Seeing acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa return to his horror roots, Creepy is an expertly crafted, tense experience, a film that carefully weaves an atmosphere full of mystery and dread, showing just as much interest in the psychological toll malice has on the human psyche as it does in providing the audience with a thrilling experience. The film is centered around recently retired Takakura, a former police detective, who now works as a Professor of criminal psychology at the local university. Having just moved into a new home, Takakura and his wife, Yasuko, have started anew, leaving their more chaotic life in the big city behind them, where they to find a place they can call home. While Takakura's wife struggles to make friends with the local neighbors, including Nishino, a strange man with a sick wife and young daughter, Takakura receives a request from an ex-colleague to help solve a case of a missing family, one that has gone unsolved for over six years. Takakura can't resist the urge to help unravel the mystery of this unsolved case, but the deeper he gets into the investigation, the more he begins to suspect that his new neighbor, Nishino, may in some way be connected. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy is a horror film based in reality, fixating the inherent evil and darkness that can exist in humankind. Everything in Creepy feels genuine and possible, with the film's narrative having as much in common with a dark, crime thriller such as David Fincher's Seven, as it does with traditional horror. There are no jump scares, no didactic decisions made for the sake of startling the audience, no wasted scenes simply their to serve the narrative, only a methodical, well-constructed drama that slowly unravels itself to reveal the true evil lurking underneath the surface. The juxtaposition of Takakura's investigation into the missing family with Yasuko's attempts to befriend the off-putting Nishino is intriguing from the very onset, with Creepy essentially telegraphing exactly where it is going, though it doesn't matter, given the skilled direction involved. A phenomenal performance by Teruyuki Kagaawa as the unsettling Nishiro certainly helps, teetering the line between diabolical and socially misunderstood early on, adding a sliver of doubt around what exactly his intentions are, even though the film seems to be leading towards diabolical intentions. Without going into details that could spoil Creepy, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has created a film that wishes to examine the psychological nature of horror, deconstructing the power the mind has over the body, with Nishino being a character who essentially gains power and influence over others due to the slow-burning psychological torture he instills in his victims. The complacent nature of fear is what Kiyoshi Kurosawa's narrative relies on, painting a convincing and introspective look into the psychological nature of violence and horror, showcasing the effect it has on all of us through Takakura's wife, Yasuko, a woman who herself is more susceptible due to her feelings of loneliness as a housewife. One of the main reasons Creepy works so well is Kiyoshi Kurosawa's phenomenal direction, using space and framing to perfection in creating a film that is quiet but assured in its impending sense of dread that comes to encapsulate the entire film. Everything about Kurosawa's direction is nuanced and assertive, full of intricately designed photography that plays with the audience's perceptions, with the space of the frame being their window into this creepy world, one in which Kurosawa himself controls, choosing what the viewer can see and what rests outside of the frame. Whether it's lingering on a particular composition longer than expected, or using slight camera movements to provoke tension in the viewer, Kurosawa's film plays with the viewers psychologically from start to finish, creating a steady, quiet sense of unease that stays with them throughout the films' running time. A film that shows as much interest in character, theme, and narrative, as it does in horror, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy is a phenomenal and welcome return to the genre, exhibiting a subtle, consistent sense of dread that is bound to stick with the viewer long after the narrative plays out.
