By Roger Costa
Actor Rob Morgan won the prestigious Lone Star Award at this year’s SXSW (as the Festival cancelled due to the health crisis, the Jury voted thru online screenings), a special prize that recognizes the ascending veteran player as an untamed force of the acting kingdom.
In the role of an aging bullfighter struggling to admit his failures, and unable to accept the varied transformations along the way, Morgan exceeds with absorbing dynamics. His character shapes and adapts to the conflicts he will experience with a young neighbor (Amber Havard, in her breakthrough role), a girl also looking for a way to connect with the world, as she’d been silent and reserved about her feelings. This outcast bond will develop into an intense, tender friendship examining the values of human service and compassion.
Accomplished filmmaker Annie Silverstein, making her fictional debut, has garnered 3 Awards at Deauville Film Festival, and she took the film to compete for the Audience Award at American Film Festival and both the Golden Camera and the coveted Un Certain Regard Awards at last year’s Cannes. She demonstrates an elaborated process of acting coordination and storytelling, especially when the camera runs around the bull arena capturing vivid, real moments of interaction between men and animals and those powerful emotional exchanges between the unlikely new friends. Delicate, observational and ambitious at equal levels, “Bull” succeeds in its depiction of loneliness and hopelessness in the outskirts of Houston, as well as a triumphant story of redemption.
(Samuel Goldwyn Films. 5/4 on VOD.)
Guatemala contemporary cinema is finding its place and recognition in the world. Only in the last months we had the pleasure to savor Jayro Bustamante’s “Tremors” and Li Cheng’s “José”. Editor turned writer-director Cesar Diaz is now the most promising cinematic force emerging from that country.
Depicting the horrors, traumas and consequences of Guatemala’s history of unjust arrests, torture and homicide provided by the military, Diaz proves enough talent and powerful command to entitle him as a complete filmmaker. Working for the Forensic Foundation, the young anthropologist Ernesto is challenged everyday with discoveries of new skeletons of people who were victims of the civil war. Intrigued by the myth and mystery behind his father’s death (who were possibly a guerrilla leader), he blends his personal interests with the investigation and decides helping an entire community of widows to claim justice for their dead husbands, requesting permission to unbury their bodies and give them a proper, respectful funeral. While risking his job and his own flesh, Ernesto is also bringing together a group of victims women, including his own mother, to testify against the past crimes in court.
Diaz coordinates his cast with impressive techniques, especially the non actresses found at the remote village, crafting a unique, highly emotional and sensitive look at grieving and unsettled justice. Winner of the Golden Camera Award in Cannes, it also serves as a powerful anti-war statement seeking to heal the wounds, brutality and nightmares still haunting their victims. Intimate, shocking and accurate, Diaz is certainly the next best thing.
(Outsider Pictures. 4/5 on VOD.)
A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND
A stylish, gripping and suspenseful #metoo revenge tale, director Abner Pastoll’s third feature film is a masterly done, disturbingly convincing and ambiguous thriller. It follows Sarah, a struggling fragile woman left alone with her two children after her husband is mysteriously murdered around the drug-filled complex she lives.
Sarah Bolger is spectacular as the protagonist, a woman tested by her own integrity and values, as well as her strength and limits. She becomes the victim of abuse of a local thief, who stole drugs from a merciless killer and is using Sarah’s place as his hideout. Things start to disintegrate, especially when Sarah’s kids is put at risk, or when she’s almost raped by him, forcing her to practice some bloody survival skills.
Pastoll scores a top notch, crowd-pleasing dramatic horror with hints of comedy, smartly written and superbly performed. Addressing male manipulation, corruption and abuse with authenticity and provocative commentary, this award-winning film is a frenetic and extremely entertaining production.
(Film Movement. 5/8 on VOD.)