Tag Archives: The Other Voices

The Other Voices: Atlantics

Hey! It’s been a long winter vacation, but I’m back this week with French director Mati Diop’s supernatural indie drama ATLANTICS, now available on Netflix.

On New Year’s Day, for some reason, my partner put TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON on the TV first thing in the morning. That night, we decided to watch 6 UNDERGROUND, completely not intending to make it a full circle Michel Bay kind of day. And if there’s one thing I learned from that experience, it’s that if you’ve ever wondered what the opposite of a Michael Bay movie is, it’s ATLANTICS.

ATLANTICS tells the story of a young Senegalese woman, Ada, who despite being engaged to a rich asshole,  is in love with a construction worker named Souleiman, who, along with his coworkers, is not paid his promised salary for 4 months of work on a huge tower that looms over the town of Dakar. In order to find work, the men all hop on a boat and try to cross the sea to Spain, leaving their women behind. The men don’t reach their destination, and that’s when weird shit starts happening.

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The Other Voices: Tigers Are Not Afraid

I think we can all agree that children shouldn’t have to be warriors. They should have homes and parents and food and time to play without worrying about survival. Unfortunately, not all children get to have that. Mexican director Issa Lopez’ 2017 dark fairy tale, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, is the story of a group of orphans who have to wake up every day and fight the evil that grown-ups are too scared to face.

This is not some happy story of victory over evil. It’s about the cost we ask our children to pay when we don’t protect them, and I know I’ll be thinking about it for days. It may take place in Mexico, but we are not so removed from this world. We conduct active shooter drills in schools now. Police officers sometimes assault or kill black children instead of protecting them. Our loudest activists against gun violence have become teenagers. This is a burden they should not have to bear, but they do.

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The Other Voices: Us

Obviously there are a lot of horror movies out there that are just meant to be fun, low-budget schlockfests to give you a good scare before bedtime, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Jordan Peele, it’s that he’s not interested in any of that. If he’s going to scare us, it’s not going to be with a creepy monster – it’s going to be with the truth of our own society. And his latest, US, is certainly in line with that trend.

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The Other Voices: The Babadook

I had no idea what THE BABADOOK would be about when I put it on. The impression I had from the Internet was that it was about a gay dinner guest in a jaunty hat. This was definitely a film where that lack of knowledge was helpful in making me very scared.

THE BABADOOK, an Australian film by Jennifer Kent, is about grief. It’s pretty easy to suss that out, which I like, because I can get really annoyed at films that have this allegory so complex that you need a PhD in Pre-post-colonial literature (an actual class I took in grad school) in order to understand them. Yes, I have a graduate degree in English. I have studied literature. I have been an academic. And I really hate having to use my degree to understand shit. Make your story deep and beautiful and artsy, sure, but make sure that at the end of the day, I can see what the central argument or point of the film actually is. Otherwise, what are we doing here.

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The Other Voices: El Mariachi

Many years ago, when I was a wee film baby, I read the book Robert Rodriguez wrote about making his first feature, EL MARIACHI. It was all about throwing caution to the wind, going for broke, and just making a movie with no money and a lot of moxie. He made this film with essentially no crew, which is why his book is called REBEL WITHOUT A CREW. I was inspired! Not to make a film without a crew, because that is exhausting and ill-advised, but to learn more about filmmaking and the work it requires.

Now, of course, I am film crew, and I’m a little horrified by the idea of making an entire action film with like, 3 crew members. I regularly see young filmmakers who seem to think it some kind of badge of honor to work with a tiny crew, like that makes them better. A filmmaker I knew even tried to tell me that script supervisors are an old-fashioned job that is no longer necessary in a world where you can shoot a movie on an iPhone. I can’t wait to find out how many continuity errors his most recent film has.

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The Other Voices: Girlfight

I was a very angry kid who got into a lot of fights in school. I went to a school full of nerds – and I was one of them – so fights weren’t going to lead to hospital visits and they were very short, but I had such a short fuse that I would just go off on whatever kid pissed me off that day. I really, really wanted to take martial arts. I finally did learn to kickbox with a trainer as an adult, but had to stop because of an injury. I’ve watched a lot of boxing and MMA ever since. So GIRLFIGHT has long been on my list of films I should have seen by now. Good thing I have a column that makes me watch movies directed by women and POC.

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The Other Voices: Twilight

Until this week, I had never seen TWILIGHT, so as it is one of the biggest box office hits of all time to have a female director, I decided to give it a go for this column. According to Box Office Mojo, it had a production budget of $37M and it made a global $393,616,788 in theaters, which demonstrated to Hollywood that yes, teenage girls do like to go see movies, so you should make more stuff for them. That discovery eventually brought us THE HUNGER GAMES, so for that, I am grateful.

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The Other Voices: Short Term 12

2013’s SHORT TERM 12 is a film student’s dream come true. It started life as a 21-minute short film in 2008 – available on Itunes for $2.99 – and became an indie feature with a cast that immediately blew up like crazy. The feature’s got Brie Larson, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz, and LaKeith Stanfield (who was also in the short film) – all of whom were relative unknowns at the time.

So let’s give a shoutout to the casting department, because you should never underestimate their importance: Kerry Barden, Rich Delia, and Paul Schnee. Casting is always important, but in a film where the story is carried not by a MacGuffin or some attainable goal, it’s absolutely vital to have the best actors possible on board, since their choices will carry a lot of the weight of your film. These casting agents nailed it.

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The Other Voices: Monsoon Wedding

2001’s MONSOON WEDDING was an international co-production. Writer Sabrina Dahwan wrote it while she completed her MFA at Columbia in the States, it takes place in New Delhi, and the dialogue is a blend of English and Hindi. It was produced by IFC films with a budget of $7M, and released by Focus Features, to a successful worldwide gross of over $30M. It was nominated and won a lot of awards, and has been released as part of the Criterion Collection. It’s also been turned into a stage musical.

Here’s the trailer:

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