allows them to frame as “ethical”. They consider murdering rural, poor Brazilians a moral act superior to letting loose at a local shopping mall or elementary school in the United States.

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