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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 12.Aug.22
Bloom Up: A Swinger Couple Story  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Bloom Up: A Swinger Couple Story
dir-scr-prd Mauro Russo Rouge
with Elisabetta Barbero, Hermes Osnato, Ezio, Sara, Simona, Francesco, Laura, Maurizio, Miriam, Serena, Denise, Lorenzo, Katia, Valentina, Romana, Filippo, Massimo, Nunzio, Michele, Celeste, Karem, Fuego
release It Jun.21 bff,
US 12.Aug.22
21/Italy 1h28

Now streaming...

elisabetta and hermes
With unusual honesty, this documentary follows a couple who happily express their positive sexuality. Filmmaker Mauro Russo Rouge's camera observes them in intimate situations as part of their joyous swinger lifestyle with other couples and singles. The approach is remarkable in the way it never even hints at a moral judgement, simply taking the audience into a world that isn't remotely shocking for the people who live there.
In Italy, married parents Elisabetta and Hermes run a neighbourhood pet shop. And with their tattoos and rock-n-roll style, they're a middle-aged couple in touch with their youthfully adventurous side. They're also planning a sex party for four or five couples in Turin at the weekend. There, things quickly turn affectionate as the clothes fall off. Of course, not all of their dinner parties segue into full-on love-ins. And the risk in their "wonderful parallel world" is that they might fall in love with someone else, because these powerful feelings can be difficult to control.
Assembled in a relaxed fly-on-the-wall style, much of the film simply captures Elizabetta and Hermes in their daily routine with the store and at home, plus the usual flurry of getting ready to go out. Parties begin with socialising before shifting into montage sequences that are accompanied by a pulsing electronic music score with added moans of pleasure. This soft-porn touch feels a bit comical after the banal set-ups, especially as the sex itself is shot artfully and with some discretion.

But most of the movie consists of scenes of Elisabetta and Hermes interacting in conversation with each other and their friends. After 13 years together, this playful couple is still deeply in love, and they also enjoy socialising with their "vertical" friends, many of whom know nothing about the other side of their life. The film covers a range of events in their lives, from bowling to a scantily clad frolic in the rain to questions about their future.

The film depicts them as a normal couple with a lifestyle that doesn't remotely define them. They recognise that a lot of people have a problem with this scene, and even attendees at their parties can miss the point. But among their friends, they have an ease at discussing the most intimate issues. They also share their story to the cameras with bracing openness. Their views of the world and their own bodies are intriguingly wholistic, and they believe that this lifestyle is a healthy way to open the mind. Who are we to judge?

cert 15 themes, sexuality 10.Aug.22

Fadia’s Tree  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Fadia's Tree
dir-scr Sarah Beddington
prd Susan Simnett, Sarah Beddington
with Fadia Loubani, Sarah Beddington, Sami Backleh, Amir Balaban, Simon Awad, Nemzia Awad, Abu Jehad Loubani, Mahmoud Salaam, Khalil Moussa, Ali Kassem, Razan Mograbi, Violette Hakmeh
release UK 5.Aug.22
21/UK 1h26

Now streaming...

Sensitively shot and edited, this documentary traces a journey sparked by a relationship between a refugee and a filmmaker. The beautiful imagery captures a mix of nature, culture, history and eye-opening experiences, all from an unusually engaging perspective. Filmmaker Sarah Beddington makes offbeat connections along the way, which add layers of emotion and insight to tell a deeply personal story in the context of a much bigger world.
It's been 15 years since a chance encounter in Beirut between Palestinian Fadia and British filmmaker Sarah, after which they visit Fadia's home in the city's grim Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp. During a long conversation, Fadia shares fond memories of a house on a hill in her home village Sa'sa, in the very north of Israel. She holds on to a memory of a mulberry tree there, which has witnessed her family history for generations. Guiding her by telephone, Sarah goes in search of this tree that Fadia knows must also remember her family.
Fadia has an infectious personality. As a teacher, she has established a thriving school for refugee children, working to give them a positive start in life. She shares her story of being married and becoming a mother of two as a teen, then being widowed shortly after her parents and siblings emigrated to Europe. With no options, she fled to Lebanon. Her anecdotes are fascinating, such as an account of her father's final visit to Sa'sa. The film conveys these things with striking lyricism, remaining curious and compassionate.

Instead of using a voiceover narration, Sarah accompanies her artful camerawork with subtle captions that trace the history of Palestine. Not everyone who appears on-screen to share their observations and stories is identified, so scenes create a much larger picture of the terrible situation for a people groups that have lost their homelands. Following Fadia on a journey around the region is wonderful, enjoying the landscapes and thrilled to see the sun and moon at the same time, something she can't do in the heavily over-built camp.

Along the way, Sarah interviews a few ornithologists and trains her cameras on the birds that migrate freely throughout the Middle East, while experts observe how the wall Israel has constructed has disrupted other animals' natural movements. This of course cleverly echoes Fadia's feelings: "I hate borders so much!" And without being political, this also makes the film a compelling exploration of how it feels to be a person who has had to flee their native land.

cert u some themes 2.Aug.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall