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|Shadows off the beaten path|
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 11.Oct.23|
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Mascha Halberstad
scr Fiona van Heemstra
prd Marleen Slot
voices Hiba Ghafry, Kees Prins, Jelka van Houten, Henry van Loon, Matsen Montsma, Loes Luca, John Kraaijkamp Jr, Alex Klaasen, Remko Vrijdag, Tosca Menten, Fockeline Ouwerkerk
release Ned 13.Jul.22,
US 9.Dec.22, UK Oct.23 ff
BERLIN FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
With brightly energetic and wonderfully detailed stop-motion animation, this Dutch adventure is like a balm for the soul. Witty verbal and visual touches fill each scene, creating superbly complex characters, including a cuddly pig that simply can't control itself. The story takes a series of riotous twists and turns along the way, and at its heart centres on the sweet connection between a young girl and her beloved pet.
At 9 years old, Babs (Ghafry) enjoys hanging out skateboarding with her friend Tijn (Montsma), but as a vegetarian can't share his love of sausages. Then her long-lost, banjo-playing Grandpa Tuitjes (Prins) makes a surprise visit from America. He's not used to eating veggie food, but plays along. And Babs' mum Margreet (van Houten) is wary about him due to their strained past. Then for her birthday, Grandpa buys Babs an adorably cheeky piglet she names Oink. But getting him to behave is a challenge, so Babs enrols him in a puppy obedience class.
Annoyed at having to give up their clubhouse shed in the garden, Babs and Tijn play a few pranks on Grandpa, who has brought a mysterious locked case with him. Aunt Christine (Luca) is sure that he's up to something. And it isn't long before he rekindles his decades-old rivalry with the cranky village butcher (Kraaijkamp) as the village's 100th King Sausage competition approaches.
Each character has his or her own quirks. Margreet is hugely protective of her garden, while her husband Nol (van Loon) struggles with crossword puzzles. Intrepid and principled, Babs calls sausages "ground-up dead animals". When one adult badly betrays her, she leads the entire town in a madcap chase to prevent Oink from being turned into sausages, shifting into a hilarious, revolting conclusion that's outrageously satisfying.
While this expertly made film is packed with elements children will love, including Oink's incontinence, it builds enjoyably to a genuinely suspenseful climax for all ages, complete with with a menacing knife and meat-grinder. And we are completely won over by the tenacious, heroic actions of this little girl in the face of adults who simply can't understand. The vegetarian message may feel a bit corny, but the movie might also put us off sausages for good.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr-prd Cristian Mungiu
with Marin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Barladeanu, Orsolya Moldovan, Jozsef Biro, Cerasela Iosifescu, Andrei Finti, Mark Edward Blenyesi, Amitha Jayasinghe, Gihan Edirisinghe, Nuwan Karunarathna, Maria Dragus
release Rom 3.Jun.22,
US 7.Apr.23, UK 22.Sep.23
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
A lacerating look at xenophobia, this small-town Romanian drama digs under the surface of a community devouring itself with bigotry and fear. The title is a localised pun on MRI, and filmmaker Cristian Mungiu paints a complex portrait of a range of people who clash in extreme ways. It's elusive and sometimes absurd, assembled from a series of random, expertly staged scenes. And it builds to a powerful climax.
After working in Germany, Matthias (Grigore) returns to rural Romania and attempts to reconnect with his estranged wife Ana (Barladeanu), 8-year-old son Rudi (Benyesi) and girlfriend Csilla (State), manager of an expanding bakery. Struggling to find locals willing to work for minimum wage, Csilla has hired two Sri Lankan bakers (Jayasinghe and Edirisinghe) to meet increased demand. But now the residents are up in arms that foreigners are in their midst and touching their bread. Csilla and owner Mrs Denes (Moldovan) struggle against these increasingly violent attitudes, which are encouraged by the hapless priest (Biro).
Through all of this, Rudi is traumatised by something he saw in the woods, and is afraid to walk to school alone. Matthias simply can't accept that Rudi isn't behaving bravely, so he tries to toughen him up with survival training, even as his own demanding father (Finti) has become seriously ill. Matthias also can't cope with Csilla's free-spirited open-mindedness, as she resists allowing him to own her. In this village, many people have mixed heritage and have worked abroad, but they still feel that these foreigners don't belong.
The large ensemble cast creates an entire local population with often bracing realism. There's a wide variety of attitudes on display, most impressively in a single-shot town hall meeting in which the haters insist that their majority numbers give them the right to expel the Asians. At the centre, Grigore has a wonderfully inscrutable presence, refusing to take sides, although that itself is a decision. His scenes with both Barlandeanu and State bristle with all kinds of awkward energy and chemistry. And young Benyesi has fantastic screen presence.
What all of this depicts is almost horrifyingly resonant across Europe, as it echoes the exact argues made by proponents of Brexit who were consumed by their deep-seated prejudice, blaming all of their self-inflicted woes on outsiders. Not only are they the real problem, but they are the ones inflicting the most harm. Mungiu plays this with an open hand, exploring internal motivations and reactions without much clear plotting. And where it goes has a surreal kick that leaves us thinking.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Lila Aviles
prd Lila Aviles, Tatiana Graullera , Louise Riousse
with Naima Senties, Montserrat Maranon, Marisol Gase, Saori Gurza, Mateo Garcia Elizondo, Teresita Sanchez, Juan Francisco Maldonado, Iazua Larios, Alberto Amador, Marisela Villarruel, Galia Mayer, Lukas Urquijo
release UK Oct.23 lff,
US Oct.23 afi
BERLIN FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Loose and chaotic, this Mexican drama features refreshing rhythms of family life over a pivotal day. Filmmaker Lila Aviles is an expert observer of human behaviour, creating a range of fully formed characters here, each with his or her own preoccupations and little sense of allowing others their own personal space. The open-handed filmmaking constantly reveals things about people who are both connected and disconnected at the same time.
Giggly 7-year-old Sol (Senties) is spending the day at the home of her sparky grandfather (Amador), while her aunts (Maranon and Gase) are busy preparing a surprise birthday party for her father Tona (Garcia). Sol is aware that her dad is ill, but she's only beginning to understand how serious this is. As the crowd gathers in the evening, Tona makes himself presentable for his family and friends. And they deliver heartfelt farewell speeches to celebrate his life. But Sol notices that he doesn't make a wish to blow out the candles on his cake.
Every moment in the film overflows with life. Opening with an amusing sequence introducing Sol's free-spirited mother (Larios), the story shifts to the bustle of the house as everyone is engrossed in their own issues, leaving Sol to poke around, playing with the cat, sampling wine from the cellar and asking why everything seems a bit off. But only her phone offers a straight answer to a question, and only her father's nurse (Sanchez) speaks openly to her. Meanwhile, the aunts are fighting over their reactions to their brother's illness.
These characters seem so fully formed that the cameras only seem to capture glimpses of their depth. Senties has wonderful screen presence as a young girl who knows more than people think she does. But she is too young to understand the nuances of this particular day, and wonders if her father doesn't love her, because he doesn't want her to see him. The entire cast is naturalistic, offering continual insights and emotions.
As the title suggests, significant meanings abound, although probably not in the loudly mystical healer who's been brought in to cleanse the house. And it's fascinating to watch the events through the eyes of this young girl who is just working out what the grown-ups won't tell her. Aviles is bracingly honest about the push and pull of family, the grim truth of cancer and how pointless it is to protect children by lying to them. She also finds hope and humour in unexpected places.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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