By Roger Costa
At one point, the 14-year-old Cambodian boy turned slave in a Thai fishermen ship, stares at the immensity of the ocean around him, contemplating a chance for freedom, a way to better survive his miserable condition. He might also regret leaving his home, with the excuse he wasn’t getting paid for his father’s requesting jobs (“why did you have so many children?” he courageously confronted his patriarch). He wouldn’t have got trapped in a human trafficking, slavery operation taking place in the middle of the ocean, as an accurate portrait of what really occurs in these corrupt, lawless and impoverished parts of the world. His charismatic, determined personality attracts an allied from both sides: he becomes attached, and forms an unlikely father/son relationship with one of the slaved men among them, who shapes him through their suffering journey, and also captures admiration from one of the murderous captains in the ship, who decides to protect him and to turn him into one of his kind. Addressing children exploitation in a gripping atmosphere, powerfully performed and shockingly violent, Rodd Rathjen’s feature debut is an impressive, cutting-edge survivalist tale.
(Kino Marquee. 9/11. Film Forum’s Virtual Cinema.)
Justine Triet’s intense psychological sexual dramedy brings two Oscar-caliber performances by Virginie Efira as a respected shrink and Sandra Huller as a film director. Attempting to write a novel while taking a leave from work and from her demanding patients, Sibyl sees herself on a personal crisis with her husband, her children, and her sister. Topics of motherhood and womanhood are brilliantly explored through her self-consciousness analysis. As she develops a reliable connection to a new client (an immature movie actress having an affair with her co-star who’s the director’s boyfriend), and dreams of a lover from the past, she finds enough fuel to ignite her imagination and inner desires, fulfilling her creative process of writing. When she becomes the strongest and most influential among them, she surrenders to her erotic fantasies, proving to be just one more person struggling with emotional balance and personal satisfaction. An eloquent, sexually-charged examination on female aspirations, Triet masterly crafted a smart, seductive and darkly funny multi-character feminine study (the shrink, the star and the director, plus a curious daughter) in an enigmatic puzzle-like atmosphere. Bravo!
(Music Box Films. 9/11. Film At Lincoln Center’s Virtual Cinema.)
An accomplished directorial debut, Writer-director Jon Stevenson’s horror drama centers on the weird friendship a lonely man develops with an entertainer’s single video tape. Set in 1990, David (an outstanding performance by Brian Landis Folkins) lives at his mother’s basement and spends his days taking care of her as she suffers from dementia. At his privacy, he seeks a dating partner through a rent-videos dating service that massively and ridiculously profits from his loneliness and continuous efforts to find a match. The hangouts with the in-video friend (a subversive, nerve-racking, scary Wil Wheaton) feed his emptiness and desperate need for companionship, becoming dangerously compulsive and brain-washing. Despite his lack of success, the dating agency manages to get him a match, and he finally meets Lisa, another desperate soul-mate hunter. They both believe in kindness and honesty and might fit for each other, as long as David’s secret conflicts towards his mother, and his increasingly disturbing bond with his creepy VCR-friend won’t impose a threat on it. Frenetic, anxiously chilling, and convincingly designed with the colors, trends and pace of the 90’s, Stevenson created a stylish, nightmarish-Retro, Gothic-infused bizarre drama with subtle commentaries on the difficulties of aging alone, compassion, and the effects of untreated hopelessness and loneliness.
(IFC Midnight. 9/11. In Theaters and VOD.)
OUR TIME MACHINE⭐⭐⭐
Winner of the Best Cinematography Award at this year’s Tribeca, this highly emotional documentary follows the journey of an artist struggling to preserve his elderly’s father’s memory and honor his lifelong working career. Beautifully capturing the affecting and tender relationship between father and son, directors Yang Sun & S. Leo Chiang paint an intimate canvas of artistic creation, a passionate tale about family virtues and human condition. They follow the renowned Chinese artist Maleonn (Ma Liang) as he sets out an ambitious Puppetry show about time and memory when his father, the former artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater, is diagnosed with Alzheimer. He intends to reconnect with his father, helping him remember some special times they spent together, and also seeks a source of healing for both of them, as Maleonn reveals he did see his father very little (he produced about 80 spectacles for the Opera Theater). A coherent, heart-rendering meditation on the process, obstacles and efforts of creativity, it showcases the passionate and unlimited artistic expressions of both men, in different perspectives and times, as well as a delicate and impressively raw father-son redemptive story.
(Walking Iris Media/POV. 9/11. Museum of Moving Image’s, BAM’s and Maysles Documentary Center’s Virtual Cinemas and VOD.)