MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 26, 2024: TOTEM

The warm, realistic chaos at the center of Lila Avilés’ drama Totem is both charming and poignant, drawing viewers into the hustle and bustle of a large Mexican family preparing for a big party while making it clear that the reason for their celebration is a hard one. Watching it all is seven-year-old Sol (impressive newcomer Naíma Sentíes), who knows that something difficult is coming but doesn’t want to believe or accept it.

Read more

TOTEM – Review by Leslie Combemale

In the most unsentimental of ways, the narrative feature Tótem shows a family walking life’s path encumbered by the worst of circumstances. Mexico’s submission for this year’s Academy Awards, Tótem centers one day in the life of 7-year old Sol (the luminous Naíma Senties), as she helps prepare for her dad’s birthday party. This is the most and least ordinary and extraordinary of days. Birthdays are a time for joy, yes? They are a time for looking forward. And yet, we learn early on this one is different early on. When asked to share a wish she’s made out loud, the audience learns the weight Sol carries on her too-young shoulders. She answers matter of factly, “I wished for daddy not to die”.

Read more

AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Oscar Best Picture Noms Are a Muddle – Thelma Adams reports

The Golden Globe nominations are in, along with those of the National Board of Review winners and a host of critics’ groups – Why is Oscar’s Best Picture still in such a muddle? It seems to me that the potential winners have been split into distinct categories, like potential Jeopardy questions: Barbenheimer; All the Big Dudes; The Cool Kids; The Internationals; and Outlier Odds and Ends.

Read more

TÓTEM (Melbourne IFF 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

With the highly anticipated follow-up to her 2018 film The Chambermaid, Mexican filmmaker Lila Avilés returns with an immersive portrait of a family in crisis in Tótem. With a particular focus on seven-year-old Sol (Naíma Sentíes), the little girl readies herself with her mother as she is dropped off at her grandfather’s home as the family prepare a special birthday party for Sol’s father, Tona (Mateo Garcia) who has terminal cancer. Tracking the family across the day of preparations as the celebration moves nearer, tensions rise and the bonds that tether the family to each other are put to the test.

Read more