Paula Maxa is the Parisian Grand Guignol Theatre’s leading lady, famous for being murdered on stage every day. But is there a link between the theatre and a series of gruesome real-life murders?
Um. Let’s not rely on anything I say here in this review, I may well have the wrong end of the stick. Paula Maxa (Anna Mouglalis) is a beloved by some, hated by a lot actress at the Grand Guignol Theatre in good old gay Paree. She’s been slaughtered on stage more times that she’s had hot dinners and relies on stage-hand Paul (Jean-Michel Balthazar) to make it look as real as possible.
The theatre itself is run by some right oddballs who seem to have a very bizarre arrangement in place. Although the shows they put on nightly seem to do alright there is a very real threat on the horizon: the birth of cinema.
When journalist Jean (Niels Schneider) arrives to interview Paula, a friendship is formed and there’s possibly something more a-brewing, though our girl is rather closed off. Via Paula’s own mouth we learn about the terrible secret that haunts her – the very driving force that keeps her screaming night in, night out. Meanwhile, there seems to be a plot to turn Paula over for real to a mysterious gentleman who might have a connection to her past… What the devil is that all about?
TMAWITW is gorgeous looking. It seems to capture the time period perfectly. All the costuming is wonderful and Paula’s supporting actresses are a lot of fun. Mouglalis is soulful as Paula, a haunted woman with a sad story, one that revolves around the death of her sister at the hands of a very bad man – and her inability to do anything to save her.
Guilt is a powerful emotion and it eats at Paula, who stays at the theatre as some sort of penance. Here she can scream as much as she likes, something she failed to do to save her sister’s life. When Jean arrives to offer her a way out, she’s torn. Can she leave this place and make it in Hollywood?
The ending is a little bit confusing, I won’t lie. But it doesn’t really matter. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this movie, which has some suspenseful moments and really is wonderfully OTT. The murders on stage are gloriously bat-shit and the audience laps it up. They come complete with bibs to capture the splashes of blood that coats everything around them.
Ooh la la!
What does my leading lady think of this one? Would she beg it for an encore or slit its throat? Find out here.
Halloween month and all is right in the world. Or rather, the world has gone to shit on this side of the Atlantic and across the pond, as Jill and I have been discussing for the last couple of days – but we can always relieve our fears for an hour or so by watching true terror unfold. The question is, which is more terrifying: US/UK politics or a sadistic soul-snatching demon?
Madrid, 1991. A teen girl finds herself besieged by an evil supernatural force after she played Ouija with two classmates.
This is ‘loosely’ based on true events, a fact I will leave with you because knowing and believing that will make this an infinitely more frightening tale. It is 1991 and Verónica (Sandra Escacena), our 15-year-old protagonist has been having a time of it. Having recently lost her father, she is expected to look after her three siblings pretty much full-time while her mother works long hours to keep them all afloat. (I’ll not have a word said against Momma who is doing her fucking best. They all are).
Verónica’s siblings are the twins, Lucia and Irene – and her brother AKA the sweetest kid in cinematic history, Antoñito (Iván Chavero). The four of them muddle on but still bicker as brothers and sisters are wont to do. Antoñito has a habit of wetting the bed but is so adorable that you could never be mad at him for long, if ever.
During a lesson at school, on the same day as a solar eclipse, the teacher bangs on about how some ancient cultures use eclipses to summon dark spirits. Verónica and her pals Rosa and Diana already have their own plans and a Ouija board ready to go as soon as the light fades – and all I want to do is scream at the screen: For the love of God DON’T DO IT, girls!
But this would be a short, boring film if they listened to my advice, wouldn’t it?
While the rest of the school, including Verónica’s brother and sisters are on the roof looking through negatives at the sun, the girls are in the basement with the board. V’s end goal is to make contact with her dad, while Diana’s boyf was killed in a motorcycle accident and she wouldn’t mind a chat with him too. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that something isn’t right. The glass on the Ouija heats up to an unbearable temperature but V doesn’t move her hand – and at the exact point of the eclipse, it shatters and she cuts her finger, bleeding all over the board. Then she slips into a catatonic state before screaming like a banshee.
