Posts Tagged ‘Tribeca’

Rather (2023) Tribeca Film Festival 2023

Dir: Frank Marshall | US Doc 96′

A new documentary offers a straightforward snapshot of Texan journalist, news anchor and commentator Dan Rather (1931-) who became a revered household name with his spirited and engaging presence on American TV networks during the turbulent years of the 1960s and beyond.

Daniel Irvin Rather has covered virtually every major event in the world for the past 60 years but is also known for ushering in the era of fake news that led to his downfall at the respected CBS network. Rather is also credited at being the first journalist to announce the news of John F Kennedy’s death in 1963 by running with the rumour, ‘based on his instincts’ before it was fully confirmed.

Amongst many other achievements Rather stood out with his impactful style of reporting that bridged the gap between what was really happening on the ground during the Vietnam war, and the sentiment presented back home. The film outlines his fall from grace for airing documents, during a CBS broadcast in the run up to the 2004 presidential election, suggesting that George W Bush had a sketchy military record during the 1970s. The issue is still mired in controversy to this day.

Coming across as a serious man of integrity as he faces the camera as an engaging raconteur, at 91, without guile or glibness, the film pictures him from all perspectives: dutiful son, dogged marine recruit, devoted husband, deeply religious Texan. And this rounded impression is echoed by his daughter Robin who offers her admiration for a loving father who also was deeply committed to his cause. Talking heads-wise we also hear from Susan Zirinsky, his longtime colleague at CBS News, who sees him from a career angle, and not always in glowing terms.

Brimming with spectacular archive footage, news bulletins and interviews, the film darts around chronologically charting a career that began on Texas radio and graduated to TV News slots, where Rather made a name for himself covering Hurricane Carla, the Civil Rights Movement, the J F Kennedy Assassination, Watergate and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wars in Vietnam, the Gulf and Afghanistan saw him on the battlefield dodging the bullets, and sending serial postcards back home to his family with the simple, repetitive message: “War is Hell”. At CBS and on 60 Minutes he was a revered anchor and is now prolific on Twitter appealing to a younger generation with his recalcitrant outbursts and on his own website News and Guts.

“Can you still make a difference as a journalist” Rather said at the Texas-based Moody College of Communication in 2009. “Yes, if you don’t quit”. This is a clear-eyed, informative film that refuses to dig the dirt on Dan. That’s for another documentary. MT




Bowery (2022) Tribeca Film Festival

Dir.: Mike Mintz, Irad Straus; Documentary with Richard ‘Dolla’ Thomas, Jaime ‘Rubia’ Gonzales. Steve Miller, Andrew Harris, Charlie ‘Sarge’ Duffy, Fifty; USA 2022, 100 min.

Bowery takes the spotlight for a year in the life of one of New York’s poorest neighbourhoods, located in the south of Manhattan, where life revolves round the subway station of the same name.

Capturing the Covid-19 epidemic and the BLM demonstrations first time filmmakers Irad Straus Mike Mintz (who also serves at DoP) and certainly see the place at its lowest ebb, Richard ‘Dolla’ Thomas is about sixty, sitting in his wheelchair, and ‘directing’ the traffic at the Delancey intersection. Hustling for a few dollars a day, he collects his ‘income’ in paper cup, all he can offer drivers is a traffic update to help them on their way. And his little ‘job’ serves as a kind of bereavement therapy since he lost his wife two years ago.

Another local character Rubia, forty-one, sometimes pretends to be his daughter; her drug habit has certainly addled her brain and she sprays the number ‘6’ three times on one of the pillars in the subway station, she is looking for work but will soon leave for New Jersey to be with her son. Fifty, in his late twenties, had previously held down a job as a courier where the money is decent. But he soon gets lost in New York, using his mobile as a Satnav, and is late for most of his deliveries, his employers disciplining him with a hefty wage cut of 90%.

Then comes the pandemic and empties the streets. Steve Miller and Andrew Harris, both in their mid-twenties, are drug dependent. They are looking for a hostel, but want to avoid the over-crowded ones. Rubia meanwhile, has spent her birthday in the launderette; and takes a break in the basket with her washing, well hidden in the shrubberies. On May 25th 2020, Geroge Floyd is killed by police officers. The first BLM marches erupt spontaneously. Police and demonstrators clash and Richard exclaims “I can’t believe I am seeing this.” We follow Charlie into a church where he begs God to help him back on his feet. He just can’t do it anymore. The last word goes to Richard: “I know, I am a survivor”.

