Small Films Worth Seeing
May 2021 Issue
Reel Corner by Donne Paine
Small Films Worth Seeing
When it comes to films worth seeing, be sure not to overlook the small stuff—animated and live-action shorts, foreign films and documentaries. We are reminded, especially around award season, that there are many alternatives to feature films that should not be missed.
Here are a few to consider:
The Life Ahead
Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye; Director: Edoardo Ponti
Rated PG-13 for language and themes. In Italian, with subtitles
The Life Ahead is a remake based on the same Romain Gary novel as 1977’s Madame Rosa. Director Edoardo Ponti, who is the son of Sophia Loren and well-known Producer Carlo Ponti, directs his mother in this film, however, he doesn’t ask her to carry the whole movie.
The Life Ahead frequently centers on Momo, a teenage Senegalese refugee who first meets Loren’s Rosa (an elderly Holocaust survivor) when he steals a couple of antique candlesticks from her arms and tries to run off with them. A local doctor bribes Rosa into adding the child to her little brood, who are mostly children of sex workers trying to break bad habits.
Momo doesn’t get Rosa; he has never even heard of the Holocaust. But he understands what it is like to be hated and unwanted. Without even talking things out, he and Rosa discover they are kindred spirits. And, when Rosa sees the end of her own life approaching, she asks Momo for a grave favor, which he promises to deliver when the time comes.
The Life Ahead, whose heroine is a Holocaust survivor turned streetwalker turned children’s caretaker, intelligently and resourcefully delivers a charming and tearful story filled with heart.
My Octopus Teacher
Documentary by Craig Foster
Foster opens this incredible film with this quote: “A lot of people say that an octopus is like an alien. But the strange thing is, as you get closer to them, you realize you’re very similar in a lot of ways. You’re stepping into this completely different world, such an incredible feeling, and you feel as though you’re on the brink of something extraordinary.”
Foster’s journey to understand an octopus and himself—and the film that documents it—is indeed extraordinary. Viewers witness a man, who is coping with exhaustion and burnout, regain purpose by developing a relationship with an octopus in the Great African Sea Forest off the tip of South Africa. This is a unique and incredible film.
Director Gísli Darri Halldórsson; Animated Short
A fun, animated look into the lives of an eclectic mix of people as they face the routines of each day, whether it be work, school or dish washing. As the day progresses, their relationships are tested and ultimately their capacity to cope, revealing the character traits found in their habits and approach to life.
Live-Action Short; Directed by Farah Nabulsi
A good-hearted Palestinian man takes his young daughter to pick up an anniversary gift for his wife. To do so, they must pass through an Israeli checkpoint. The stresses and humiliations complicating what should be a simple errand pile up, pushing him toward a potentially tragic outcome.
DO NOT SPLIT
Documentary Short; Directed by Anders Hammer
This riveting 36-minute documentary puts viewers on the front lines of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. The film captures the demonstrations with terrifying immediacy, from the movement’s beginnings in 2019 through the developments of 2020. It’s impossible to look away as protestors face beatings, surveillance and arrests for exercising the right to assembly and free speech. From its opening of a small group setting fire to a bank, to a tense moment of hiding out on a roof as helicopters hover overhead, Do Not Split chronicles this historic unrest in a heart-pounding close-up.
References: Imbd.com, Indiewire.com, NYT.com