2037: UNDER ARTIFICIAL JUSTICE ★★★★
By Adrian Perez
2037: Artificial Justice offers a powerful film by an extremely young and talented filmmaker with a very promising career ahead of him, Benjamin << La Malice >> Nlomngan.
There are plenty of ‘lockdown’ films flying around right now, tackling the current deadly viruses -COVID-19 and racism; this is by far my favourite.
Benjy presents us with a future utopia -where his character’s experience of racist cops doesn’t go beyond a virtual reality game; a game he can’t seem to hack, he always ends up losing. The ‘game over’ sequence has to be the film’s most iconic moment, one in which he truly materialises every black person’s impotence during the current and evergoing events. Benjy dares to put into his abstract film what many of us struggle to say out loud; by setting his film in a future where COVID-19 has ferociously evolved to its COVID-28 mutation, he taunts us with the fact that if we are not careful and proactive,-we’ll end up achieving ultimate freedom for all, at a point where it’s too late to appreciate.
2037 is a must-watch, it’s an inventive fresh interpretation of our current madness, he not only raises questions -but answers them head-on. I’m a demanding critic, it’s only in some of the finer details of the film’s production design that I detect flaws. But, this film’s cinematography and sound design are high-class and there’s no doubt about that. I look forward to witnessing Benjy’s evolution throughout his filmmaking career, this is a very strong entry to be proud of.
By Adrian Perez
It has to be said outright that in this day and age, we have seen-it-all and it’s harder than ever to shock a spectator. This is A-Symmetry’s strongest merit, in masterfully managing to make us jump and gasp at a serial killer; a character we’ve exhausted in fiction, a character we’re no longer supposed to be scared of.
Through two hopeless traveling preachers longing for a bit of kindness and solidarity, we land on Sebastian’s doorstep, an impeccable smart man exuding perfection. Sam Bradford cleverly orchestrates the right elements to situate us in a thriller, and make us wary of Sebastian. Sam puts the spectator in a position of power from the get go, we know what’s going to happen, but it’s then in the visceral images he throws at us -that he torments us. Sam glamorises our antihero’s ritualistic traits and existence, -and it’s in this play-out of his harmonious existence that we feel most impotent, we have no choice but to root for the bad guy (because the good guys are already dead!). It’s in these script and directorial choices that A-Symmetry proves refreshing to watch.
When Sebastian’s world is stirred ever so slightly, is when a victim’s desperate husband is in search for her knocking on every door. What’s to follow is one of the best moments of the entire film that genuinely managed to make me jump, and the final frames are truly haunting and exquisite to watch.
There’s little to criticise here, if anything, this short film solely provides a slice of life into this character’s twisted existence; at no point, do we feel his status quo to be truly challenged, had there been more of a shake-up in Sebastian’s equilibrium we would have been in for an even more thrilling ride.
But with that minor note aside; A-Symmetry is a stellar cinematographic achievement with a most talented director behind the wheel, one who truly understands what it takes to bewitch and entertain a modern demanding audience. It’s a must-watch, and just like its anti-hero, almost perfect.
By Adrian Perez
Anacronte dares to do what many animated films don’t, and that’s to distance itself as much as possible from being a kid’s film. This is the darkest animation film I’ve come by, even darker than Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001).
Raúl Koler and Emiliano Sette’s collaboration bring us one of the most daring visual poems; I say poem because they decipher humanity’s biggest battle in the most abstract and epic way. Imagine you’re walking forward in perfect sync and harmony with the rest of humanity towards happiness, to be arrowed from the back without warning by a giant army of archers who benefit from higher ground. Their bird’s eye view resembles chance and/or destiny itself; when each archer choose who to aim their arrow at, it’s like they get their say in that decision, not us -and that’s exactly how life can feel sometimes. We don’t choose for bad stuff to be thrown our way; but what we do get a say on, is how we react in those turmoils we have no control over. Many of us fail to configure ourselves to exhibit resilience in nasty situations, and this is Anacronte’s one powerful message for us all.
Anacronte is a spectacular short to watch, every frame is a masterful painting exhibiting the highest calibre of 3D CGI crafting. It’s refreshing to see such stunning animated visuals be matched by such a mature and powerful message. Raúl Koler and Emiliano Sette prove to be two film philosophers whose work must be watched by the world right now.
ARTIFICIAL SOLDIER ★★
By Adrian Perez
Artificial Soldier aims to tell the story of a captive Latin American man weaponised into an indestructible mutant,-his horrific fate by the hands of a traumatised Jihadi scientist man seeking revenge for the death of the ones he loves.
