Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Servants – Another black and white film, my second of the festival, proving again that this format has such an immediate ominous tone that given the right circumstances makes you feel uneasy and on edge. This film puts you in that feeling right away, set in 1980, following Michal and Juraj, two students at a theological seminary in totalitarian Czechoslovakia, a school on the verge of dissolution through an investigation by the secret police. All of the students must make the ultimate decision whether they will subject themselves to the surveillance or collaborate with the regime to fight the draconian oppressors, joining in a fight with a mentor priest battling his demons who may or may not be on their side, blackmailed by one of the secret police that helped him cover up a hit and run. This all feels convoluted but it all comes to a head in a tragic ending that felt like a constantly deepening slope that you can’t avoid. This movie may leave a lot of viewers cold and in the dark.

This Is My Desire – One of my favorite things about taking in the international cinema at these festivals is to get immersed in other cultures and other walks of life and this film is a perfect example of that, a deeply intimate insight into a country I know nothing about, Nigeria. This film follows two separate Nigerians, living in Lagos, trying to better the lives of their families. On one side you have Mofe, an engineer and electrician trying to provide for his sister and er family when she tragically passes away leaving him with the problems on his shoulders. On the other side is Rosa, a woman working odd jobs trying to support and care for her pregnant sister which may come at the cost of giving herself up for marriage and negating a relationship that may be a wholesome one with a future. Beautifully shot, the film puts you on the shoulders of two lives that may look bleak in the outcome but are enriched with soul.

THERE IS NO TRAILER FOR THIS ONE

Time – Another black and white shot film but this time it’s an emotionally affecting documentary and for the first time this festival I was extremely grateful that this is a virtual festival this year so other filmgoers wouldn’t see me shedding tears at the end of this film. From filmmaker Garrett Bradley, this is the hard-hitting story of Fox Rich, a black woman and the wife of Rob, a man convicted to a sixty-year prison sentence for a robbery they both committed in the early 90s in a moment of desperation when both of their kids were toddlers. For the last two decades, Fox, now an entrepreneur and a fierce abolitionist has campaigned for the release of her husband and we see this struggle documented with family video and the follow-along that Bradley did with her and the final result is such a powerful story and an indictment on the lopsided nature of the law, the harshness of those who convict black men in America and the justice system as a whole. Another deeply affecting documentary for this festival that can be described no loss then must see.

Another Round – One of my most anticipated films of the festival, I was already seeing great reactions to this new Thomas Vinterberg film on Twitter before I even got the chance to check it out and they are all very much warranted. Starring one of my favorite international actors of all time, Mads Mikkelsen, the story is about four friends, all high school teachers, who embark on an experiment where they each sustain a certain level of alcohol intoxication during their everyday life, believing that all people, in general, would benefit from a bit higher Blood Alcohol Content. As a result, their working experiences are turned upside down, forcing their lives into deeper turmoil than they were in the first place. The performances are phenomenal as the story keeps descending into a chaotic nose dive until an odd resolution that seems like a conflicted triumph, What a pure cinematic gem this movie is!

The Reason I Jump – Being the parent of a child that is on the spectrum of ADHD with slight autism, documentaries like this are fascinating to me and I entered this film with a bit of fear but a healthy amount of curiosity as well. Based on a book written by a non-speaking Japanese thirteen-year-old boy named Naoki Higashida this film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world from each kid as well as their parents. It’s so interesting to see the connections between the behaviours of each child and see how culture and global geography influences how differently each child is dealt with, all in good ways, and what the crossover was. It gets pretty emotional any time you are dealing with children and their mental wellbeing.

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