By Roger Costa
Named after the iconic Russian cosmonaut, Gagarine is the mega house-complex for immigrants in the outskirts of Paris that was deemed to demolition as inspectors found its conditions to be impossible to live. A very determined and gifted Black teen influenced by the mysteries of the space uses all his abilities to maintain the building in order, but his attempts fail the system’s requirement. With an eviction on the horizon and most residents fighting to keep their beloved place, the kid smartly creates a sort of spaceship where he tries to save the housing project from collapsing and spends time dreaming of becoming an astronaut. He is joined by a lunatic drug-dealer with a good heart, and his love interest, a gypsy girl facing the risks of losing her family’s trailer. An acclaimed selection at Cannes and Winner of the Lumiere Award for Best First Film, directors Fanny Liatard and Jeremy Trouilh inventively blends magical realism and the harsh reality of house redevelopment and displacement affecting many minority communities around the globe, extracting superbly fresh performances from their cast. Newcomer Alseny Bathuly gives a breakthrough performance as the talented teen, responsible for observing and uniting his community in order to resist and fight for whatever they could save. Sensitive and humanistic, the result is a lovely and inspiring survivalist portrait about the power of compassion and community bond.
(Cohen Media Group. 4/1. Quad Cinema.)
SEE YOU THEN
An acclaimed selection at last year’s SXSW and both LA and NY NewFest, this sensitive, profound and unpredictable LGBTQ-themed drama marks the directorial debut of award-winning editor and producer Mari Walker. Depicting relevant and timely issues related to acceptance, tolerance and sexual identity and transition, the film is brilliantly structured in the likes of the “Before Sunrise” trilogy, following the intensely moving conversations between two ex-lovers who get together after many years to catch up on unresolved traumas and experiences from the past.
Grey’s Anatomy’s prolific actress Lynn Chen plays an unhappy and overwhelmed art teacher who agrees to spend the night with trans-woman Kris (Pooya Mohseni), her ex-lover from years ago. As they kick off the night over dinner and personal reflections on the different paths taken, visiting old spots where they used to hangout, and crossing with folks related to their history, director and co-writer Walker extracts powerfully convincing performances from the duo, while accurately and delicately depicting the uneasiness, challenges and inner desires of these two complex characters. Though the experiences of these women might look utterly personal, the reactions and revelations resonate universally. That familiarity creates an immersive, emphatic and humanistic atmosphere, inviting the audience for an analysis on our tendency to judge and discriminate those we only see from a distance. All the wandering around paves the way for an unconventionally unforgettable and striking climax, where they confront each other with the consequences of their past. Beautifully acted and poignant, the film displays a harmless sense of melancholy while the protagonists try to reconnect and forgive each other. The result is precious.
(Breaking Glass Pictures. 4/1. In select Theaters.)