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.

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.

Berlinale Exclusive Review: Yalda, la Nuit du Pardon (Yalda, a Night For Forgiveness)

The shocking premise of this Sundance-winning film is compelling. Director Massoud Bakhshi's second feature "Yalda, la Nuit du Pardon" ("Yalda, a Night For Forgiveness") shows a woman who must beg for forgiveness on live television or face the death penalty for the accidental murder of her much older husband. It has the hallmarks of a thrilling story, just rife for the big screen. But unfortunately, there was too much in here that was convoluted or contrived and the drama fizzled out as a result. Maryam (Sadaf Asgari) is the 26-year-old wife (temporary wife) who accidentally killed her 65-year-old husband during an argument.

Mini Review: Hava, Maryam, Ayesha

“Hava, Maryam, Ayesha” is a film about the everyday struggles of three Afghan women – specifically in relation to patriarchy, marriage and pregnancy – directed and co-written by fellow Afghan woman Sahraa Karimi. In its opening section, focusing on Hava (played by Arezoo Ariapoor), the film makes its focus on the everyday very clear with a documentary-like realism. A frequently handheld camera that shows the routines and chores Hava spends her days performing in full, unbroken takes. Her laboured, exhausted breathing makes up a large part of the film’s soundscape in this segment as she is belittled by the men around her and treated like a disrespected employee rather than a family member.

Mini Review: Two of Us

The person introducing “Two of Us” (aka “Deux”) to audiences at the Glasgow Film Festival made sure to note the film’s confident filmmaking from feature debut writer/director Filippo Meneghetti. This was an incredibly accurate assessment. The film’s extensive use of Spielbergian oners and dramatic push-ins is emblematic of a creator with full control of their toolbox of cinematic tricks without feeling the need to over-indulge or show-off.  Meneghetti deftly uses restraint to create intrigue and suspense in this small, personal story. But key to making this film as engaging as it is are the lead performances of Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier who perfectly play their roles as an elderly queer couple kept apart by tragic circumstance and the bigotry of those around them.

GFF Exclusive Review: Zana

Year: 2019 Runtime: 97 Minutes Director: Antoneta Kastrati Writers: Casey Cooper Johnson, Antoneta Kastrati Stars: Adriana Matoshi, Astrit Kabashi, Fatmire Sahiti By Calum Cooper The Kosovan drama “Zana” (2019) is an utterly devastating watch. It is a film that intertwines the past and present to categorically display the long term effects of trauma with blistering... Continue Reading →

GFF Exclusive Review: Les Traducteurs (The Translators)

"The Translators" is a stylish thriller which lands somewhere been an Agatha Christie whodunit and a “Now You See Me” (2013) sleight of hand caper. The twists and turns come thick and fast as we unravel the identity of the mysterious author Oscar Brach, and the source of the blackmail letter threatening to leak his latest manuscript and cause financial ruin. Publisher Eric Angstrom (Lambert Wilson) brings nine translators to a remote high security manor house to translate a long awaited book – Dedalus Vol. III – from French into various other languages.

Review: 365 Days (365 dni)

Every year, Valentine’s Day leaves in its wake a fair number of films portraying love and romance in all of its pain and glory. Thanks to the incredibly short-lived craze surrounding “50 Shades of Grey”’s cinematic adaptation in February 2015 though, the possibilities seemed endless for more “mature” love stories (aka: erotic romance) to make it big on the big screen, and subvert what people would expect from a Valentine’s release. In the end this never happened, and a whole five years since that particular wave crested, along comes “365 Days”: the latest film from Polish writer/director Barbara Białowas.

Review: First Love

"First Love" is a comedy-drama, set in one of Miike's favourite environments, the world of the Yakuza (Gangster). A promising boxer, Leo (Masataka Kubota), is surprisingly beaten in a contest and is informed it is probably due to an inoperable brain tumour. Whilst walking the streets attempting to process this news, he bumps into drug-addicted sex slave Yuri (Sakurako Konichi) and inadvertently messes up an attempt by a crooked cop and an up-and-coming Yakuza to steal a drug shipment from the local crime family. Along the way, we meet One-armed Chinese crime bosses, deadly female assassins, and murderously unhinged girlfriends, amongst other characters too numerous to list. Somehow, amongst the violence and craziness, the two form a connection with each other, but only if they survive.

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