TRIBECA22: ‘An Act of Worship’ Review

An Act of Worship is an important documentary examining the treatment of Muslims in the United States.

Courtesy of Capital K Pictures

6.5/10

Documentaries are an important part of cinema. Sadly they never get their just dues and sometimes get largely ignored at festivals. As someone who has worked on a documentary, the extensive work that is done on them is incredibly respectable. Documentary filmmaking is just as important as narrative films and when it comes to film festivals I make it a priority to watch some documentaries. At Sundance, I watched some great documentaries like Tantura, A House Made of Splinters, and The Territory. Alas, I was approached to watch this documentary film that highlights the past 30 years of Muslim American lives in the United States.

Anyone who does not see the world with rose-colored glasses can easily see that the past thirty years in the US have seen a massive increase in Islamaphobia. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world. Yet in the United States, the lives of Muslim Americans are constantly under attack and used as political targets. The main goal of Nausheen Dadabhoy’s An Act of Worship is to examine the past 30 years through its various subjects and express the need for change. The film uses archival footage and interviews with various family/friends of the people included in the documentary.

The film is far from being perfect and that is okay because that should not be its main priority. The film excels at expressing its message through its execution by using some emotionally raw interviews. Learning about each person in this film was one of the best parts of this film whether it was about the women who were running for office or the various people who are still separated from their families. I found the examination of three big eras pre-9/11, post-9/11, and Trump’s presidency. Ultimately, the film is held back by its uneven pacing which makes the narrative drag throughout the runtime. The last two acts of the film are where it lacks and eventually fell apart before it recuperated in the last fifteen minutes.

Ultimately, even with its lackluster pacing, the film is still important to watch and that is why I recommend it. As someone who is not Muslim, I connected to the parts of the film where they discuss being separated from their families in other countries. I also gravitated a lot toward the discussion of cultural differences between the generations in the family. The idea of belonging to several identities is important to me so when the film touches on that I was pulled back in. The message of the film is more important than its execution. It’s pieces of art like this that remind us of the various steps that we need to take in making our country a better place for everyone. Whenever this makes its way out to the public or if you can catch a screening I highly recommend giving this a shot.

Watch An Act of Worship at the Tribeca Film Festival by visiting their website and buying a ticket for its remaining screenings.

TRIBECA22: ‘Family Dinner’ Review

Peter Hengl’s eerie horror thriller is a mix of predictability and promise inside of its tense narrative.

Courtesy of WTFilms

7/10

Continuing with my Tribeca Film Festival coverage this year, we will talk about my first Midnight Film experience. I usually cannot stay up to the ungodly hours of midnight films because I get too tired to stay awake past 11 PM. Well, this time I did not have to stay up but I could watch some of the midnight selections at this year’s festival. The topic of body positivity is important to me and whatever that means to those who deal with various insecurities with their bodies. I am not the socially acceptable thin white body that is shown on the internet and media that we consume. So when someone decides to touch upon this subject and discuss the various themes of feeling comfortable in one’s skin. Thus, I watched my second film of the festival, Peter Hengl’s Family Dinner.

In the film, we follow the journey of Simone or how her family calls her “Simi” played by Nina Katlein who plans to spend the Easter holiday with her Aunt Claudia (Pia Hierzegger). Claudia lives with her partner Stefan (Michael Pink) and her son Fillip (Alexander Sladek). Everything looks like it’s normal until Simi starts to notice unusual behavior by her cousin Fillip. After helping her aunt find Fillip the hesitant aunt allows Simi to stay until Easter Sunday. Claudia takes her insecure niece under her wing as she starves her to help her lose weight. Written and directed by Peter Hengl in his feature film debut.  What follows is a journey of nightmare-fueled family dinner for the ages. 