After passing out the school nurse asks if she’s on her period which admittedly does sometimes feel like being possessed by a goddamn demon – but is not the root of all her woes this time around, woman. After that V experiences many strange occurrences, and things get creepier and creepier – naked dad turns up in the night and then changes into a demon, Antoñito gets burnt in the bath, that sort of thing.
Bites and scratches begin to appear all over V’s body and she’s haunted by things that go bump in the day (and night). All the while her BFFs start to avoid her and leave her out because they’re frankly scared of her and she is forced to turn to one of the school’s nuns, “Sister Death” for her help.
Sister Death is an elderly blind-badass who kicks her arse for being so careless during the eclipse then explains that a dark spirit has attached itself to V during the seance. When she tries to dispel it, nothing happens.
*Note, Sister Death is my fave character as she embraces the macabre nickname the kids have given her, stating that it’s more interesting that her actual name. QUEEN.
You OK, hun?
So Sis Death pretty much just tells V to protect her siblings and hope for the best. She also states that V can force the spirit to leave by doing right on what she did wrong (e.g. waking it up in the first place). V realises (all too late one suspects) that she never signed off on the Ouija and tries to convince Rosa and Diana to get back on the horse so they can say ta-ra to the demon. Realistically but also disappointingly, both girls respond to this request with a resounding “FUCK NO” – and V is on her own.
Forced to do the seance with the kids instead, shit kicks off big style when Antoñito accidentally draws an invocation symbol on the walls, rather than one of protection. Rookie mistake, kiddo but you’re too sweet, I swear. And from here it all goes bat shit as the little cutie is snatched by the demon (who is truly, mind-numbingly hideous).
V calls the po po and helps the twins escape the building and then stays to rescue Antoñito and fight the demon. She uncovers a shocking truth about the whole situation in the process. But will poor Verónica get out before it’s too late?
You know the drill.
This film isn’t bad and does offer some truly freaky moments but it’s ultimately easy to forget. Escacena as our titular character is very good and likeable so you’ll leave this feeling a little bit sorry for how shit turns out.
I can only imagine how a teenage girl already grabbling with grief and adolescence would feel also having to protect her family from a demon. Like, cut the girl some slack. It all feels very much like a metaphor for burgeoning womanhood and proof as always that men, even from Hell will do anything in their power to sap the energy and vitality out of any woman they can.
Except you Antoñito. You’re golden.
What does my own little demon think of the adventures of poor Veronica? Would she protect it to the death or leave it to its own devices? Find out here.
An Indian coming-of-age tale this week and it’s a pretty nice one really. Certainly more joyful than the fucking miserable Duck Butter from last week. Thank God because I was not down for that much introspection again, not for a while anyway.
A rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy leaves her home in India to study in New York, unexpectedly falls in love, and embarks on an exhilarating journey of self-discovery.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a rebellious songwriting teen who attends Delhi University. She also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. She writes music for an indie band which results in her falling in love with the lead singer. Unfortunately, when he doesn’t feel the same way about her, she is left devastated.
Determined to move on from her first real heartbreak, Laila fortuitously receives word that she’s been accepted on a scholarship at New York University. While her father (Kuljeet Singh) thinks it’s too far away, Laila’s mother (Revathy) is determined that she do what she wants and she moves with her daughter to Greenwich Village.
Almost immediately Laila meets a hottie called Jared (William Moseley) who helps her in her creative writing course. At the same time she also meets young activist Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent. Enamored by Khanum’s passion and general badassery, as well as her attitude toward her own disability, she quickly falls in love and the two embark on a relationship. They also gladly take on caring duties for one another.
While Khanum seems cool with who she is, Laila finds it much harder to be free as the daughter of a very traditional mother. One who freaks out when she accidentally discovers Laila has been watching porn.
Laila is further confused when she doesn’t just stop being attracted to boys (especially Jared) and things become even more complicated when she has sex with him, something she immediately regrets. Not telling Khanum, the two return to Delhi together for Winter break to stay with Laila’s family. Shubhangini (Mum) still has no inkling of the true nature of their relationship and when Laila tries to broach the topic of her bi-sexuality with her, it backfires.
