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Compromising the Relations between Men, Animals, Nature & Extremism Beliefs

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By Roger Costa

DIGGER

It’s been a while since Nikitas started fighting against a mining company, in order to preserve his farm and property, the last one in his remote Greek area. He is considered stubborn, reckless and persistent, known as the only person with the guts to stand against the corporation and not surrender- despite the tempting money offer they’ve been pressuring him with. Making a living off his plantations and animals, his business starts to suffer the consequences of environmental changes, as many trees are cut down, infecting his harvest and increasing the risks of flooding and contamination. Lonely, but satisfied with his living condition, and unable to give up on his property, he is confronted by his past, when a visitor arrives. His estranged son, Johnny, is now a grown man traversing financial difficulties. He brings irreversible news, which lead them to examine their obligation to each other, as well as the bond they can’t deny they share. The son reveals that his mother died, and left him the property written on a will. Nikitas is not backing up, not for the money offer from the company neither for the sake of his son’s unstable and irresponsible debts. As they are forced to spend time together, trying to figure out a beneficial escape for both parts, and struggling to accept each other’s reasons and motivations, they will unearth traumas from the past, looking for a way out into the future. A slow-burn, dynamic take on the father-son conflicted relationship genre, as well as a brilliant analysis on the bond between men, machinery and animals, Greek co-writer/director Georgis Grigorakis’ masterly crafted directorial debut addresses environmental issues and the pressure of capitalism through a story about redemption, love, hate and male stubbornness. Massively awarded in various prestigious Festivals around the Globe, including scoring a special award in Berlin, the film is shot in a suspenseful, atmospheric modern Western aesthetic that elevates the dramatic tension of the plot, paving the way for an unpredictable and very original story about reconciliation and new beginnings.

(Strand Releasing. 5/20. Quad Cinemas.)

YOU RESEMBLE ME

How can we evaluate someone’s emotional desperation leading to violence if we aren’t aware of their history, motivations and reasons? For many people who had suffered abuse and intolerance during their childhood, the road to recovery is full of obstacles and uncertainty, and the search for redemption is a never-ending quest. As the film opens, the viewer experiences a rich and engaging look at sisterly love and affection, as two sisters explore their neighborhood enjoying the pleasures of being children. The oldest, Hasna, promises to always look after the younger one, caring for her with unconditional love. But their adventures come to an end, when they have to return home, where things doesn’t really ring like that. Their mother has been abusing them in aggressively ways, increasing fear, losing innocence, and rushing their way into maturity. When Hasna is kicked out, she takes the little one along for the ride, finally escaping but getting caught by child-services and separated to different foster homes, initiating a life-long process of re-adaptation and new challenges. The film forwards to 2015, and next we follow the attempts of Hasna, now a messed up grown woman working on the streets of Paris, in changing her life for complete: she tries many jobs, including risking a chance to join the French Army- “I’ve spent my whole life protecting people. That’s what I do”, she says when they ask her for a good reason to hire her. But when denied, she alleges they are overshadowing her for being a Muslim. That’s when she connects to an estranged cousin, who is leading a legion of extremists online, believing she finally found her place in the world, confidant of her “call” to make a better world. Inspired by the over 300 hours of interviews, and archival material, director Dina Amer punctuates her film with such questions, never judging or justifying the protagonist, simply portraying with incredible accuracy and empathy, the tumultuous life of a woman who was wrongly called “Europe’s first female suicide bomber”.

With the support of executive producers Spike Lee, Spike Jonze and Riz Ahmed, the director conceives a knockout humanitarian statement, carried by a fearless, provocative performance by Mouna Soualem, who storms out the screen as the adult Hasna. Her nuanced, explosive and balanced turn as the emotionally vulnerable yet determined antihero, makes it an effective and memorable role. While Hasna is seeking console throughout the men she meets (and works for), and also through the people and the situations she must face and endure, attempting to heal her emotional wounds, the director adds documentary elements to the story, elevating its importance and relevance, and demonstrates inventive skills with the subtle use of visual effects (Hasna’s face mutates in certain occasions, giving it a chameleonic atmosphere, someone forced to act as someone else, to adapt and behave to the present situation). Gripping, moving and terrifying, this is an accomplished work. A powerful chronicle on personal trauma, dysfunctional family, religious and racial conflicts, violence inclinations and extremism.

(Screens Online starting on May 20 and In-Person on May 23 and 25 as an Official Selection at the 33rd Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2022 held at Film At Lincoln Center NYC. Go to www.FilmLinc.org for details.)

A TASTE OF WHALE

For centuries, the relationship between man and animal has been compromised by the different rules of survival. The Creator has granted Men the power to rule over animals, but animals weren’t originally formed to be part of men’s eating consumption. That also has been compromised over the years, and in our post-modern times, the debate has recently been focused on the battle between what’s right or wrong to put at your table, with loads of information coming from vegetarians and meat defenders alike. In this shocking and gruesome documentary, the battle is for the whales that have been mercilessly killed and consumed as a centuries old tradition in the Faroe Islands, North Atlantic. Director Vincent Kelner gets to the viewer’s spine and bone as the film exposes such natural, yet brutal act of survival. Each year, about 700 pilot whales are slaughtered despite the protests of animal rights activists. The film raises a whole lot of questions and debates, following and listening to both sides of the conflict: a group of activists leading a major operation to prevent the whales to be killed, and the families, organizers, enthusiasts and children who are excited and willing to fulfill their tradition with a bragging pride and admirable honesty. Both parts are defending their beliefs and stands firmly for their cause: they both fight for a sort of preservation (the natural habitat, the right to hunt and kill a wild animal). In a certain point, they are different, one resembles life, wants to protect and preserve the species, the other calls for death, despite its initial purpose of survival, turned as a sort of bloodbath game for modern times.

An urgent, timely and immersive film that everyone should see and get to their individual perspectives on the case, on the compromised relationship between men and animals, men and Nature, men and Creator.

(Greenwich Entertainment. Opens May 27 in Theaters and On Demand, Amazon and Apple TV.)


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