Permission

Permission is about a female football captain who is denied the right to leave the country for the cup final at the last minute by her husband. He is a slick looking Nice Guy TM who has been waiting for her to fall on her face and, since that hasn’t happened, has decided now is the time to bring her to heel. When she doesn’t beg sufficiently to his liking, he sets about destroying her life. Tough watch. 

Girls of the Sun

Girls of the Sun is a fictionalised account of the unit of Yazidi and Kurdish women fighting Isis who were themselves former Isis captives. It even has its own Marie Colvinesque war reporter, complete with eye patch, documenting them taking back their home town.

The main character is Bahar, a lawyer whose husband is killed and son is abducted by Isis. She herself in then abducted, raped, sold as a slave, and eventually finds her way to freedom. Her story is intercut with the fight to retake her home.

For me, the most dramatic part of this film was during their escape from Isis, she has to help her pregnant friend, who is well into labour, walk the last 30 yards to freedom. If she delivers the baby or if she collapses and can’t walk, they’ll likely all die. Tense and heart-pounding, beautifully shot.

Murder Me, Monster

Murder Me, Monster is a whole pile of nothing. The only interesting scene is when they finally find the monster and it has a prehensile dick for a tail and a fanny for a face. The main character fist fucks the monster’s face while it bums him with its tail. Nothing else happens in the movie and this scene adds nothing to actual explanation of what’s going on. Google that scene, don’t watch the film, not worth your time. 

Of Fish Or Foe

Of Fish Or Foe is a documentary about one of the last coastal salmon netting fishing family businesses running in Scotland, and the pressure that is brought to bear on them over the course of a year to put them out of business. The pressure comes from 2 groups, a branch of hunt sabs called Sea Shepherd and the angling interests board.

This is a culture clash film about people who want to carry on the family business that they’ve been raised and fed with for generations, and the animal rights activists who will stop at nothing to stop the death of any wildlife at their hands. There is not a clear side to come down on, both perspectives are given time and the audience is very much left to decide what they think.

The central conflict is very much a war of attrition. There can be no compromise between their two positions without it meaning the end of one of them. This leads both groups to view the other as the devil incarnate. The fishermen view the sabs as idle, childish, spoiled, ignorant, crunchy students. The sabs view the fishermen as slathering psychopaths, foaming at the mouth for the extermination of innocent animals. It leads to a lot of comic scenes where they both stand holding cameras 2 inches from each others face, screaming, “You’re assaulting me! You’re assaulting me!” because their breath is disturbing the others hair. You just think, bunch of fucking weans.

There’s no attempt to see things from each others perspective or give respect to the fact that others might not think like you or have your priorities. Any compromise to make the fishing less detrimental to wildlife, but still continue, would destroy the fishermen’s bottom line, and would violate the principles of the sabs that every animal has a right to its own life.

The scales are finally tipped when the angling lobbyists take against the netters, saying their netting at the coast is preventing salmon from entering the inland rivers in sufficient numbers. Weirdly, they are the biggest allies to the sabs, despite the fact the anglers catch many more salmon that the netters do.

It is a weird film, neither side is particularly likeable. But it definitely seems that times are changing, priorities are changing, and the winds of support are blowing against the fishermen.

Girl

I’d heard some of the criticism of Girl, that it focused too much on the trans body and placed too much emphasis on medical transition. Then I saw it, and boy howdy! Does it ever. I mean, wow. Yeah, not difficult to see why folks had problem with it.

This is very much a trans story told through a cis lens. There’s even an element of gawking in much of the camera work, and it does feel very objectifying, which works against its central drive. I mean, you see her genitalia so many times, you see her put on or take off her tuck tape so many times, you see her morning glory. A lot of the shots having the feeling of the cis gaze looking in on the trans experience.

And it’s almost every third scene. You can almost count off every scene in this order: transition scene, ballet scene, family scene, transition scene, ballet scene, family scene. Just same content round and round.

I feel the director really did intend to develop a three-dimensional trans girl as the main character but where are her friends? This teenage trans lassie doesn’t know a single other queer person. In a major city. Doesn’t have a single conversation with a queer person online or engage with any community space. Who ever heard of that? This is so a cis idea about the life of the one trans person you know.