The freewheeling lack of structure is for once just right, reflecting the lives of the protagonists struggling to stay alive and spontaneously doing what they believe can alleviate their situation. Drugs are the main problem, but hygiene and food are a close second. Bowery is certainly a tribute to human survival, faced with poverty and now the pandemic, the number of ambulances carrying the dying multiplying, this is just a question of keeping on, keeping on. Bowery is not an easy watch in its depiction of hard core realism,  but it certainly documents an important place in time.


Fireworks (2022) Tribeca Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Paul Franklin; Cast Charlotte Riley, Ivanhoe Jeremiah, Hammed Aminashaun, Sophie Wu, Raghad Chaar, Elyssee Adil, Denise Gough; UK 2022, 15 min.

British filmmaker Paul Franklin, well known for his VHX work with Christopher Nolan, winner of two Oscars for Best Visual Effects (Inception/Interstellar), directs Paul Lally’s script about an operation at MI6, focusing on the frailty of human judgement in a situation of life and death.

Tension reigns in the MI 6 Ops room. In Tripoli, a well known terrorist will be executed. And to make matters worse, supervisor Gillian Lye (Riley) has fallen out with her father during a phone conversation. Co-workers B (Aminashaun) and Fiza (Chaar) try to keep out of it, when Pep (Jeremiah) enters the fray, telling Gillian that there are children in the vicinity of the drone attack. When Pep finally gets through to Gillian, who wants to abort the mission, boss Ellie Sherberg (Gough) arrives having just had a conversation with the government Minister and offering Gillian an opportunity she would be mad to refuse.

Originally planned a stage play by writer Paul Lally,  the project was developed by Franklin as an immersive experience for VR headset. Instead of visiting Lebanon, PD Jamie Lapsey used Russian language search engines, to find holiday shots to build the city in an “unreal” engine. Ed Thomas, VP Supervisor, explains the target was to build a real street section, with Franklin navigated the shoot with VR goggles to plan the shoot. Franklin was able to put a virtual movie camera (an IPad on a shoulder mount), walking around and looking at the virtual world, sharing it with Ollie Downey, the cinematographer who took individual frames from the VR recce to produce storyboards for the whole film.

“Dimensions Unreal’s” Craig Stiff did not only construct the virtual world, he also acted as gaffer. The treatment was the same, as if we had created the whole set on the street in Tripoli. Franklin:” I let the background over-impose, and treated it like a view from the window on a normal was set – only this way, I would have much more control”. The real and virtual sets were blended. The texture of the ground had seamlessly blend into the texture of the digital ground. Once you get this, it is very difficult to see, were reality ends and virtual reality begins. AS


False Positive (2021) TriBeCa 2021

Dir/Wri: John Lee | Cast: Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan, Gretchen Mol, Sophia Bush, Zainab Jah, Josh Hamilton, Sabina Gadecki, Jaygee Macapugay, Danielle Slavick, Lucy Walters, Kelly AuCoin, Nils Lawton, Sullivan Jones | US Fantasy thriller 92′

Ilana Glazer co-wrote the script for False Positive in which she also stars as Lucy, a desperate New Yorker trying to get pregnant with her husband Adrian (Theroux). But this is no ordinary fertility drama – there are quirky bits like the scene where Adrian jacks off to an extreme bondage video to provide the sperm for the procedure – and so we’re not surprised when events turn more sinister as the psychological thriller unfolds with its feint echoes of Rosemary’s Baby, naturally minus Polanski’s iconic allure.

A pompous Pierce Brosnan (channelling Vincent Price) is the archetypal maverick fertility expert (and cosmetic surgeon) Dr Hindle who treats Lucy in his new age clinic where he has masterminded an enigmatic ground-breaking technique. After jumping the queue thanks to Adrian’s medical connections with the good doctor, all goes according to plan and soon Lucy is pregnant with – not one – but three potential babies: twin boys and a singleton girl. But something’s not right. And there’s not room for the three foetuses to develop, so amidst growing paranoia and a need for ‘selective reduction’ Lucy and Adrian must a harrowing decision to abort either the two boys or the girl. And they decide to keep the girl naming her ‘Wendy’ in line with the film’s burgeoning ‘Peter Pan’ motif.

Midsommer and Hereditory DoP Pawel Pogorzelski creates some sinuous visuals which add to a sinister soundscape pulsing away in the background (including a dulcet performance from Marcia Henderson of “Who Am I” from the 1950 Broadway musical Peter Pan). False Positive makes for a chilling addition to the small but perfectly formed fertility horror genre which relies on women’s natural fears and anxieties surrounding safe pregnancy and birth to drive the story forward sending it soaring into stratospheric realms of terror.