Quite a cool concept, but one that I fear Jason Gonzalez never quite lifts off the ground. For a first-time director, he excels in the film’s intricate production design and cinematography; but struggles with a disjointed script and fast-paced narrative that brushes past all its characters without making much connection nor creating empathy for them. It’s a common issue with action films, where more thought goes into the making of richly entertaining action sequences -sacrificing the need for substance in the development of its characters.
Iran as a setting gives plenty of scope for a powerful action drama, a tale tackling war’s moral corruption; the story of the elder son influencing his two younger siblings into murdering and torturing people for him is what is truly interesting here. But Jason relies on dialogue to forward the plot on, when the camera begs to linger and intrude on the anti-heroes of this piece to capture them during their moments of silence and solitude. The main plot of a captive US army man-turned-mutant also gets a poor treatment, it’s a plot that we never fully grasp with a very short payoff at the end.
Jason succeeds in orchestrating a fast-paced action epic of a military rescue operation to save a captive officer; but had he allowed for a deeper exploration into the horrors of war through the eyes of our leading protagonists, we would have been in for a refreshing and much more powerful entry.
BLACK HEART, RED HANDS ★★★★½
By Adrian Perez
I don’t know what shocks me the most about this film; the ingenuity behind this serial killer’s plan in framing another amateur killer for the collective death of a bunch of teens; the fact that this is based on a real-life murderer; or the fact that a first-time director is behind the wheel of such an intricate film. Wow! Russell Southam, you have achieved in your directorial debut what it takes many filmmakers a lifetime of practice to achieve: pure high-class en-ter-ta-in-ment.
I am eager to follow Russell’s filmmaking career and for him to continue delivering masterclasses in visual storytelling through his films. Stellar cinematographic achievement of the highest degree.
CARLY ELLIS - TOP OF THE LAKE ★★★★
By Adrian Perez
Outright -I have to commend Carly for tackling such challenging material. For those of you who haven’t seen ‘Top of the Lake’, you must rush to Netflix and watch it immediately. For a bit of context, Carly plays detective Robin who in a friendly dinner with her colleague Al, discovers that him and the entire police department know the truth of her past (her being a victim of gang rape at the age of fifteen). I wasn’t kidding when I said this was tough material!
Carly naturally opts to play Robin as the cold badass detective that she is (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?). Carly keeps firm eye-contact and good restraint throughout the scene, but not consistently; there are the odd moments where she breaks eye-contact and looks down -had Carly managed to fight that urge, would have made for an even stronger performance. Why do I say this? Because Robin as a character fights to the core to not show weakness, and in these micro-moments, Carly deceives her.
There is no doubt Carly is a talented actress. Here Carly has allowed herself to peel off the most important layers of all; that of a strong woman experiencing feelings of shame, impotence and disgust for her traumatic past. I cheer you on in your pursuit of greatness Carly -to continue peeling off even more layers to all your future characters. Well done!
DENSITY OF AIR ★★★★
By Adrian Perez
Sooin Cho’s Density of Air is a surrealistic short that interprets how we can easily feel trapped and suffocated in current society. Through the eyes of Seon-hoe (our hero protagonist played by Jong-hwan Seol), -Sooin confines us to a pistachio-coloured room, queueing and rotating around it in perfect sync and harmony with a bunch of other identically-dressed bystanders. Immediately, Sooin explores the outcome of manipulating various situational factors; we soon discover that any action that defies the norm and cycle-functions of this world will be judged and called upon. These acts of unconscious rebellion, or inevitable inadequacy/imperfection, soon cast us out of society. Sooin refers to these as ‘social maladjustment’.
Sooin ensures her visual reproduction for this life metaphor is beautifully constructed, we can’t fault this short’s technical aesthetic achievement.
Where this piece could have achieved a higher power, is in creating even more empathy for Seon-hoe and intensifying the visceral buildup to his breakthrough. When our hero breaks free from this clinical setting and finds himself lost again, we feel nothing for him.
This short will always require an ambiguous finale, but for its message to truly punch audiences, we need to feel a sense of horror for him -which right now I feel this short is missing. Nevertheless, this is a bold short film of the highest technical calibre, and I’m excited to follow Sooin Cho’s directorial career.
EGO SUM ★★
By Adrian Perez
Ego Sum!’s unique premise and quirky duo, in its nerdy documentary filmmaker and flamboyant priest,-could have made for a truly hilarious film; but somehow never finds its identity.
This quirky duo find themselves filming a documentary on the grandiose cathedral ceiling and discussing the overpowering angelic/celestial paintings. The inciting incident takes too long to hit us; their profound discussion is meant to accidentally invoke Lucifer himself, or in this case herself, as Waner Biazus boldly decides to have the fallen angel embody a woman instead. Not only does Lucifer’s apparition take too long to come about, but what ensues is quite a stretched-out and consequently awkward encounter -with Lucifer going into some sort of ritualistic chant to bring about havoc.