Will she muster the necessary courage to come out to her parents and find peace in who she is? And will she mess it up with Khanum?
Unfortunately, the family are forced to come to terms with a situation far larger than any of them and this momentarily puts all their differences aside. There are some really touching moments in this movie, not least the ending where Laila takes herself out on a fancy date.
The central performance is amazing and Keochlin plays Laila very well but I was kind of disappointed to find out that she wasn’t really disabled. I’m not sure if this is the right reaction but for a moment there I got excited about true representation of disability on the big screen. When you think about this it’s no different to Daniel Day-Lewis starring in My Left Foot but I hoped we’d moved on a bit by now.
Laila is lovely and joyful though and it does have a very positive attitude. The film is not about disability really, it’s about a woman owning her sexuality, coming of age and gaining independence, and she just so happens to be disabled. I love that.
What did Jill make of this one? Would she lock it in the closet or help it to fly free? Find out here.
Jill and I settled on Gay July because we’ve always had pretty good success with LGBTQIA films within the collab – and there are some great ones on Netflix at the moment. So let’s kick back with this Colombian love story, shall we?
After the sudden death of her estranged brother, Lucia accidentally meets his fiancée and falls in love with her.
Lucia (Carolina Guerra) is estranged from her brother Andres (Manuel José Chaves) because he failed to attend his own father’s funeral. There’s A LOT of family turmoil going on since he also believes he killed their mother (she died giving birth to him). As a result, the siblings have not seen each other for three years and Lucia is unaware that her brother is marrying Mariana (Olga Segura).
On the day of the wedding Lucia has no knowledge of, Andres decides he can’t go through it without her and jumps in the car to go and get her. On the way he is killed in an accident and neither marries the love of his life, nor reconciles with his willful sister.
On learning of Andres’ accident, both women are devastated. Mariana flees the wedding in her dress and collapses in the middle of a busy intersection, while Lucia takes to her bed and is unresponsive for days afterward. Her husband Adrian (Andrés Aranburo) is present to a point but he doesn’t seem particularly sympathetic.
The beginning of the film tells us that Lucia is going to break up with him anyway so he’s already marked as surplus to requirements, so don’t worry. Mariana tells her family she is going to Mexico and holes up in Andres’ apartment – which is fortuitous as Lucia has the same idea. The women meet here for the first time. YAY!
The movie comprises a heap of flashbacks to build a picture of Andres’ past relationship with his sister, up until the point they fall out, and how he met and fell in love with Mariana. Which is happy/sad to behold, particularly when Andres ruminates the loss of his sister to Mariana.
Healing is painful but together they are able to take the time they need to start the process. This involves drunken dance parties and Lucia writing a letter to Andres seeking his forgiveness. Mariana then makes her burn it. They also visit the graveside.
Little by little the bond the women share begins to turn into something stronger and it’s bloody amazing. Mariana is surprised when she learns that Lucia is married because she’s never thought to mention it. Neither did she mention the fact that she can’t get pregnant despite their many attempts to do so.
When Lucia tells Mariana her relationship status is complicated, she cryptically asks her: isn’t life too short for that? You’re damn right, M – it bloody well is. This rhetoric is further bolstered when Adrian fucks off on a business trip right in the middle of Lucia’s grieving process and she realises it’s over.
M asks her to move into Andres’ apartment but Lucia suggests a mini break instead. Well, that trip changes everything forever but again it isn’t plain sailing because Lucia is seriously confused. Which you can kind of understand.
Will she follow her heart and take all this as meant to be? And why is Mariana throwing up all the time? Hmmmmm.
The Firefly is lovely but man is it melodramatic. There are times it plays out like a telenovela – my God, ladies CHILL. Mariana’s Miss Haversham-esque few days swanning around in her wedding dress may be understandable, but it’s a bit over-dramatic. And there aren’t really any surprises here, the tale plays out by numbers. I’m not necessarily criticising it for that, it’s just an observation.
