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Investigating Human Brutality, Tech-Manipulation, Eating Counterculture & Writing Obsession

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By Roger Costa

MIRACLE

A young and mysterious nun leaves the convent in order to fix a “problem” in the city. After listening to philosophies, harassment and ideas from the taxi driver and the passenger, she arrives at her destination, a Hospital. She never makes it back to the monastery, and an unconventional detective fights against time to find the answers to what happened to her. Divided into two minimalist acts, this sinister dramatic thriller exposes the dark side of human brutality at its lowest condition. A remarkable, fearless work that addresses sexual abuse, modern society’s behavior, climate change and religious privilege, Romanian filmmaker Bogdan George Apetri’s Venice selection follows the characteristic aesthetic predominating in the New Romanian Wave (long takes with deeply investigative dialogue, noir-influenced narrative and a truthful analysis on their own social issues and challenges), but with a different sense, something darker, unexpectedly violent. There’s not much to say, otherwise would be a spoiler: the film immerses the viewer into the drama that unfolds, beautifully captivating and intriguing with its detailed, daringly biting dialogue, from which many pieces of the puzzle are randomly given away. Hypnotic and ambiguous, it is a superb exercise in suspense, a stirring moral puzzle that leaves you breathless.

(Film Movement. 6/3. Film Forum.)

NEPTUNE FROST

Prepare yourself for one of the most exquisite, radical, unique and authentic revolutionary films in recent years. Travelling through time, spaces and dreams, an intersex running away from abuse and oppression, forms a strong bond with a coltan miner during their journey, joining cosmic forces in the battle against the oppressive/slavery system along with a resistant gang of rappers/hackers. An acid Afrofuturist, cyber-punk hybrid of Sci-fi, Magical Adventure, Musical and Avant-Garde, directors Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman craft an amusing, vivid and electrifying, visionary reflection of our fractured human relations and racial divisions. The conflicts are all based on how modern society (and even so the future one) became totally dependable on Internet and how Google and other mediums are controlling our choices and shaping the trends for the future. A powerful critique to the Tech-era, using an authoritarian regime as a backdrop, full of mysticism, neon lights and extravagant colors, and enchanting musical numbers, it is a richly inventive anti-colonialism instant cult film.

(Kino Lorber. 6/3. Quad Cinema and BAM.)

SCARF FACE

America is the land of opportunities as much as it is the land of consumerism. The stigma here is being big, getting things big, serving big. Why is America obsessed with the extravaganzas of eating, indulging themselves into a cultural phenomenon called big, large, extra, while such disorder is the cause of diseases and death?

As Independence Day approaches, and the celebrations spark everywhere making news worldwide, many determined eating competitors are ready for the big 4th of July task: the traditional, Century-old Nathan’s hot-dog eating contest. The event became large (of course) gaining fame all over the world and its prestige increased along the years, when the historical winner, the Japanese athlete Takeru Kobayashi was dethroned by America’s new sweetheart, Joey Chestnut.

Directors Joe Ruzer and Sean Slater’s investigative documentary scoops out the whole process of the contest, the company behind it, the hopes and dreams, concerns and goals of the many contestants, as well as the public reaction and the role of media in the case of promoting it with accuracy and accessible language. In the beginning, the film cheerfully introduces the players and the effects revolving the contest, as well as the enthusiasm of the organizers, and the inevitable trail of betrayal in order to succeed; then, it gives away the cards, displaying a darker side of what it is to be part of a competitive, merciless world that pushes one another to their limits. With insightful interviews with the players involved, archival footage, and crucial testimonies- in particular one from a former competitor who couldn’t be identified, the directors score an accomplished take on America’s competitive behavior, the reckless eating (sub)culture and the corruption, and lack of human empathy and healthcare behind its capitalist functions.

(IndiePix. 6/3. In Theaters, Virtual Cinemas and On Demand.)

WELCOME VIOLETA!

An intense, gripping and twisted psychological thriller, Sao Paulo-born writer-director Fernando Fraiha’s sophisticated and potent drama captures the agony, uneasiness and pleasure alike of the creative writing process with incredible dynamism. Going through a mid-life existential and creative crisis, Ana arrives at a literary laboratory in the Andes intending to give life to her next novel entitled “Violeta”. Her connection to Holden, the leader and instructor of the Writing Residency, intensifies when he assigns everyone to embody and “live” their characters. The risky, life-altering and unorthodox task demands their total surrender to the new personality, provoking an ambiguous, mysterious and out-of-control situation for all parts. One of the most affected is Ana’s partner, a renowned publisher, who comes for a visit and is intimidated by her (new) behavior. Visually stunning, atmospheric and sexy, Fraiha certainly knows how to execute the material, making great use of sound, editing and lights, and extracting chilling performances from Debora Falabella as the writer in distress, and Dario Grandinetti as the methodical host, while precisely maintaining the story involving and complex at equal levels.

(Bionica Filmes. 6/3. Premieres as An Official Selection at the 2022 Brooklyn Film Festival virtual and In-Person.)


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