By Roger Costa
An outstanding surprise from Brazil, award-winning director Paxton Winters masterly depicts the horrors of the war-zone-like Favelas in Rio seen through the eyes of a preteen girl who’s dreaming of dancing away her problems. What starts as a contemplative coming of age story, presenting all sorts of bullying experienced by our little protagonist, turns into a fast paced, ultra violent gangster rivalry battle for power and control over the community. Her estranged father is released from prison and unable to reclaim his former status of “boss”, he becomes the mediator for peace among the drug lords. But conflicts and treason surge from everywhere especially from the young, jealous and merciless new leader. Powerfully performed and precisely shot, it’s an accomplished account on the struggles for survival among the impoverished.
12 HOUR SHIFT
In this bizarre, utterly irreverent dark comedy a paranoid nurse runs against time to deliver clandestine organs to the Mafia in order to save her flesh. Things get drastically complicated when her murderous brother checks in under fully armed surveillance; Also, something is going on during the delivery transactions, as the amount of chopped corpses never seem enough for the demand. Writer-director Brea Grant’s sophomore feature film is filled with adrenaline, debaucherous and funny situations, subversive commentary on the American healthcare system, and plenty of horror twists. A gore fest.
An extraordinary look at family bond, Alexandre Rockwell’s intimate and personal drama is a road movie following the adventures of two siblings as they runaway from an abusive stepfather and tries to reconnect with their recovering alcoholic father. Heart rendering, efficiently moving, poetic and observational, Rockwell develops a powerful chemistry with the entire project, working with family members and students. The result is a love letter to adolescence, the stages of losing innocence and finding maturity, and also to the art of storytelling. Shot mostly on a thick B&W, sometimes mixing saturated and bright colors, it’s a crowd-pleasing, truthful and remarkable work.
Japanese-born, New York-based filmmaker Takeshi Fukunaga’s delicate and inspirational drama is centered on the stirred emotions of a boy who’s facing a cultural clash. Missing a father figure, the boy tries to avoid his ancestry and indigenous traditions, but soon finds solace with an eccentric musician who leads him through the practices and wisdom of their beliefs. His friendship to a baby bear puts the community’s annual ritualistic festival at jeopardy, while he will gradually learn the hard lessons and inevitable disappointments of the cycle of life. Young talent Kanto Shimokura has a hypnotizing presence as the protagonist, while Fukunaga conceives a glorious meditation on humanitarian values, boyhood, faith and comradeship.
A young girl develops a severe illness and is supported by her devoted mother in Ruthy Pribar’s astonishing, highly dramatic directorial debut. Presenting the parallels between mother/daughter relationship, experiences and conflicts, the film paints an accurate portrait of women seeking identity, meaning and empowerment amidst a male predominant society. But these elements are only backdrop for the intense, profound and heart-breaking co-dependent relation of these two souls dealing with unexpected health conflicts and sacrifice. With incredible control of the material, raw and accurate, Pribar is certainly a strong, promising female cinematic voice.
LOOKING FOR A LADY WITH FANGS AND A MOUSTACHE
An absorbing spiritual, mystical and romantic journey, Bhutan-born director Khyentse Norbu’s latest project is an ambitious and adventurous one-man show, where the protagonist seeks guidance, fortune and love through philosophical encounters in his homeland Nepal. While trying to set up a business for tourists, he becomes intrigued by the monk’s interpretation of his visions, and sets foot to find the woman in the title who possibly has the answers for his existential crisis. In a dreamlike atmosphere, uplifting, colorful and eccentric, inspired by Avant-Garde and surrealism, Norbu crafts a unique, visually-arresting and provocative rom-com filled with amusing metaphors.
AND DON’T MISS THESE DOCS
In THROUGH THE NIGHT (pic.), first time director Loira Limbal crafts a moving drama observing the struggle (financial, social, emotional) of a daycare owner and one of her clients, a single mother trying ot make ends meet with three different jobs. Jean-Cosme Delaloye’s truthful and funny HARLEY follows the ambition, vanity and bon vivant life-style of a lawyer who’s obsessed with the body building culture and seeks for an impossible love. Racial conflicts, prejudice and discrimination between Dominicans and Haitians are the topics in the hot boiled, alarming STATELESS directed by Michele Stephenson. In the striking and disturbing THE STATE OF TEXAS V. MELISSA, director Sabrina Van Tassel investigates the motives and facts in the case of a woman accused of killing her own child and sentenced to death. New York City’s 1950’s gay scene is brilliantly depicted through glittery intimate letters in P.S. BURN THIS LETTER PLEASE. Filled with controversial testimonies of veteran drag queens and bohemians who kicked off a sexual revolution back then, directors Michael Seilgman and Jennifer Tiexiera captured an amazingly affective and utterly entertaining portrait of liberation.