This week sees the Berlin film festival kick-off with six of its 18 competition films boasting a credited female director, representing a 33% proportion, compared with Cannes last year with 19% and Venice with 9%. Although six films isn't an even split, it is still an improvement in the right direction. So, what are these six films and which ones are we most keen to catch at the festival?
Radha Blank’s “The 40-year-old version” is my favourite film of the Sundance Film Festival. I walked into the screening without any previous knowledge of the synopsis nor seen any reviews of earlier showings. The film begins and immediately grabs your attention you can't keep your eyes off Radha, not only because she’s the protagonist of this film but also because her presence charms you towards her. As a struggling playwright, Radha has kept herself busy with her teaching profession while grieving the loss of her mother. As she approaches 40, Radha wants to continue being creative and decides to give rapping a second chance. "The 40-year-old Version" is directed, produced, written, and brilliantly acted by the talented Radha Blank. Believe me when I say she is someone to look out for in the future. Her name will soon be familiar to many of you. After all, she won the best director prize at Sundance (deservingly so). It's no secret that I lost my mother a little over five years ago, and I'm still grieving her loss. Radha’s grieving process reminded me of my own.
Call me the worst feminist stereotype you can think of, but I’m glad that female rage and revenge are starting to be a big thing in movies. So you’d think I would be just the audience for “Amulet,” a horror film that’s also the feature directorial debut of actress Romola Garai no less. Alas, while the movie exudes a whole lot of righteous, well-earned anger, without a real focus it’s merely one nonsensical plot twist after another. Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) is a former soldier whose past traumas have left him homeless. But a chance encounter (or maybe not so chancy) leads him to a rapidly decaying home, where a young woman named Magda (Carla Juri) is caring for her ailing mother.
"Mucho Mucho Amor" is a documentary following the life of the iconic Puerto Rican astrologer, Walter Mercado. When I first heard that this documentary would be screened at Sundance, it immediately became my most anticipated film because I grew up watching him. I can recall seeing him on television Monday through Friday on Primer Impacto at approximately 5:45 pm to give the horoscope of the day. As this documentary accurately depicts, everybody at the house had to be quiet while he was on. We will all sit quietly and pay close attention to see what our horoscope will say, but then that was it, and we will continue with our day. I never knew anything outside of the celebrity, and this documentary navigates through Walter’s life, all leading to a special 50-year commemoration.
“I Lost My Body” (2019) is the first feature film by director Jérémy Clapin. It was shown as part of the “Dare” stream at London Film Festival 2019 which was described as “In-your-face, up-front and arresting: films that take you out of your comfort zone”. That certainly is a good description of this film. The Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize winner engages all the senses to take you on a melancholic and emotional journey towards a gruesome end.