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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 3.Nov.21
Against the Current Á Móti Straumnum
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Oskar Pall Sveinsson
scr Margret Ornolfsdottir
prd Petur Einarsson, Kristin Olafsdottir
with Veiga Gretarsdottir, Gretar S Petursson, Solveig S Kristinsdottir, Orlygur Sigurjonsson, Gudni Pall Viktorsson, Helga Snaedal, Kristinn Gretarsson, Bjarki Jonsson, Elin Esther Magnusdottir, Ottar Gudmundsson, Hannes Sigurjonsson, Elisabet Petursdottir
release Ice 9.Oct.20,
US 25.Jun.21, UK Nov.21 rff
Beautifully shot in spectacular locations, this introspective documentary traces a daring physical challenge. And as a trans woman, Veiga Gretarsdottir's life has been full of challenges. The movie doesn't shy away from bleak elements of her story, but it maintains a sense of positivity, facing each obstacle with dignity and tenacity. Filmmaker Oskar Pall Sveinsson keeps the tone earthy and warm, celebrating a woman who has never followed the crowd.
Veiga is preparing to kayak around Iceland, a daunting 2,000-kilometre journey. Her parents Gretar and Solveig are worried about dangerous currents and enormous fogbanks, while kayaker Gudni explains how this journey is more perilous than climbing K2. But Veiga has been training extensively in pools and the sea, and her kayaking pal Orlygur is accompanying her on the first stage. As she makes her along the way the coastline, she's able to visit parts of her country very few get to see. And it also feels like she's grounding herself to her own personal history.
Even Veiga's hometown Isafjordur is gorgeous, with severe hills, snowy landscapes and a turbulent blue sea. As she travels, cameras visit amazing locations along the way. Meanwhile, the film recounts Veiga's story with interviews and snapshots, so we see her as a boy participating in laddish activities. But she knew it wasn't right, that she was overcompensating. Her love of mechanical detail led to a career in metallurgy. And she had two children with ex-wife Helga before coming out as trans, something she knew about herself from a very early age but was reluctant to accept.
Stubborn and independent, she speaks about her happy childhood with her siblings and always being called the black sheep of the family. And she speaks about how she's blocked chunks of her childhood because she didn't know how to deal with her feelings. The film reveals that there's a lot of love between Veiga, her parents, brothers and daughter. Even Helga is moved remembering how her husband gradually disappeared. No one worries about pronouns when telling stories from her past.
Over her 103-day journey, Veiga prefers being alone, able to do what she wants on her own timescale. This intentionality informs her whole life, tempered with a wry Scandinavian sense of humour. She's aware that she's a rare role model for others like her. This adds a deeper emotionality to her transition, especially as she faces both supportive and threatening reactions along the way. It's also an unusual film that faces the more difficult aspects of trans life straight-on, remaining honest without apology or regret.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Alessandro Rossellini
prd Raffaele Brunetti
scr Andrea Paolo Massara, Alessandro Rossellini, Davis Simanis Jr
with Alessandro Rossellini, Isabella Rossellini, Renzo Rossellini, Robin Rossellini, Ingrid Rossellini, Nur Rossellini, Gil Rossellini, Katherine Cohen, Tommaso Rossellini, Elettra Rossellini, Roberto Rossellini, Caleb Lane
release It 26.Oct.20,
UK Nov.21 rff
20/Italy Rai 1h30
VENICE FILM FEST
There's an offhanded honesty to this documentary, in which Alessandro Rossellini explores his sprawling family and the meaning of his famous grandfather's legacy. Key film clips and extensive archival footage are included that tellingly explore layers of family history. But the filmmaker's goal is to reveal stories that have never been told and find the defining factor that keeps him so closely connected to his aunts, uncles and cousins.
