SXSW Exclusive Review: An Elephant in the Room

The death of a loved one is difficult. As a child, losing a loved one such as a parent or sibling seems unimaginable. Childhood can be confusing in itself. Death, whether it is expected or not, is never easy. Death is something adults find dreadful, but we understand it is inevitable. How does any person deal with loss and grief? No one can ever prepare for how they will react to the loss of a loved one until it happens. Every person is different. Most adults go through stages of grief, some never confront those feelings for the rest of their lives. However, children barely understand what living is—let alone death.

Review: Mickey and the Bear

The prospect of forging one’s path at the cost of leaving others behind is certainly far from an original narrative for the coming-of-age drama. For first-time writer & director Annabelle Attanasio however, what she achieves with ‘Mickey & The Bear’ is a heart-wrenching, visceral piece on the pursuit of personal gratification, while attempting to balance perceived family obligation, as fiercely headstrong Michaela (Mickey) is the sole provider and carer for her addict, veteran father Hank. A gifted young woman, Mickey is wholly a likeable, well-rounded character, without stripping an ounce of her humanity. She has flaws, she has emotions and her limits. Almost as if this coming-of-age narrative was written by a woman, for a woman. Camila Morrone’s method of characterisation is subdued, though sharing her on-screen father’s temper on occasion.

SXSW Exclusive Review: Red Heaven

One can almost guarantee that NASA, along with the filmmakers and subjects of this documentary, “Red Heaven” (2020), would have never guessed how relevant the content they captured would be during these quarantine times the world is currently facing. Right now, almost the entire population is experiencing—at the very least—anything from social distancing or full isolation due to the global pandemic, COVID-19. People are staying in their homes away from the rest of the world to try to stop the spread of the virus. “Red Heaven” is a different type of isolation story: imagine if MTV’s The Real World took place next to a volcano in Hawaii: six scientists picked to live in a small dome, work together and collect data for NASA to help send astronauts to Mars someday. 

SXSW Exclusive Review: Waffle

Ah, the joys of a sleepover party with your BFF! "Waffle" is a fun take on the sleepover/slumber party chick-flick film, it's deliciously dark and a wonderfully amusing short film that leaves you aching for more. With "Waffle" director Carlyn Hudson and writers, Kerry Barker and Katie Marovitch examine how fractured we have become as a society and how we crave affection from others, the film looks at the lengths some people will go in order to gain friendship and the how a seemingly ordinary girls night can quickly escalate into a full-blown nightmare. The film opens with what appears to be a very normal situation, two young women dressed in pyjamas, sat on the sofa drinking wine. The two women are Kerry (Barker) and the socially awkward, mysteriously orphaned heiress Katie (Marovitch). Already things appear off when Katie gets angry with Kerry for retelling a story incorrectly, and when a timer suddenly goes off it becomes clear that Katie and Kerry are not really friends. Katie is using an 'Uber-like' service where she has hired Kerry to be her friend.

Short Film Review: Manara

The word "Manara" means lighthouse in Arabic. Zayn Alexander's short film "Manara" takes place in a Lighthouse, following a family as they try to deal with the loss of their patriarch. The purpose of a Lighthouse is to offer light and guidence to us, so we can somehow navigate of way through rough waters. With "Manara" Alexander proposes the question: what happens when that light has become extinguished? What happens to those who now find themselves plunged into darkness, and now completely blind? How do we find hope when the very light that once offered us guidence has now been cruelly snatched away? Often the strongest of short films centre around a simple premise which is carefully executed. "Manara" is a perfect example of how to carefully construct a short film narrative and Alexander along with writer Pascale Seigneurie manage to weave together a story which feels so real and genuine that we forget we are watching a film.

Women’s History Month: Gloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson literally created the concept of a “movie star.” She lived as large and dramatically as the heroines she portrayed. In her career, she saw the birth of film, the introduction of sound and the invention of television. She fearlessly embraced them all, and inspired women around the world with her style and ambition. Gloria grew up as an Army brat traveling the country with her parents but fell into acting as a teenager when she tried out for work as an extra. She moved to California after her parents divorced and found herself working for Mack Sennett along with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand. Gloria didn’t care for comedy and moved on to work for Cecil B. DeMille at Paramount Pictures. This was the beginning of her transformation into a fashionable trendsetter that captured the imagination of silent film audiences.

SXSW Exclusive Review: Finding Yingying

As a self-proclaimed true-crime junkie, I have seen and heard many stories about missing women, whether it be from a documentary, podcast, or headline on the evening news. The assumption that the answer is obvious: the husband or boyfriend did it—duh!  This is so NOT the case with “Finding Yingying” 2020. Yingying is a 26-year old Chinese woman who went missing shortly after she moved from China to Champaign, Illinois to pursue her PhD at The University of Illinois. This story is raw and real, heartbreakingly told through many voices: news stories, authorities, the family, boyfriend, friends and colleagues. Through Yingying’s diary entries, we are able to learn more about her, creating a backstory of her first 6-weeks in the United States. The words of her diary entries appear mostly in her native language—revealed over images of her; while a voiceover in English tells us her inner thoughts. She is independent, kind, caring, and incredibly smart.

Short Film Review: Carga

Creating a short film is a completely different feat than filming a feature. With a feature film, you have the luxury of time in order to build up plot and characters whereas with a short every second counts. Over the years, I have seen many short films and filmmakers attempt the horror genre and failing. Many forgo the plot and character for a 'cheap' and lazy jump scare and a complicated plot twist. Yad Deen's "Carga" is a perfect example of how to use the short film format to weave together an electrifying, tense and dramatic short narrative which doesn't sacrifice on character or background. We fully believe that the events taking place in the film could happen in reality. The horror of "Carga" works because it's not supernatural, but human. The tension builds up slowly, as the narrative unfolds and plays out in a natural manner which doesn't feel forced. Not a single shot is wasted here, a testament to Deen's direction and the flawless script by Deen and fellow writer Chesco Simón. Coming in at just under 20 minutes in length, this is a film that maintains the tense atmosphere throughout until the film's satisfying ending.

Women’s History Month: Audrey Hepburn- Still the Classiest

Coffee and croissant in hand at sunrise, pearls, a beehive up-do topped-off with a sparkling tiara, over-sized sunglasses—the reflection of a woman in the glass of a jewelry store. A young girl sprawled out on a tree branch over-looking a party she’s not privy to, an off-duty princess taking a rogue scooter disruptively through a town. All of these simple moments are from films that star the iconic Audrey Hepburn.  The percentage and likelihood that you have seen her image next to a cheesy inspirational quote or her face on a poster of a college age woman’s dorm room wall is absolutely certain, whether you have seen any film she is in or not. Maybe the quote was an actual quote she coined, maybe not. It is undebatable that Hepburn’s image, stardom, and influence has far outlived her life. 

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