To add grist to the fearful misogynist maelstrom, derogatory phrases such as “mummy brain” are frequently bandied about in a patriarchal culture that still seems to persist in today’s medical establishment. Lee interweaves photos from the archives showing the gruesome possibilities when childbirth goes wrong, but this feels tonally out of kilter with the otherwise slick drama unfolding that even hints at artificial selection.

Meanwhile, Lucy is desperately trying to keep her job as a marketing consultant on track. Late in the day she decides to change her ‘birthplan’ after bizarre developments with Dr Hindle cause her to seek out a new midwife, the mysterious Grace Singleton (Zainab Jha).

Convincing performances from the central trio are what makes this compelling, based on an original story by John Lee and Alissa Nutting. This is a stealthy psychological thriller that keeps us glued to the screen despite some awkward elements showing that when the chips are down women can trust no one – least of all other women. That all said, the conclusion is definitely positive. MT

Tribeca Film Festival 2021




Ultrasound (2021) TriBeCa 2021

Dir: Rob Schroeder | Wri: Conor Stechschulte | US Sci-fi Drama 103′

Ultrasound is a curio: a visually stunning sci-fi psychodrama that often feels like several films rolled into one, a loose storyline connecting its diverse narrative strands and characters.

It seems the protagonists are as confused as we are, taking part in a  bizarre experiment masterminded by one Dr Conners (Adebimpe). There is a dreaminess here suggestive of Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color. But this desire to be inventive doesn’t necessarily make for a satisfying conclusion, although some may be intrigued by the hypnotic weirdness of it all.

Starting off straightforwardly, Glen (Kartheiser) breaks down in a rainy remote backwater after his tires puncture on a bunch of nails. Shaken and disorientated by the collision, Glen finds refuge from the elements in the home of a welcoming couple – the rather too friendly Cyndi (Lopez) and Arthur (Stephenson) who even suggests Glen stays the night in the master bedroom with his wife. Reluctantly Glen agrees to the arrangement, out of politeness rather than any sexual frisson between him and Cyndi. At some point later Arthur appears on Glen’s doorstep with the news that Cyndi is pregnant. Soon Glen and Cyndi are the bewildered central couple but whether Cyndi is actually ‘with child’ is up for grabs.

Elsewhere, and in a seemingly different film, Katie (Rainey Qualley) is in thrall to her older businessman boyfriend who works all hours while she waits for him in needy isolation. Shannon (Wool), meanwhile, is a research assistant running a human experiment while trying to unravel a subversive plot within the medical establishment where she works for the sinister boss Dr Conners.

Schroeder employs an exotic electronic soundscape to drive his mysterious vehicle forward, but at times it seems to spin out of control, not unlike Glen’s car, although ‘the science’ is the reason for the mayhem rather than nails. Certainly Ultrasound has some interesting ideas and a distinct visual flair but that doesn’t mean it makes sense as a cohesive fantasy drama. MT

Tribeca Film Festival 2021




The Last Film Show (2021) TriBeCa 2021

Dir/Wri: Pan Nalin | Cast: Bhavin Rabari, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval, Rahul Koli | India, Drama 110′

The Last Film Show is one of the most buzz worthy titles at this year’s TriBeCa film festival. Essentially India’s answer to Giuseppe Tournatore’s 1988 cult classic Cinema Paradiso it’s a lush nostalgic crowdpleaser beautifully written and directed by Pan Nalin whose Angry Indian Goddesses garnered acclaim as India’s first female buddy movie back in 2015.

A mischievous nine-year-old boy called Samay is the film’s pre-teen hero, a cross between between Toto’s child and teenager – as he never gets any older in this version – he’s altogether more sullen too without the endearing charm of Toto, but cheekily played by the tousled-haired Richa Meena who is savagely beaten by his father when he plays truant after discovering his secret new hobby.

In early scenes we see Samay (Rabari) and his mates hitching a ride on a train  trundling through the remote Gujarat village where he lives with his parents and younger sister, finding their way to a rundown cinema where the boy bribes the hungry projectionist (Dipen Raval channelling a much leaner Philippe Noiret) with the lunchbox prepared for him by his mother.

Samay slips into a daily routine captivated by his newfound love for cinema, offering Bapuji his lunch box in exchange for the best seat in the house – the projection booth. And when the cinema goes digital from 35mm, the rites of passage narrative sees Samay and his mates setting up their own projection suite, as their parental ties finally loosen.

