SuAnne Big Crow, a standout girl’s high school basketball player from the Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, was the primary subject matter and/or spiritual energy behind Kris Kaczor’s 69- minute documentary Big Crow making its World Premiere at the 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival sponsored by UGG.
SuAnne Big Crow once scored 67 points in one game and led her high school team to the state championship as she hit a buzzer-beating game-winning shot allowing the high school to win its first-ever state title. SuAnne was also a cheerleader and three-sport athlete for the Lady Thorpes. In addition, she was an advocate for life without alcohol and drug abuse.
Director Kris Kaczor captures SuAnne’s legend through archival newsreels of her athletic prowess, her advocacy via a public service announcement, and her galvanizing energy across the Great Plains through the plethora of first-person interviews and her undying Lakota pride.
Due to a tragic and fatal car accident on her way to receive a Miss South Dakota basketball honor, SuAnne’s earthly bodily form was rendered lifeless. Nevertheless, her spirit did not die and Kaczor captures the life-changing energy SuAnne emanated into the Lakota people and how it has exhibited an expansiveness to cross over into today’s Lakota culture.
Big Crow starts out as a simple modern-day reflection on Native people. What emerges is a Spirit with a vision for a better way of life, a zest for living, a sharp poignant sense of humor, and who continues to smile and lead the charge for a better, more hopeful life for her Lakota people.
It’s a great day at the AFI FEST 2021 in Hollywood, California!
Through November 14th, AFI FEST 2021 is offering the best in global cinema. Tickets are available for select screenings.
Here are a few recommendations for today.
Powerful, provocative and deeply moving: Bernstein’s Wall tells the life story of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story). Utilizing Bernstein’s own words, harvested from his many recorded appearances on the radio, television and in-person interviews, offering a strikingly intimate perspective, Bernstein’s Wall sceens today at 3:15 P.M. today with a runtime of 106 minutes. A music-lover’s dream come true!
BUY TICKETSUNCLENCHING THE FISTS (RAZZHIMAYA KULAKI) a World Cinema entry is also the Russia Official International Feature Film Oscar Submission. Recipient of the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival, Russian newcomer Kira Kovalenko delivers a raw, visceral experience, and the film is filled with harshly beautiful performances and is uniquely told from a woman’s perspective. Highly recommended!
BUY TICKETS Director/Filmmaker provocateur Sean Baker (Tangerine,Florida Project) is back with another raw, slice of life feature, Red Rocket. The narrative follows Mikey Saber (Simon Rex) as he tries to put his life back together in oil refinery hometown of Texas City after spending 20 years of his life working in the porn industry. Plenty of action and a little frontal nudity as Baker once again proves he is a storyteller to be reckoned with.
“My favorite film at the Telluride Film Festival.” – Sam Stromberg
BUY TICKETSAli & Ava. Ali and Ava each live lonely lives in North Britain. Ali, a British Pakistani, is a former DJ turned compassionate landlord who meets Ava, an Irish-born schoolteacher and single mother of five, while picking up one of his tenant’s children from school. Despite their differences, sparks start to fly. As Ali and Ava’s relationship grows deeper, the shadows of their emotional turmoil and society’s expectations of them build as well. Can they find a way to keep their love alive?
BUY TICKETSHuda’s Salon centers on the complex friction in the West Bank between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation. Reem, mother of a newborn baby and wife to a distrusting husband, gets her hair cut at Huda’s Salon one fateful day. There, Huda blackmails Reem into betraying their Palestinian community by providing intel to the Israeli Secret Service. The very next day Huda is found out by the resistance and Reem’s blackmail photo is discovered.
“Huda’s Salon reveals with disturbing candor the plight of Palestinian women striving to survive while being trapped on all sides.” –Julia Kipnis
Powerful, enlightening, heartbreaking and heartwarming. Experience it all at AFI FEST 2021. Opening night kicks off tomorrow with the World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! And on Thursday, the Red Carpet Premieres continue with THE POWER OF THE DOG directed by Jane Campion and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst.
Don’t miss all of the screenings launching virtually!
Buy your tickets to in-person and virtual screenings today on FEST.AFI.com.
In this intimate sci-fi drama starring two-time Academy Award® winner Mahershala Ali and eight-time Academy Award® nominee Glenn Close, the moral complexities of cloning force a man to examine everything he knows about love, loss and happiness. Feature directorial debut from Academy Award® winner Benjamin Cleary. Screening in person Friday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m.
In this powerful exploration of how generations and families are held together amongst the greatest challenges, Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film follows two new mothers (Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit) whose bond unravels in complicated and surprising ways that neither of them expected. After the screening at the TCL Chinese Theatre, join us for a special conversation with director Pedro Almodóvar and The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde. Screening Saturday, November 13 at 2:00 p.m.
