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Magical Romance, Mystic Traditions & Family’s Affairs

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By Roger Costa

PREPARATIONS TO BE TOGETHER FOR AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME

After living 19 years in New Jersey, serving as a respected neurosurgeon, a woman returns to Budapest in order to fix some issues.

She arrives in town, nostalgically observing the movements, the urbane rush, the sounds, the signs, and the bridge crossing the grey city. Her voice off announces she’s been in a truly engaging love experience which has marked her ever since.

There might be a man involved, remarks a colleague who’s giving her a job at the University. Attempting to rescue herself from heartache caused by the mysterious breakup, she seeks through analysis the response for a personal existential crisis consummating her both physically and emotionally.

She’s obsessed with a colleague who insists never met her- perhaps his presence is part of her delusions, despite the collection of videos she watches rewinding the moments they were together in seminars, and according to her, they made arrangements to meet frequently.

Shadows of her personal crisis, insecurities haunting her, her female basic needs and desires, her profession and recognized skills- everything at stake, as she takes the time to explore herself and the possibilities of loving.

An absorbing, magically intriguing look at the role of women in the field of medicine, seen through her feminine perspective and romantic condition, this confident and perceptive sophomore work by writer-director Lili Horvát is efficiently melancholic, brilliantly acted and unexpectedly heartwarming. Hungary’s official entry for the 2021 Best International Film Oscar subtly addresses aspects of its health system but finds its potential at the disordered emotions of the enigmatic protagonist as she goes on a feminine journey scoring over the obstacles imposed by men and society.

(Greenwich Entertainment. 1/22. Film Forum’s Virtual Cinema. Go to https://filmforum.org for details.)

YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY

Impressively shot with luminous, gorgeous exteriors and interiors, Sudan’s official entry for the Oscars 2021 tackles faith, traditions, religion and superstition confronted by death. When her son is born, the villager Sakina brings the baby to receive a blessing from the spiritual leader, but besides that, she’s also revealed a prophecy that he won’t live past twenty. “God’s command is inevitable” she is told, as she leaves the ceremony in a state of total perplexity. Shocked and shaken by the revelation, she finds more trouble at home, when her husband cowardly abandons them confessing he isn’t able to deal with it, but she is “strong enough” to endure it and take care of the son. Dressed in black, she is already grieving her living son, counting the days till he turns to the supposedly fatal age, but is advised to let the kid be instructed by the religious practices of their village- located on the margins of the Nile River- as well as their culture and business.

After a stolen childhood, living inside doors, being bullied and called “son of death”, Muzamil grows to be a decent, prudent and helpful young man in the village, assisting the elderly and helping-out at the local grocery shop. He also has a special someone, a girl from whom he’s been attracted since early age but isn’t sure of a future as he is expecting death. At one of his errands, involuntarily delivering forbidden alcohol to a mysterious bohemian filmmaker, he develops an unlikely friendship to the man and his mistress. The opportunity serves as a form of educating the kid to history and to the enchants of earthly pleasures, but mostly, it leads him to a connection to his origins and his estranged father.

Ritualistic, affecting and convincingly acted, first-time director Amjad Abu Alala crafts a unique and heartbreaking coming-of-age, a sorrowful and yet graceful look at the mysteries of death and how we inevitably live with its presence.

Winner of the Best Debut Award at Venice, it is also a mystical and profoundly executed look at community bond and resilience.

(Film Movement. 1/22. In Virtual Cinemas.)

THE SLEEPWALKERS

A family’s New Year’s Eve’ celebration turns into chaos when they all gather at the matriarch’s country house in this intensely acted and observed multi-characters study helmed by acclaimed Argentinian filmmaker Paula Hernández.

Exploring the tumultuous relationship between mother and teen daughter, as they confront each other with their different perspectives, the director builds up a suspenseful dramatic thriller while presenting key elements of dysfunctionality over the other members.

Blending a coming-of-age story with a middle age crisis, addressing abuse, negligence and the dilemmas and taboos of family standards, Hernández extracts powerful performances form the ensemble cast, especially its heroine, Érica Rivas as the blood-boiling mother dealing her preoccupations and obsession with her daughter. She exceeds in a role full of complexity and anxiety.

Immersive, seductive and ambiguous, Argentina’s official entry for the 2021 Oscars is an outstanding and thought-provoking drama that stirs up controversy dealing with family’s faults that we tend to ignore or pretend they don’t exist.

(Cinema Tropical. Tarea Fina (Argentina) and Oriental Features (Uruguay). International Sales: Meikincine Entertainment.)


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