The sixth and final dispatch in this particular series from our Editor with capsule reviews from 2023’s edition of SIFF. See you next festival!
Charming as an intermediary between Wes Andersonian filmmaking and chill mumblecore independence, feels like and plays like a weekend by a lake, lackadaisically tumbling toward a too cute coming of age type story. Still feels good and looks nice. Worth catching for fans of Summer Fever teen films wherein the languid dog days of Summer really gnaw at the adolescent mind. Just fine for anyone else looking for more adult fulfillment and entertainment.
Snow and the Bear
Sometimes movies start with such clear and brilliant themes and motifs that they can really steer the ship the whole way. That’s how Selcen Ergun‘s Snow and the Bear goes: a woman comes to a strange town where the men just want to hunt the bears they’ve occupied the land of. The struggle of the women of the land are the same as the Bear; the men have fabricated this terrible society and forced their will upon a land and then acted irrationally to native wildlife and half their own population. Good enough to have such interesting themes, but Snow and the Bear also has super-refined direction, acting, and a script that goes over well. Maybe some audiences won’t find the direct analogues and metaphors so easy to hold onto, I found it really distinguished in the woman vs man and man vs nature and woman comes to a strange land type beat. A worthy surprise at SIFF.
Sister & Sister
Richly colorful sisterhood story where two sisters who look and seem nothing alike go on a search for their father(s). Color is chosen to span the locations at the center — from Costa Rica to Panama — the colors and lens are proudly Latin. If the minimalism kind of crushes the story, we can forget about that while watching some pretty and bright images and maybe a kind-hearted festival movie, but we may feel differently about its characters, at some points in the end, than the movie and director do. That it’s unclear is part and parcel of why it’s kind of hard to track a character story that is underwritten. Look past that, because it has such an absorbing sense of regional color.
Personal bodily cancer mirrors the colonialist cancer of the US Navy taking over Puerto Rico in the past. The film is handsomely shot but undercooked, despite a brave and thematically thoughtful lead performance. Still perhaps worth a look and imbued with meaning and metaphor.
Riders on the Storm
You never know when you’re going to be there at the right time. Riders on the Storm is a documentary that is exactly on-time. Afghanistan’s ruthless sport of polo-but-very-unkind-to-animals is profiled. It’s shot beautifully and is just interesting enough on its own. Then they’re there shooting that and the US begins to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban begin to take over. Wealthy players of polo-but-very-unkind-to-animals at the center of the doc are able to flee to the US. Not everyone is. We watch as some remaining forces fight back against the Taliban and it’s just really curious and embedded reporting, where the doc ends up doing so much more than it set out to do, and being very well considered in how it’s shot and followed. The intersections of sports, politics, and war are always interesting, and as human interest stories go, always the kind we watch with bated breath. Riders on the Storm is a documentary that wanted to be good at one thing but is very good at carrying two subjects, following a developing story, and letting the way events go dictate the shape of the piece.