Calvin’s Capsules: SIFF 2023 – Part 3

The third in a series of capsule reviews with picks from this year’s SIFF.


Scrapper. Dir. Charlotte Regan.

A very Festival Indie — Sundance by SIFF — Scrapper is a childhood grief movie about loss and connection with a cute little heart to it. At the end of the year we tally the best of child performers for Seattle Film Critics’ awards and I hope I remember Lola Campbell, who is the charming, sweet center of this film, often funny, and may have an interesting career ahead of her.

Satan Wants You

Satan Wants You. Dirs. Sean Horlor & Steve J. Adams.

It’s weird that folks will believe anything. Otherwise intelligent people really believed that there was a very widespread Satanic abuse scandal. White Christian nationalists were so very much in charge that they could just say anything and people would go for it. Shifting work culture with women entering the workforce and children going to daycare, also signaled a shift in trust for who was watching our children. It’s all very interesting stuff that surrounds the initial book that really ignited things with faux narratives about child abuse at the hands of Satanists. It took millions of dollars, years of investigation, and a moral reclamation of “truth” from the Christian-right, but eventually folks came back to their senses, or have they?

Chile ’76

Chile ’76. Dir. Manuela Martelli.

Chile ‘76 is a pretty good movie but I have not thought about the movie at all. I have not thought about the movie at all because all I’m thinking about is Mariá Portugal‘a score for the movie. Mariá Portugal’s score for the movie is so sharp it can cut you and so sharp that it cuts through every sequence it is in. It’s really an astounding world unto itself, all the sonic textures are so alive and while they compliment the subdued pastel story of a woman living her own way in an oppressive regime, the oppression is in direct contract with the music which is the best thing you might hear all year. You can very much go listen to the score on Spotify and experience something so atonally grandiose and original in its invention and hard edges. I do recommend the movie because it’s good too, but the score is very nearly a self-contained masterpiece living inside this good film. Astounding creation by Mariá Portugal, taking note of her for the future.

Pretty Red Dress

Pretty Red Dress. Dir. Dionne Edwards.

A guy wears a dress. He must answer for it. Why is he wearing his girlfriend’s dress? Is there something he wants to tell her? This coincides with their kid’s story of coming out. The mother must learn how to accept them both as they now want to present to the world. Reading many comments where the audience is laughing at the material, which is unfunny, but hopefully is either making them uncomfortable in the right ways or is pushing some button, resulting in inappropriate responses. Either way, the movie could also better guide the audience and it’s still useful, I’m sure, for someone wanting to see people of color centered in a story about crossdressing and coming of age coming out stories. Both ideas have utility, even if presented pretty dryly and obviously. Finally, it arrives at something, but needs another unknowable something, a style and confidence of its own. For now it’s just fine.


Gloriavale. Dirs. Noel Smyth & Fergus Grady.

Cult documentaries are big in the market. The entry point is clear: any examination of this alternative style of living just outside the facade of normal society, is interesting in itself. But when you make a documentary you do not always know what you’ll get — whether you’ll find and focus on the right participants, whether an ending is guaranteed, and what the best way of tightly editing it together into a kind of cinematic narrative would be. Gloriavale doesn’t quite find the subject and thesis. Sure, yeah, it’s a cult documentary and you can get the pre-requisite schadenfreude out of that, but you’ll be more entranced by the New Zealand landscapes than this would-be incredibly interesting story of people being brainwashed and held in servitude. That is, of course, the story, but the documentary is more intent to follow the unconcluded legal proceedings of folks who have recently left the large commune. And while it suggests unfettered and unique access inside the functions of this very strange way of life, it is very fettered and very common and either hasn’t found subjects willing to divulge the right information, or by design, Gloriavale has kept all the most pressing secrets under lock and key. Whatever the case, we get a few very sad stories but not especially any investigative juice or really damning abnormal material about the in-progress legal cases. Pretty scenery, though.

Leave a Reply