What I do criticise is the fact that Andres’ best friend knew he’d gone to find his sister on his wedding day and as far as I can tell, never tells her. You’d think that would be kind of a big deal to hear, non?
The strength of this film, as with any love story, lies in the chemistry between our leads. The hand holding and the loaded looks, the pool kisses and the fun they have together is lovely to witness – and it doesn’t help that both women are warm and so bloody beautiful. So, sure it’s a little bit all over the place but its heart is in the right place – it’s a good take on grieving and growing, of loving again as though you’ve never been hurt and of grabbing those fresh starts when you can. I’m all for that.
What does the Queen of my Heart think of this one? Would she buy it dubious knitwear or leave it by the side of the road in the rain? Find out here.
Or, ‘”Girl”, he said,”at least you didn’t get crucified.”‘
SPOILERS!! If you want to go in clean then skip my intro and move straight into the review.
A user on Letterboxd said this about Holy Camp!:
I never knew I needed a Spanish, Catholic gay musical but here I am.
So you know it’s got to be good. Though perhaps having the heads up that it’s a gay film might ruin the reveal when it comes – because when it does come it is glorious and sweet and I don’t even care about the massive age difference because it is so pure. But don’t let me get carried away now, read away my pretties!
María and Susana, two rebellious teens spend their summer in a catholic camp. With music as their common denominator, teen rebellion and ecclesiastic order will collide, creating a hymn to freedom and first love.
First off this film is gloriously female and I love it for that. We’re offered four really fantastic and well-rounded characters to root for and it feels so refreshing – and while I guess you could say the story line revolves around a man (God), it’s all about these relationships, about love, friendship and searching for your calling in life, whatever that may be. I had all the feels, all the way through.
So María and Susanna (Macarena García and Anna Castillo) are at Catholic Camp for the Summer but they’re not letting that cramp their style. Party animals to the extreme they sneak out at night, take narcotics and dance the hours away to Latina electro in the club. Just watching them brings me out in hives but their clubbing experiences seem joyful. The girls are full of life and hope – but a few cracks begin to show when Susana meets a hot shot music producer who’s interested in meeting with the girls and potentially working with them (they’re a pop duo too).
María doesn’t feel as though their talents are ready for public consumption and when faced with meeting the producer for the first time, she bails, heading back to the camp alone. Oh and even before all of this, María is woken up by an elderly white guy singing ‘I Will Always Love You’ to her – so our girl is already feeling confused about life. Can’t blame her, eh?
Side note: If this film doesn’t make you want to rewatch The Bodyguard immediately, then are you even human?
Susana is not that stoked about being ditched but has set up a meeting at a big party with the producer for a later date. The pair unfortunately fall out when María tells Susana she’s delusional and that their group is immature and bound to make a fool of them. It’s time grow up basically.
It is heartbreaking to see the girls fight but it’s a necessary evil given the course both our central characters are on.
With the friendship on a rocky path, María continues to see the same old man, each time serenading her with Whitney songs and becomes convinced that she’s seeing God. Susana confides in Sister Milagros (Belén Cuesta) about the producer and this leads the lovely nun to ruminate on her own talents/unfulfilled potential. In a conversation with the awesome drug-dealing cook we learn that Milagros was on the cusp of her own singing success but it didn’t work out.
Milagros fantasises about her own moment in the spotlight via a surreal and wonderful sequence in the basement, which is overheard and witnessed by Susana, who is smoking outside. Meanwhile, both the girls have appeared on the radar of ferocious new Mother Superior (?) Bernarda (Gracia Olayo). She’s determined to whip these little troublemakers into shape, much to their chagrin. This changes a little when she learns that the girls are into music and she opens up to María about a flash mob she’s choreographed.
Side note: One of the best scenes features Bernada and Milagros singing and dancing together – and one of the lyrics made me snort out loud. It’s the one I used above as my ‘alternative’ title. I love these two so, so much.
María, in response to Bernada’s dance overtures, confides that she’s been seeing God. At first Bernada is quite in agreement that he is all around but when María insists that she is actually SEEING HIM, B sets about training her to find out what he wants from her in the best way possible. In contrast, Susana is shown making out with her boyfriend and showing off her own dance moves, presumably in preparation for the big party rapidly approaching.