Pan Nalin pays tribute to the cinema of yesterday with this vibrantly cinematic homage to the magic of film, its ability to unite and uplift seen through the eyes of a naughty young boy. MT

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 | 10 JUNE, 2021 WORLD PREMIERE

Brighton 4th (2021) Red Sea: Competition Best Film: BRIGHTON 4th

Dir.: Levan Koguashvili; Cast: Levan Tediashvili, Giorgi Tabidze, Nadezhada Mikalkova, Kakhi Kausadze, Tolepbergen Baisakalov, Yuriy Zur, Irakli Kavsadze, Irma Gachechiladze; Bulgaria/Georgia/Monaco/Russia/USA 2021, 90 min.

Georgian director Levan Koguashvili (Street Days) captures the essence of Boris Frumin’s idiosyncratic script – a fraught concoction of shattered dreams and fatherly love in exile, laced with dark humour and set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, once a cultural melting pot for Jewish emigrants and artists and now home to Russian-speaking Georgian emigres not afraid to resort to gangster tactics to get what they want.

Soso (Tabidze) set off from Tbilisi with the best of intentions, his family lending him $15,000 to study medicine and pay Lena (Mikalkova) for a fake marriage and a Green Card. Once in New York the hot-tempered Soso develops a gambling habit, the money slipping through his fingers.

So it’s up to his father Kakhi (Tediashvli) to put things right. Arriving tired and stressed the former Olympic wrestler finds his son in a shabby boarding house, and soon devises a way of earning the money to get him back on his feet.

Amongst the motley crew of local Georgians – played by mostly non-pros – is fellow ex-wrestler Amir who has partly contributed to the problem, lending Soso the money, and now wants it back, threatening the young man and his father with a death squad. On a misty beach, with the now defunct fairground in the background, a bitter feud develops where they will eventually fight it out.

Shot by Oscar-nominated DP Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska) whose images of the decaying district fit in well with the dry absurdist narrative: the film shows how these hapless immigrants were aiming to capture the elusive American Dream. Instead, desperation sets in like the permanent fog that haunts the beach front, twinkling fairy lights the only beacon of hope they mistook for the promised land. Brilliantly acted, Brighton 4th is a homage to early Jarmush features: the greener grass of Brooklyn looking distinctly grey on the horizon. AS

Best International Narrative Feature Film: Brighton 4th, directed by Levan Koguashvili,

Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film: Levan Tediashvili

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film: Boris Frumin,

TRIBECA 2021 | 14 JUNE 2021

Red Sea: Competition Best Film: BRIGHTON 4TH by Levan Koguashvili Georgia, Russia, Bulgaria, USA, Monaco.

The Lost Leonardo (2020) TriBeCa (2020)

Dir: Andreas Koefoed | Cast: Dianne Modestini, Yves Bouvier, Robert Simon, Alexander Parish, Warren Adelson, Luke Syson, Martin Kemp, Frank Zöllner, Maria Teresa Fiorio, Jacques Franck, Evan Beard, Kenny Schachter, Jerry Saltz, Robert K Wittman, Alexandra Bregman, Georgina Adam, Alison Cole

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival offers a treat for art lovers, especially those following the fortunes of “The Salvator Mundi”. Not just one but two documentaries explore the buzz surrounding the most expensive painting ever sold (at $450 million), claimed to be the work of the legendary artist Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Lost `Leonardo goes behind closed doors to dish the dirt on this ‘civilisational masterpiece’. Whereas Antoine Vitkine’s The Savior for Sale (2021) took a jaunty thriller approach to the picture’s authenticity and provenance, and its journey to acquiring that stratospheric price tag, the Danish director Andreas Koefoed takes a deep dive into the artful world world of art marketing and explores possible outcomes for the work which disappeared after being brought by a Saudi prince (surely a sacrilegious acquisition as Islam forbids any depiction of a prophet) and is now purportedly languishing in a secret location, or possibly back in the care of Yves Bouvier the world’s richest freeport owner.

Dividing into a series of Parts (I,II & III), the story is steeped in greed, one-upmanship and secrecy. The Lost Leonardo reveals how vested interests became all-important, and the painting itself almost secondary. Once again with almost the same players as Vitkine’s film, the story relies on a high profile array of compelling interviews illustrating how the work of art went from the discreet world of old masters to take on celebrity status as a ‘trophy piece’ thanks to Christie’s cunning marketing strategy. Bidders were required to transfer a percentage of the funds into a ‘goodwill’ sealed account to show their good intentions. And the bids came in thick and fast – possibly from entire countries rather than individuals, finally closing at $450 million.