I’m never sure if the film is meant to make me laugh or scared, the film struggles in delivering either agenda due to issues in pacing and comedic timing. This film could have been a lot more effective had it clocked at five to ten minutes, the action of describing the paintings and Lucifer’s “ritual” are dragged out; the constant quick cuts and artificial lighting strikes become so repetitive they also start to take a toll on the spectator causing us to switch off from investing ourselves in the story.
The juxtaposition between the little girl’s bedtime scene and Lucifer’s apparition in the church is never explained; and no clues are offered to us to at least make a guess as to what the correlation between both could be.
Lucifer, as beautiful as she is meant to be (according to the priest at one point in the film), never quite exudes a sense of real threat.
Waner is a passionate filmmaker with an ambitious vision for the film, but in juggling the orchestration/bending of too many elements and genres, achieves a film that struggles to define itself;-with some refinement to his craft, I know Waner will amount to greatness with his next film.
By Adrian Perez
The world can be a cruel place to inhabit when something truly horrific happens to us; this is Exit’s purpose,-to encapsulate through an acute character study some of the psychological struggles this readjusting can entail. It’s a harsh but true reality that society needs you functioning again pronto, this can be especially said of the workplace, which is where most of our film takes place.
It’s impressive to see Devansh Sahijwani exhibit such grave finesse of what someone in this position is feeling; from capturing plenty of awkward silences between Robert and his work colleagues, him tapping his foot anxiously, constant fag breaks, the list goes on. Devansh’s sensitivity to all these minor details makes me think he has suffered something traumatic first-hand, after all -it wouldn’t be the first time a filmmaker creates art to express their pain. I could be wrong, whatever the case, it’s unquestionable that Devansh and the dream team he leads in the making of this film teach a masterclass in character study.
Perhaps that’s the film’s one downfall, that it captures masterfully what it’s like to be in this hopeless position, but apart from an ambiguous breakthrough -it never quite attempts to offer answers to the big questions it invokes.
FINAL STARE ★★★½
By Adrian Perez
General Chris McKeness (played by the brilliant Struan Rodger) preaches at one point in the film his motivations: peace for all, security, and equality; “three pillars that support the roof above us, remove any of them -and it comes crushing down, killing!”
The same could be said for Final Stare;-Michael Ayoubi sets himself a tall order in wanting to orchestrate various storytelling elements (pillars), which unless carefully balanced, can send the film crushing down. Here we have strong pillars supporting the film (terrific script, stellar performances, cinematography, production design, powerful topic at the core of the story), but there’s one pillar toppling everything over -and that is the film’s editing.
What’s wrong exactly? Everything is overpowering from the start (music and flashbacks particularly), had Michael opted to achieve an increasing crescendo in the way he incorporates these elements would have made for a stronger film. As the film stands, the over reliance of these elements throughout kill any chance of us reacting to the twist at the end; had Michael carefully calibrated the use of these elements -he would have achieved a buildup of tension, that would have allowed him to punch us emotionally in the right moments.
Final Stare is unquestionably a powerful film, casting and cinematography are fantastic, it’s a film to be proud of; all it needs is a visit back to the edit room and a bit of refinement in order to truly reach its maximum professional potential.
FOREVER YOUNG ★★★★½
By Adrian Perez
Jason Lor’s Forever Young is an extremely gratifying read; Jason’s biggest merit is in throwing predictable story beats and vignettes at us, but somehow breathing new life into them. Forever Young tells the tale of an ancient man who in a pact to cheat death in order to buy himself some time to find his true love, accidentally ends up living a life of solitude and immortality. He remains forever young and an absolute hottie,-so why can’t he hit it off with the ladies and find true love? Because it takes him centuries to fully accept himself for the gay man that he is.
Such a high-concept should make for quite a predictable narrative structure, but Jason is clever to keep us guessing as to whether our main hero Jason is gay or not;-it seems that way at the beginning, but he stretches out this question quite a bit to the point that it’s not overly obvious. At one point I felt this screenplay was going to follow-on in Frozen’s (2013) footsteps, in telling a forward thinking story;-where just like the Princess doesn’t find her Prince at the end but restores her long-lost connection to her sister, here we find a man struggling to build relationships finally make the most important connection of all -that of friendship. It really felt like Forever Young was going in that direction to pay homage to friendship, and I think that’s what makes this script so powerful; overdo the rom in com, especially when dealing with a gay love story, and you can easily alienate general audiences.
