The Tribeca Film Festival is just around the corner! Find out what movies I’m most looking forward to.Read More
Since I haven’t had the privilege before now to see the masterpiece that is Joss Whedon‘s Much Ado About Nothing, it is by far the one thing I HAD TO see at SXSW this year. The reason behind this was, of course, not only the film itself, but the fact that an almost complete panel [...]Read More Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Beatrice, Benedick, Clark Gregg, Claudio, Daniel Kaminsky, Dogberry, featured, Fran KRanz, hero, Jillian Morgese, Joss Whedon, Much Ado About Nothing, Nathan Fillion, S.H.I.E.L.D., Shakespeare, SXSW, SXSW 2013, SXSW Film Festival, The Avengers, Vimeo
When it comes to remakes, there’s a certain degree of skepticism that immediately arises from any hard core cinephile. The films and franchises that we’ve placed high upon a pedestal are there for a reason, so that they can’t be messed with. What’s lost in that train of thought is that the good memories of [...]Read More 2013, Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez, Remake, SXSW
Every year film-goers try to find the best of the best and the hidden gyms of each year of the SXSW Film Festival. My SXSW 2013 list is a living thing, changing with each passing day and it will continue to do so throughout the festival itself. As SXSW Film moves closer, only a day [...]Read More And Who Taught You To Drive, Before Midnight, Big Ass Spider!, Cat Edison, Cheap Thrills, Dave Grohl, Don Jon's Addiction, Drinking Buddies, Everyone's Going to Die, Evil Dead, featured, Good Ol'Freda, Good Vibrations, Grow Up, Haunter, I Am Devine, Kelly+Victor, Maladies, Milius, Milo, Much Ado About Nothing, Mud, Must See Films, Plus One, Prince Avalanche, Sake-Bomb, Screen Invasion, Snap, Sound City, Stevie Nicks, SXSW, SXSW 2013, SXSW Film, The Bounceback, The Fifth Season, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Punk Singer, The Punk Syndrome, The Wait, These Birds Walk, Tony Phillips, We Cause Scenes, When Angels Sing, Yellow, Zero Charisma
Saudi Arabia is a country where cinemas have been banned since the 1980s and where women are not entitled to many of the freedoms given to their male counterparts. They are not permitted to drive, for instance, and until recently were unable to vote. Therefore, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s debut film Wadjda is a groundbreaking cinematic achievement. It’s the first to be produced and filmed in Saudi Arabia; it’s directed by a woman; but most impressive of all, it serves as a critique of the country’s aforementioned female oppression.
The film tells the story of Wadjda (Waad Mohammed), a teenager growing up with her mother (Reem Abdullah) amid this gender inequality. Wadjda is a modern, Westernised girl. At home, she listens to tapes of pop bands and dresses in designer shoes and printed shirts. But in school, she’s scolded for not conforming to what is expected of her as a Saudi woman; be it not covering her face or simply laughing in front of a man. Her best friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani), however, does not face the same restrictions as she. As a boy, he’s free to work and play as he pleases. Much to Wadjda’s envy, furthermore, he owns a bicycle – a toy she is told is not allowed for girls.
Determined to simply be able to play with her best friend, Wadjda resolves to save as much money as she can, go behind her parents’ backs and purchase a bike from a local store, running errands for her community in exchange for cash. But despite her best efforts, Wadjda’s financial goal is still far out of sight – that is until her school announces a Quran recital contest with prize money for the winner.
One might expect the first film released from Saudi Arabia, directed by a woman no less, to provide a harsh and unflinching look at the harrowing effects of gender oppression. Remarkably, however, Wadjda is not that kind of movie. There are no angry tirades against religion or the country’s government. Instead, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s portrayal of contemporary Saudi Arabia is modestly apolitical, simply presenting the small ways everyday lives are affected in a society that doesn’t permit equality between the sexes.
Seen through the eyes of our adolescent heroine, it tackles these themes not with a tough, riling and enraging tone but, in contrast, one that’s breezy and packed with humour. It’s a film that clearly encourages feminism, capturing the ways Wadjda, her family and her classmates’s lives are affected by their nation’s sexism, but Wadjda does this through the prism of a bittersweet coming-of-age story. In taking to the streets to raise money for her bike, she opens her eyes to the injustices around her and, in her own small, childlike way, stands up against these deep-rooted beliefs.
It’s this optimism in Haifaa Al-Mansour’s storytelling that makes Wadjda masterful. As it comes to an end, you’re not left angered over the ways one gender is believed to be inferior to the other, but instead uplifted by the possibility that things will change with a new generation of women similar to Wadjda. Waad Mohammed’s performance complements this to perfection. It’s commanding, brave and courageous.
Quietly pushing boundaries, Wadjda is not just a milestone in world cinema but also a minor masterpiece. It’s unlikely you’ll find a more important film in 2013 than this.
Read More GFF, Wadjda
Few films have been able to depict the horror of high school bullying with more potency than Michel Franco’s superb After Lucia.
The director’s sophomore effort follows young Alejandra (Tessa Isa) and her father Roberto (Gonzalo Vega Jr.) as they move to a new town following the tragic death of Ale’s mother. Both are trying to pick their lives back up with Alejandra starting at a new school while her Dad opens a new restaurant. They quickly come to realize, however, that beginning again isn’t easy as Roberto struggles to get his business off the ground and, more importantly, our protagonist becomes the victim of mistreatment by her classmates.
Her bullying begins with a simple prank but slowly escalates over the course of After Lucia’s running time into a full-blown crescendo of real-life horror as Alejandra’s harassment becomes increasingly harrowing and traumatic. As she is beaten, mocked and in one shattering scene forced to eat a rotten birthday cake against her will, it’s hard to conceive that people could be so cruel but remains grounded in reality by the humane performance from Tessa Isa.
After Lucia’s authenticity is helped by Franco’s creative decision to shoot it with the cold, unflinching gaze of Michael Haneke’s films. With its long, still photography he refuses to allow the viewer respite as the heroine is subjected to the aforementioned physical, emotional and psychological abuse. It’s intentionally revolting, sickening and almost impossible to watch.
But in being so, After Lucia is one of the most powerful and authentic films ever composed about this subject. It staggeringly depicts the harmful group mentality of bored teenagers that cause bullying, shows how it can traumatize someone for a lifetime, and offers no naive solutions to the problem with Ale’s teachers and father unaware of the trouble while she herself is too broken and intimidated to speak out.
After Lucia is unsurprisingly a difficult watch. Franco’s methodical, calculated Cannes Film Festival winner makes you want to reach through the screen and put a stop to the horrific acts committed against Alejandra, but you’re helpless, forced to watch on and unable to interject. And therein lies its brilliance: the film is remarkable in not only portraying such atrocities but also capturing how impenetrable an issue bullying is to solve.
Read More After Lucia, GFF, Michel Franco, Tessa Isa