Chelsea Phillips-Carr

Complicity (Kei Chikaura, Japan/China) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Shot in a coldly minimal documentary style, complete with shaky camera, Complicity opens with a group of Chinese illegal immigrants in Japan stealing machinery at night to buy ID cards. The look of the film connotes a certain energy: distant, cerebral, utilitarian. Despite its aesthetic, Kei Chikaura’s debut feature is anything but.…

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Clara (Akash Sherman, Canada) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Crumbling under the grief of a lost child and subsequent divorce, astronomer Isaac (Patrick J. Adams) throws himself into searching for extraterrestrial life, with research assistant Clara (the actor’s real-life wife Troian Bellisario) slowly opening him up to new possibilities. Characters question what could be more important than finding alien life, while…

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Touch Me Not (Adina Pintilie, Romania/Germany/Czech Republic/Bulgaria/France) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 9, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Somewhere between fiction and documentary, director Adina Pintilie and her characters explore everything that “intimacy” entails in the Golden Bear-winning Touch Me Not. The film centers around Laura (Laura Benson), a woman struggling with intimacy who turns to the personal sexual experiences of a number of marginalized people to learn more about…

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Colette (Wash Westmoreland, UK) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 5, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr The unrefined Gabrielle Sidonie becomes the controversial author Colette (Keira Knightley) in Still Alice director Wash Westmoreland’s latest melodrama. The biopic, based on the writer’s early years, tonally and visually manages to balance the feverish luxury of belle époque Paris with a sophisticated gravity and absurdly frenzied emotions with beautifully subdued sensuality.…

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The Sweet Requiem (Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam, India/USA) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 1, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Tibetan refugee Dolkar (Tenzin Dolker) has an active yet average life in Delhi, but we quickly come to see that this woman’s focus on the quotidian is a way to forget past pain. Moving between Dolkar’s adult life in India and flashbacks of her childhood trek through the Himalayas in order to…

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Manto (Nandita Das, India) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / August 31, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Following the career of author Saadat Hasan Manto (Thanda Gosht; Toba Tek Singh), Nandita Das’ sophomore feature plays like an artist-biopic checklist. Working in India and Pakistan during Independence and Partition, Manto (played, in a powerhouse performance, by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) grapples with social unrest, poverty, and anti-Muslim sentiment in his work, all…

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The Rider (Chloé Zhao, US)

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / July 2, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Having worked with horses his whole life and without any other means to make a living, Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) is left without his passion and his livelihood after he incurs a head injury during a rodeo. His shaved head gleaming with bloody staples, Brady subsists on a cocktail of pills during his…

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Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton, Australia) — Platform

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 13, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country attempts to be unique in every way possible, and nearly succeeds. An Australian Western about colonialism, it consciously revises the racial politics of the genre, while emphasizing vibrant visuals, expressive sound design, and a radically loose narrative structure. After Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris), an Aboriginal farmer, kills a…

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Victoria & Abdul (Stephen Frears, UK) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 13, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Not content with a simple erasure of colonial violence under the veil of a feel-good prestige pic, Stephen Frears opts for full-on degradation in his latest film Victoria & Abdul. Judi Dench stars as a Queen Victoria who is bored with royalty, and the way her crown alienates her from the people…

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The Ritual (David Bruckner, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Making his feature debut after directing segments for the horror anthology films V/H/S and Southbound, David Bruckner proves that he is clearly familiar with the mechanics of his genre, but The Ritual misses the mark: working in a longer format, he comes up with a confused and unsustainable tangle of typical horror…

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The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey, Canada/Ireland/Luxembourg) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr In its reductive exploration of misogyny in Afghanistan, The Breadwinner is reflective of how a children’s film, with its simplified, toned-down, and easily conveyed ideas, is not conducive to discussions of serious political problems. But equally faulty is the very obvious issue of who is discussing what, and for whom. A film…

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Luk’Luk’I (Wayne Wapeemukwa, Canada) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 5, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Set and shot during the last days of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, in Luk’Luk’I Wayne Wapeemukwa attempts to puncture the veneer of Canadian nationalism by turning away from the event’s image of national prosperity and togetherness in order to focus on marginalized communities. Working with a cast of mostly nonprofessional actors,…

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The Rider (Chloé Zhao, USA) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 4, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Set in the world of modern-day cowboys, Chloé Zhao’s The Rider is an incisive critique of traditional American masculinity. The film follows rodeo rider Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau, who, like the other actors, is playing a version of his real self) as he struggles to recover from a head injury suffered during…

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Novitiate (Maggie Betts, USA) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 2, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr With Novitiate, director Maggie Betts creates a dramatic portrait of a 1960s convent during the reforms of Vatican II. Following a group of novices as they enter the church, Betts manages to capture a youthful intensity to feverishly convey a multitude of psychological, as well as societal, concerns. Protagonist Cathleen (Margaret Qualley)…

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A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio, Chile) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 1, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr A Fantastic Woman opens with scenes of domestic bliss. On her birthday, Marina (Daniela Vega), a twentysomething  trans woman, is taken out for dinner and dancing by her older boyfriend Orlando, before going back home to their shared apartment. Later that night, the Orlando passes away. What begins as romantic perfection quickly…

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