I should explain why some of my reviews are constricted to 75 words or less.
Every festival that shows new films sends a Hold Review List to press covering the event. The movies on this list either have an American distributor or are negotiating with one. The distributers don’t want long reviews published too soon, but they’ll accept short ones.
The San Francisco International Film Festival (also known as the SFFILM Festival) puts a 75-word limit on capsule reviews of films on the list. Other festivals require a 100-word limit. Some don’t give a specific size.
Not every film on the Hold Review List gets a theatrical release, and not all films that get released are on the List. For instance, Three Identical Strangers isn’t on the list, but it will get a theatrical release. Mercury 13 is on the list, but since Netflix produced the documentary, it’s not getting a theatrical release.
So, let’s get to the three movies I saw yesterday.
This one is on the list, so I must keep my review down to 75 words.
Kholoud Al-Faqih, the first woman appointed judge in a Middle Eastern Shari’a court (in this case, in Palestine), is a likeable and charismatic person. Erika Cohn’s camera follows her as she works mostly in divorce courts, trying to find the fairest solution to various problems. We also see her with her husband and children, and on a visit to her very proud parents. The filmmakers also interviewed disapproving conservatives out to destroy her career.
I give this film a B+.
I saw the last SFFILM screening Friday at the YBCA Screening Room. I don’t know if the film will be available ever again.
There was a Q&A after the screening, but I was unable to attend.
Another movie about a judge who happens to be a woman, and another 75-words-or-less review.
Emma Thompson plays a London judge with a deep well of empathy. She must decide the case of a 17-year-old Jehovah Witness dying of Leukemia (Fionn Whitehead of Dunkirk). His parents oppose care that may save his life, and so does he. To make matters more complex, the young man develops a crush on the judge. Meanwhile, she’s having marital problems at home. Truly an actors’ movie, filled with great performances, without ever feeling stagey.
I give The Children Act an A-.
I attended the last SFFILM screening, which was at the YBCA Screening Room. The film will probably be released in American theaters this summer.
After the screening, producer Duncan Kentworthy stood up for a Q&A. Some highlights, edited for brevity and clarity:
- In making a movie, you start at the beginning and slowly go through the steps. You start with a great script. Screenwriter Ian McEwan, who adapted his own novel, says he spend more time writing the screenplay than on the original book.
- Ian and [director Richard Eyre] are very good friends. Ian says they’ve been trying to do something together for years.
- We cast Whitehead before he did Dunkirk. He had to be a boy, but he also had to be something like a man.
- Raising the money was difficult. The money people said it’s just people talking. I said we’d make it filmic.
This one isn’t on the list, so I can use as many words as I want. But I’ll try to be brief.
In this quiet, occasionally boring documentary from Bhutan, traditional Buddhist life clashes with the 21st century. Teenage boy Gyembo and his younger, tomboy sister, Tashi, love soccer, video games, and their smartphones. They live with their parents in a monastery, where their father is caretaker. The father wants Gyembo to become a monk and take over the monastery. Directors Arun Bhattarai and Dorottya Zurbó, try to take a neutral view of the conflict as they film these people’s lives, but I suspect they’re really leaning towards modern youth.
I give The Next Guardian a B.
There’s one more Festival screening, on Sunday, April 15, at 1:00, at SFMOMA. After that, it will probably be very hard to find.
There was no Q&A.