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SXSW: Fire of Love

“When you can die at any moment… what do you leave behind?”

Directed by Sara Dosa, Fire of Love is a truly extraordinary documentary about two scientists who lived their lives on their own terms.

French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft boldly went where few scientists went before. After marrying in the 1960s, they set out to chase fire, traveling all over the world to study active volcanoes. Katia photographed, Maurice filmed, and together they captured some of the most stunning and frightening images of volcanoes. Over the decades the took calculated risks getting closer and closer to lava flows and craters. To fund their expeditions they would use their footage to publish books and release documentaries. The Kraffts were well aware that their passion would most likely lead to an early demise, which it did in June of 1991.  However, their absolute resolve to pursue their passion enlightened the public about the ways volcanoes work and the real dangers they pose.

Fire of Love envelops the viewer into the world of the Kraffts and gives us a close-up look at the awe-inspiring power of volcanoes. The documentary is composed of archival footage from the Kraffts and a voice-over narration that tells the story of their romance as well as their mutual fascination with volcanoes. The images are truly breathtaking. The writing is exquisite. The Kraffts story will make viewers contemplate what it means to live without fear.

Fire of Love had its Texas premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. The film is distributed by National Geographic and will stream on Disney+ at a future date.

2022 SXSW Film Festival: My Picks

The 2022 SXSW Film Festival is about to start and I’m thrilled to be back in Austin. This year’s festival is hybrid and while I will be doing some of my coverage from the virtual space I’ll also be on site sharing my thoughts on my experiences and all the wonderful films I get to watch from this year’s slate.

Make sure you follow me on Twitter @RaquelStecher and on Instagram @QuelleMovies for even more coverage.

Here are the films I’m most excited to check out this year!

Documentaries

Facing Nolan — dir. Bradley Jackson

This sports documentary explores former baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan’s extraordinary, yet overlooked career. As a kid I was a big Ryan fan so this is a must-see for me.

Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock | Credit: The Ranch Productions, LLC

Clean — dir. Lachlan McLeod

Trauma cleaning is both difficult and important job. This documentary explores the business with a particular focus on one cleaner as she approaches both her work and her search for her birth mother.

Sandra Pankhurst attending a trauma cleaning job. | Credit: Louis Dai

Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBetsdir. Drea Cooper and Zackary Caneperi

Reddit users threw the stock market for a loop when they single-handedly made both AMC and GameStop surge. This documentary focuses on GameStop and how Reddit users tried to “democratize trading”.

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story — dir. Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern

SXSW always offers up some great music documentaries. I’m most interested in this one which features performances, interviews as well as archival footage of this iconic music festival.

The Kennedy-Marshall Company. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Feature Film Highlights

The Cow — dir. Eli Horowitz

This thriller follows a couple to a remote cabin where they discover the place has been double booked and another couple is already staying there. They all agree to stay together for one night until two of them mysteriously disappear. Stars Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney.

Raquel 1:1 — dir. Mariana Bastos

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to watch a film about another Raquel! This Brazilian drama follows a religious teenager who believes she’s received a mission from God.

Credit: Vans Bumbeers

Out of the Past

The following films will be reviewed at my sister site Out of the Past.

Still Working 9 to 5 — dir. Camille Hardman and Gary Lane

The iconic workplace comedy 9 to 5 (1980) shed light on how women are treated in the workplace. Four decades later the film still resonates. This documentary revisits the film as well as workplace culture and includes interviews with Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno.

Photo by Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images

The Last Movie Stars — dir. Ethan Hawke

The first chapter of this six chapter film will be premiering at SXSW and will have a future release on CNN+ and HBO Max. It follows the story of the beloved movie star couple Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. I can’t wait for this one!

Genre films

Linoleum — dir. Colin West

This sci-fi drama starring Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Michael Ian Black, Tony Shalhoub follows the story of middle-aged father who tries to transform a satellite into a rocket ship after it fell and hit their home.

Bodies Bodies Bodies —dir. Halina Reijn

This horror film follows a group of wealthy 20-somethings who throw a hurricane party that ultimately turns deadly. Stars Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson, Rachel Sennott, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders and Lee Pace.

Credit: Gwen Capistran

Sissy — dir. Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes

This horror film follows two best friends who have grown apart. After being reunited, things take a turn for the worst when they become isolated in a remote cabin. Stars Aisha Dee and Hannah Barlow.

Aisha Dee as Cecilia in SISSY | Credit: Steve Arnold ACS

What I missed from Sundance

Fire of Love — dir. Sara Dosa

I’ve been hearing nothing but rave reviews about this documentary. It follows the love story of French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft whose fascination with volcanoes led to their untimely demise.

Cha Cha Real Smooth — dir. Cooper Raiff

Another hit from Sundance that had everyone buzzing, Cha Cha Real Smooth stars Cooper Raiff as a 20 something college grad trying to find his way in life. Also in the cast are Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann.

Stay tuned for more 2022 SXSW coverage!

Slamdance: Underdog

For three decades Doug Butler, a dairy farmer from Middlebury, VT, has dreamed of one thing: to race sled dogs in Alaska. Directed by  Tommy Hyde, the documentary Underdog chronicles Doug’s journey to the Open North American Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska and his struggles in keeping the nearly 100 year old dairy farm going. Doug Butler is a great subject for a documentary. He’s passionate about what he does, charismatic and deeply cares about his animals and his family business. You can’t help but root for him and also mourn his losses. Underdog is a truly heartfelt documentary offering up heaping doses of melancholy and joy.

Underdog is part of the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.

Slamdance: The Ritual to Beauty

“What happens to brown girls who never learn who to love themselves brown?”

Dominicans have a long and tortured relationship with their hair. As a Dominican-American woman I know this all too well. My mother and grandmother were both hairstylists who specialized in relaxing Dominican hair to a more culturally appealing state.  Wearing one’s hair “natural” was looked down upon. The pain of not being something acceptable and having to change yourself to fit an aesthetic is passed on from generation and the harm lingers for years.

This is why I’m grateful for the precious gift that is The Ritual of Beauty (2022). Directed by Shenny De Los Angeles and Maria Marrone, is a short documentary that sheds light on the social custom of straightening hair and how it keeps Dominican women from loving themselves. The doc focuses on a young Dominican woman who is on a journey to embrace her natural hair. And in doing so, she examines the stories of her mother and grandmother whose different relationships with their own hair spoke volumes of what they thought about themselves. The doc is haunting and poetic and revealing. A truly amazing film.

The Ritual to Beauty was part of the 2022 Slamdance FIlm Festival line-up.

Slamdance: Retrograde

When a misunderstanding leads to a traffic violation, Molly (Molly Reisman) is determined to contest the $300 ticket. But soon things start to spiral out of control. Everything she move she makes, albeit well-intentioned, put a strain on her home and work life. And when her new roommate Gabrielle (Sofia Banzhaf) refuses to serve as a witness despite being present during the traffic stop, Molly begins to lash out.

If you’ve ever felt like the odds have been stacked against you, then this film is for you. Directed by Adrian Murray, Retrograde is a study in neurosis and those microaggressions that drive us crazy. Molly is both a sympathetic and annoying character. She’s overly sensitive, anxious but absolutely valid in her feelings. The people around her refuse to be called out on their bullshit making her journey even that more frustrating. Added to the story is the theme of astrology which is a catalyst for debate among the characters.

Retrograde premiered at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.

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