Jason pens a heartwarming comedy, but not slapstick comedy. A standout moment is in Jason demonstrating his immortality in front of Sean by jumping off a rooftop; a moment that feels predictable, but he somehow manages to inject refreshing qualities to otherwise predictable vignettes. He keeps a lighthearted tone with some funny montages -but focuses more on character study and big philosophical questions. He romanticises this idea of immortality, what love really means, how multi-faceted love is, how love can take any shape or form (gay love). He makes a daring romantic drama; in that final moment where Jason is taken away by death finally, he truly leaves us gasping and shedding a tear for him and Sean’s awful fate now that they’re finally together.
I’m impressed by Jason’s skill in constructing witty convincing dialogue; he makes all his lead parts likeable, creates great empathy for them, even Death -who he makes out to be a grumpy smoker and by the end has a heart of gold.
The pacing is superb, Jason’s script ticks all the right boxes and pulls at the heart strings. It’s a film I would love to see realised for the big screen.
Jason needs to polish up the odd orthographic error and some dialogue mishaps; but apart from some technical tweaks, there is a high-concept here waiting to be snatched by a big studio to produce.
Forever Young is a forward-thinking modern love story; and although of an LGBTQI+ nature, it manages to never alienate the general public too much,-by making it a buddy film for the most part. Has huge potential to become an all-time classic.
By Adrian Perez
Markus Castro orchestrates a visual poem in his debut feature film Ghabe (Forest in Arabic), this was a masterpiece that snatched my heart, chewed and swallowed it whole. Ghabe challenges us with a clear powerful question:-why are we scared of that which we do not know? (racism); he tackles that big deeply-rooted sociological problem with an antidote, love.
Here our lead character Monir, a refugee from Syria seeking asylum,-can’t seem to function in Sweden due to his language barrier, but finds himself able to communicate (and heal) with the one language that is universal to us all, love.
Markus pens a most daring coming of age story, that of a young man who has seen it all; and even in the vast tranquility this forest offers him,-he’s still haunted by the horrors he left behind. Many frames offer visual metaphors, my favourites -all the aerial shots depicting Monir’s diminutiveness in the vastness of this forest. These breathtaking aerials encapsulate Monir’s solitude in the world, how he is made to feel marginalised in a world that doesn’t work harder in understanding and helping him. It’s a film that couldn’t have better timing with the current black lives matter movement and ever-present deadly virus of racism. I’m pleased to finally witness such a proficient film, depict the ‘could-be-terrorist’ stigma glued to those of Middle Eastern descent. Another manifestation of racism which we need to eradicate. One powerful climactic scene will have you shed tears, Ghabe needs to be a tragedy in order for its argument to have most weight and resonance.
The performances by all three leading cast are bewitching to watch; most notably’s Adel Darwish’s performance of a fragile high-pitched Monir, who carries much trauma, rage and despair inside, with severe trust issues and emotionally detached. Adel’s command of such rich material conduct him to a truly visceral and raw performance.
Markus proves to be a masterful storyteller and visual poet; Ghabe offers a visual spectacle, exhibiting the highest level of storytelling and cinematographic achievement. Ghabe goes beyond what movies are supposed to do.
HOME FIRES ★★★★
By Adrian Perez
A film of this scale and magnitude is difficult to pull off, especially with limited resource; Sam Weeks manages a phenomenal job of leading a talented pack of filmmakers towards something close to indisputable professionalism. Home Fires’s premise is simple, Colin Hill’s Kipp recounts his time as a young man in the trenches throughout World War I; what ensues is a medium-length film, clocking in at thirty minutes on the dot, depicting the horrors of war through the eyes of this gentle man -a man described to “have seen too much”.
Sam displays great directorial skill in orchestrating various elements to create one raw poignant scene -of a bunch of young men hopelessly singing together before marching out of the trenches toward their unforeseeable death. It’s a holistic scene construction to be proud of.
Where Home Fires succeeds most is in its spectacular production design of the trenches and ambitious cinematography; it’s in some of the finer details of the visual effects and costumes that this film loses out on a higher rating. The choice of ADR and overall sound mix do also take away from the leading cast’s performances. It’s these technical mishaps that perhaps obstruct Home Fires from reaching higher professional ground.
What’s very clear is that this dream team of filmmakers have achieved something truly remarkable here, with a bit of technical refinement they could be on their way to greatness.
