By Roger Costa
SNIPER: THE WHITE RAVEN
Masterly shot and auspiciously executed, director Marian Bushan’s fictional feature debut is set in Donbass, Ukraine, vividly capturing all the sense of loss, despair and hopelessness that drains those fighting in a senseless war. A teacher is living an experiment alongside his pregnant wife, as they live in the outskirts of the city using unconventional sources of survival. Their point is to prove pacifism during such brutal and irresponsible conflict, in which they become victims. She is brutally murdered by militants in front of his eyes, striking a quest for revenge and redemption. He joins the Ukrainian military and immediately improves his sharp perception becoming a top sniper. The scenes of the operations are shot with gorgeous, grey lights and breathtaking angles, demonstrating the ability of the director in infusing dramatic elements to the artistry of the action narrative. Actor and musician Pavlo Aldoshyn gives a convincing, nuanced performance as the emotionally wounded protagonist, brilliantly embodying such sorrowful condition, carrying loss in his eyes and a quiet anger ready to explode at any time. Suspenseful and beguiling it is a chilling and entertaining antiwar thriller.
(Well Go USA. 7/1. Village East Cinema and On Demand.)
There is something different and unique about Clara. Something ingenious, strange, mysterious and perhaps, dangerous. She is a 40-year-old woman, who had always lived well under her mental-illness condition, promptly and affectionately watched over by her aging mother and teenager niece. They constantly mention in sentences full of longing, the death of Clara’s sister, which had orphaned her niece. Clara has an unusual deeply engaged connection to Nature, especially bugs. She talks and can hear them, especially Yucca, an 8-year-old white horse whom she loves and cares as much as she couldn’t be able to so the same for herself. She is also known for seeing the Virgin Mary, which is devotedly fueled by her mother’s perspectives and ambitions, bringing people to receive Clara’s “blessing”. With her hormones changing or developing at a late stage, Clara increasingly explores her womanhood, her body, and how it reacts to the circumstances surrounding her. The preparations for her niece’s upcoming birthday, a sort of sweet sixteen, is punctuated with tension through the meticulous demands by the teen, and her excitement somehow influences and triggers Clara’s feminine desires, vanities, anxieties and vulnerabilities. That intensifies when a friend of the family becomes closer and more accessible, even conducting Clara through her process of self understanding and getting to know the remote Costa Rican village they live at- Clara gets to places counting houses. His presence strikes a feminine self-liberation, a calm but tempestuous revolution, with sexual tension and never explored emotions, all at once stirring up Clara. That confusion, and mix of heat and new feelings, awakens the woman who never lived a normal life and now is battling the unknown ghosts that insist to haunt her. Somehow she needs freedom, even though she is still unable to survive on her own. An Official Selection at Cannes and Winner of 5 Guldbagge Awards, the prestigious Oscar-like award given by the Swedish Academy, this Costa Rican/Swedish co-production marks the directorial debut of Nathalie Alvarez Mesen, a promising new filmmaker. It is also a superb platform to display the impressive talent of newcomer actress Wendy Chinchilla Araya, who steals the show, making her character the center, heart and soul of the film. Crafted as an enigmatic and mystical puzzle, blending themes of mental disorder, women liberation, religious belief and manipulation, hierarchy and economic vulnerability, this is an intense slowburn drama, a haunting yet delicate look at a unique woman going through equally unique transformations, physical, emotional and spiritual.
(Oscilloscope. 7/1. IFC Center.)