But the fake tag still lingered. Art Critic Jerry Saltz was one of the painting’s main detractors, as was a stream of – mostly ignorant – twitter followers to the viral stream the Christie auction attracted. But the painting’s careful restorer Dianne Modestini stands by its authenticity, and Jean-Luc Martinez (president of the Louvre Museum) has confirmed it as a work by da Vinci in the museum’s catalogue.

As the documentary moves further away from the painting and its provenance, and more into the world of billionaires, it is revealed how vested interests are more relevant than the truth, in a film that studies each aspect of the art world and increasingly contemplates the religious, moral and ethical issues implicated by such a resonant painting.

A sinuous score by Sveinung Nygaard drives the story forward to the final – surprising – denouement in a film that is really more about social politics and one-up-manship than art history. MT

Tribeca Film Festival 2021


Ascension (2021)

Dir.: Jessica Kingdon | Documentary; China 2021, 97′

Mesmerising in its imagery, Ascension is a frightening impressionistic portrait of China’s growing class divide through staggering observations of labour, consumerism and wealth.

In her documentary debut Chinese-American Jessica Kingdon explores this study of Chinese superiority by those whose crafted the system. But there is also the hankering after western values and traditions, coupled with a search for perfection in every aspect of working life. Through sheer determination this stealthy dragon will soon be the number economic power on the globe – a nightmarish vision.

The film is structured in three parts, ascending through the hierarchical levels: workers running factory production, the middle class selling to aspirational consumers, and the elites revelling in a new level of hedonistic enjoyment. In traveling up the rungs of China’s social ladder, we see how each level supports and makes possible the next while recognizing the contemporary “Chinese Dream” remains an elusive fantasy for most.

Job-seekers gather in front of buses which will ferry the chosen ones to their factories and dorms. The pay is a couple of dollars an hour, but there are restrictions: Only applicants between 18 and 38 are welcome, men are not allowed to have tattoos or ear-studs – and no illegals will be accepted let alone those with a criminal record. Then there is the roll call for the HUWAI bus, under a big sign of “Work hard, and all wishes come true” the workers put their luggage away before entering the bus. Other poster slogans tell the workers “Be civilised, set good examples” before we set off for the factories.

In a plant producing water bottles from plastic, the female workers discuss the role of the manager: “It does not matter how many days you work, the manager will decide how many days you get paid for. I buy the boss lunch, right after having been paid. We all plead to buy lunch for him so he can pull some strings for us.” In a factory producing jeans, the workers are told “to work harder”, because these jeans are for export: the stitching reads “Keep America great”. In front of a factory producing sex dolls, the chorus shouts slogans like “I love my company, I love my colleagues, I love my career even more. My fate is tied to the company’s, my glory bound to the company”.

Books are given out to workers and they are exhorted to study them with diligence, since the boss spend much time on writing the advice for his workers. During work hours, role play about how to be a perfect workmate is transmitted via loud speakers. We see workers marching like soldiers in front of factories. Meanwhile in the sex doll factory, the workers earnestly discuss the colour of the nipples and the trimming of the pubic hair.

A little more up the food chain, the middle-managers are equally enthusiastic about paying good money to listen to champion managers, who have a large fan base. “Monetise your personal brand. Knowledge must be monetised”. Others have participated in a two-day course and promise “to make millions and millions” in the coming months and years. There are other expensive courses that tell you how to smile (show eight teeth), nod and hug, the latter not being very popular in China.

At a lecture by the Senior International trainer we learn “either you influence me, or I influence you”. There is a training school for butlers too: The new Chinese ruling classes want to copy their European counterparts. “You may not have much time for your personal life, or your family. The rich people do what they want to do, and you have to accept it. They are the people who pay you, no matter how much they humiliate you”.

We watch a group of young men being trained as body guards for the big bosses – unfortunately the applicants fail: the boss has been killed. A group of rich Chinese business people complain about the West calling them out for their Human Rights violations. “They don’t understand the poor have to learn to survive, there is no place for human rights, just survival.” One of the directors tells the audience of employees that “If your intelligence does not match your wealth, Chinese society has hundreds of ways to take your wealth away”.

Before a rather melancholic ending, we are reminded again “that dreams are “. Kingdon keeps the tone understated, letting images and the slogans talk. The result is a mixture of false naivety – on behalf of the upper classes – and a kind of religious fervour of obedience from the workers. But whatever the future holds, the mixture of state capitalism (after all the Party rules supreme) and expanding consumerism, which will see China overtake the USA’s GDP by five times, is a reason for trepidation – to say the least. A brilliant study of a communist nation on the march. AS

Documentary Films will release ASCENSION, one of the most acclaimed documentaries of 2021, on 14 January 2022 in UK cinemas.


