The SFFilm Festival opens this Friday. (If the title sounds strange, it used to be the San Francisco International Film Festival.) I plan to write nothing more about the fest until opening day.
All the movies mentioned below will be available for streaming throughout the run of the festival.
And remember that you can follow my reporting of the festival at SFFilm 2021.
A Skies of Lebanon
The movie begins like a fairy tale, using stop-motion animation, still photos in place of backgrounds, and eye-popping color schemes. But as the story gets more serious, the whimsy slowly recedes – but not entirely. A young, Swiss woman goes to Lebanon and falls in love with an astrophysicist (and yes, he’s Lebanese). They marry, and she’s welcomed by his large and loving family. But then civil war breaks (this is the 1970s), and no one is safe. Like no other film I’ve ever seen.
A- Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
Rita Moreno has been an exceptional performer since the 1940s, and she’s still going at it. Along with wonderful film clips, this documentary shows the struggles that a talented and beautiful Latina had to go through in mid-century Hollywood. She was stuck for years playing “exotics,” and even after she won an Oscar for West Side Story, no one wanted to cast her. Yet she comes off in the new interviews as very upbeat.
B Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam
Seyran Ateş wants to bring sexual freedom to Islam. Born in Turkey and raised in Germany (where she still lives), she has created an LGBTQ-friendly mosque with no gender segregation. Not surprising, there are death threats, which she considers a badge of honor. Director Nefise Özkal Lorentzen follows her through Europe and even into China. We meet her friends and relatives – her strict parents disapproved, but later generations of her family believe in her work. The film doesn’t shy away from Europe’s Muslim terrorist problem, but the film doesn’t really go into why it is happening.
This somewhat fractured biopic follows part of the life of Finnish illustrator and painter Tove Jansson. Judging from the movie, she had a difficult relationship with her father, struggled financially, but became famous drawing children’s comics. Zaida Bergroth’s film centers mostly on her sex life; focusing on two lovers – one male, one female – and both married (this was in the 40s). Alma Poysti’s glowing and sexy performance is the best thing in the film.
B- Nudo Mixteco
Toxic masculinity and homophobia make life difficult in a small Mexican town. A young woman is not allowed to her mother’s funeral because she’s a lesbian. Another woman, one with children, doesn’t want to resume married life with the man who left years ago. Another one tries to keep her childhood trauma from affecting her child. The movie skims over too much of each story, and the three narratives don’t mesh well together.