When God appears again and María prays to him just as B has shown her, he scoffs at her and disappears. This devastates María and in the kerfuffle, her secret is outed to the other two women. While Milagros phones the Vatican, she laments her failure to connect properly with God. The girls sort of touch base about the party, with Susana saying she doesn’t want to go without María – and that they’re in it together but the truce doesn’t last long.
Milagros goes out of her way to try and convince Susana not to waste her one opportunity but when she tries a similar pep talk on María, trying to talk her out of all this God business, Susana goes ballistic. Revealing that she’s secretly in love with a certain singing nun – she wonders how Milagros dares try dissuade her best friend from her calling – even if that calling seems so far-fetched. If she, Susanna can be gay and in love with a nun, then why can’t Maria be in love with God? Which is a fair point. As Susanna says, to each their own.
Shocked by this outburst, Milagros is even more stunned when Susana kisses her and meanwhile, off camera I whooped. Could Mialgros feel the same way about Susanna? How will the girls get back in God’s graces?
More importantly can we all just bury the hatchet and be best friends forever with no more cross words ever uttered?
You know last week’s sub-par cock fest? This is the antidote to that. Where Love was pretentious, dull and full to the brim with misogynistic rhetoric, Holy Camp! is fun and touching – a study on friendship and the support women give unflinchingly when they love one another, romantically, platonically, whatever.
It looks great, the songs are brilliant – a mixture of Whitney classics and original songs, all of which are uplifting and hilarious. Plus the final number is ridiculously joyous.
Holy Camp! does look at religion but it does so in such a way that it doesn’t judge and that must be very difficult to pull off. In fact I take from it that to each their own also applies to faith which is a brilliant, simple message that I completely buy into.
Both central girls are gorgeous but they’re also warm and I feel their chemistry radiating off the screen. Particularly in the cabin scene, in which Susana declares her unwavering loyalty to María and her God dilemma. As mentioned though, this film has four vital corners and that includes Bernada and Milagros. Seriously, I love a mostly female cast and this is one of the most likable I’ve seen in a while.
Also, have some animated GIFs as a special treat. You are welcome.
What does my holy angel think of this one? I already know but if you want to find out if she’d pledge her love to it eternal or renounce it forever, find out here.
This week’s pick has a very high opinion of itself which at least makes one of us. It is definitely NSFW, not that you’d be watching French-Belgian art house at your place of work but you know what I mean: lots of private parts and shagging. You have been warned.
Murphy is an American living in Paris who enters a highly sexually and emotionally charged relationship with the unstable Electra. Unaware of the effect it will have on their relationship, they invite their pretty neighbor into their bed.
Murphy and Electra (Karl Glusman and Aomi Muyock) are a highly-sexed couple. He is an American film student, while Electra is some sort of artist (who never seems to do any art but who am I to judge?). Their relationship is rather turbulent if truth be told but we don’t explore that until after they’ve broken up.
When we first meet Murphy he is living with his wife Omi (Klara Kristin) and their new baby. Murphy receives an email from Electra’s mother who tells him that she hasn’t seen her daughter for months. Presumed missing, this sends old Murphy into a tailspin as he contacts their old friends to try to locate his ex – while reminiscing about the love they let get away.
Via non-linear flashback we learn that the couple asked their then neighbour Omi to join them for a cheeky threesome, only for Murphy to get her pregnant behind Electra’s back after their original night together. This causes the break up of the relationship and although it’s not easy to follow the timeline, leads Electra deeper into the world of drugs.
Their love affair has already proven over-dramatic, rife with infidelity, drug abuse and fighting but it has also been rooted in a sort of love, an idealistic ride-or-die mentality that does not ring true in the end. Murphy fucks strangers at parties (which gets confusing because he has a penchant for attractive dark-haired Europeans) while Electra is unfaithful with her sugar-daddy ex.