And I genuinely do feel the director came to this movie with good intentions, but its portrayal of the trans experience is that it is isolating, lonely and sad. In many ways, it’s a big step backward from the more diverse storytelling about a range of experience we’ve seen in recent years.

I’m not saying don’t go see it, because it is a worthwhile film in many ways, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself cringing at some of the shots.

Thunder Road

Thunder Road is amazing! Funniest movie of the festival so far. Really, bleakly dark humour. It follows Jim, a buttoned-down, dorky, Texan, beat cop as he has the worst week of his life. If you ever wondered what it’d be like if a stereotypical, yes-sir, thank ya-ma’am, policeman took a total nervous breakdown, the answer is it’s hilarious.

It starts with him giving the eulogy at his mother’s funeral. For anyone who’s seen the BoJack Horseman eulogy episode, it’s like that, but worse and ending with a dance number.

And the main guy, the actor who plays the lead, just has such perfect timing, like absolutely nails it. Almost none of the humour in the movie is in actual jokes with a setup and punchline. It’s all the character’s manner of speech and the absurdity of watching him try to maintain a veneer of calm politeness as he rapidly spirals out of control. And it has to be delivered so exactly, it’s just done beautifully.

And it hits all the dramatic moments as well, the reality of the loss and anger and terrible loneliness and regret is so real. The humour is there but doesn’t try to detract from the poignancy of the moment. Really this is one to go see. It’s not a laugh a minute like some constantly turning barrel of one-liners, but a real heartfelt drama with causticly black humour about the misfortunes of life and the flaws in our character. 

Stop Motion: Life Between Frames

A live talk with 3 animators who have worked on films including Isle of Dogs, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Fantastic Mister Fox. It was really interesting to get a look behind the scenes and hear firsthand about all the work that goes in to every shot. Given how labour intensive it is, it’s amazing they still get made. But in fact, there seems to be a kind of renaissance right now, and the industry’s booming. Good news to hear, looking forward to seeing more of their projects. 

One animator credited this creepy as fuck short film as the one that inspired them to go into stop motion:

The Man Who Surprised Everyone

The Man Who Surprised Everyone is a queer film out of Russian. A well-respected family man at the centre of his rural community is diagnosed with untreatable terminal cancer. He makes preparations for his family once he’s gone but his wife begs him to go for last-ditch efforts, even seeking out a traditional healer. This is an awesome Baba Yaga-looking pagan in a blackbird headdress. She performs a healing ceremony and tells him a folktale of how one man cheated death by disguising himself as a duck so Death could not find him. So the main character gets a dress and some makeup and begins living as a woman.

The main character doesn’t speak another line after this point, because the movie’s not really about having them justify if they are disguising themselves to hide from Death or if they are living the last few weeks of their life the way they’ve always wanted to. They don’t owe anyone, including the audience, any explanations. Instead what we see is that, without changing forby a dress and some lipstick, everyone’s reactions to them change. After fundraising money for their treatment, the whole community turns on them, beats them and drives them from the community. This movie does depict verbal, physical and sexual violence. But it does make the point clearly, rather daringly for a Russian film, that it is ridiculous that a little cloth and a bit of rouge should be enough for people who esteem you, respect you and even love you to think any differently or any less of you. 

The Public

The Public is an American movie about homeless people occupying a public library one night during winter. Before the occupation starts, the depiction of what it’s like to work in a library is TOO TRUTH. Defo recognisable to anyone who’s worked in one.

The occupation starts out of humanitarian need, but becomes politicised during the city’s mayoral race. It’s lead by Michael K. Williams (that’s Omar from The Wire to you and me) and aided by the librarian, played by Emilio Estavez, who also wrote and directed the movie. Despite an A-list cast including Jeffrey Wright and Alex Baldwin, the performances are flat and feel fake. It also doesn’t help that almost nothing that happens makes sense. The librarian spends the evening negotiating with the police despite not having any leverage. No one is armed, no one is a hostage, this is exactly the time when the polis just boot fuck out you and drag you outside. Like every American movie with an explicit left-wing political message, it’s heavy-handed and overly long.