Stephen Kijak's We Are X is a music documentary centered around the Japanese rock band X Japan, chronicling their meteoric rise to the top and their tragedy-fueled fall from grace through the eyes of their enigmatic leader, Yoshiki, a man who routinely battles his own demons. Set around Yoshiki and the band as they prepare for a reunion concert in Madison Square Garden, We Are X is a film that should be enjoyed by both fans of X Japan and those with no familiarity with the rock group, managing to be both informative and deeply personal in execution. We Are X's structure does a lot to keep the viewer engaged, featuring non-linear storytelling that is more focused on capturing the heart and soul behind the music first, examining the men who made up this band, the unity they shared with one and other, and what the music itself meant to each them, detailing how it brought them together for their common goals of self expression. While the film certainly captures the magnitude of We Are X, detailing how they challenged conservative Japanese culture and took the country by storm, We Are X is far more compelling in its human moments, detailing the life of Yoshiki, a man who turned to music to find solace in a time when his whole life was in disarray. With Yoshiki, We Are X exhibits a soul who will do anything for his art, confiding in music as his escape from the pain that is everyday life. Yoshiki is a character who battles both physical and emotional demons, a fascinating soul whose life has been riddled with personal tragedy, mainly suicide which took the life of his father and two of his band mates. In large sense, We Are X is a powerful deconstruction of pain, depression, and suicide, providing a surprisingly introspective examination which uses one man's personal journey through life as a powerful testament to the importance of community, connection, and art. The film itself almost feels like a psychological study of art, showcasing not only Yoshiki's attachment too it post the suicidal death of his father, but also the therapeutic nature which music can have all of us, with We Are X's own fan's finding a form of power and resolve in the metal band's music, helping many individuals get through their own personal pain and strife. Not simply explaining the creation of the band but tapping into the essence of why a band such as We Are X came to be, Stephen Kijak's We Are X paints a convincing portrait of X Japan being founded on the basis of personal expression, detailing how Yoshiki and other members of the band used their art to express themselves, whether that be through rejection of the status quo or a means to deal with their own personal pain.
Set in the barren landscapes across Montana, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women details the lives of a few women living across the state, having no knowledge of each other, but having a shared experience due to the environment which they inhabit. Told in three segments, Certain Women is a tale of intersecting lives, though they never physically meet, yet emotionally share very similar experiences. There is one scene where the two characters share the same space in the office of Laura Wells, a lawyer, and the central protagonist of the first story, but these characters never interact physically, with two characters of the film having a connection in an other way but I wont detail that yet. Laura Wells, a small town lawyer, is dealing with a lot of stress, struggling to control her disgruntled client, a man who is suffering mentally, physically, and emotionally, feeling slighted by a worker's compensation settlement Laura Dern's performance as Wells is subtlety riveting, exhibiting a woman who is beyond frustrated with life, feeling underappreciated as a person,at least in part due to her gender. The second story introduces Gina Lews, a married woman who seems constantly in motion. Michele Williams exhibits a strong woman in Gina, the head of the household who is quietly frazzled due to doubts about her husband, having way too much on her mind, including her teenager daughter, and getting the sandstone for her husband to use in the construction of their new home. Like Laura, she deals with subtle disrespect due to her gender, with her opinions being subtlety ignored in one scene, from and older man who they are asking to purchase sandstone from, who always directs his attention to Laura's husband, regardless of who asks the questions. There is a sense of resentment in this man, who while not vocal or hostile in any way shows disrespect for Laura for no discernible reason outside of misogyny. The other connection between the women of these stories, which I alluded to earlier, is that it turns out that the man Laura is sleeping with in the first segment is the husband of Gina in the second segment. Certain Women presents this fact to the audience but never blatantly states whether or not Gina knows of her husband's actions, but it is very clear that he does have a sense of guilt on how he is betraying a woman who does so much. The last segment of the film focuses on Jamie, a young ranch-hand, clearly looking for some form of feminine connection, having lived her life in a very traditionally masculine setting. She takes an interest in a young teacher, Beth Travis, a woman who herself is out of her element, a law student teaching classes in education law in a small, distant town from her school With an awkward demeanor in social interactions, Jaime is a character who struggles to express herself, a woman uncomfortable in her own skin who desperately wants to communicate her affection to Beth towards the end. Like all of Reichardt's work, Certain Woman is a film bristling with genuine emotion, with nothing ever feeling sentimental for the sake of it, presenting a quietly haunting portrait of small-town America. All three stories are females in male driven cultures, with the quiet desolate setting of Montana serving as the perfect atmosphere, the barren landscapes symbolizing the internal struggle of these characters, each who is missing something in their lives. Nuanced, extremely well-acted, and directed, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Woman is another quietly devastating film from one of the best contemporary American filmmakers working today.
