“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.
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.
Here are the films I’m most excited to check out this year!
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.
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.
Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets — dir. 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Directed by Rachel Fleit, Introducing, Selma Blair chronicles the actress’ battle with Multiple Sclerosis, an incurable disease that attacks the spinal cord and brain. Told through interviews, with Selma Blair herself and others, smartphone diaries and Instagram posts, the documentary puts a human face to this terrible disease. Blair was diagnosed in 2018 and has struggled with a variety of health and mobility issues ever since. In the film Blair is candid to a fault. It takes real vulnerability to share this difficult time in her life. She shares with the viewer her struggle with being a mom, her difficult relationship with her mother and her journey to get chemotherapy and stem cell transplants in an effort to slow the progression of her MS. The film is an intimate and revealing portrait of a unique individual faced with an incredible challenge. One can’t help but be inspired by Selma Blair’s resiliency.
Introducing, Selma Blair had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival. It’s slated to stream on Discovery+.
Violet (Olivia Munn) is plagued by self-doubt. The Voice (Justin Theroux) is constantly reminding her of her insecurities, negating anything positive she thinks about herself and is sending her down path of self-destruction. As a high-powered executive in the film industry, this inhibits her from personal and professional growth and from achieving any form of happiness. It doesn’t help that past traumas, her mother’s neglect, her brother’s disdain and a failed relationship that ended in literal flames, come back to haunt her. The Voice is in constant battle with her self-confidence, which offers Violet little glimmers of hope. There are good things in her life and good people too. Including Red (Luke Bracey), a handsome and understanding screenwriter whose opinion of her far exceeds her own for herself. Women in business, regardless of the industry, have an uphill battle, not only to breakthrough the barriers set by outdated gender norms but to fight against the impostor syndrome that society imposes upon us. Regardless of Violet’s support system of friends and colleagues, she must find a way to tap into that self-confidence and suppress the Voice on her own.
Written and directed by Justine Bateman, Violet visualizes self-doubt in a way that will resonate deeply with audiences, especially women who are often the victims of mansplaining and impostor syndrome. The Voice is presented through a man’s narration which epitomizes how society devalues women. Self-confidence is shown in the form of white cursive writing on screen. This visual-auditory representation of Violet’s thought process was incredibly effective. Bateman has hit a homerun with this brilliant depiction of internal strife and self-destruction and Munn delivers a wonderful performance as the title character.
Violet had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.