By Adrian Perez
IDEA is a mesmerising short to watch. Olli Huttunen, the visual poet behind this exquisite piece manages to beautifully encapsulate one of life’s rarest chance-encounters, even rarer than finding love, -the finding and nurturing of a genius idea. It’s genius in itself to embody a “lightbulb idea” into a ball, being tossed around gently by cars, dropping and regaining momentum until it comes to a final stop. He carefully conducts his aerial camera work, animation and music composition together, just like an orchestra director, to give the illusion that the idea is extremely fragile. It is in this masterful sensitivity to tempo-rhythm that he achieves a smooth and soothing visual experience. “Ideas” truly are magical, and we walk away from Olli’s short having experienced a little bit of magic. Superb job.
JUICY GIRL ★★★★★
By Adrian Perez
For a first-time director, MJ KIM proves exceptional calibre and sensitivity in storytelling with his debut Juicy Girl. MJ knows how to work the lens and most importantly where to position it to truly immerse us in this harrowing real-life tale of an innocent “Juicy Girl” (prostitute) who is brutally murdered at the hands of a psychotic US Army Medic in South Korea. MJ leads a dream team of high-class filmmakers in depicting the atrocities suffered by these Korean women from falling victims of human trafficking and sex slavery (to this very day).
MJ’s cinematographic style makes every frame bewitching to gaze our eyes upon, his hand-held choices allow him to be intrusive on his talented cast’s raw performances, creating plenty of empathy for Soyoung -which is something that many directors fail to achieve in such short screen time. MJ’s strongest asset is in masterfully commanding such a fast-paced script penned by Gareth Brookes; in such a riddled narrative structure we never lose any sense of cohesiveness. MJ’s raw and haunting directorial debut is one of the best films of the year, and a strong film to kickstart his longstanding filmmaking career -I’m excited to see what MJ does next.
By Adrian Perez
It has to be said outright that this is some of the best writing I’ve come by. Daniel Talbott writes and directs a bold and raw soliloquy of a man struggling with his own internalised homophobia, sexual repression and toxic masculinity. The setting is simple, a man drives to a deserted parking lot in the middle of the night -to process a violent fight he just had with his husband. The next twelve minutes unveil a life-defining performance by Will Pullen; his rusty voice delivery of the harsh/vulgar but almost Shakespearian text,-makes him bewitching to watch.
The biggest downfall of this film is its lack of technical sophistication; a film with such a powerful message and rich material, deserves for its technical counterpart to leverage it all the way to the top. Without a better camera, a film is condemned to never be played on a big screen nor land a Netflix distribution deal -especially when dealing with nighttime filming.
It’s a film I’m going to hold dear, but I wish it got the cinematographic treatment it deserved to truly soar -something gritty and majestic in the style of Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight. I’m a fan of Daniel and Will’s collaboration, and I would encourage them both to keep nurturing the filmmaking potential I know they both have. Exquisite writing and performance.
MITCH FERRADA - BEFORE ★★★½
By Adrian Perez
Mitch Ferrada’s new hit ‘Before’, a great soulful track, demands a smooth and immersive visual experience -which Andres Merlos successfully serves us.
Where Andres succeeds most here is in going hand-held with the camera, allowing for intrusive close-up shots on Mitch which allow for a greater connection to him and his lyrics. The outdoor setting is gorgeous and dynamic for this music video; Mitch casually getting down from a bent tree trunk to walk onto camera, without ever breaking eye-contact with us -is one of the best moments of the music video.
The only downfall of the music video is in not incorporating a new setting for the third act/chorus of the song.
But -this is a truly immersive and gorgeous music video to watch. It has to be said outright -one of the best lip-sync music video performances I’ve ever seen.
POCILGA - ADRENOCHROME ★★★★
By Adrian Perez
Our daily lives can easily topple us to the point of insanity. Pocilga invite us to embrace the madness and follow-through those dark impulses with their latest hit Adrenochrome.
Mauro de La Mancha proves to be the rightful auteur behind the wheel of such visual conception; implanting clever visual cues, outside of the ones we’re used to,-to ground us into a gross reality (over twenty pine-tree car fresheners hung above the hero character’s bed!);-to then chucking visceral images at us -to twist our guts and transport us down Pocilga’s rabbit hole to ‘madness’ (I don’t know what’s worse, -bitting your nails off or murdering your boss, luckily for us we don’t have to choose!).
Quirky and visceral cinematographic extravaganza!
RESEARCHER: PROLOGUE ★★★★★
By Adrian Perez
Every frame is exquisite to watch, exhibiting high-class 3D CGI constructions; injected with epic orchestral crescendos in the style of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Researcher: Prologue is an epic micro-short five years in the making, it offers a visual spectacle with the highest calibre of 3D CGI talent behind it; Vladislav Solovjov will be snatched by James Cameron to help him finish off his Avatar films, mark my words!