Chan-wool Park's The Handmaiden finds the praised South Korean filmmaker at the height of his powers, delivering a skillfully interwoven narrative which is both bold and intricately constructed, transporting the viewer into a one-of-a-kind tale about sexuality, repression, and empowerment. Taking place during in 1930s Korea, during the Japanese occupation, The Handmaiden tells the story of Sookhee, a young girl, who is hired as the handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, Hideko, a beautiful young woman who lives a secluded life in the countryside with her domineering Uncle. While Sookee's demeanor is one of timid resolve, she has a secret, being recruited by Fujiwara, a swindler who poses as a Japanese count to help him seduce the naive Hideko so they can rob her of her fortune. Chan-wook Park's The Handmaiden is arguably the best narrative film of the year, a expertly constructed film that plays with its audience's perceptions from start to finish. Deceptive in execution, The Handmaiden teases narrative outcomes throughout while it slowly reveals its thematic intentions, sneakily becoming a powerful story of female sexual empowerment and love. This is the type of film that I'd recommend going into knowing as little as possible, so with that being said, I'll try my best in this review to not spoil anything, though it's quite impossible to discuss much of the film's thematic ideals without spoiling earlier aspects of its narrative. For much of its running time, Chan-wook Park presents two characters in Hideko & Sookhee as repressed woman, each struggling in different ways with their current status in life. For Sookhee, she views Hideko as her way out of her rural, low-income upbringing, infatuated by escaping South Korea for a better life. Hideko on the other hand is a character who lives a life of solitude, haunted by her aunt's death and her domineering uncle, a sexual deviant who takes advantage of his niece for his own deranged placed. For much of the narrative both these characters find themselves slaves to the whims of their male oppressors, in the form of both Uncle Kouzuki & Fujiwara, but it's through their shared femininity and eventually love for each other that they break free of their shackles. Chan-wook Park's direction and visual design aids heavily in this story, featuring a heavy dose of tight, closeup compositions, exhibiting a sense of intimacy in the early moments of attraction between the young handmaiden & her suitor, giving the whole film a sexually-charged energy that is both subversive and sexy. In a sense, Chan-Wook Park's The Handmaiden could simply be described as a subversive love story, exhibiting two oppressed woman in Sookee & Hideko, who together find themselves sexually liberated by the whims of their male oppressors, finding their own desires and true emotions for each other through this liberation. Perhaps the last scene of Chan-wook Park's The Handmaiden perfectly encapsulates this ideal, finding the two woman in bed together, using a pair of metal balls as a form of sex toy, a fitting way to wrap up this one-of-a-kind tale of female sexual repression and ultimately empowerment.
