As Press Screenings for Sundance London 2021 come to a close, I eagerly await my public screenings of Censor and the Surprise Film. Meanwhile, here’s a quick review of the other three films I saw this year in this extraordinary and much needed film festival.
Writing with Fire
The thrilling story of India’s first and only newspaper staffed and managed by Dalit women (considered low caste in India). The film portrays them challenging injustice and mistreatment of women at every level of India’s infrastructure from local cops to the national government. The film portrays how they engage their community to participate in the journalism process without shying away from the prejudices that threatens their lives every day. A terrifying insight into the caste system and a beautiful celebration of the power of real journalism driven by the people.
The wonderful premise of this unique animated film is that cryptids exist and are under threat. It’s the 1970s and a wealthy philanthropist is trying to found the first zoo for the endangered creatures, which she claims is more a sanctuary. The animation style is occasionally extraordinary, occasionally grotesque but is very expressive and involving. The direction and pacing takes you on a serene but troubling journey that explores the darkest realities of human-animal interactions. It’s a stunning ambitious and thematically rich film.
We revisit the events surrounding a mysterious break in to a family home from the perspectives of the various family members. As events become clearer and murkier, we experience each family member’s dissatisfaction. Aiming for Haneke but arriving closer to a humourless Ostland, the film malevolent and ambiguous but also very cold and only a little interesting. There are hints of the playful, the surreal and the insightful; the constant promise of a better film, but it never fully arrives. It bodes well for relatively new director Ronny Trocker, but is not the film to fully deliver on his potential.