This powerful documentary follows Dr. Pat Scannon and a team of professionals, volunteers and other veterans searching for those left behind in forgotten battles. AFI FEST is honored to host the World Premiere of this remarkable film on November 11 to celebrate all U.S. veterans. Screening in person Thursday, November 11 at 5:00 p.m and virtually beginning November 12.
Spinning wildly around such complex questions as the moral obligation of a citizen whose country is becoming increasingly oppressive and censorial, and the inherent privilege in speaking out against such injustices, the latest from celebrated Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid is a provocation as intimate as it is extreme. Screening in person on Friday, November 12 at 4:30 p.m.
When I viewed One For the Road, recipient of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision, and directed by Baz Poonpiriya (the first Thai director to feature in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition), my mind wandered as I became aware of a thought, “This film reminds me of Wong Kar Wai’s work, In the Mood for Love.” The film had a wonderful soundtrack with some Cat Stevens music along with several mainstream hits, a strong production design, and a lovely mise-en-scene with exquisite cinematography and a touch of colorization. One For the Road follows a young Thai man, who is dying from cancer and has decided to make his final amends by delivering a parting gift to those closest to him on the earthly plane. The narrative structure is non-linear as the director uses flashbacks to inform the viewer and add depth of meaning to the present.
Unfortunately for the film’s lead character, Aood, portrayed by Ice Natara, the only Thai runway model in South Korea, he doesn’t drive and doesn’t own a car. So, he calls on his best friend, Boss, portrayed by actor/singer/model Tor Thanapob, to drive him across Thailand beginning in the north and traversing the length of the country down to the south in order to bring closure with the people from Aood’s past. Only, Boss owns a bar in New York where he seems to be living the dream with an endless lineup of beautiful women that he entertains after hours.
Boss and his family had supported Aood over the years and the two were as close as two blood brothers until a falling out left them estranged. But when Aood tells Boss he is sick and needs Boss’s help to complete a final “to do” list, Boss comes to help. As the two rekindle their friendship, Boss puts up with Aood’s idiosyncrasies and his overt intrusions into people’s lives with his parting gifts. Yet, when Aood tries to give Boss a gift, truths are revealed threatening their friendship while simultaneously offering an opportune moment for redemption.
One for the Road is full of nostalgia as multiple genres come together including romance, buddy film, as well as sex-positive melodrama. It’s very visual, very visceral, and one I was sad to see it end after 136 minutes. But end it did and as the credits began to roll, there it was – a title revealing “Produced by Wong Kar Wai” – “… a filmmaker who specializes in making the evanescent tangible, in capturing fleeting emotions in a style that is always poetic, often ravishing and, despite his films’ surface-level dreaminess, unerringly precise.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/movies/Wong-Kar-wai-romance-films.html) I’m a huge fan of Mr. Wong’s work so all I could do in that moment was sit and smile. What a wonderful gift. (Wong and Baz worked together on One For The Road for three years.)
Director Baz Poonpiriya, a strong storyteller who has come into his own, had previously helmed Bad Genius the 2017 Thai box-office smashing and the record-breaking winner of twelve categories at the 27th Suphannahong National Film Awards (the Thai Oscars), before embarking on One For The Road with Wong. If you’re a fan of Wong, this is a film you don’t want to miss. And, if you’re a fan of Thai film (Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives turned me on to Thai film), it’s a must-see! Lastly, if you simply enjoy exquisitely told films, I highly recommend you see Baz Poonpiriya’s One For The Road!
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as two lightkeepers, Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake, trying to survive and maintain their sanity on a mysterious island while living at a remote, New England lighthouse in the 1890s, in The Lighthouse, directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch). Evoking such seafaring literary classics by Herman Mehlville (Moby Dick) and Ernest Hemingway (Old Man and the Sea) as the film opens with an almost square aspect ratio (1.19:1) harkening back to early cinema. The effect is at once claustrophobic and mysteriously out of place.
In a traditional narrative fashion, the characters are introduced and established. Winslow, a strapping, mysterious, young man of few words and who appears to have a troubled past claiming a work history as a Canadian lumberjack is the hired help (wickie) under contract for four weeks with hopes of moving up the ladder and someday hoping to become a lighthouse operator like his housemate Wake, a salty, crusty archetypal seaman. Wake comes across as an experienced sea hand with knowledge of sailor life and mythology who has the inexplicable behavior of farting loudly much to Winlow’s chagrin. Moreover, Wake treats Winslow harshly despite Winlsow’s unswerving dedication to carrying out the chores, emptying chamber pots and swabbing the floor repeatedly to Wake’s unending condemnation.
