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Fantasia Festival: Ghosting Gloria

30-something bookseller Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) hasn’t experienced an orgasm yet. Tired of sleepless nights caused by her very vocal and very horny upstairs neighbors, Gloria moves into a new place for some peace and quiet. However, it’s occupied by the ghost of the man who died there weeks earlier. And he wants to give Gloria what she’s been missing. When Gloria’s best friend and coworker Sandra (Nena Pelenur) gets curious about Gloria’s newfound glow, Gloria can’t bring herself to explain that she’s hooking up with a ghost. Gloria finds herself at a crossroads when the ghost actually ghosts her, leaving her wondering if satisfaction, both emotional and sexual, can be found in the world of the living or the dead.

“The best player is not the one with the best cards but the one who knows how to best play the cards that were dealt to her.”

Written and directed by husband-and-wife filmmaking team Marcela Matta and Mauro Sarser, the Uruguayan film Ghosting Gloria/Muertos con Gloria is a paranormal delight. I love the film’s bookish vibe and the supernatural cunnilingus scenes are quite inventive and fun to watch.  The story does drag on a lot longer than it should. There is a point about an hour in that feels like a natural ending point yet the film continues for another 30 minutes. It felt like 3 television episodes stitched together and I wonder if this would have worked better as a mini-series. I’m glad I kept watching because the actual ending is quite satisfying and solves a visual clue that was presented throughout the film. Definitely check this one out if you can!

Ghosting Gloria/Muertos con Gloria had its world premiere at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Glasshouse

It’s important that you keep wearing your mask.”

The women of the Glasshouse shield themselves from The Shred, a toxin that permeates the air and robs humans of memories when they breathe it in. The Shred turns its victims into a shade of their former selves. The younger the victim and the fewer memories they have attained, the more they are affected by the toxin.

Bee (Jess Alexander), Evie (Anja Taljaard), Daisy (Kitty Harris) and Mother (Adrienne Pearce) maintain the Glasshouse and its grounds. They work to protect themselves with hooded masks, they seal the Glasshouse from the toxic air, they grown their own fruits and vegetables and they kill, eat, and bury male intruders. The four women are tasked with taking care of young Gabe (Brent Vermeulen), a victim of The Shred who is prone to lashing out.

When The Stranger (Hilton Pelser) arrives on the grounds with a leg wound, Bee takes him in which goes against Mother’s strict rules. The Stranger wins her trust and her desire and takes advantage of this in order to further infiltrate himself into the small world the women have created. He’s as dangerous as The Shred, threatening their livelihoods and sanity. While Bee fails to see this, sharp eyed Evie knows something is not quite right.

Truth isn’t everything.”

Someone has to carry it. Otherwise nothing means anything at all.”

There is a lot to unpack with Kelsey Egan’s dreamy science fiction drama Glasshouse. It’s The Beguiled for the pandemic era taking the concept of strong women who must protect themselves from dangerous men during chaotic. The Beguiled takes place in the Civil War era South and Glasshouse appears to depict the same era but in an alternate world where a pandemic instead of a war keeps the women isolated. The film is introspective with lots of thought put into the importance of memory, the concept of truth, and how replaceable individuals are in a society. It’s difficult to come away from this film and not find yourself deep in thought. I enjoyed the fact that the film offers the right balance of story, character development and information about the pandemic.

Glasshouse is not a remake of The Beguiled, although it does seem to be inspired by it, but rather an original story by South African filmmaker Kelsey Egan and co-writer and associate producer Emma Lungiswa de Wet. According to Egan’s director’s statement:

“the South African philosophy of Ubuntu holds that identity is collective and that ancestral memory shapes the present.  As thought-provoking as it is entertaining, we believe that Glasshouse is a timely film, meeting a societal and market need for challenging, female-driven stories… Glasshouse explores two opposing coping mechanisms to trauma: holding tightly to the past as a form of preservation, and wilful forgetting…”

The film was shot on location at the Pearson Conservatory in St. Georges Park in South Africa and features a South African cast and crew.

Note: only white characters appear in the film.

Glasshouse had its world premiere at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.

Check out my reviews for two film adaptations of The Beguiled  (1971) and (2017).

