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A Dancer’s Breakdown, Life-Changing Mission, and Seeking Redemption Overseas

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By Roger Costa

WAIKIKI ⭐⭐⭐

A teacher and hula dancer working at a nightclub struggles to find acceptance and stability, as she sacrifices herself living inside her van as she escapes from an abusive partner.

In a darkly dramatic atmosphere, she recklessly runs someone over while literally speeding off to escape the man’s aggressive dominance.

Gorgeously shot with incredible views on the astonishing Hawaiian landscape, the cinematography works magnificently with both the bright shades of daylight and the intimidating darkness of night.

Melancholic and absorbing, Native Hawaiian filmmaker Christopher Kahunahana’s impressive debut, addresses social issues, the homeless crisis, indigenous tradition and family virtues as the protagonist constantly dives into her childhood memories which builds up some mystery, exploring what may contain secrets and traumas to be revealed.

A finely crafted and suspenseful portrait of a woman’s quest for liberation, the struggles of the working class and male abuse, Danielle Zalopany delivers a breakthrough performance as the heroine navigating a contemporary world full of obstacles and violence, while seeking hope throughout the unexpected friendship she develops with the man she ran over. The director explores relevant characteristics of the minority through their interaction with the world outside, creating an affecting display of compassion and resistance.

(Premieres as the Closing Night Official Selection at the Hawaii International Film Festival 2020, Nov. 5-29.)

PROXIMA ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Winner of the Platform Prize at Toronto, French writer-director Alice Winocour’s third directorial effort is her most accomplished work to date. The same goes for actress Eva Green, here demonstrating all her potential with fierce determination and confidence, easily the best performance of her career.

She plays a French astronaut who must navigate the consequences of her professional decisions when she’s assigned for a special mission. Her co-dependent relationship with her daughter is put at stake, as she prepares to leave the kid behind under her ex-husband’s care. Intense and thrilling, delicate and observational, Winocour scores a winning dramatic thriller with perfect balance between the suspense and the dilemmas its protagonist must deal with.

During the intensive and exhausting training for the launch, which she shares with an American (played by a surprisingly convincing Matt Dillon) and a Russian co-astronauts, she is constantly diminished by them, excluded from some of the most heavy and risk tasks, and other obstacles they try to put her way. The director efficiently addresses the predominant issue of women’s inequality and exclusion, as she fights prejudice and sexism, without having to prove her skills.

Meanwhile, she must remain strong as she builds a bridge between her mission and her daughter, in order to help the kid process her long 1 year absence, focusing on the effects caused by the entire situation. Winocour investigates the tenderness and sacrifices of a mother/daughter relationship, with the same prestige and dedication she depicts the incredibly efficient scientific elements of the film, brilliantly adding suspense and thrilling moments to the narrative. A crowdpleasing!

(Vertical Entertainment. Now playing in VOD and other digital platforms.)

MONSOON ⭐⭐⭐

Observational and lyrical, Acclaimed BAFTA-nominee director Hong Khaou follows the personal journey of Kit (the hunky Henry Golding from “Crazy Rich Asians”), a British man who returns to modern Vietnam, his childhood place, in order to find relief for his emotional crisis.

Exploring his roots and cultural identity, he meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers) and they ignite a sexually-charged relationship while dealing with each other’s traumas, loneliness and lust. The result is a fascinating and inclusive, sexy and nostalgic redemptive story.

(Strand Releasing. 11/13. Film Forum’s Virtual Cinema and Digital platforms.)


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