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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.