By Roger Costa
Set amidst the chaos, dangers and intolerance of the Russian Cold War, this subtly erotic and beautifully acted drama channels the love triangle formed by two male soldiers who fall in love during mission, and a female secretary who becomes involved with one of them. Based on a true story and adapted from the book “The Story of Roman” written by Sergey Fetisov, Estonian director Peeter Rebane crafts a precise Queer drama, accurately reconstructed, and filled with suspenseful twists, as the protagonists seek to consummate their affair without getting caught or killed. With the KGB and other officials hunting down homosexual activities around the Soviet Air Force Base, risking up to five years in jail or death penalty, the film addresses the turmoil gay folks in such rank must endure to go on with their lives and choices.
The trio of actors is superb, led by The Theory of Everything’s Tom Prior as Sergey, Oleg Zagorodnii as his other half Roman, and Diana Pozharskaya as Luisa the woman between them. They bring vigor and credible sensuality to the hot scenes, sparklingly filmed with brightness and glamour. Spanning years in their romance, presenting the evolution of Roman into the service as well as a closet man leading a double life, and Sergey deeply engaging interest in acting and consequent breakthrough success on stage, Rebane, an accomplished music video director, here making his directorial debut, scores a sensitive and passionate, yet potent and timely epic gay love story at threatening times.
(Screens 8/21 at LGBTQ Outfest LA Film Festival and playing virtually 8/22-24.)
Running an underground business of loaning money and having an unusual, brutal form of charging them the due payback, a matriarch controls her three sons with love but mostly with a sense of possessive objects, a manipulative force whom they just can’t escape from. Actress Sidse Babett Knudsen gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the unstoppable female mafia boss in Danish director Jeanette Nordahl’s absorbing, accomplished feature debut. Kudsen shines as the woman sheltering her grieving teen niece into her home, but hiding their lifestyle from the not-so-innocent troubled teen. She herself, played with enigmatic skills by newcomer Sandra Guldberg Kampp, conducts the film with an intimate narration of how she lost her mother in a car accident and got involved in her aunt’s dangerous world. As she mingles with them as an apprentice, she is confronted by moral dilemmas and humanitarian values, which may interfere with the home interests.
Nordahl masterly composes an urban psychological thriller seen through the feminine perspective on all sides: a fierce business woman and mother, an outcast teen seeking her place in a cruel world, and a promising new director carrying spectacular cinematic skills.
(Film Movement. 8/20. Film Forum NYC.)
BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE
One of the most accomplished female documentarians, two-time Oscar nominated Lucy Walker turns her knowledge and humanitarian lenses to the wildfire crisis in America, presenting relevant, absurd facts, asking questions and raising awareness, as well as looking deep inside the traumas suffered by the survivors.
An acclaimed director who made her mark with impressive gems such as “Waste Land”, “Countdown to Zero” and “Blindsight”, Walker digs deep into the earthly inferno of the wildfires around the world, with focus on the tragic events of 2018’s Camp Fire and Malibu Fire in California, considered the largest and deadliest in American history. With numbers revealing 88 residents deaths and tens of thousands of homes destroyed in both Paradise and Malibu cities, the film causes a thrilling sense of desperation with its precise retelling of the horror experienced on those days.
Walker tackles the uncontrollable chaotic force of global climate, the role and defense strategies of the industries, the political parts involved, and how humans, animals and nature itself are crying desperately for solution. Presenting horrifying archival footage, and never seen images of evacuation, as well as interviews with scientists, activists, firefighters and survivors (as well as those wealthy enough to have their own private firefighter team, the “Bring your own Brigade” from the title), she manages to keep it intriguing and alarming at equal levels, conceiving an important and explosive account on the scorching crisis, its flames and paths of destruction, and the irreversible psychological and physical wounds exposed by the survivors’ truthful, agonizing testimonies.
(CBSN/Paramount. 8/20. In Theaters and On Demand.)