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.

Review: System Crasher (Systemsprenger)

What do you do with a child so out of control that they are a danger to themselves and others? What if they are too young to be housed in a secure facility and no group homes will take them? In Nora Fingscheidt’s first scripted feature “System Crasher” (2019) we see innocence meet with blind violent rage in a story that is both infuriating and incredibly sad. This film was Germany's official submission to the International Feature Film category at the 2020 Oscars.

Interview: “Lost Transmissions” director Katharine O’Brien

Moving drama "Lost Transmissions" (2020) is Katharine O'Brien's debut feature about one man's struggle with schizophrenia in a healthcare system ill-equipped to help. Theo (Simon Pegg) is a music producer who stops taking his medication and begins a rapid downward spiral, losing grip on reality and getting into increasingly dangerous situations. His friend Hannah (Juno Temple) chases him through LA and psychiatric institutions to try to get him the support he needs but is thwarted by an inadequate healthcare system. Based on writer-director Katharine O'Brien's experiences of trying to support her own friend who went off his medication, the film is deeply affecting. It highlights the difficulties that people suffering from mental health conditions, and their loved ones face. I spoke with Katharine at the Glasgow Film Festival 2020.

SXSW Exclusive Review: I’ll Meet You There

With her third feature film, "I’ll Meet You There", writer/director Iram Parveem Bilal crafts an intriguing and enlightening Pakistani story centered on a universal cultural struggle that’s boasted by strong performances. The film follows Majeed (Faran Tahir), a Muslim Chicago police officer, and his daughter Dua (Nikita Tewani), an aspiring dancer, as they are greeted with the unexpected arrival of Majeed’s more traditional father Baba (Qavi Khan). While Majeed and Dua have become more enveloped into American culture, Baba’s presence makes them experience a culture that in Dua’s case she doesn’t know and Majeed’s case that he tries to forget.

SXSW Review: Rare Beasts

“I give really bad blowjobs” laments Mandy (writer/director/star Billie Piper) on a first date as “Rare Beasts” opens. Mandy, a clearly agitated yet quirky woman prone to over-analyzing herself sits across her work colleague, Pete (Leo Bill). He postulates that he is religious that “modern women have more testosterone coursing through their veins than blood”. Mandy’s response? She ends the date by sprinting across the street and regurgitating the dinner they had just had onto the sidewalk. This is the best indicticator of the tone to follow: a blend of cringe-inducing, self-deprecating, visual humor confidently presented through a woman’s unfiltered vision. This is a wonderfully stylish and brave film that offers a new and unique perspective on the role of the modern woman in today’s society.

Review: First Cow

Writer/director Kelly Reichardt has gained quite some notoriety over her career, so much so that Bong Joon-Ho even denotes her as one of his heroes, and her latest film, “First Cow”, gives audiences a unique Western adventure filled with friendship, character, and a cow. Set in Oregon during the 19th Century, the film follows two scavengers – a skilled but secluded cook named Cookie (John Magaro) and an opportunistic Chinese man named King Lu (Orion Lee). Although they meet on strange terms, the two grow a special friendship as they look to make a name for themselves. However, when an incredibly wealthy man named Chief Factor (Toby Jones) purchases and brings the first cow to the area, the two see an opportunity to gain a wealth of their own. So, as they sneakily steal milk from under Factor’s nose, Cookie and Lu make a name for themselves by cooking baked goods that eventually gets them unwanted attention.

GFF Exclusive Review: Papicha

In this debut feature by director Mounia Meddour, “Papicha” (2019) is about Algerian girls in the late 1990s trying to cling to freedom and self expression during a rise of an extremely conservative Islamic fundamentalism that literally threatens their lives. Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) lives and studies at a women’s university where there is a culture of sisterhood and fun. The girls sneak out to go drinking and dancing at night, are boisterous and play practical jokes. They’re mostly carefree but cautious of having to lie to police and cover their heads if they are stopped. She loves fashion and is constantly sketching new ideas and making clothes for her peers, selling them out of a nightclub bathroom.

GFF Exclusive Review: Cook F**k Kill

​Slovak director Mira Fornay’s third feature is an unsettling absurdist drama about domestic violence from the perspective of the aggressor. ​“Cook F Kill” (2019) follows a Jaroslav (Jaroslav Plesl) trying to get his mother to hand her house over to his wife. In order for that to happen a convoluted and connected series of other events need to take place in the right order. If each person in the chain gets what they want he will get the house for his wife and be able to see the children again. But along the way, there are interruptions to the timeline and even the gender of some characters. We’re caught in an absurdist loop with violence at every turn.

Berlinale Exclusive Review: Kød & Blod (Wildland)

Directed by Jeanette Nordahl, "Kød & Blod" ("Wildland") is a Danish film about a toxic family and the need to belong in a community. It’s a matriarchal mafia genre with the focus on violence within a family not outside. It’s a drama steeped in mistrust and danger. In a succinct series of shots we learn that Ida’s (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) mother was killed in a crash and she now has to live with her aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and three older male cousins (Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove, Besir Zeciri). Ida is sullen, quiet and withdrawn, thrust into a home which appears to have something sinister going on under the surface.

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