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Teen Love, Therapy Cafe, Historic Invention & Fatal Crime


By Roger Costa


An unlikely bond between two girls will stir up controversy in a small Kenyan town, on the edge of an important local election. Director Wanuri Kahiu’s sophomore project presents a remarkable heroin, Kena, a teenage girl traversing a tumultuous phase, as she deals with the social transformations around her, on her body and in her family. First she’s still trying to accept her parents’ separation, caring and supporting them in different ways; then she’s working on keeping her strong friendship with a local moto-boy, as she declines his love interests; contemplating her youth and community, she spends time taking care of family duties, hangs around with her buddies, and as a proper tomboy she plays soccer and other radical sports. Her attention is totally captured by Ziki, a dancing, free-spirit and hipster exotic girl who happens to be the daughter of her father’s political opponent. Gradually Kena and Ziki develops a tender attachment, an ambiguous relationship blending sisterhood and romance that obviously causes scandal and division among the intolerable community. In order to maintain their flame alive they’ll face obstacles, both emotional and physical, as they fight taboos and traditions, collecting the consequences and conflicts for their purely sincere affair. Kahiu crafts a lovely, colorful, energized, captivating portrait of Kenya’s youth in search of meaning and purpose for the future, as well as emotional stability. Seductive and meditative, it’s beautifully shot with vivid, perceptive lenses, and brings surprisingly convincing performances from the entire cast, the protagonist girls, their anguished parents, and secondary characters, such as the gossip lady Mama Atim and the good-hearted narcisistic Blacksta, both building up funny, memorable characters that really steal the scene. An acclaimed selection at Cannes, Chicago, Dublin and other festivals, Kahiu crafts much more than just a funny and fresh coming-of-age African romance: looking at prejudice, loneliness, faith and love, the film makes a remarkable statement about finding acceptance, respect and freedom. A smart gem. (Film Movement. 4/19. BAM, 30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn NYC.)


Korean Master Hong Sangsoo is back with another marvelous B&W productions centered at a small cafe where several people meet and discuss their anguish and fate. Sort of different from the soft cynical humor characteristic that permeates his films, Sangsoo deeply exposes his players’ issues regarding new beginnings, re-connections and the inevitable fear of death, to subtly comment on the human quest for success, both professional and emotional. As the leaves start to change its colors and shapes, Sangsoo’s characters are also switching their current situation into something new: a young writer seeking wisdom and inspiration among the crowded cafe; a bohemian artist looking for a muse in order to get back on track; two lovebirds preparing for a premature wedding; a failed veteran actor desperate for shelter and work; a couple mourning a woman’s suicide, and a lover haunted by her partner’s reckless and fatal drunkenness. Actress Min-hee Kim gives a fascinating turn as the mysterious writer sitting on the corner of the cafe observing the others’ troubles. She absorbs the conflicts and transports them into the screen with sensibility and a strong, shiny presence. Sangsoo delivers precious philosophies on living and its pleasures, the process of artistic creation and the uncontrollable strength of love. Filled with marvelous classic tunes, (“the owner here is a great guy, and he loves classic music!” praises a customer) Sangsoo developed a melancholic and perceptive portrait of modern society’s insecurities, desires and anxieties. (The Cinema Guild. 4/19. The Metrograph NYC.)


Considered one of last century’s most significant inventions, Polaroid cameras sparkled a legion of enthusiasts, documenting unforgettable moments in just a click. Instantly portraying and delivering the photo in a matter of seconds, the company stopped manufacturing it about a decade ago, as the new era of mobile phone cameras took over the market. Nominated for the Audience Award at Amsterdam Doc Fest and for the Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Slamdance, director Willem Baptist follows a group of scientists trying to re-create the secret formula of the beloved camera, and a few photographers who still work with it while the supply lasts. Through insightful takes on its history, legacy and family-valued importance, the film collects personal, yet universal perspectives on its use, exploring traces of human attachment to significant objects, especially those that help us keep memories safe. (Synergetic Distribution. 4/19. Cinema Village.)


Actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno gives a fascinating, audacious performance in this enigmatic, highly erotic thriller directed by award-winning filmmaker Ferzan Ozpetek (The Turkish Bath). She plays a successful pathologist who becomes a suspect in a murder investigation. After meeting an irresistible man at a friend’s art-lovers gathering, she spends an intense night with him, only to learn hours later that he’d been brutally murdered; Being investigated by the police, looking for clues and answers on her own, while digging up dark secrets hidden by family members, she becomes even more involved in the crime when she connects with the guy’s twin brother, delving into a net of strange coincidences, mysticism and risky consequences. Mezzogiorno builds up a complex, lonely, fragile yet fierce and courageous female character with impressive convincing techniques. As the film explores the sexual elements of the story, her cravings, needs and desires, it also maintains the audience seduced by its depiction of the bohemian life, the cultural and artistic environment they share and the gorgeous Italian landscape. Beautifully shot by Gian Filippo Corticelli, who won the David di Donatello Award for Best Cinematography, it’s an enthralled sexual and personal journey of a woman caught up by an unexpected fatal crime. (Breaking Glass Pictures. 4/19. Cinema Village.)

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