By Roger Costa
Influenced by the best in contemporary Neo-realism, director Ameen Nayfeh’s feature debut is an electrifying and suspenseful dramatic thriller about a Palestinian man running against time to reach his son at an Israeli Hospital. Anchored by a powerful performance from Award-winning leading actor Ali Suliman, the film paints a relevant and intriguing portrait of the conflict, introducing a clan of eccentric characters as they interact during a road trip. An aspiring singer dreaming of climbing the wall and smuggling himself into the other side, a filmmaker documenting everyone she meets along the way, extracting their reactions on the conflict, her boyfriend/translator and a mercenary driver: they all represent a key role in the conflict, as seen and experienced by the pacifier father who’s just trying to reach a safe ground. Winner of the Human Rights Jury Prize at Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, and Jordan’s official entry for the Oscars, it is a moving, brilliantly executed, powerfully performed and fast paced thriller about the moral, ethical and economic sacrifices families must endure to survive on the other side of the wall.
(Film Movement. 11/18. Quad Cinema.)
BLOOD RED OX
Bolivian emerging director Rodrigo Bellott certainly is not afraid of taking risks. His previous work, the heart-rendering Oscar-submitted “Tu Me Manques” put him on the radar as one of world cinema’s most notorious new voices. With this latest project, an ambiguous, immersive romantic queer story turned hallucinatory horror, Bellotti demonstrates to be on the path of deserving to be named an auteur. His distinguished approach to the queer experience and the explorations on human connection and the pursuit of emotional stability is easily absorbed into any genre he ventures on. In this case, he goes punk, radical, experimental, deeply influenced by Avant-Garde and B-horror movies, with the same brilliance and coherence previously demonstrated. In a nightmarish, puzzle-like atmosphere, we follow two lovers as they arrive for a healing vacation in an Indigenous Bolivian village. In an early incident, they watch an animal sacrifice which causes a disturbing effect, triggering their fears and traumas, all while they explore their passionate affair, their attempts to overcome a mysterious crisis and the mystical traditions of the place and its people. Things get a bloody twist when the most vulnerable descends into madness. The director works the visuals, extravagant dark and neon lights and unusual double frames with extreme control of the techniques, and the actors give fine performances, despite some unconvincing dialogue and accent. Overall it is a satisfying work that will entertain both fans of horror and queer psychological drama. Sexy, hauntingly mad and visually stunning, Bellott scores a unique horror gay love story.
(Breaking Glass Pictures. 11/11. On VOD and DVD.)
An acclaimed discovery at various festivals, including NewFest, AIFF and Frameline, Stéphanie Lamorré’s thought-provoking documentary is a courageous, bold and deeply moving analysis on family bond facing the issues related to transgender rights. Sensitive and emphatic, the director observes the social end emotional turbulence of a trans teen who battles society’s standards and rules in order to join the Indigenous dance competitions with the same respect others get. Sherenté Harris is a two-spirited teen who lives as both boy and girl with the support of their family, friends and community members. Intimate, beautifully observed and accurate, the film brings awareness to one of our time’s most crucial issues, tolerance and respect for another’s sexuality and perspectives, while conceiving a fascinating portrait of family’s unconditional love. A work of grand bravura!
(Film Movement. 11/11. VOD and Digital.)