Nobody deserves to be homeless. And yet, the United States is dealing with a serious homelessness crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic and bound to get worse. Directed by Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk, Lead Me Home is an empathetic and eye-opening look at the homelessness situation in three major American cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. It gives a face, a name and a story to these individual facing this crisis. It may not win over those who chose to turn a blind eye to the situation but it will reawaken a sympathetic spirit in those of us who do ultimately care. Lead Me Home is distributed by Netflix and will launch on the service November 30th. I hope this film will be submitted for Academy Award consideration because I think it’s a strong candidate for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Lead Me Home premiered at the 2021 AFI Fest as part of their Meet the Press programming.
From a very young age, Jeff Wall showed that he had the chops to be an athlete. When his mom enrolled him in karate classes he thrived. He won pretty much every competition he entered into and quickly moved up the ranks to earn his black belt. It wasn’t enough to just compete, he wanted to share his love with others. In Sindha Agha’s short film Golden Age Karate, we see Wall teach karate to elderly residents at a local nursing home. He empowers his students by teaching them something new and helping them get in tune with their bodies. This delightful and heartfelt documentary short is a glimmer of hope in an era of generational strife.
Golden Age Karate premiered at the 2021 AFI Fest as part of their Meet the Press programming.
Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Mateo (Diego Luna) are at an impasse in their relationship. The couple have settled down and had a baby but have ultimately grown to resent each other. After a tense interaction at a party, Adrienne and Mateo are involved in a horrific car accident that inevitably changes their relationship forever.
It’s difficult to talk about Wander Darkly without giving away key elements of the plot that make the film so mesmerizing. Directed by Tara Miele, who was inspired by her own trauma to tell the story of Adrienne and Mateo, Wander Darkly is a gripping drama about trauma, love, gratitude and Miele calls “everyday magic.” The way film pivots back and forth from reality to memory, often combining the two, is astonishingly good. Miller and Luna breathe life into their characters in such a profound way. Wander Darkly is riveting and has easily become one of my favorite films of the year.
Wander Darkly was screened as part of the 2020 virtual AFI Fest. It is distributed by Lionsgate.
Representation matters. When a young Edward Dwight Jr. saw a photo of an African-American jet pilot in the newspaper, everything he dreamed about suddenly became a possibility. That one photo sparked something inside him and Dwight set out to achieve his dreams. He proved to be an excellent pilot and served as a captain in the Air Force. Dwight was selected as a NASA astronaut trainee by the Kennedy administration, the first African-American to be chosen. And while he was an exceptionally trained pilot, he never made it passed phase two of the training. It’s clear that the world wasn’t ready for a black astronaut. Dwight could have let this disappointment drag him down but instead he reinvented himself.
Directed by Ben Proudfoot, The Lost Astronaut is an intimate short documentary that profiles an extraordinary man. This 14 minute film is part of The New York Times series Almost Famous while profiles subjects in similar circumstances. The extreme close up on Dwight’s face as he recounts the story of his life makes the viewer feel like Dwight is an old friend that we care deeply about. What’s so exceptional about Captain Edward Dwight Jr.’s story is that his career happened during what the director refers to as “collision of the space race and the civil rights movement.” Had he been born a few decades earlier he may never have become a pilot. Had he been born a few decades later he might have become a NASA astronaut.
The Lost Astronaut was screened as part of the Meet the Press program for the 2020 virtual AFI Fest.
“I feel like there’s someone outside asking me to open the window. And I know who it is.”
Something is wrong with Ines (Erica Rivas). After her vacation with boyfriend Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler) ends in trauma, Ines tries to go back to her normal, everyday life. She works as a voice actress dubbing horror films in Spanish and sings for a professional choir. Ines’ voice is her livelihood. However, a mysterious force is disrupting her work, adding strange noises to her recordings and affecting her otherwise dulcet singing voice. Another voice actress reveals to Ines what’s plaguing her: an intruder. First Ines hears the intruder, then she feels it and if she allows it, the intruder will take over her life. In the days following the trauma, Ines is possessed by the intruder who enters through her nightmares and makes her question what is reality and what is just a dream.
Directed by Natalia Meta, The Intruder/ El Prófugo is a bizarre psychological thriller about the real effects of trauma. I couldn’t quite make sense of this movie. I’m fascinated by the idea of “the intruder” and the movie requires the audience to come up with their own interpretation of what it is and what it represents. My interpretation is that trauma is a parasitic host that preys on its victim. Things can escalate if the victim is not able to get the support they need to heal In this case the intruder literally grabs its victim by the throat which Ines’ most vulnerable spot since she uses her voice for her livelihood. Natalia Meta’s film is an adaptation of an even darker story, El mal menor by C.E. Feiling, which I’m interested in reading to see how it compares to the film. I do appreciate the fact that, while Meta could have turned this into a graphic horror film, she instead she made it into a female centric psychological drama, something I’m much more drawn to. The protagonist is played by Erica Rivas who delivers a brilliant performance.
The Intruder/El Prófugo was screened as part of the 2020 virtual AFI Fest.