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Running Away from Reality, Cold War & Religious Tradition


By Roger Costa


Living in a community shelter in the Bronx with her mother and two little sisters, teenager Goldie is running against time to gather everything she needs (including an expensive golden coat) for a promising gig. An aspiring free-style, hip-hop dancer, she runs through the streets of the borough, claiming her right to be free and young in New York City, while flirting, shoplifting, meeting associates and preparing herself to dance on a music video. When her mother is taken away by the cops, she runs away with her two little sisters trying to protect them from child services, avoiding separation and facing a harder task: responsibility. She won’t give up on pursuing her dancing dreams, which will put her on the path of dangerous drug-dealers, and other unexpected obstacles, as she tries to survive and accomplish at the same time. Award-winning director Sam de Jong’s sophomore feature film is a colorful, vibrant, realistic portrait of youth in the Bronx, addressing the struggles of impoverished Millennials and the tendency to criminality. Model Slick Woods gives a breakthrough performance as the protagonist, building up a charismatic, spontaneously funny and outrageously feminist character with truthful passion. The supporting cast also shines, a bunch of eccentric, modern-based youngsters whose priority in life is to have fun, especially Angela Griszell as the clueless Princess, and fully-tattooed Jose Rodriguez, as a promiscuous playboy. With the help of a brilliant reddish tone cinematography capturing the warmth and heat of the streets and its people, and the pot-boiling situation, as well as a precise, animation-mixed editing, great soundtrack, director de Jong conceived a daring, unashamed, engaging survivalist concrete-jungle story. Nominated for the Crystal Bear Award at Berlin, he is definitely one filmmaker to watch. (Film Movement. 2/21. Roxy Cinemas NYC.)


A masterly crafted political thriller set in 1979’s communist East Germany, director Michael Herbig’s suspenseful drama follows the desperate actions and courageous escape of two families, running from the pressures and horrors of Cold War, as they attempt to sail over the border in a homemade hot-air balloon. Winner of the Audience Choice Award at Heartland International Film Festival, it centers on the strong bond and dedication of an electrician, his wife, and their two sons. While the adults live on the edge of being caught, it also deeply observes the reactions over the children, creating a parallel story: the oldest one is living his first romance with the daughter of an official, and the youngest demonstrates conflicts with innocence and the acceptance of a divided nation. As they fail on their first risky attempt, they are forced to re-arrange their plans for a new balloon, while The Stasi speeds up an investigation, rapidly tracking them. Based on an adventurous true story, vividly performed by a convincing cast, especially Friedrich Mücke, as Peter Strelzyk, the leader of the Balloon Operation, it’s a triumphant family-escape drama. (Distrib Films US. 2/21. Quad Cinema NYC.)


A multiple winner at Venice and nominated for the 2020 Oscars for Best International Film, Jan Komasa’s intense, controversial drama depicts the personal conflicts of a young man battling the flesh against the spirit. Actor Bartosz Bielenia gives a fascinating, complex performance as Daniel, an ex-con who assumes a priest’s identity right after he leaves a youth detention center. He becomes shelter for a wounded community, still grieving the loss of a few youngsters killed in a tragic accident. Daniel is gradually involved with his new persona, developing a strong bond with the residents as he puts in practice his unusual preaching methods, which includes helping them recover, but also surrendering to his humane desires, such as enjoying drugs, rock and sex. His weakness leans toward a young woman, whose brother was one of the victims, while he will also defy standards in order to unify them and establish forgiveness. An electrifying canvas of youth in trouble and in crisis of identity, Komasa crafted an affecting and scandalous story about faith, compassion, resilience and human values. (Film Movement. 2/19. Film Forum NYC.)

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