Note to add: Glasshouse will be available on digital July 12th, 2022.

Fantasia Festival: Indemnity

Cape Town firefighter Theo (Jarrid Geduld) is suffering from PTSD after a particularly deadly fire killed his fellow fighters and left him sidelined. He’s put into psychotherapy and on psychotropics to deal with his persistent nightmares and in hopes that he may get back on his feet. His journalist wife Angela (Nicole Fortuin) is contacted by  Sam Isaacs (Abduragman Adams) a whistleblower who is determined against all odds to uncover a political conspiracy that seeks to take over all the governments in Africa. Theo is on the books as a potential pawn for these conspirators. Soon Theo finds himself on the run from the police for a murder he’s positive he didn’t commit. Was he framed? Or did one of his violent nightmares cause him to do something he didn’t mean to do?

Written and directed by Travis Taute, Indemnity is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that puts the effects of trauma front and center. It offers psychological drama  coupled with some great action sequences. Jarrid Geduld offers a multi-dimensional performance offering the audience a damaged and empathetic hero that we can easily root for.

As someone who suffers from PTSD, I was intrigued by how Taute presented  the disorder throughout the story. It’s consistently part of Theo’s story and becomes a critical plot point in the climax of the film. It’s unclear if the movie is criticizing psychotherapy or  using it simply as a plot device. That’s up to the audience to decide.

Indemnity had its world premiere at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Dreams on Fire

“I want to become a dancer… I will become a dancer.”

Yume

 Have you ever felt that life was just a series of roadblocks getting in the way of your most cherished dream? For Yume (Bambi Naka), the road to becoming a dancer is littered with obstacles and disappointments. Despite her father’s disapproval, Yume leaves her small town and ventures to Tokyo where she’s determined to make it as a professional dancer. Yume takes a free hip-hop class at a local dance studio and is immediately hooked. To pay for her micro apartment, her expenses and  her dance classes, Yume becomes a costume hostess. With her job and other hustles she pursues along the way, the threat of crossing over to sex work and getting away from the dance world lingers. Yume perseveres, taking classes, entering competitions and participating in auditions. With each new venture comes plaguing self-doubt and a heaping dose of bad luck but some new friends are there to give her the emotional boost she needs.

Written and directed by Philippe McKie, Dreams on Fire pulsates with life and sheer joy despite the major hurdles the protagonist faces. Bambi Naka leads this coming-of-age story with passion and grace. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this intense of an emotional bond with a fictional character. This speaks to the brilliant story and its charismatic star. There are plenty of dance numbers, shots of Tokyo streets and extreme angles that showcase the city skyline which add visual delights to this already endearing film. A must watch.

Dreams on Fire had its North American premiere at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival. Visit the film’s official website for more information.

Never Gonna Snow Again

Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a survivor of the Chernobyl disaster, is a masseuse with almost magical abilities. He can move objects telekinetically, is proficient in hypnosis and his hands can either heal his clients or kill them. Zhenia travels to a large Polish city where he finagles a resident permit and offers his massage services to those living in an upscale gated community. The wealthy residents live sad existences in their generic and cookie cutter community. They’re plagued by broken marriages, insolent children and sheer boredom. Zhenia mesmerizes his new clientele. He’s handsome, mysterious, patient and a perhaps a little radioactive.

Written and directed by Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert, Never Gonna Snow Again/Sniegu juz nigdy nie bedzie is a hypnotic and mysterious drama that gently touches upon some big themes. These include anti-immigrant sentiment, prejudice,  income inequality and global warming. Utgoff delivers a solid performance as the elusive Zhenia. The film offers moments of stunning cinematography and is light on the fantastical elements. It can be a bit difficult to follow or to understand the main character’s motivations. Watching Never Gonna Snow Again is like taking a ride down a gentle stream. There’s no rush to get anywhere. Just enjoy the ride.

Fans of Stranger Things will recognize Alec Utgoff who plays the lead role of Zhenia. Never Gonna Snow Again was Poland’s submission to the 93rd Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film.

Never Gonna Snow Again is distributed by Kino Lorber and opens in theaters and virtual cinemas on July 30th. Visit Kino Marquee for more details.

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