The two work together, sleep together and eat together. Winslow refrains from alcohol until a storm begins pounding the lighthouse. Together the two imbibe, dance, sing and became Marry. Soon, however, a darkness creeps in and the two men vie for control of the lighthouse. Also, Wake refuses Winslow access to the lantern room atop the lighthouse. Intrigued a jealous Winslow begins spying on Wake’s ritualistic time in front of the massive light bulb and becomes infatuated with Wake’s unearthly obsession. The two lighthouse keepers engage in an escalating battle of wills in a tension-fed, trapped scenario with mysterious forces, real or imagined, looming while a seemingly never-ending storm rages outside, leaving the men stranded.
Eggers uses several crew members from The Witch production including cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, production designer Craig Lathrop, costume designer Linda Muir, composer Mark Korven, and editor, Louise Ford, to transport the audience into a realm of terrifying unknown. The cinematography is nothing short of spectacular as the lighting and framing create a sense of the paranormal. And, the production design along with the costuming transports the viewer, via the suspension of disbelief, into the time of the 1890s capturing the harshness of the film’s setting. Furthermore, Pattinson and DaFoe play off of each other very well. But, in my opinion, the attention to detail with the sound design including foghorn, seagulls, waves, machinery, and furnace, lend strong credence to the film’s reality.
The stormy night is when the film goes into warp drive and provides a catalyst for all the odd and unusual behavior to come alive and take over the film’s consciousness. Eggers’s use of black and white allows for the utmost effect in facial lines and scene shadowing. These scenes have a supernatural, expressionistic appearance as the film delves into insanity. What emerges is a tragic Greek myth (it begins with a capital P). Highly recommended!
Paul Thomas Anderson’s (There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, The Master) latest addition to an already strong body of work lifts his art and craft to a higher level with the film, Phantom Thread. Starring standout British actor (though he resides in New York) and three-time, Leading Actor Academy Award Winner, Daniel Day-Lewis, as a fastidious and renowned, 1950′ British dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock, Phantom Thread is essentially a traditional romantic piece delivering a sweet twist.
In addition to Day-Lewis, up-and-coming actress Vicky Krieps (Pitter Patter Goes My Heart) holds her own and then some as Day-Lewis’s onscreen counterpart, Alma, a waitress who first becomes Woodcock’s mistress and eventually his wife. Throughout the film Alma is portrayed as Woodcock’s undoubted muse and unrelinquished lover. In addition to Krieps and Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread features the talented and award winning British stage and screen actress, Lesley Manville (Another Year, Topsy-Turvy) as Reynolds’ icy sister, Cyril. Cyril is the business manager of the dressmaking House of Woodcock. All three deliver mesmerizing acting performances as a sorted macabre triumvirate. Day-Lewis, considered by many to be the greatest living actor and known for his role-immersive approach to acting, made an announcement this would be his last film due to being overly straught emotionally with sadness from his work in Phantom Thread.
Anderson, an American filmmaker, wrote, directed and, is also listed as Director Of Photography, (uncredited) on IMDb. Anderson delivers an exquisite Phantom Thread mise-en-scene aided immensely by Mark Tildesley’s lovely production design brings to fruition the 1950’s London interior. Johnny Greenwood delivers a composite musical score augmenting the delicate moments the film offers up while affectively accentuating the darker moments. Along with Day-Lewis and Manville, both Greenwood and Tildesley hail from Great Britain.
However, the real treat of the film is to watch Day-Lewis channel Woodcock’s couturier passion and artistry. Woodcock has developed a habit, steeped in female superstition, of stitching secret messages into his creations. Taught by his mother and with an astute attention to detail and uncompromising approach to design, Woodcock creates original masterpieces reflecting his commitment and energy. One especially charged scenes has Woodcock, in pursuit, creating a dress for Alma as part of the romantic courtship process. Before becoming Mrs. Woodcock, Alma would first become a fashion model and a integral part of Woodcock’s stable of seamstresses under the watchful eye of Woodcock and his sister, Cyril.
While Phantom Thread lacks a traditional Hollywood narrative structure, it stands proudly on its own as an art cinema film. Anderson’s stylistic choices include a non-linear narrative structure employing the use of flashback. One technique I found particularly interesting is his crafty use of the journalistic interview. The ambiguous ending left not a trace of doubt to the film’s art cinema characteristics and trademark values. As for the director’s intent, I speculate some self-reflexivity with the director’s first two initials, P.T., being the first letters in the film’s title, Phantom Thread. Anderson’s long-time (since 2001), relationship partner is actress and comedian, Maya Rudolph.
While Phantom Thread may be difficult for some to follow due to its non-linear structure, it delivers an exquisite reflection on the art of romantic relationship through a 1950’s London dressmaker vehicle. The film’s run time is a little heavy at 130 minutes. Yet, it is not tiring. Rather, it is majestic. One of the year’s best films. Highly recommended.