You don’t have to be Catholic or to even be religious to be struck by Pope Francis’ brand of benevolence. He brings spiritual comfort to the masses, speaks out about ecological and economic abuses and travels to the far reaches of the planet to attend to global humanitarian crises. His handling of the church’s sex abuse scandals as well as his positions on gender in the church have brought him much criticism. But he’s not above humbling himself, apologizing for his wrongs and putting his words into actions. I grew up Protestant and no longer consider myself religious by any means. However, I have grown to admire Pope Francis as a humanitarian who continues to use his massive platform to do good around the world.
Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, Francesco explores Pope Francis’ work as a religious icon and thought leader. It’s a sympathetic documentary that does much to present the Pope in the best light. However, Afineevsky does explore, albeit delicately, the Pope’s handling of the sex abuse scandal. Activist Juan Carlos Cruz is interviewed at length about his battle with the church on behalf of himself and other victims and his eventual meeting with the Pope. The documentary adds a 3-D effect on 2-D photos which I felt was unnecessary. It serves as a great primer to Pope Francis’ life and work. I wish it would dug deeper into the Pope’s personal connection to the teachings of Saint Francis of Assissi as well as his insistence on presenting himself as and being a humble Pope.
“Francesco is not a biographical film about Pope Francis in the traditional sense. Rather it is a film that shows us the world as it is today and a path to understanding what a better future of tomorrow can be, as seen through the remarkable work of the Pope.”
Director Evgeny Afineevsky
Francesco releases in theaters nationwide today and streams on Discovery+ on March 28th.
For Vada (Jenna Ortega), it was just an ordinary day at her high school. After a false alarm from her younger sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack), Vada hangs out in the bathroom with fellow student Mia (Maddie Ziegler), a beautiful Instagram dancer. They catch each other’s eye but that moment of flirtation is ripped away from them when they hear gunshots. A shooter causes chaos in the school, killing some and injuring others. Vada and Mia’s lives will never be the same again. After the shooting, Vada spends her days avoiding school, drinking with Mia, getting high and going to therapy. Her parents Patricia (Julie Bowen) and Carlos (John Ortiz) try their best to give Vada space to recover. But how do you life your life after such a traumatic event?
Directed by Megan Park, The Fallout is a coming-of-age story that will ring true for many young people who unfortunately have suffered through this kind of trauma. Mass shootings are a reality of American life and despite what your thoughts are on gun control, it’s important for us to see how these events affect its victims. The Fallout is a poignant story about one young person’s response to trauma and in the same way it’s a universal tale about growing up, finding yourself and surviving something horrific. Audiences will appreciate the LGBTQ and BIPOC inclusivity.
The Fallout had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
Director Jeremy Ungar and Ivaylo Getov’s new documentary Soy Cubana spotlights four talented women as they travel from Cuba to the US to perform. It also gives viewers offers a window into modern day Cuba. Vocal Vidas is a Cuban acapella quartet made up of Ana Josefina Hernández (Soprano), Maryoris Mena Faez (Contralto-Bass), Koset Muñoa Columbié (Mezzo-Soprano) and Annia del Toro Leyva (Contralto). Together their harmonies are magical. Through song they share various cultures and traditions and captivate audiences with their dulcet tones. In their native Cuba, the Vocal Vidas make money by selling CDs and through tips. They garnered much attention in 2016 when short documentary hit the film festival circuit. In 2017, they were invited to perform and a full-length documentary was shot to chronicle their life in Cuba, their application for a Visa and their journey to Los Angeles where they perform at Mambo’s Cafe, the Vibrato club, and for Grand Performances.
The film lightly touches on the problematic relationship between the US and Cuba. It’s interesting to hear the women gently criticize life in Cuba while also defending their homeland. Soy Cubana is well worth the watch if anything to be captivated by this quartet of resilient women. Be prepared to get up and dance. There is plenty of wonderful music to enjoy.
Soy Cubana hd its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
“I’ve always believed in the power of words… I used to be black… now I’m high melanin.”
Set in Rio de Janeiro some time in the future, Executive Order/Medida Provisória follows Antônio (Alfred Enoch), a young black lawyer seeking reparations from the government for Brazilian citizens descended from African slaves. In retaliation, the corrupt government offers an alternate: social reparation in the form of repatriation to Africa. At first this is offered as a voluntary option and advertised on television and presented to local communities. When it meets with resistance from black citizens including Antônio, his cousin André (Seu Jorge) and his wife Capitu (Taís Araújo), the government quickly changes the offer to an executive order. Martial law ensues to force anyone with “high melanin” back to Africa and the trio must find a way to fight back.
Directed by Lázaro Ramos,Executive Order/Medida Provisória is a harrowing drama that explores race relations and political corruption through a dystopian lens. The plot lacks cohesiveness but overall the film is fairly effective as a thriller. Fans of the Mexican dystopian thriller New Order/Nuevo Orden will definitely want to check this one out.
Executive Order/Medida Provisória at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Between the years of 1993 and 2005, hundreds of women were brutally murdered, many discovered mutilated in the dessert and others never to be recovered. This violence against women in particular came from two dangerous forces: a drug cartel that wields incredible power still to this day and a deeply entrenched culture of machismo. Although the women of Ciudad Juarez live in constant fear of violence, they still manage to survive and thrive. For some, they find physical, emotional and mental strength as luchadoras: female Lucha Libre wrestlers known for wearing colorful costumes and masks in the ring.
Directed by Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, Luchadoras is a powerful documentary that follows three women wrestlers, Lady Candy, Baby Star and Mini Sirenita, as they transcend their circumstances and find strength through their sport. The resiliency of these women is astounding. A must-see for anyone seeking out feminist documentaries or who were inspired by stories like GLOW on Netflix.
Trigger warning: the film discusses violence against women. For those with hearing sensitivities like myself, there are several scenes in which the low battery chirp from a fire alarm can be heard.
Luchadoras had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.