They talk about having babies and dying without each other but can’t seem to get it together to be kind to one another. Murphy screams insults at his lover while she spirals out of control on drugs and lord knows what.
In present day, Murphy longs to go back to a ‘better’ time before he fucked it all up with Electra – and resents Omi and their child, who I think might be called Gaspar? It’s a miserable scene, man as Omi knows only too well that Murphy is pining for his past.
Meanwhile Murphy’s whiny as fuck inner voice calls his wife a bitch for tricking him into family life which just made me want to bash his head in.
Will Murphy atone for his cavalier attitude towards Electra (and all women really) or will he make the most of his new life with Omi? And will he ever stop being such a grade A fuck boi? I think we all know that answer to that last one.
The problem with Love is that I hated everyone. Even my sympathy for Omi wore paper-thin (something about her pompous Pro-life speech on her first date with the couple sealed that). Murphy is a deeply unlikable guy with such a casual attitude towards the women in his life, realistic maybe for a young student but it doesn’t bode well for his likability factor – I hated him. I hated the way he cheated on his girlfriend, how he spoke to both Electra and Omi, basically everything he did. There’s a scene where he almost has sex with a trans prostitute and I didn’t like his homophobic attitude there either. Like, just fuck off Murphy.
Electra is a complex(ish) creature but there’s not much character development and we never get any answers. As for the erotic elements, it soon becomes tiresome to see so much fucking.
I kept leaving the room for ages and coming back to the same extended scene. I’m no prude but this is trying to be shocking for shocking’s sake and it’s pretty whack. Plus, sex is never that well-lit, I’m sure of it.
This is nowhere close to Gaspar Noé‘s Irreversible, which is a very hard watch but also a heartbreaking look at the after effects of sexual assault on the victim and their relationships.
0.5/5. I hated everything about this.
What did my love think of this one? Did she want to bang its brains out or in with a brick? Find out here.
Free for all month and we start June with this biopic of awesome polish gynaecologist Michalina Wislocka, a sex campaigner who rocked the sex lives of polish women forever. My new favourite heroine basically.
Michalina Wislocka, the most famous and recognized sexologist of communist Poland, fights for the right to publish her book, which will change the sex life of Polish people forever.
Michalina Wislocka was a well-respected gynaecologist and massive influence over the sex lives of women living and loving in Poland under communist rule. An activist for sex ed for all, we meet her (played perfectly by Magdalena Boczarska) at the beginning of this biopic as the author of a new book entitled “The Art of Loving”.
Unfortunately, she faces a hell of an opposition from the communist party, the censors and the church because of her frank talk and non-academic way of phrasing things so everyone can understand them. Plus the mostly male objectors just don’t care much about women’s pleasure (who knew?). As she battles to get her tome published, without sacrificing any of its vital content (including the chapter on the female orgasm), we learn how she became the great woman she was.
TAOL takes us from current day (the seventies) back to the birth of Michalina’s forward thinking ways during the war and to her first marriage to a biologist that ended in a long-term love triangle with her best friend Wanda. Wanda is brought into the domestic mix so that Michalina doesn’t have to shag her husband, whom she loves dearly but doesn’t fancy (or rather, she finds sex painful). The relationship comes to a head (pnar) many years and two children (by different mums) later when her husband decides he loves Wanda and Wanda angrily demands the right to be loved too.
Following the bust up of her family life, Michalina throws herself into her work and research and this eventually brings her to meet a new lover. Sex becomes a thing of pure joy and opens up a whole new world to our heroine. While the relationship is ultimately doomed from the start, it’s valuable lessons certainly contribute to Micalina’s success.
Will she get this damn book published and see it reprinted a further billion times* in her lifetime?
I really enjoyed this film, which marries serious subject matter with a wry sense of humour. Boczarska is magnificent as Michalina. She plays her part with relish and is completely believable as a warrior for women’s sex rights. It’s also poignant as fuck when she finds out her old lover has passed away years later.
I’m quite cross with myself that I didn’t know more about this incredible woman before now and I definitely recommend this film, which in parts sort of reminded me of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017) – must be because of the threesomes!