Barry Jenkin's Moonlight is a powerful mosaic of self discovery and connection, deconstructing the heinous dogma of homosexuality specifically in the African American community, being both universal and specific in its detailed look at its central character, Chiron, a character who desperately struggles to be comfortable in his own skin. Told in three segments, Moonlight details Chiron from early childhood through adulthood, exhibiting how the environment in which he inhabits, one full of drugs and dead-ends, made it nearly impossible for him to find his own sense of individualism and sexual identity. Moonlight exhibits how masculinity and toughness are not simply accepted but expected by males in this culture, showcasing how sensitivity itself is viewed as a weakness, leaving Chiron deeply confused from a young age about his own identity as an individual. One example of this is when Chiron meets Kevin, another young boy, who seems to be masking his sexual idenitity. Alone on the beach, the two share a moment of intimacy, though immediately after Chiron abruptly apologies to Kevin, a reaction which details how deeply conditioned it is in his psyche to believe homosexual behavior is wrong. Chiron's own mother, a drug addict, resents her own child, expecting him to be tougher and look out for himself even at a young age, causing further damage to this young man's confused psyche. The bipolar nature of his mother, one minute showing compassion, the next resentment, encapsulates both the dehabiliting effects of drugs and the importance of strong role models and/or family, making Moonlight not only an indictment of this cultures' disdain for homosexuality but also the disintegration of family due, at least in part, to the "war on drugs". In the final segment of Moonlight we come to find that Chiron has essentially become what he never intended to be, assimilating into this drug culture where toughness and violence are celebrated. For me it's the most powerful segment of the film, as Chiron reconnects with Kevin, and eventually begins to show traces of his true self, not what others, or collective culture, wants him to be. Visually, Moonlight is striking, with Jenkins using a heavy dose of camera movements that combined with a moody, atmospheric score, effectively capture the psyche and emotions of this character in a unique and compelling structure. If I had one complaint, it would be the bully character in the 2nd segment, who feels very out of place, inorganic, and one-dimensional, only there to move the story forward. His antics mimick those of an uncaged animal, intent on stirring up violence, and while I'm sure these characters do exist, the film could have still done a better job at developing his disdain for Kevin, which felt very simplistic compared to all the other characters in the film. Barry Jenkin's has constructed a story of bristling emotion and artistic precision with Moonlight, a film that isn't afraid to play with structure, delivering a rhythmic and heartfelt examination of the importance of individualism and finding onself amongst the noise of what culture and society expects one to be.
André Téchiné's Being 17 is a complex, mature portrait of the human experience, an honest story about the importance of one being self-assured in their convictions, while having the confidence to be comfortable in one's own skin. The story is centered around two boys on the cusp of adulthood in Thomas and Damien, who couldn't be more different on the surface. Damien lives a comfortable life with his mother Marianne, a doctor, and while the stresses of his father being on a tour of duty abroad are felt, Damien is a character who seems to have his life together, getting good grades in school and having a strong, healthy relationship with his mother. Thomas on the other-hand has a more modest living, a young character who has been tested by fire, walking long distances through the mountains everyday to get to school, only to return home to work into the night on the family farm. Adopted, Thomas has resentment for his parents and the situation he finds himself in, with his internal angst leading him to bully Damien at school, someone who he views as pretentious due to his more privileged upbringing. When Thomas mother falls ill, the two boys unexpectedly find themselves sharing the same roof, after Marianne treats Thomas' mother and decides it's best if Thomas comes stay with her until his mother gets better. Calling Being 17 merely an LGBT film massively discredits what André Téchiné has accomplished, being a film that touches on universal truths of life and adolescence, while simultaneously reflecting on the unique challenges which plague the homosexual community when it comes to sexual discovery. Being 17 is a film that unfolds naturally, never rushing towards its themes or ideals, instead letting its young characters' discover themselves as the narrative unfolds, exhibiting the curiosity, angst, and overall confusion that is a part of adolescence, which in time ultimately leads to self-discovery. Thomas' characterization is they lynchpin, the driving force behind the film, and the main reason that the whole experience feels organic. Intriguing and compelling from the opening frame, Thomas is a character whose angst and frustration towards Damien makes their inevitable feelings towards each other believable, being a character who is in a state of denial about his sexual identity, due at least in part to his more difficult upbringing and the resentment he feels towards those he perceives to have a better life than him. He is attracted to Damien yet he shows it in aggressive ways, often psychically lashing out, with the film subtly capturing the toxic nature which masculinity-fueled aggression can have on thoese trying to discover their sexual identity. It's only through tragedy that Thomas begins to understand that his angst towards others is rooted in selfishness, being a character who beings to see how everyone is struggling in some way or another, and for the first time offering compassion for others. Being 17 is elliptical, poetic, and heartfelt, with a narrative that comes full circle in its conclustion, with Thomas now having to be the emotional rock for both Damien, and his mother Marianne, who both towards the end of the film find themselves riddled with the same form of grief and anger that plagued Thomas. André Téchiné's direction and visual design further serves to elevate the overall experience and emotion of Being 17, which features rugged camerawork early on, such as handheld photography and an array of dirty compositions, cinematic devices that effectively evoke the internal struggle of Thomas. Téchiné's use of tight compositions throughout the film are subtle but effective as well, evoking a sense of intimacy that would otherwise not exist, a decision that perfectly matches the complex and personal emotions of this story. For much of the film, Thomas' only place of peace is one of solitude in the countryside, with Being 17 featuring beautiful photography of the snow-covered landscapes, with Techine using wide-compositions in these moments that perfectly mimic the psyche of the character of Thomas, a young boy who feels alone. A complex, heartfelt story that works on nearly every level, from direction, to acting, to story, André Téchiné's Being 17 may in fact be the filmmaker's most impressive film to-date, offering up a mature study of adolescence in which calling it a "coming of age story" or "LGBT story" feels too restrictive given the films' universal merits.
