If Céline Sciamma’s recently released Portrait of a Lady on Fire paints a picture of female community and camaraderie at its best, honing in on the lives of women as they create space for each other outside of patriarchal society, then Malgorzata Szumowska’s The Other Lamb illustrates the opposite end of the spectrum. With a fervent religious cult as the vehicle for its nightmarish story, The Other Lamb spins a haunting tale about the limitations of female friendship and identity under patriarchal influence. This “tale” is, of course, still an everyday reality for many women, and the horrors of the story will no doubt resonate with a large audience. It’s cathartic and angry, but before releasing its rage, it sympathetically explores touchy subjects like desire, Stockholm syndrome, and the confusing web of signification that fights for control over the female body.
Swedish writer and director Jimmy Olsson, who is known for short films like Repressed (2011) and 2nd Class (2018), examines some difficult subjects in his latest short, Alive. Running at just twenty-three minutes, Alive deals with ableism and relational boundaries in its story of two women, Viktoria (Eva Johansson), who has a neuromuscular disorder, and her caretaker Ida (Madeleine Martin). The short is a feel-good tearjerker with a heartwarming lesson, but it also covers new territory in its take on disability and opens the door to some very important and necessary discussions.
Although we’re just two months into the new year, 2020 has already seen the landmark trials of two immensely powerful figures who were both accused of abusing their power in different ways: President Donald Trump, who was acquitted by the U.S. Senate at the conclusion of his impeachment trial, and former film producer Harvey Weinstein, who was convicted of rape and sexual assault in late February. While public response to these trials and their outcomes is sharply divided, such power scandals are always sure to hook a massive audience. These stories bring followers not only to news outlets, but to the movies as well. The recent film Bombshell (2019), for example, revisited the 2016 sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. This week, another political scandal will play out on the big screen with Ricky Tollman’s feature directorial debut, Run This Town. Packed with suspense from start to finish, Run This Town tells the story of late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who was exposed for drug abuse in 2013. Run This Town reimagines the scandal through the eyes of a group of ambitious young adults at the start of their careers.
If you’re still looking for romance the week after Valentine’s Day, or perhaps if you’re desperate for something warm and colorful to beat the winter blahs, Masaaki Yuasa’s new anime feature, Ride Your Wave, might be just the pick-me-up you need. Yuasa has directed a number of anime works, most notably The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (2017); Lu Over the Wall (2017); and Devilman: Crybaby (2018). He has also worked in the animation and writing departments for numerous other feature films and TV shows. His resume reveals the wide range of styles, moods, and genres that anime can encompass. Yuasa’s latest feature, Ride Your Wave, is a teen romance that delves into the supernatural while maintaining the carefree flair of a lighthearted summer beach flick.
The Slamdance Film Festival, which runs at the same time and in the same city as the more widely known Sundance Film Festival, gives new and aspiring filmmakers the chance to showcase their work in front of other industry professionals. With independent and low-budget films in the lineup, Slamdance has served as a starting point for many filmmakers who later went on to find immense success, including Christopher Nolan, Ari Aster, and recent Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite). Among the films presented this year was Tapeworm, the feature debut of co-directors Milos Mitrovic and Fabian Velasco. The Canadian filmmaking duo has worked together before on short films like Imitations, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. Collaborating again to write and direct, with Mitrovic acting as well, the two strike just the right tone with Tapeworm, a gritty and awkward comedy that turns life’s most ordinary and embarrassing moments into captivating vignettes.
While lacking the depth and emotional nuance of previous Holocaust films, “Quezon’s Game” honors the past by bringing a nearly forgotten story to light.
As early as 1945, two years before the liberation of Auschwitz, filmmakers began to grapple with the challenge of preserving Holocaust memory on screen. Directors like Mark Donskoy and Wanda Jakubowska took great risks with their films, The Unvanquished (1945) and The Last Stage (1948), respectively, which were some of the first to depict the mass violence of the Holocaust. Since the release of these early films, directors have continued to use cinema to preserve Holocaust memory and honor victims, survivors, and those who risked their lives to help. With the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 2020, it seems there are still more stories to tell about these events, stories and perspectives that have yet to be explored on the big screen. When director Matthew Rosen learned of one such story, that of former president of the Philippines Manuel Quezon and his efforts open the borders of his country to Jewish refugees, Rosen decided to bring the narrative to the screen with his feature film debut, Quezon’s Game.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."