Perfume of Gardenias (2021) TriBeCa 2021

Dir.: Macha Colon aka Gisela Rosario Ramos; Cast: Luz Maria Rondon, Katia Maria, Blanca Rosa Rovira Burset, Carmen Milagros Ortiz Cruz, Abner Riviera; Puerto Rico/Columbia 2021, 97 min.

This dark but colourful comedy reflects the identity of a nation inured to adversity and where humour and drama always go side by side. Perfume of Gardenias is the feature debut of Puerto Rican director/writer Macha Colon, a queer multi-disciplinarian artist who studied in New York.

Vibrantly reflecting the director’s idiosyncratic personality, Perfume often indulges in shock-treatment and plays havoc with an audience used to mainstream aesthetics.

When theatre and television star Isabel (Luz Maria Rondon in her first starring role) loses her high-ranking officer husband Mario after a long illness, she has to rethink her life in the religious middle-class community. Daughter Melanie (Maria) comes to stay, but is not much of a help, treating her mother like a child. For example, she asks Isabel to look for a “plug-into-the wall piece” – to which her mother answers “it would have been easier if you asked me to look for your mobile charger.”

Melanie is soon off, promising – not very sincerely – to be back at Christmas leaving Isabel to restructure her life. She has made a great impression of organising her husband’s funeral paying respect to him in a very individual way. Her friend Toña (Riley), self-appointed leader of the small community, decides that Isabel should be the one to interview the moribund members of their circle, so they have an individual input in their own funeral arrangements.

Unfortunately, Toña has the tendency to speed up the process, before many potential clients are ready to leave this world. While Toña is already directing their funeral. Isabel has to learn to find a new approach to death and religion.

Perfume is highly entertaining – DoP Pedro Juan Lopez capturing the customs and characters, always making fun of the sacred religious undertones which dominate the middle classes: despite their reduced status they must still be seen to be the ruling spiritual light. Rondon carries the often rowdy proceedings with much dignity and elegance,  farce never overtaking the narrative. Colon, playing the enfant-terrible of her cultural scene, is often too self-indulgent, going for full blown radical shock-effects rather than a more sensible approach. Her attitude of wanting the cake and eating it somehow diminishes the underlying problems of the society she caricatures. But Colon and the brilliant ensemble certainly have their fun. AS

SCREENING DURING Tribeca Film Festival | JUNE 13th 2021

Catch the Fair One (2021)

Dir.: Joseph Kubota Wladyka; Cast: Kali Reis, Daniel Henshall, Tiffany Chu, Kimberly Guerrero, Kevin Dunne; USA 2021, 86 min.

US director/writer Joseph Kubota Wladyka has a bold confession – as a kid he tried to sneak out of the local Arthouse where his parents had taken the family to watch Terminator.

It is no surprise then that Catch The Fair One – exec-produced by Darren Aronofsky (and co-producer by Molley Asher of Nomadland fame) is a straightforward action thriller. But nothing to be sneezed at – this is genre cinema at its best.

Feisty Native American Ex-champion boxer Kaylee (Reis) is having a tough time making a comeback as a boxer, well aware that competition is fierce from younger players. And with her unsupportive mother Jaya (Guerrero), a group therapist bereavement sufferers, and concerns that her sister has been abducted by sex traffickers, the outlook is grim.

Sleeping with a razor blade for protection means Kaylee often wakes up  with blood on the pillow. And this make-ship weapon comes in handy when she is drugged and ‘sold’ to sex trafficker by boss Bobby (Henshall). But Kaylee surprises her guard, kills him, and then sets off for Bobby’s place where she overpowers him and immobilises his son. But Bobby won’t reveal her sister’s whereabouts, so Kaylee must set off on a ‘no holds barred’ mission to track down her sibling.

DoP Ross Giardina’s images of the sleazy underbelly of the boxing gangland are spectacular, so are his flashbacks of Kaylee’s violent times in the ring. A real-life middle-weight champion, Reis is impressive in her hunt for vengeance, her hostile expression striking fear into opponents – both in and out of the ring. Wladyka has certainly watched enough classic movies of the genre: this is a masterclass in tempo and timing. But most awe-inspiring of all is his tight script in a narrative full of twists and turns that never relies on atmosphere alone to keep the audience in thrall for 86 minutes – even the running time is a salient reminder of former B-pictures, who are today ageless wonders. AS


Blind Ambition (2021)

Dir/Writers Warwick Ross & Rob Coe | Australia, Doc 96′

Driven by relentless optimism and a passion for their craft, four Zimbabwean refugees become South Africa’s unlikely top sommeliers, competing for the coveted title of ‘World Wine Tasting Champions’ as Zimbabwe’s first ever wine-tasting team.