What did my sex pot think of this? Would she censor the fudge out of it or send it a lifetime supply of johnnys? Find out here.
We round out May-hem Month with this beauty from Rungano Nyoni, Zambian-born turned Welsh national and first time film maker. I don’t know how Jill feels about this one yet but I can certainly say this may be the jewel in the crown as far as this month is concerned, and it’s been a pretty eclectic month.
Following a banal incident in her local village, 8-year old girl Shula is accused of witchcraft.
8-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) wanders around her local village silently and apparently aimlessly. As she doesn’t appear to have any family, friends or home – and appeared out of nowhere one day, the locals are convinced she’s a witch. Especially since they claim that odd things started happened as soon as she arrived. When a local woman falls down whilst carrying a bucket of water and blames Shula, she is taken away to a government-funded witch camp (which sounds kind of fun actually).
To give you an idea of the kind of court ruling we are dealing with here: the determining factor of whether Shula is a witch or not is the dance of a dead chicken, conducted by a real life witch doctor. If he dies inside a small circle of salt, Shula is not a witch, if he dies outside, well you get the picture.
The camp itself is part work camp, part tourist attraction where holiday makers snap pictures of the witches who gurn good-naturedly for the cameras. Each witch is strapped to a spindle of ribbon that keeps them from flying away. When they fly they go killing according to local lore.
Shula tries to run away on the first day but that night is welcomed by the other witches via the medium of song and is given a choice – cut her own ribbon and risk being turned into a goat or stay grounded and accept that she’s a witch. A no-brainer you could say. So Shula adapts and even seems happy when some of the more seasoned witches take her under their wings. One even lectures her on the importance of education and teaches her how to eavesdrop on lessons being taught at the local schools.
Shula is nameless until she meets the other witches – they give her this moniker because it means ‘uprooted’. Just as our girl is getting her bearings, she is taken away from her new community and on the road by a government official. She is required to use her witchy powers to point out the guilty party in minor legal disputes and make TV appearances, among other duties.
The same official also allows her into his home and reveals something of a secret to her at the same time, that his own wife is also a witch who has gained respectability through marriage. The official’s wife makes it clear that if Shula desires the same life then she has to do as she’s told at all times.
Well, it might please you to learn that Shula does not roll that way and slowly but surely starts to push against these new responsibilities. Her rebellion drives her new ‘guardian’ mad and as she refuses to make it rain (literally) and shows him up in front of an important ‘white man’, both Shula and his wife are threatened with being cast back to where they came from.
Will Shula return to whence she came or does the universe have something more divine in store for her? Well, this is a five-star movie in my opinion so it would be cool if you saw it yourself but let’s just say that the ending is stark and incredibly haunting – and I sort of felt destroyed afterwards.
IANAW is by no means a bleak and brittle piece though. It is handled with a sense of humour that works incredibly alongside the severity of Shula’s story. Her tale if you think about it is completely farcical, with these women condemned on hearsay alone but it is also based on actual stories of witchcraft in Zambia.
There’s a lot to be said about the treatment of women here too, of how flimsy the evidence is against them and of how they are treated by society. While some are lucky enough to be ‘rescued’ from their fates, they must conform to a very strict code in order to stay saved and the ultimate goal is respectability. A very boring goal indeed.
The film looks gorgeous and the performances are wicked. Especially Maggie Mulubwa as Maggie, a non-actor who nails her soulful performance with hardly any dialogue. We never really get to the bottom of her true story but the ending suggests that perhaps there is something in the folklore after all.
Basically I loved every minute, it’s fucking brilliant.
What did my own little witch think of this one? Would she turn it into a goat or take it for a ride in a big orange lorry? Find out here.
Two girls from nuclear towns in Israel and Iran spill their countries most valuable secrets on Facebook while trying to prevent a nuclear crisis.
What do you get when you place a general, the minister of defense, a commander and the chief intelligence officer together in an underground bunker in Israel? Apart from a load of middle aged men blowing hot air around, that is?
You get conversation about how to deal with the threat hanging over them by Iran, obviously. Complete with strategic sandbox props. And the brigadier general Partosch figures, since the world is against Israel anyway, that the only solution is to hit Iran with a fuck off great atomic bomb in seven days’ time.
