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“Even in Asian American Progressive Circles, People Have Not Heard This Story”: Eugene Yi and Julie Ha on Their Sundance-Premiering Documentary, Free Chol Soo Lee

Those who knew Chol Soo Lee, or saw his image printed on the posters, stickers, and t-shirts of the 1970s Pan-Asian American movement to release him from jail, often remarked on his stunning beauty. “What a good-looking kid. I mean real good-looking kid,” chirps investigative reporter K.W. Lee, recalling their first encounter at San Quentin Prison in...

“I’d Never Really Written Personally About My Own Loss”: Mark Pellington on The Severing

Director Mark Pellington has long been one of the American cinema’s great chroniclers of grief, from early genre films like The Mothman Prophecies (in which the horror story is a vehicle for an unsettling, affecting tale of personal anguish) to more overtly philosophical takes on the subject like I Melt With You, The Last Word, and Nostalgia. While...

“Originally I Had a 200-Page Script”: Ricky D’Ambrose on The Cathedral

Ricky D’Ambrose’s second feature, The Cathedral, begins in the mid-’80s, with a narrator outlining the history of the Damrosch family: father Richard (Brian d’Arcy James), mother Lydia (Monica Barbaro) and son Jesse (Hudson McGuire as an adolescent, Robert Levey II as a pre-teen, William Bednar-Carter as a teenager). The film begins shortly before the...

“I Wanted to Enchant the Birds and the Increasingly Poisonous Skies They Fall Out Of”: Shaunak Sen on His Sundance-Debuting Doc All That Breathes

“You don’t care for things because they share the same country, religion or politics. Life itself is kinship. We’re all a community of air.” Those are the poetic words heard in the closing voiceover of Shaunak Sen’s mesmerizing All That Breathes. World-premiering in the World Cinema Documentary Competition (January 21) at this year’s Sundance, the film’s...

Sundance 2022 Critic’s Notebook: The Mission, Utama

Mormonism is a shadow structure of any IRL Sundance experience, at a minimum if ordering drinks; at the beginning of Tania Anderson’s The Mission, I was briefly transported from my virtual Sundance apartment cocoon to Utah’s snowy slopes and the towns below. Anderson’s debut feature documentary invites viewers to observe the nice-seeming young men and...

“African Spirituality Has a History of Being Demonized in Cinema”: Nikyatu Jusu on Nanny

West African mythology is an integral facet of Nikyatu Jusu’s filmmaking. Whether in her directorial stint on an episode of The CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories or the melanated day-walking vampires in her short film (and 2019 festival circuit hit) Suicide by Sunlight, the Sierra Leonean-American writer/director has made it her mission to introduce...

Sundance 2022 Critic’s Notebook: Dos Estaciones, Meet Me in the Bathroom

In the opening sequence of Juan Pablo González’s second feature, Dos Estaciones, DP Gerardo Guerra’s Steadicam roves a tequila farm’s fields as workers chop down agave plants; when they pause for lunch, the camera pans equally slowly, seemingly without planning, to bring whoever’s speaking into frame. In these opening moments, Dos Estaciones could be...

“Something Makes us Feel Like We can be Saved When Action Stars are Elected as Our Leaders”: Martika Ramirez Escobar on Leonor Will Never Die

Thrown from a second floor window, a box television clocks old Leonor (Sheila Francisco) square on the head. She wakes up inside her work-in-progress movie script, an homage to ’80s Pinoy action movies, able to steer the rest of the unwritten plot in first person. Back in reality, the retired movie director lies comatose in a hospital bed while her...

Back to One, Episode 187: Renate Reinsve

Norwegian actor Renate Reinsve’s performance in her first leading role, in Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World, earned her the best actress award at Cannes and is slowly taking the world by storm. She embodies Julie with a levity and depth that is both grounded in a relatable reality and poetically expresses the beauty and heartbreak of life...

“I Would Love for Horror to Be My Home, But I Want to Be Bi-Coastal”: Mariama Diallo on Master

The racist roots of Ivy League academia are molded into an intangible boogeywoman in writer/director Mariama Diallo’s feature debut Master. While the film takes place on the fictional campus of Ancaster—located in the greater Boston area—much of the film’s insights on matters of race and gender stem from Diallo’s own undergraduate experience at Yale....

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