Blind Ambition is a colourful and lively documentary cutting a dash through the stuffy, privileged world of the wine-tasting with its refreshing spin on South Africa’s storied winelands. Upbeat in tempo in its early scenes, the fractured narrative style gradually sobers up as it reflects on the sommeliers’ backstories of poverty and disadvantage back in their beleaguered homeland. Luminaries Jancis Robinson add insight and credibility to the film boosting its potential for a mainstream audience. MT

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 12 AUGUST 2022 | World Premiere TriBeCa Film Festival 2021.


The Death of My Two Fathers (2021) Tribeca 2021

Dir.: Sol Guy; Documentary with William Richard Guy, Sol Guy, Donna Guy, Freye Parkhouse, Soshana Guy; USA 2021, 96 min.

Finding the courage to look at photos and videos of a lost loved one is tough, even years after their death. It took Sol Guy decades to watch a batch of 20 VHS tapes his father William Richard Guy (1944-1998) had made, just after being diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer, when Sol was twenty. This labour of love and remembrance forms the subject of this mature feature debut that enabled the writer director to reach out and meet the extended family his father had founded.

William Richard was quiet a philanderer: he had five children with three women, compensating with his good looks for the bad cards fate dealt him by having to grow up in a segregated America. The KKK was still rampant in his youth, its members capturing Blacks and selling them to plantation owners in the South. Signs like “Waiting room for Coloured only, by order of the police.” were common; and demonstrators waved signs in favour of segregation: “We want a white School.” Housing was so poor, that rats simply came as standard with the accommodation.

Via Kansas City and Iowa, and a two-year stint in the army in Thailand, William ended up in Canada, working as DJ ‘Gigging Guy’. William’s partner Bobbie tells their son, “your father had girl-friends”. Eventually she had enough and moved in with Freye Parkhouse, an Englishman, would become Sol’s second father.

After Bobbie left, William went to Mexico where he met Lee Lee, another adoring white woman, before fathering his 5th child with “auntie” Jayda. William turned to social work which became his redemption, drink and drugs were out, caring for others made him a better person. For Sol, his father’s suffering was too much, he ran away not wanting to watch his deterioration. At William’s funeral, all his children met for the first time. Sol, like his father had a penchant for running away when the going got tough he left his own family in Germany, and travelled the world, before it occurred him that he was just repeated the same pattern as his dad. At the end of the feature, we see him and Bobbie caring for the dying man who by now had lost his ability to speak. On the 20th anniversary of William’s death, the family met again in Kansas City: for Sol a time to reconcile himself with his past, and re-connect with the family he once spurned

The feature was completed in the editing suite shown in the lively, handheld camera of DoP Rafe Scobey-Thal. Sometimes confusing it its timelines and points of view – both Sol and his father address their children, the difference being that the protagonists are one generation removed from each other. But Sol’s utter honesty is the redeeming feature here. Never resorting to the ‘race card’, Sol freely admits that  Black men often repeat the lives of their fathers’, leaving their women to bring up the kids. This way, Sol Guy creates a history of race and fatherhood in the USA, and a personal account of gender roles in the Black community. AS

SCREENING AT Tribeca Film Festival 2021 | 10 June 2020.

No Sudden Move (2021) Tribeca Film Festival 2021

Sex Lies and Videotape director Steven Soderbergh will present his latest highly anticipated crime drama NO SUDDEN MOVE as the centrepiece gala at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The outdoor premiere will take place at The Battery in New York City on Friday, June 18 as part of Tribeca’s 12-day celebration to re-open New York and bring live entertainment back. Members of the cast will make an appearance at the live event.

Set in 1954 Detroit, No Sudden Move stars Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, with Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Craig muMs Grant, Julia Fox, Frankie Shaw and Bill Duke. The story centers on a group of small-time criminals who are hired to steal what they think is a simple document. When their plan goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them – and for what ultimate purpose – weaves them through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city.