At 55, ex-addict Alessandro has had an uneven photography career and now wants to look into his identity as the first grandchild of genius filmmaker Roberto, who had a state funeral when he died in 1977. So he coaxes his family members in front of his camera, examining common traits like the lack of a moral compass, addiction issues and an allergy to lasting relationships. Alessandro feels close to his many relatives, and he travels to visit various aunts and uncles, including photogenic Robin in Sweden, camera-shy Ingrid in New York and Nur in Qatar.
Quick-moving and colourful, the film covers Roberto's three marriages: he left Alessandro's grandmother Marcella to marry iconic actress Ingrid Bergman, then took their three children from her and made them live on their own as he married Sonali Senroy and started a third family. Alessandro spends extra time with his famous Aunt Isabella, and he admits that when he's around her he has the same intimidating feelings as when he faced his grandfather. No wonder she has become the de facto Rossellini matriarch.
As Alessandro puts it, Roberto left his films to the world but he only left his family with lots of conflict. It was his 1945 masterpiece Rome Open City that transformed both cinema and the Rossellini family forever, bringing wealth and fame, plus expectations still passed down through the generations. Seeking his own artistic voice, the mixed-race Alessandro grew up feeling unworthy of the name. But as he talks about this with his multi-cultural, multi-ethnic relatives, he realises he has more in common with them than he expected.
The film includes a range of highs and lows over the decades, never shying away from more difficult situations while openly accepting even the biggest scandals from the past. Tellingly, Isabella says that the primary trait in the family is neediness, and she has to remind Alessandro that she's not exempt. So as he speaks to his relatives, the film becomes a fascinating portrait of both the effects of fame and the inexpressible things that bind a family together.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr-prd Anicee Gohar
with Mohanad "Kojak" Aglan, Nabila Yassin, Alaa Aglan, Mohamed Aglan, Ahmed Sorour, Mostafa Waheed, Aya Negm, Dorra Zarrouk, Ines Gohar, Arwa Gouda, Maha Abou Ouf, Talee Dennis
release UK Nov.21 rff 21/Egypt 58m
This documentary about rising star Egyptian fashion designer Kojak takes on the thorny issue of being a queer artist in the Middle East with openness and honesty. Filmmaker Anicee Gohar vividly captures Kojak's energy and style, including lots of glitter and glamour. Even at just an hour long, this film provides a remarkably complex portrait of a bright young designer who is quietly determined to change his harshly proscriptive culture.
In Cairo, Kojak is a friendly 24-year-old with a distinct fashion eye. His mother Nabila recalls him being obsessed with art, colour and fabric from a very young age. Rejecting rules, he launched his career at 18 before appearing on Project Runway Middle East. Kojak's family has supported him from the start, but he has also been badly bullied, sometimes violently. Even so, he refuses to be ashamed of who he is. And while he knows he would have more freedom to be himself outside Egypt, he would rather stay and fight than run away.
Actors and models speak about Kojak as a true original who pushes boundaries with everything he does, always coming up with fresh looks for catwalks and red carpets. Even his couturier doesn't always get his ideas at first. Everyone is impressed at his self-confidence, which puts those around him at ease. The film is a terrific mix of interviews with fly-on-the-wall footage of Kojak both backstage at fashion events and at lively gatherings with friends and family. Some of the parties are downright epic.
Scenes at home with his cats reveal Kojak's more relaxed side, underneath his confident public persona. He chats mainly about his career, but also touches on efforts to fit into his home culture, including tiny things like removing his earring before talking to the police about someone who has been threatening him. Clips of his video productions reveal a stunningly gorgeous fantasy life intermingling with Egypt's daily realities. And it's fascinating to see him take inspiration from his family and culture as he designs his lavish creations.
He gets excited when he sees shows by Alexander, Galliano and Lacroix, mainly because he realises that his nonstop flow of artistic ideas are on the right track. His Diversity photoshoot was criticised for both a woman in a pink burkha and a man in high heels. And he embraces criticism, determined to confront the pressures society puts on people. His key truth is both simple and profound: if you love and accept yourself, then you will not have any problem loving and accepting the people around you.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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