Joel Potrykus' The Alchemist Cookbook is another singular character study by the indie filmmaker, a film that is based in horror but rejects standard genre classifications, delivering a horrific study of mental psychosis. Potrykus's films to-date have always been fascinating character studies about the fringe individuals of society, the downtrodden, abnormal characters who rarely are captured in the vast scope of cinema. With The Alchemist Cookbook, Joel Potrykus has delivered a story of mental illness with strong horror elements, documenting a loner, hermit-like character named Sean, who lives alone in a small trailer in the middle of the woods where he spends most of his time mixing chemicals of some sort. With the title being an obvious play on the Anarchist Cookbook, Joel Potrykus' film remains intentionally vague about what exactly Sean is up to as a character, offering absolutely no backstory into this character, leaving the viewer questioning what exactly he is doing in this secluded environment. Potrykus wisely lets characterization and the performance begin to unravel the mystery behind Sean, with the audience soon beginning to put the pieces together and realize Sean is a man who suffers from some form of severe mental illness. From the way Sean consumes food in an aggressive manner, stuffing his face in a way that signifies necessity for survival, nothing more, to how he routinely talks to his cat, seemingly his only true companion, The Alchemist Cookbook paints a portrait of a man who isn't all there mentally, never fully revealing why exactly he is in the middle of the woods. How did this character damage his leg so badly? what is he making? Drugs? Explosives? None of this is clearly defined and that's exactly what makes Joel Potrykus' film so fascinating, forcing the viewer to simply spend time with this man, who is clearly suffering from some form of grand delusions. Featuring Joel Potrykus' punk rock style of filmmaking, The Alchemist Cookbook feels completely unpredictable and chaotic, mimicking a character whose psyche itself feels like it is slowly slipping away. Much credit for this also goes to the performance of Ty Hickson, whose performance oscillates between horror, joy, comedy, and depression, a powerful performance that beautifully mimics Potrykus' un-caged style of filmmaking. The sense of freedom in the characterization is something to stands out in Potrykus work, with Ty Hickson delivering a performance that feels unrestricted by traditional narrative devices or a didactic screenplay. As Sean slips further into mental instability, The Alchemist Cookbook escalates in suspense and terror, becoming more and more like a horror film, with Potrykus wisely leaving much to the imagination, using brooding cinematography and sound design that fully embraces the less is more mantra of most good horror films. While the film remains intentionally vague, I'd argue that Alchemist Cookbook is a Greek tragedy, with Sean being a character who was taken advantage of after the death of his mother, essentially being forced to cook drugs for his friend (or brother), Cortez, a character who routinely shows up with "supplies". Cortez is a character that serves as comedic relief, somone who seems close to Sean, but he also importantly serves as a window into reality, away from Sean's delusional mindset. While this interpretation may be way off, that's the beauty of Joel Potrykus' The Alchemist Cookbook, a film that manages to deliver a haunting character study of mental illness while serving as a unique mystery simultaneously.
Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto's Headshot is a film that wastes no time establishing its intentions to the viewer, opening with a scene of ultra-violence that places psychics and logic a distant second to its masculine-soaked action and bloodshed. Featuring many of the same action and stunt choreographers responsible for Gareth Edward's The Raid series, Headshot is a film that features some impressive stunt work and electric fight sequences, gleefully playing in a world of brutality that is full of creativity and lots and lots of bloodshed. Iko Uwais stars as the main protagonist, a young man who washes ashore with amnesia from a serious head injury, whose diabolical past comes back to haunt him shortly after he is nursed back to health by a young doctor, who unsurprisingly ends up playing the primary love interest in this twisted tale of redemption. Headshot is a film that is so brutal in its violence that it routinely finds the comedy in its absurdity, a film that certainly takes its narrative seriously but simultaneously acknowledges the excessive nature of its violent, blood-soaked intentions. In the middle of intense fight sequences, Headshot routinely uses physical humor to break up the weight of its macho-soaked aggression, with moments of physical comedy, that dare I say, feel like they belong in a Buster Keaton movie- a Buster Keaton movie where broken bones are in very high abundance. I don't want to overstate this unique humor aspect of Headshot, as it could certainly have used a bit more humor, but for a film that is so built around aggression and vengeance, these comedic moments really shine through. While the fight choreography and creativity of violence is without question the most impressive quality of Headshot, the film does feature a host of stylistic decisions such as speed-ramping, frantic camera movement, and expressionist flashback sequences, all of which work to varying effects of success. At times, the frantic camera movements became distracting to the skilled fight choreography, while the speed ramping certainly aided in intensifying the weight of the fight sequences, but Headshot is a film that from a directorial perspective isn't exactly trying to reinvent the wheel, though it's hard to imagine someone not being engaged in this film from start to finish. Featuring a narrative that essentially tells a twisted father/son story on steroids, Headshot is a film that never really achieve many of its more dramatic intentions, with many of the moral repercussions of a man having to come face-to-face with the heinous actions he committed never really paying off. The romantic aspect of the film also feels overly choreographed in the writing, and the film's deconstruction of dependency and morality never comes to fruiition, but its hard to really care all that much when you consider the title of the film is "Headshot", which should make the film's primary intentions quite clear. Featuring a relatively high-concept story that is intriguing though ultimately half-baked, Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto's Headshot is an exhilarating action film full of gleeful violence, a film that is sure to enjoyed by anyone who is a fan of action choreography, stunt-work, and bloodshed in their cinema.
An impressive, audacious debut film from iconic Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, The Grim Reaper is a clever exercise in narrative, form, perception, and the nature of truth, detailing the mystery surrounding the brutal murder of a Roman prostitute along the banks of the Tiber River. Following the exploits of a police investigator as he one by one interviews a handful of possible suspects and interrogates them, The Grim Reaper details each person's account of the nights' events, offering up a reconstruction of facts which eventually leads the viewer closer to the killer. The structure of The Grim Reaper is dynamic and transfixing, relying completely on these series of interconnected flashbacks to reveal the mystery of the murder. The narrative itself is solely connected by the various eye witness accounts, placing the viewer along for the ride, attempting, much like the investigator himself, to put the pieces together and solve the case. Each of these characters which are brought in for interrogation could be considered people on the fringes of society, outcasts who for one reason or another simply haven't been able to elevate themselves to a better state of living. Whether it is the vagabond soldier who is completely alone, or the street children who "are looking for work" but pickpocket in mean time, nearly every character in The Grim Reaper blurs the lines completely as to whose stories can be trusted or confided in, playing with the viewers' preconceived perceptions, forcing the viewer to routinely question who can be trusted and which characters' stories may be fabricated. While the structure of the film is audacious and should certainly be celebrated, it's once again Bertolucci's stylish visual aesthetic that elevates this film above mere film scholar exercise, featuring stark, black-and-white cinematography which certainly foreshadowed the things to come for this visual maestro. The use of contrast, particularly during the night sequences, mirrors the story itself, with each character venturing from the darkness to the light, and vice versa, visual symbolism which elevates the mystery and intrigue of each of these characters. With no true point-of-view, outside of the police narrator which is never shown on screen, The Grim Reaper's cinematography is never restricted, declaring itself as a unique point of view throughout the narrative as we jump from perspective to perspective, having voyeuristic qualities but also connecting the larger truths of this fateful night. While I'd argue that Bernardo Bertolucci's The Grim Reaper never feels very engaging from a character perspective, the film is sure to be appreciated for its more scholarly merits, playing with structure in a way that creates a fascinating deconstruction about perception and reliability of narrative itself.
