Browsing: Film Reviews

I had hopes that the narrative film I Am Gitmo would provide a nuanced depiction of the experiences of terrorists, actual or innocent, taken to the military prison at Guantanamo, that tiny portion of Cuba still questionably “owned” by the United States. Ever since the shock of 9/11 and the initially justifiable War on Terror, we have read and heard news reports and watched documentaries on what were eventually deemed excesses of interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists. If one were designated an “enemy combatant,” then they were not protected by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which otherwise called for…

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In my home country of Iran, social justice films never receive the required governmental production permits or–if they’re made–they never see the light of the silver screen. Those films eventually end up on social media platforms illegally with no financial benefits for the producer and the director. That’s what happened to the Leila’s Brothers and this movie, Beyond the Wall.  Like other movies made by Vahid Jalilvand, the film begins by portraying the suffering of lower-class families living in poverty.  From the very start, this film grabs you, engages you and doesn’t let you go.  The main character of the…

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Throughout the history of world cinema, the sound of fists pounding on doors has always signified something terrible. When it is accompanied by the sounds of rapid gunfire, our hearts quicken and our breathing is suspended. That is how THE LAST BIRTHDAY opens as we see a woman rushing about her apartment gathering and burning photos and documents while anxiously awaiting the invasion of her home. On August 13, 2021, thirteen days before this tense opening scene, the same woman is happily preparing for her birthday party. Various friends and loved ones arrive to celebrate the occasion. They include Leili,…

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Sooner or later, every police officer comes across a case that remains unsolved and haunts him. For Yohan (Bastien Bouillon), Clara’s murder turns out to be that case, and what starts as an investigation into the victim’s life soon turns into an obsession. Unusually, as viewers, we are told from the offset not to expect to find out whodunnit. There’s a stillness to this movie that’s quite audacious: the brutal, gory horror of the crime (the victim is set alight on her way home) is in stark contrast to the exquisite mountain scenery surrounding Grenoble, where the action takes place.…

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You’d need a heart of stone not to be touched by this extraordinary true story of Nicholas Winton, the “British Schindler”, and by the simplicity and heartfelt directness with which it’s told by screenwriters Nick Drake and Lucinda Coxon and director James Hawes. It’s a story of wartime Europe and postwar memory, and also a noble and inspired moment in the history of British popular TV. Anthony Hopkins plays Winton, a stockbroker in prosperous retirement in the 1980s who, after some nagging from his wife Grete (Lena Olin), is clearing out clutter and finally concentrates on something he’s been yearning…

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Io Capitano, meaning I captain, is that harrowing motivating migrants’ story that Raj Kumar Hirani’s Dunki could not be. It has just been selected as the Italian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards, one of the fifteen shortlisted films. I won’t be the least surprised if this evocative film makes it to the top spot in the international category. Its harvest of pain suffering and resilience leads us into the darkest recesses of travel trauma from where we emerge wondering if suffering is the only constant for the underprivileged sections of society in any part…

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Who knows whether the cinematographic genre of films set during the lockdown imposed by the Covid pandemic will fade out or become a subgenre, like the post-apocalypse zombie science fiction films in which the heroes wander around deserted cities. In Non riattaccare by Manfredi Lucibello, the sole Italian feature film in competition at the 41st Torino Film Festival, everything happens in real time over one night in March 2020, when the number of victims from the virus in Italy reaches almost a thousand a day. The coronavirus, however, has little to do with this story and the curfew only represents an opportunity to create…

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“Clannish” is one of the first words uttered by the protagonist of Enea [+], the second feature from director-screenwriter-actor Pietro Catellitto in competition at the 80th Venice Film Festival, to define the relationship imposing itself between his family and his close circle of friends. Clannish from clan, a word that ethno-anthropologists had borrowed from Gaelic. Defined by the director of the festival Alberto Barbera as “a kind of The Great Ugliness”, Enea arrives as the natural consequence of Catellitto’s surprising debut, The Predators [+], winner of Best Screenplay in the Orizzonti section in 2020 and of the Best Debut Director David di Donatello award. In The Predators, two irreconcilable family clans confronted each…

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The Italian writer-director Saverio Constanzo has offered the Venice film festival some unpretentious calorific fun with this enjoyable film: a tasty, showbizzy crowd-pleaser and romantic melodrama with a vivid streak of surreal absurdity in the tradition of Federico Fellini’s The White Sheik or Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo. It is the tale of an unconventionally beautiful duckling who becomes more of a swan than the glamorous people she idolises; her dreams come true – or sort of true – in 1950s Rome in the heyday of the giant Cinecittà film studio. There are seductive performances from Lily James as the…

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Based on French journalist Florence Aubenas’s bestselling non-fiction book, The Night Cleaner, in which she investigated the rising disparity and disconnect within French society through her experiences in the port city of Caen, Between Two Worlds casts Juliette Binoche in the role of a famed author named Marianne, who goes undercover as a professional cleaner to explore the exploitation of the working class in Northern France. She starts out cleaning homes and offices while making friends with other cleaners, most especially Chrystèle (Hélène Lambert), a single mother who opens up her life to Marianne and gives her real insight into the role that…

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