By Roger Costa
DANCING THE TWIST IN BAMAKO
Samba is a revolutionary young man trying to establish socialism in his socioeconomic suffering country and people, while falling in love with a forbidden runaway bride, encouraging his father and brother, leading an aid group and dancing the nights of youth and discovery in Mali’s vibrant, musical capital. In this beautiful, uplifting and masterly crafted 60’s-set adventurous romance, director Robert Guédiguian gathers a powerful, convincing ensemble cast that reflects the needs, aspirations and expectations of the nation during that period, and how it impacted future generations. The story centers on Samba’s experience as a kid reaching maturity and committed to make the world around him a better and safer place for everyone, that includes his attempts to help and improve his people, his romance, the comradership, the conflicts and opportunities with the authorities and leaders, and his dancing passion; but it affectingly goes beyond that to allow other key characters to be explored: Samba’s brother’s behavior and conflicts with his father’s traditions and advises; the uncle who serves as the voice of God constantly remarking wisdom and righteousness; Samba’s father legal troubles with safety and hygiene protocols; and the heartbreaking and timely subplot of the runaway bride who was forced to marry under her village’s patriarchal traditions and accuses her husband of rape. Holding interest withing the running time of 2 hours, the narrative works fine, it is entertaining, historically accurate and dramatically convincing, punctuated by gorgeous cinematography (the spectacular sequence inside the textile shop is fascinating) and the effervescent musical numbers. A must-see.
(Artmattan Films. 2/24. Film Forum NYC.)
THE QUIET GIRL
Ireland’s Oscar nominated film is one of the most sensitive and delicate films ever made about abandon, loss and pure love. Anchored by a superb, hypnotic performance by first-time actor, child revelation Catherine Clinch in the role of Cait, the film captures innocence at its peak being destroyed by the inevitable course of life and reckless parenthood, but also being rescued by the immeasurable power of love. Making his feature film debut following an award-winning career of docs, shorts, TV movies and series, director and co-writer Colm Bairead leaves an impressive mark that easily defines him as a promising filmmaker. Born into an overcrowded family, little Cait is sent to her relatives’ farmhouse for a vacation where she stumbles with tragic events from the past and has a chance to figure out important rules about family values and compassion. An exquisite, poetic, contemplative coming of age story like no other.
(Super LTD. 2/24. Angelika Film Center.)
Iconic star Charlotte Rampling, one of the most versatile and honored living acting legends, gives another sample of her magnificent gift in this compelling, charismatic and universal family drama. The Oscar nominated actress pairs with young rising star George Ferrier who plays her destructive grandson attempting to make things right when returning home from board school. It sounds like an impossible mission as his grandmother is also on the destructive mode, abusing on alcohol while confined to the wheelchair and anxiously awating better reports from her doctors. That doesn’t happen either and with little time left, or expecting a miracle, she decides partnering with the kid for some final arrangements with the past while seeking the right legacy to leave. A touching, charismatic and occasionally funny dramedy set against the splendid New Zealand’s landscape, director Matthew Saville’s autobiographical tale is an inspiring look at acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
(Greenwich Entertainment. 2/24. Regal Essex Crossing.)
THREE LATINO PICKS AT MoMA’s DocFortnight ’23
Director Ana Vaz’s first feature “It Is Night in America” was filmed at the Brasilia Zoo, known as the refuge for displaced animals and displays intimate close-ups of its subjects, wolves, capybaras, owls and anteaters, making it a fascinating, mystical and gothic-like observational work.
In “Calls from Moscow” director Luis Alejandro Yero paints an accurate, heartbreaking and immersive canvas of what’s like to be an immigrant at a distant place facing a disastrous situation. In this case, a group of Cuban migrants await the unknown as Russia strikes a war against Ukraine compromising their status and future in the country. Addressing the effects of loneliness, despair and inner strength, Yero conceives a captivating revolutionary project.
The Colombian title “La Bonga” is a mesmerizing account on the consequences of Civil War and the determination of a community in claiming back their land after 2 decades of isolation after they were forced to leave their village. Filmmakers Sebastian Pinzón Silva and Canela Reyes’s debut feature is a powerful meditation on displacement and socioeconomics struggle.
(The 22nd DocFortnight Festival runs February 22nd-March 7th at MoMA.)
TWO POLISH PICKS AT BAM’s Kino Polska ’23
Damian Kocur’s “Bread and Salt” is a lively and sensitive look at a young man’s return home after studying music at Warsaw University. As he reconnects with his brother and old friends, they stumble upon two refugees, rising racial tensions and threatening their future. An Award-winning at Venice, it is a compelling portrait of this generation and the stigma of “belonging”.
The intense, suspenseful and enigmatic “Illusion” follows a woman’s attempt to solve her daughter’s disappearance. Directed by Marta Minorowicz, the film takes on many twists when she decides going extreme in her solo investigation. Anchored by a fascinating performance by leading actress Agata Buzek, it is an intriguingly mysterious, mind bending female journey puzzle.
(The Kino Polska Festival 23 runs February 24th-March 2nd at BAM.)