For the second year in a row, Sundance Film Festival canceled its live plans and went virtual, ending Sunday night. It was a big party, with more than 80 documentaries and narratives. Here are six our main film critics particularly liked, and one of them disagreed.
‘All that breathes’
Directed by Shaunak Sen, “All That Breathes” is a haunting and vivid portrait documentary about two Muslim brothers in New Delhi, who have dedicated their lives to rescuing birds, many of which are impacted by humans and climate change. With closeness, a great score, and some great macro cinematography – birds are hidden here – the film pays tribute to the brothers even as it emphasizes that Individuals alone cannot save nature.
At times, Sen’s emphasis on visual lyricism rather than information opens up unanswered questions. And while he draws attention to anti-Muslim sentiments, it’s never been clear that Sen wants viewers to connect these terrifying threats with the grim specter of species extinction. any. Even so, the power of the film and its themes cannot be denied; Nor can it deny the heartbreak of its images. Predators perched on mountains of trash, monkeys navigate the tangled ropes overhead, the lone turtle struggles to climb a mound of trash – in this tale of inter-species coexistence, animals have disappeared.
In her latest documentary, Margaret Brown tells the story that begins – though doesn’t end – with the discovery of the Clotilda, the last recorded American slave ship. In 1860, decades after the importation of enslaved people was made illegal in the United States, the ship sailed for Alabama. The men who owned and operated Clotilda arrived at night, after bringing the captives ashore, set fire to the ship to cover up their crimes. The ship sank, disappearing from sight.
Brown follows compelling efforts to rehabilitate Clotilda, but her more realistic, more vivid subjects are slavery survivors. Some have helped founded Africatown, a community north of Mobile where most of the documentaries take place. There, Brown visits his descendants, for whom slavery is not an abstraction but a living memory that generations have carefully preserved and passed on. The film loses some focus midway, but the story of Clotilda and where Brown made this documentary is very moving.
For much of this visually appealing, visually appealing Mexican drama, María García (Teresa Sánchez), a tough and strict loner, takes center stage. María, a monument to the classical way of life, if one presents itself as non-human, owns the Jalisco tequila distillery, which gives the film its name. But times are tough: a fungus is wreaking havoc on agave, and foreign-owned companies pose a threat to craft producers like María, who are physically alone and subsist. in.
Director Juan Pablo González instantly brings you into María’s life with the captivating, smooth beauty of her cinematic work and by focusing on the material conditions of her everyday life, including the mesmerizing, laborious tequila production that you follow from the field to the bottle. At one point, romance emerges, and at one point the story shifts to a hairdresser, Tatín (Tatín Vera) a transgender woman who, along with María and several other characters, creates a world Vivid, textured, totally unexpected.
‘Leonor will never die’
The heroine of this wonderfully unclassifiable film – played by Filipino singer and stage actress Sheila Francisco – is a sweet, absent-minded woman in her 70s. She lives (and often does). quarrels) with her eldest son, stays (mostly) friendly with her ex-husband, and is haunted by the memory of her other son’s death. She is also a well-known local action filmmaker, whose post-retirement complicated appearance framed director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s heartfelt, passionate tribute to the magic of electricity images and the power of love.
Leonor’s final script became a movie within a movie, but Ramirez Escobar’s mischief didn’t stop there. I’ve counted at least four distinct layers of reality in “Leonor Never Dies,” but there could be more. In any case, the fun lies in how they collide and overlap. This may sound like an overly clever combination of postmodernism, but somehow the fusion of family drama, violence, and surreal comedy makes for a perfect portrait. the astonishing tenderness of an artist on the edge of the afterlife.
‘House made of scraps’
The reality that Simon Lereng Wilmont’s documentary explores is almost unbearably heartbreaking. In Lysychansk, eastern Ukraine, an organization provides temporary shelters for children whose lives have been disrupted by alcoholism, domestic violence and unemployment, social problems exacerbated by war with Russia. get worse. The children find safety and companionship together and a patient staff while they wait to return to their parents or more likely be transferred to an orphanage or foster care .
Granted special access to his subjects, Wilmont continues with exemplary delicacy and sensitivity, weaving a heartbreaking tapestry that also shines with empathy and even exhibits flashes of naughty and amusing. Being reminded of the lasting trauma of childhood body and soul, but also something thrilling about the honesty and tenacity of the children and the devotion of those who care for them. It’s like a Frederick Wiseman the film was reimagined by William Blake.
‘Marte Um (Mars One)’
This Brazilian charmer is not particularly flashy, loud or provocative. It’s a lighthearted, closely watched family drama, shot in warm colors in Contagem, a city in the state of Minas Gerais. The main characters – Wellington (Carlos Francisco), Tercia (Rejane Faria) and their children, Eunice (Camilla Damião) and Deivinho (Cícero Lucas) – each face personal consciousness-testing crises. and their relationship with each other.
Opening in the wake of Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazilian Presidential election in 2018, their story revolves around political and social pain points (regarding race, work, sexuality and religion) that most as will not be unfamiliar to North American audiences. But “Marte Um,” wonderfully directed by Gabriel Martins, is not a culture-war polemic or an ideological allegory. It’s a sensational example of – and a heated debate about – the kind of humanist realism that keeps movies alive and never out of date.
Dargis and Scott
Dargis I was looking forward to Lena Dunham’s “Sharp Stick”, about the coming of age of Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), a woman in her 20s. But the only thing that kept me watching was Dunham; If anyone else has directed it, I’ll bail.
It doesn’t do any good to list all the reasons I don’t like it – OK, the weird stereotypes of Los Angeles have pissed you off. But my biggest problem was the copycat and childish Sarah Jo, whose naive self-confident and inquisitive personality made my last calloused nerves. When I wasn’t overstimulated, I really appreciated that Dunham revisited the brooding, disturbing character of a desirable, desirable young woman, a character reminiscent of Clarissa’s Samuel Richardson, Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll, etc.
Scott My argument for Lena Dunham has always been “yes, but.” Yes, Sarah Jo’s worldlessness is overstated, some aspects of her sexual awakening seem like daydreams, and the tone changes from silly to sexy to forgiving. Design frenzy can be a lot. But “Sharp Stick” is interesting to think about in part because Dunham herself is thinking, instead of (as so many of her Sundance colleagues and followers have done) recycling clichés about lust, female rights and family dysfunction. This film’s erratic, erratic quality is to me proof of her curiosity and willingness to push out of her own comfort zone, if she even has one.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/movies/sundance-film-festival-wrap-up.html Sundance Wrap-Up: 6 movies we liked and one we disagreed with