Peter Hengl’s script is not the easiest to get behind with its uneven pacing and predictability. That’s not to say that all of the writing is flat, the characters of Claudia and Simi are fantastic while Fillip and Stefan feel one-dimensional. That’s not to say that there is nothing in this film that works because Peter Hengl’s direction is fluid as he patiently travels to the conclusion of his film. The visual language and sound design of the film are exquisitely crafted to help the atmosphere of the picture. Family Dinner is coated in a beautiful minimal muted color palette that helps bring out the horror elements of the film. The contrast and highlights help provide the feeling of unease while its oddly calming score helps the audience come down from the tension. The film fails at forming a cohesive narrative with a lackluster first half and an entertaining second half. Ultimately, the film’s themes hold the film together making it worth watching along with its good performances. I am interested to see where Peter Hengl’s career goes and would love to sit down and watch another film of his. Even with its problems, Family Dinner was entertaining and I would recommend everyone watch it when they get the chance. I can see this finding life on a service like Shudder where the horror fanbase can really help boost its visibility.

Watch Family Dinner at the Tribeca Film Festival by visiting their website and buying a ticket for its remaining screenings.

TRIBECA22: ‘The Visitor’ Review

Martin Boulocq crafts a vastly interesting and powerful look at a man at crossroads with himself, his family, and the changing landscape of his country.

Courtesy of FiGa Films

8/10

It is always a great honor to participate as part of the press for a film festival. As you have seen we have been on quite the kick covering Sundance early in the year and wrapping up our coverage of the 38th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Well, from June 8th to the 19th we are covering Tribeca Film Festival. Of course, I am honored and very happy to be able to check out all these films that are playing virtually. Now, let’s get into the first film that I had the chance to watch, and stay tuned for all the coverage to come from Tribeca on the site!

If you know me you know that I love international cinema, so when I was contacted to look at Martin Boulocq’s The Visitor it was a no-brainer that I was going to watch this film. The picture is director Martin Boulocq’s fourth feature, written by him and Rodrigo Hasbún. The film’s exquisite cinematography is crafted by Germán Nocella. The movie stars newcomer Enrique Aráoz, César Troncoso (The Pope’s Toilet), Mirella Pascual (Whisky), Svet Ailyn Mena, Romel Vargas, and Teresa Gutiérrez. In The Visitor, we follow the journey of ex-convict Humberto (Enrique Aráoz) who returns home after finishing his jail sentence. Humberto returns home and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter but is met with hostility and resistance by his father-in-law who runs a major evangelical church in his town. The Visitor examines the environment of Bolivia that is under influence by the evangelical church’s presence of neocolonial practices.

Martin Boulocq crafts the film with power and excellence from a superb script. Enrique Aráoz’s commanding performance arrests the viewer’s attention and provides a stellar execution of his role of Humberto. The film is masterfully crafted through its precise visual language through the fluid use of wide and close-up shots that allow for scenes to breathe. The thematic characteristics of the film provide interesting commentary on the rising power of evangelicalism and the way it preys on the hearts of vulnerable people. The film does not stop there as it closely examines familial dynamics and the class divide in Bolivia. The thematic language is examined with a decisive approach that allows the film to flow well and present its message clearly. The film is a bit rocky with its pace where the first half does not work as much as the second, but it makes it up with a patient third act. However, even with its problems the film is powerful and is one to look out for if it ever makes its way out to the public. This is definitely a high recommendation, especially for those who are interested in the growing landscape of Latin America and its social climate.

Watch The Visitor at the Tribeca Film Festival by visiting their website and buying a ticket for its remaining screenings.

The Nerd Corps #487: LAAPFF38 Reviews Roundup

Raul and Brad come together to cap off their Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival coverage by reviewing three movies they saw at the festival!

Dealing with Dad IMDb Synopsis: “Margaret reluctantly goes back to her hometown with her brothers to deal with the sudden depression of their dad.”

Dawning IMDb Synopsis: “Haejin Park, a trauma therapist, is forced to face her family’s darkest past when she returns to her childhood countryside-farm to console her heartbroken younger sister.”

The World’s Greatest IMDb Synopsis: “In Judy Lei’s directorial debut, we explore the angst of an NY Chinatown teenage loner who struggles to find real friendship, love, and acceptance. It’s an exclamation point on the quiet life of a teen, who just wants to get out of dodge.”