The sophistication in Vladislav’s futuristic environments snatch our attention immediately, shortly he incites us further with his researcher character leaving his station to tend to a serious anomaly, and so the action begins. In the researcher’s quest he orchestrates image and sound in perfect sync and harmony to create a truly jaw-dropping experience. Both his environments and character design have such intricate work behind them, he achieves the most photo-realistic results. Flawless exquisite 3D CGI work.
Vladislav’s new micro-short is a big tease for a much bigger cinematic spectacle which you’ll want to be the first to watch..
TARAC WIPPP (The American Right for Adequate Chair Width in Public and Private Places) ★★★★
By Adrian Perez
Extremely unique propaganda piece. I had to watch Gallospole’s piece intensely a good few times, to truly grasp its underlying meaning(s).
First time, I read this promo as a tool for raising awareness on obesity in our society. The way Gallospole embellishes the chairs, by having the spotlight shone on them, clearly indicate a final destination for whoever sits on one of them. Hence, my understanding that I need to exercise more, and sit less, in my day to day.
But the more I watch it, the more I grasp a completely different meaning, in that society is discriminating those of a bigger size (through the ‘standard’ seat size everywhere you go -on airplanes, restaurants etc.).
Whatever Gallospolec’s original intent was, it doesn’t matter, Gallospole clearly tackles a deeply-rooted sociological problem which hasn’t been addressed yet. We’ve addressed plenty in the media on how to drop down a size, but we haven’t addressed the embracement/acceptance of being a bigger size. Lizzo is one of the few driving forces toward this global societal goal of body positivity right now; it's refreshing to see a filmmaker tackle these issues in their work.
Gallospole not only taps into these unresolved social perceptions/discriminations, but also glamorises propaganda and mass conspiracy. Watching this piece is almost like watching a promo for a rollercoaster ride that you want to get on, but perhaps you won’t come back alive from. There are various complex ideologies at work. My only criticism, but perhaps what’s most masterful about this piece, is that it’s so rapid, that not every spectator will be struck by questions from watching it. And that in itself is the most powerful social commentary of all;-that we could be injected by such a wrong public message, but being so wrapped into a highly visual and entertaining spectacle, we’re being brainwashed into supporting a cause that is morally wrong. This ring a bell? Human history repeats itself, and that is what’s most haunting here.
The work involved in this from a technical point of view is masterful, I can’t even imagine how many months of work went into this piece. Sound engineering is spectacular. Visuals highly engaging. It’s a highly entertaining, but dangerous and thought-provoking piece. I commend Gallospole and his team.
THE DAYS GO BY ★★½
By Adrian Perez
I had a prior conversation with Jay before watching his documentary; I got to know his backstory and intent for the film, I was eager to watch The Days Go By (a fitting and haunting title, that captures the reality of the brave subjects at the very core of this film).
Jay Geerts, newcomer documentary director, presents us with one of the most commonly-avoided conversation topics; suicide. As with all uncomfortable things, society is still taking baby steps in truly grasping and defying suicide. Jay starts off his documentary with a bold introductory statement; indicating how nearly eight hundred thousand people commit suicide per year (that’s one every forty seconds). Jay imposes the question throughout: why are we not doing more to eradicate this silent killer? To help him answer this question, he brings along four brave subjects, who have experienced suicide first-hand in one way or another. All interviewees are beautifully filmed, and you can tell Jay has made them feel at ease in sharing their stories and using their voice.
This short documentary does what it was intended to do; raise questions and incite action. I’m extremely eager to see Jay fully flesh out his ideas, push his current technical capabilities and attempt to answer some of the big questions he imposes here in his next feature-length documentary Simply Existing.
If he succeeds, we could be witnessing the mainstream arrival of a much-needed documentary filmmaker.
THE JOB ★★★★★
By Adrian Perez
The Job: what a delight, easiest film to review. It was such a refreshing British comedy with a dynamic duo at the centre of it who truly deserve their own tv series. The film starts off with a trunk shot, as the car boot lifts up we are introduced to two quirky and radically different hitmen; -one flamboyant and clearly an amateur (Josh Richardson), and the other a menacing animal hunter of some sort (Howy Bratherton). We are no stranger to a trunk shot, but starting off the film this way is masterful of Pedro Del Battenberg. Pedro’s technical choices in his low camera angles and pulsating unobtrusive music, are just two of the many choices he makes throughout in orchestrating a truly immersive film, where he makes us accomplices to the job of dispensing a body.