November (2017) ****

Dir/Writer: Rainer Sarnet | Cast: Rea Lest, Jorgen Liik, Arvo Kukumagi, Katariina Unt, Taavi Eelmaa, Dieter Laser, Jette Loona Hermanis | Fantasy Horror | 115′

Rainer Sarnet’s wickedly weird adaptation of an Estonian folklore infused fairy tale is flawed but enthralling and full of magic moments of ethereal black&white beauty.

This is a film that wears its Baltic credentials proudly on its delicate fashioned sleeve – set in the deepest, creepiest snowbound forest in a remote region it features the Devil, ghosts and all kinds of mysterious and often mischievious characters. Adapted from Andrus Kivirahk’s best-seller ‘Rehepapp’, NOVEMBER is an endlessly fascinating film that has you gawping in terror and disbelief despite its rather enigmatic narrative that scratches at the edges of horror, fantasy and dark comedy. At it’s core NOVEMBER is a love story based on the premise of human survival in hard times.

The inhabitants of a distant Estonian village desperately eek out a living in frosty and threadbare poverty. The fantasy element strikes fearfully from the opening sequence that pictures a spiky mechanical creature flies through the air and into a stable where a slumbering calf is transfixed with fear as the creature, called a ‘Kratt’, lassoos it with a sturdy steel chain, transporting it through the night sky and into the barn of a nearby farm. And this is how the inhabitants survive by robbing and cheating each other with their supernatural robotic aids.

In this legendary land of dour and often demonic doings where characters often come back from the dead to join the living, young Liina (Rea Lest) is hoping to marry her sweetheart Hans (Jorgen Liik) while desperately avoiding the clutches of a gruesome farmer. Meanwhile Hans is in thrall to a newcomer to the village in the shape of a gorgeous German baroness (Jette Loona Hermanis), whose beauty is unrivalled and unsullied by hardship. But there’s a secret going on with both these women, and caught in a love triangle, they seek out magical ways to capture the hearts of the one the desire.

The only criticism here is that NOVEMBER is chockfull of strange and outlandish characters that fail to serve the central narrative robbing the drama of much of its delicious tension and often detracting from Sarnet’s dark humour. There’s simple too much going on. But Jacaszek sinister score provides just the right note of chilling concern to keep us waiting, and fearing that there may not be a happy ending. NOVEMBER is an arthouse gem that begs to be seen, along with Sarnet’s 2011 adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. MT 




Obey (2018)| *** Tribeca Film Festival 2018 | 21-28 April 2018

Dir.: Jamie Jones; Cast: Marcus Rutherford, Sophie Kennedy Clark, T’Nia Miller, James Atwell, Sam Gittins; UK 2018, 93 min.

Jamie Jones’ feature debut takes place during the London riots in August 2014, after the police killing of Mark Duggan in North London. Black teenager Leon has a hard time, seeking refuge in a small gang, while his mother sinks deeper and deeper into alcohol dependency. But when Jones introduces Twiggy, a young white middle-class woman, who supports the urban youth, the narrative takes a radical change from the usual “hard-luck” story of young black males.

Until he meets Twiggy, the only thing Leon (Rutherford) enjoys is boxing in a dilapidated local gym. His mother Chelsea (Miller) has shacked up with a violent boyfriend called Chris (Atwell), who beats up both mother and son. Meanwhile, Twiggy (Kennedy Clarke) meanwhile, runs around with a camera, taking photos of the gang and police violence. Living in a squat with boyfriend Anton (Gittins), she makes a wild entrance, kissing another woman at a party – but this does not deter Leon from falling for her. Being mocked by his gang members for fancying “Blondie”, Leon goes on a houseboat trip with Twiggy and Anton, interrupting the near-permanent street violence for a romantic outing. After a fight with Chris, Leon enters Twiggy’s flat, and she looks after his wounds, whilst Anton has a deep post-coital sleep. When the police storm the squat in the morning, Anton is arrested, but Leon and Twiggy escape, indulging in alcohol and weed in Leon’s flat where they consummate their relationship. But when Leon wakes up, Twiggy is gone and he later discovers the truth about his lover as the story down-spirals into a violent finale.

DoP Albert Salas handheld camera captures the chaotic violence and Leon’s emotional turmoil. The moment he leaves the security of his gang, he loses his personal perspective and self esteem. Seeing Twiggy as a sort of life-boat, which might take him out of the permanent misery, he fails to grasp that this woman is not only white (which makes him a traitor in the eyes of his peers), but a middle class one at that – one of the do-gooders, who protest against their own privileged status by making a guest appearance in the ghetto-like slums, before returning with her boyfriend to the safety of suburbia when the going gets too rough. Obey is by no means perfect, but superior to many features of the same sub-genre. AS


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