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Inventive Stories at First Look Festival 2020


By Roger Costa


Euphoric and anarchist, director Xawery Żuławski’s adaptation of his late father’s last screenplay is a furiously enigmatic overview on a chaotic society of the near future. Crafted with brilliant, enhanced, bright wide shots, convincingly neurotic performances, violent metaphors and a stylish nightmare atmosphere, the film follows the struggles of two teachers experiencing the consequences of reactionary politics, a composer suffering from leprosy, a young aspiring filmmaker and other eccentrics. Each character carries important elements of now-a-days social conflicts, while Żuławski composes an adrenaline-fueled cinematic experience. (Screens 3/13).


The intense, pure and incendiary friendship of a teen girl and three boys stuck in a remote place, seeking meaning and identity while analyzing their own concepts, feelings and expectations is masterly captured by the lenses of Award-winning documentarian Anna Eborn. Intimately shot in 16mm, it perfectly exposes the teens’ emotions, showing revelatory moments of anguish, fear, jealousy, passion and pure love. Following their adventures and encounters throughout summer and winter, their explorations with nature, themselves, and abandoned, destroyed buildings, Eborn conceives a naturally humane, honest, vivid, raw portrait of Millennials. The result is something rarely seen, a triumphant and heart-moving exposé of friendship values, a truthful coming-of-age story. It deserves all merits it can get. (Screens 3/14).


Depicting the quest for survival and economic stability of a disabled hairdresser in Madagascar, documentarian Michael Andrianaly creates a heart-rendering look on the marginalized and unclassified workers, struggling for dignity. As the city puts down his business, he re-arranges the salon at his residence while battling the system to be eligible for human rights, which also means a new working place. The director extracts stirring revelations on the prejudice and social conflicts experienced by Romeo, his family and customers, serving as an important humanitarian statement. (Screens 3/14).


Gorgeously sensitive, dynamic and absorbing, this Georgian drama observes the intense friendship and prohibited love affair of two young ladies as they reunite after many years and recall their memories. Director Tamar Shavgulidze deeply observes this encounter, taking place at a beautiful and peaceful garden-filled house, where the daughter of one of them is also present. A female-driven melancholic portrait of women adjusting their passing time, desires and expectations, actresses Nino Kasradze and Ketevan Gegeshidze deliver compelling performances as the long-time friends, exploring tension, passion, fear and relief through brilliant facial techniques. And Shavgulidze confirms herself as a promising filmmaker, especially when the film turns into an abstract sci-fi journey with astonishing shots. Bravo! (Screens 3/15).


A young woman reveals scandalous topics of her personal and professional life, as well as exploring confidential, intimate traumas of her stolen childhood and eventual promiscuous behavior. An Italian immigrant living in Germany, Eva is seeking for the meaning of life while working as a part-time model and full-time sex worker. She spends the holidays back home, making amends with her past, as she re-encounters her recovering heroine-addicted mother, and other relatives. Winner of a Special Mention at CPH:DOX Awards, director Pia Hellenthal crafts a hypnotizing documentary, an observational and compassionate look at dysfunctional behavior, rebellion and resistance. Provocative, unashamed and enthusiastic, Hellenthal captures an essential portrait of this generation’s quest for identity and fulfillment. (Screens 3/15).


A lovely account on motherhood and resistance, directors Cristina Haneș, Isabella Rinaldi and Arya Rothe gain all access to the lives of a young mother, her working husband and their two little boys, as they face financial obstacles, bureaucracy, prejudice and conflicts in the jungle-community of the Naxalites, a group of Communist rebels fighting for the rights of Indian tribes. Subtly addressing the war conflicts in India, the film centers on the mother’s quest for raising and educating her children, while observing the transformations around them, capturing essential moments of family bond and globalization. Preciously observed and absorbing, it’s a powerful meditation on the cycle of life. (Screens 3/15).

(First Look Festival 2020 brings new, bold and inventive films to Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NYC. The festival runs March 11-15. Go to for details, schedule and tickets.)

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