Everything is top-notch here on a technical level, but it really is Josh and Howy’s screen chemistry that weaponises this film into making it indestructible, and one that will sweep awards wherever it goes. At first, I felt Josh out-staging Howy a bit, but almost immediately Howy loses composure to Josh’s obnoxious behaviour,-cracks the biggest laugh out of me and steals the show. The casting is superb, I have to commend both powerhouses for their stellar performances; their tempo-rhythm is impeccable, both are so synced in how they bounce off one another. Without a good script, none of this would have been possible. It’s not the first time I witness a very talented actor write his own material; Howy here writes such convincing dialogue, but what’s hardest to come by, is the comedy gold he injects into the film.
The Job provides a comedy film masterclass; hilarious script, perfect length, a cinematographic achievement of the highest degree, but above all -some of the best performances I have seen in a long time in both the indie and mainstream world.
THE LIGHT THIEF ★★★★★
By Adrian Perez
Immediately this film’s exquisite cinematography is accompanied by a hair-raising orchestral track that gave me serious Basic Instinct vibes, and I’m a sucker for a good thriller. Eva Daoud masterfully places us on the rainy side of a love rupture, with Maria Pedroviejo’s character stalking her happily moved-on ex through a restaurant window, immediately creating empathy for her character. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse where not all is at it seems, with Maria discovering that Angel de Miguel (her ex) is robbing these women of their “light” quite literally, and dropping them once they fulfil his sexual desires. Art imitating life? Instinctively, we bucket this as a feminist cinematic venture; but what’s most masterful is Eva’s sensitive storytelling approach to later flick the switch -and have us confront an even more wounded man, one who turns to empty sex in order to heal from a love rupture that scarred him into becoming emotionally unavailable.
It’s quite a masterful script, her vision for the film is its strongest suit -she glamorises these “light thieves”, and turns this very raw and honest human feeling into an epic thriller.
Eva leads a high-class team of filmmakers in teaching a masterclass in thriller storytelling, Eva has a high concept in her hands with scope for a mature film trilogy saga. Eva Daoud proves to be both a film philosopher and master of storytelling in her latest film The Light Thief.
THE REPOSSESSION ★★★★½
By Adrian Perez
It’s delightful to witness Jack Venturo’s evolution across his work, Death of Tempo (2010) is one where he exhibits much grit in telling an entertaining fast-paced story of a temp experiencing a midlife crisis; here in The Repossession,-Jack breaks every convention in his rule book, strips back his original style and displays much directorial versatility and sensitivity to performance.
Jack snatches our attention from the get go, with our charismatic lead Michaela Myers (playing the role of Judy) waking up in the middle of nowhere, in pretty bad shape, suffering horrible migraines. From her setting it doesn’t seem like she’s recovering from an accident, but more like she has just woken up after fainting in her escape from a traumatic experience. Jack masterfully implants a very clear question to his audience from the very start; what happened to Judy?
Cleverly, for much of the film he’s teasing us in our pursuit for answers,-by stretching out Judy’s journey to civilisation to seek help; in this buildup of tension he is not scared to let Judy’s raw and exquisite performance play out, and allows the film to breathe, which is very refreshing to watch. Flashbacks cut to a powerful two-hander between two sisters who resent each other, but long for closeness.
Before we know it, Jack is behind the wheel of a fresh genre-bending film that achieves nothing short of pure high-class entertainment; mixing much of what is to love in horror with a rich character study, misleading us to a finale not even the cleverest modern spectator will see coming. Only a master of storytelling can achieve that.
By Adrian Perez
There is a lot to love in Sam Yazdanpanna’s new film Unity. The film’s most plausible trait is its unique cinematographic identity;-moments of sheer brilliance, such as an early shot of Hafid (Adab’s father) hiding in the kitchen whilst the remainder of the family fare off the eldest son through a mirror; to then a shot of Adam exiting from the block’s portal whilst Hafid stares at his son leaving from the balcony above. We later discover Adab’s father resents him for joining the army as opposed to taking over the garage family business. But these introductory shots do such a masterful job of showing the emotional distance between father and son.
Unity is a raw coming of age story. Ilias Addab is bewitching to watch; he anchors his performance in his eyes,-wherever he gazes we empathise with a troubled man who feels inadequate everywhere he goes, he longs to belong. It takes a raw powerhouse to transmit so much in a simple stare, and much of the film’s success is in Illia’s stellar casting as this lonely detached aspiring commando.
I can’t help but feel Unity’s insatiable ending suggests Adab still feels doomed.
That to me is the film’s only downfall,-that it never pushes to be more just than a rich character study, but maybe that’s just art imitating life; we can devote a lifetime seeking answers to never truly find them.
Stellar performances by the leading cast, cinematographic mastery of the highest degree, Sam wraps us up into one of the hardest things we must all overcome -our personal quest for longing and happiness.