A startling tale centered around the illusion of choice, the importance of individuality, and the necessity of personal sacrifice, Elite Zexer's Sand Storm details the struggles of two generations of woman in Layla and her mother, Jalila, who live in a Bedouin village in Southern Israel. Jalila is stuck in an awkward situation, hosting a celebration centered around her husband's marriage to a second, much younger wife. While she attempts to conceal her animosity surrounding this insult, her daughter Layla finds herself falling in love with a fellow student, Anuar, a secret, strictly forbidden romance. The juxtaposition of mother and daughter in Sand Storm is the film's heart and soul, detailing how the mother herself has been beaten down by the harshness of the world in which she inhabits, unable to express the realities of their existence with her much more idealistic daughter, who firmly believes she can marry who she wants if she simply pleads her case. Elite Zexer's Sand Storm is an attack on the traditional culture itself, never placing all of the blame on masculinity for this restrictive, oppressive lifestyle, opting instead to focus on how these traditions have long restricted the individual rights of those who live there. The freedom of choice is a major component of Sand Storm, detailing how not only Jalila & Layla lack any semblance of free will, but how their husband/father, Suliman, himself is merely a pawn to these traditions as well. Many films detailing with the struggle of female rights routinely, and rightfully so at times, demonize masculinity and/or the father figures, but Sand Storm takes on a much more subtle, detailed approach, presenting a man in Suliman who seems to care deeply about his daughter and wife's well-being. While far from the centerpiece of the story, Suliman is a character who isn't simply their to represent the opposition, as Sand Storm presents a fully-developed portrait of a character who himself shows glimmers of personal struggle. Much like his wife and daughter, Suliman is a character who lacks choice in his own life, not free to make his own decisions when it comes to his family's well-being, stuck dealing with ancient traditions which find the tribal society itself declare what is best for the collective. The father is not completely free of criticism, but the opening scene of the film, in which he shares an intimate moment with his daughter, letting her drive home from the village as they discuss her studies is quite revealing. In this intimacy, Suliman treats his daughter like an equal, being a progressive individual in a culture that is so restrictive about a woman's right to go to school or drive. Layla's love for a man that isn't chosen by the elders puts her father in an awkward situation, showcasing how he himself is a slave to tradition, having to do things the way it's decreed to him by this culture. Suliman's routinely is a character who laments that he has "no choice" in these matters, yet through Layla's strong-will and rejection of these restrictive conditions he begins to see the true horror of this culture's oppressive nature, seeing in his daughter a woman who simply wants the freedom to do as she wants. As the story unfolds, Lalya ultimately fails when it comes to achieving her individual freedom, committing the ultimate sacrifice by agreeing to marry an individual she doesn't love for the sake of her family. Elite Zexer's Sand Storm is a tragic film that demonizes a culture which rejects individual freedom and a woman's right to choose, being a humbling portrait of two woman who are forced to live in regime that forcefully dictates their entire life.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.