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SXSW: Sophie and the Baron

Directed by Alexandria Jackson, Sophie and the Baron is a sweet documentary about an intergenerational friendship that developed into a unique artistic collaboration. Baron Wolman was Rolling Stone’s first chief photographer. Throughout the 1970s he captured iconic images of Woodstock and performers like Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, just to mention the Js! Sophie Kipner is an artist who specializes in blind contouring. For Wolman photograph was a means of quieting the chaos. For Kipner, blind drawing was a way to get out of the way of her own artistic expression. These two artists unite in a one-on-one collaboration where Kipner reimagines Wolman’s photographs through her unique art style.

Sophie and the Baron is simply  a delight! And I would love to see a full-length documentary on Baron Wolman’s career.

Sophie and the Baron had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival. Visit the official website of the film for more information.

SXSW: WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn

“The company went from a $47 billion valuation to near bankruptcy in just 6 weeks.”

Adam Neumann had a vision. He wanted to revolutionize the corporate world by creating the largest networking community on the planet. Neumann, alongside Miguel McKelvey, founded WeWork, a real estate company, made to look like a tech company, that offered flexible workplaces for small business. Neumann not only wanted to rebel against current office culture where individuals were locked away in offices and cubes, he wanted to bring people together. He was inspired by the iPhone and took the I turned it into We in order to turn the focus away from the individual to a community. His vision of the future consisted of a corporate world that was driven by small businesses and not by large corporations. It seemed like a brilliant idea. WeWork saw exponential growth in its homebase of New York City. The company was intended to be the next unicorn: a privately held start-up with a valuation of $1 billion or more. WeWork was on that patch. However Neumann’s need for total control and the cult-like aspects of the culture he was developing threatened to drive the company into the ground.

Directed by Jed Rothstein, WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn is an engrossing documentary that takes its viewers on a veritable roller coaster ride. Neumann’s story must be seen to be believed. I’ve watched many documentaries about the business world, deeply flawed corporate individuals and business ideas gone wrong and this is one of the cringiest. I put it up there with both Netflix and Hulu’s competing documentaries on the disastrous Fyre Festival. If you watched and enjoyed either of those, I highly recommend checking this one out.

As an introvert, I couldn’t imagine working at a WeWork facility. Neumann’s focus was on community but he neglected the fact that his spaces were for young extroverts and not for those us who crave or who need some modicum of privacy in order to work. Furthermore, this workplace concept seems like a playground for bullies and sexual deviants looking for easy targets. Just learning about WeWork made me happy that work-from-home culture and social distancing is now part of our everyday lives.

My only small beef with the documentary is there is little information about WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey. He’s brought up a couple times but never discussed at length. While the focus of the documentary  is Adam Neumann, and to some extent his wife Rebekah Neumann, I would have liked to learn a bit more about McKelvey. 

WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn  had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival. It streams on Hulu starting April 2nd.

SXSW: Executive Order/ Medida Provisória

“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.

SXSW: Ludi

Ludi (Shein Mompremier) is utterly exhausted. She works countless hours as a nurse, scraping away all the money she can to send back to her family in Haiti. Ludi lives in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami and while her community reminds her of home, her constant struggle reminds her that pursuing the American dream is a relentless uphill climb. When a coworker gives her insight on a new opportunity to make some easy cash, she sets out to take the night shift at the home of George (Alan Myles Heyman), an elderly man too proud to receive help. With George, Ludi faces her greatest challenge yet.

Directed by Haitian-American filmmaker Edson Jean and co-written by Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Ludi is a poignant drama that reveals the pain and vulnerability that comes with the immigrant experience. Shein Mompremier’s moving portrayal of Ludi exemplifies what it means to be a hard-working immigrant woman in America. The film lingers on the scenes between Ludi and George, who have an all out battle, and Heyman’s authentic performance gives viewers insight on the plight of the elderly.

Ludi premiered at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

See You Then (2021)

SXSW: See You Then

“The need to transition was like this awful noise, this endless ringing in my head.”

It’s been over 15 years since Kris (Pooya Mohseni) and Naomi (Lynn Chen) have seen each other. After their break-up, Kris transitioned to become the woman she always knew she was leaving Naomi hurt and confused. Kris now faces the challenges of being a woman in the tech world and seeing her dream of becoming a parent slip away from her. Naomi has abandoned her career as a performance artist and pursued the traditional route of getting married and children. She struggles to understand Kris’ transition. Years later the two reunite, confronting the past and who they are today. The two must heal their deep divide and reconcile with themselves about they truly want in their lives.

Through conversation, See You Then chronicles the story of two women as they unpack years of hurt feelings and confusion to better understand each other and themselves. It’s easy to become emotionally invested in these characters. We live in a time when society is questioning what it means to be a woman and a transgender women. See You Then offers perspective and understanding to add to that conversation while bringing all the relevant emotions to the surface. The film is directed and co-written by a transgender woman, Mari Walker, and stars a transgender woman, Pooya Mohseni. Lynn Chen and Mohseni offer first-class performances.

See You Then revels in its simplicity giving viewers an opportunity to do a deep dive into an important and relevant social dynamic.

See You Then had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

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