By Adrian Perez
It should come as no surprise with Charley Stadler’s impressive commercial filmmaking background, that Versus was going to be exquisite to watch, and display a technical command of the highest degree. But where Versus truly excels, is in managing to do in four minutes, what a lot of films can't do in two hours, and that is to pass the test of time. I have watched this film over ten times, and have shown it to pretty much all my close friends to discuss it with them.
Versus starts off with a very simple stare off between a King & Queen, both powerful characters sat across far away from each other in their ‘thrones’, exuberating power through their glamorous appearance and surrounding. There’s a clear tension from the get go. Soon we discover this gorgeous couple have been in a relationship for seven years, and she has been pleading for a baby from him for the better part of their relationship. Our leading Queen (played by Nadezhda Azorkina, who is divine to watch) sits in discontent as various projections of her play out in front of our leading King (played by Nerijus Mankus, also superb casting, and a social remark in itself that he is older than her).
Through these projections Charley explores the continuous cycle we go through in tackling personal conflicts, and our drastic shifts from feeling empowered to completely shattered -and vice versa (almost like the five stages of grief, but the film was inspired more by Freud’s id, ego and superego theorem). Nadezhda displays incredible versatility within the projections, from stripped-down and vulnerable, to the dangerous siren, to the ruthless lawyer arguing their relationship being in breach of its contract.
But it’s our leading man who acts out the most grotesque performance of all; that of a man who doesn’t care and opts for an easy way out. It’s a comical but extremely powerful move that speaks volumes for this film. Versus offers social commentary in a way that will make this film remain a relevant testament to our current society. You could argue this one moment is a feminist declaration, but in many ways Charley remains very balanced and is a mere observant for this battle of the sexes. He cleverly explores this struggle for power between this King & Queen without ever taking a side; he opts for ambiguity, and in that open-ended closure to this piece, addresses a tale as old as time and incites conversation for a deeply-rooted sociological problem. In some ways, I think Charley sways more towards a feminist closure to the film. I wouldn’t be surprised if his first-hand experience in relationships inspired the making of his film; after all, directors make sense of life through their work.
The payoff is an extremely simplistic, effective and powerful metaphor for life; a thought-provoking film that will resonate with audiences and have them reference the film in philosophical conversations. A truly raw and honest film.
Charley Stadler and team, I commend you, you have made a masterpiece, and there is no doubt about that.
Versus is a visual spectacle that excels and twists all aspects of filmmaking to the highest levels of achievement; but above all, is a unique, highly entertaining film, that begs for answers to one of life’s biggest questions.
WORLD PEACE ★★
By Adrian Perez
Alex (played by Kyle Santos) makes a bedtime wish for world peace, and the next day he finds himself inhabiting a horrendous new reality where everyone is overly nice and off-putting. Here we have a premise we’re used to, Antoine’s new entry reminded me a lot of Bruce Almighty and Just My Luck, but with a fresh and relevant concept to explore.
It was refreshing to see Antoine and Dave play around with narrative structure, and opt out of introducing us to Alex’s daily life before shaking up his world equilibrium. They opt to show us Alex watching some brutal images of riots and protests, in order to motivate his wish instead. It’s a decision that never quite works. Why? As Alex gets on with his day and interacts with everyone in his life (his grumpy secretary, his girlfriend who is ignoring his calls, his sarcastic best friend), surely for some screen time Alex should feel contempt with their assumedly “new improved” versions. But immediately, Alex’s character rejects their new positive demeanour. If he wished for change so badly -surely he would give this new utopia a chance the moment he realises what he has caused. For example -his girlfriend was not talking to him, all of a sudden Alex finds himself able to have sex again, I feel this was one of the many missed opportunities for comedy gold. By not introducing us to each character’s “normal” attire and behaviour before the shift, -we do delay a lot of laughs in reverting those transformations at the very end.
It’s a lighthearted comedy, but one that could have been funnier. Kyle plays an awkward and unamused Alex throughout, but there were opportunities for comedy gold he didn’t grab;-for example, when he can’t seem to say ‘f*ck’ and instead chants ‘fudge’, or when he flies through people unable to punch them, -they’re moments to go absolutely crazy and lose composure, but Kyle never quite pushes himself to where we think he’s going to go with the performance.
This film has huge potential, there are just a few hits and misses in the execution of it; there are some technical irregularities in regards to grading and sound design, but some of the bigger issues arise from narrative structure and comedic timing/pacing.
World Peace is a film I want to like so bad, a great high concept, one that is thought-provoking, but one that I can’t help but feel Antoine McKnight and Dave Madden never quite lift off the ground.