However, when the International Atomic Energy Agency rock up, things take a turn. Among the IAEA is German Oliver Hann (Alexander Fehling), a hot piece who immediately catches the eye of lovely Mimi Azrian (Mali Levi), our local falafel van driving activist. Oli is highly and deathly allergic to uranium which makes him kind of useful to have around, in the context of tracing nuclear weapons at least.
Mimi’s daughter Nofar (Michelle Treves) meanwhile, is hellbent on getting laid by her boyfriend, computer whizz Meron. They get distracted however when they get hold of a military command disc and decide to fuck shit up.
Nofar also meets teenage rapper, Iranian Sharareh (Tara Melter) online and their blossoming friendship has a lot to do with their ongoing campaign for peace between the countries. Oh and Mimi’s late husband, and Nofar’s father, was also Iranian.
Oli stays in Israel much longer than his original duties require when he starts to fall hard for Mimi – obviously, you can’t just walk away from excellent falafel. As the seven days draw to a close and the kids get themselves into more trouble with the authorities, will peace actually be achieved?
I’ve left out a lot of nuance from this review. It’s really charming and has a real attention to detail. While it paints some of the military big wigs as buffoonish, it also places a lot of responsibility in the hands of our brilliant teens. Nofar, Meron and Sharareh are joyous to watch and I can quite believe that they have the power to bridge peace between the two warring factions. Plus, Sharareh is freaking cool and talented as well.
That said, our heroes are also afforded the time to be concerned about teenage things such as losing their virginity, getting decent grades at school and uploading content to social media.
What did wifey think of this one? Would she feed it extra spicy sauce or leave it to be blown up? Find out here!
“There’s an Egyptian movie called Excuse My French that might be good? It’s about a boy moving to a new school in Egypt and being the only Christian there.
Don’t worry, it’s a comedy.”
Well, first of all, girl knows me so well, she’s already anticipating me turning my nose up at a seemingly ‘boring’ movie prospect (Jill’s choices are always way more socially conscious than mine. I like dance offs, alright?).
Secondly, she added that it might be nice to show some solidarity to the Muslims (Fuck Trump). And while I’m sure it takes more to be a useful ally than just watching a comedy from a couple of years ago, understanding has to start somewhere, in whatever format it takes to get through I suppose. And given the current climate, I think it’s important to step outside our comfort zones to experience different ways of life.
Hany (Dash) is twelve and lives a happy life with his parents. Dad is a banker, while his mother works at the opera house. There’s money from dad’s career and little from mum’s but it works just fine. Hany is a bright student, popular at school with a solid crew behind him and he loves his church.
One day, I’m sorry to say, Hany’s dad drops dead at the dinner table and Hany’s life is changed irrevocably. While Mum is devastated, Hany finds it difficult to show emotion, even when questioned about it by the object of his affection, Sarah. She tells him not to worry about not crying now, it will come.
Meanwhile, Hany and his mother must get on with their lives. The issue of money raises it’s ugly head and Hany understands that they can no longer afford the expensive private school he’s been attending so far. He asks everyone he knows about their educations, including his only friend outside school, in an attempt to gauge how bad state school is likely to be. (You’re going to have to forgive me here for the appalling lack of character/actor names as IMDB has kept it minimal)
Soon Hany finds out for himself how ‘bad’ things can be. He’s not welcomed with open arms (as you’d expect, kids are mean) and it quickly becomes obvious who ‘the ones to avoid’ are. However, there’s some saving grace at the start, when everybody assumes he is Muslim. Now, this doesn’t exactly sit comfortably with Hany but he works out quickly that the few Christians that do attend the school are kept away in the dark, like mushrooms and that is not how he wishes to roll.
There’s a lot of bullying going on which has nothing to do with religion, lead by head bully, Aly (I think that’s his name). He’s a shit to be sure but doesn’t seem to discriminate when it comes to his victims. Hany’s a swot though to be fair and gets nominated Class President which causes some ructions and singles him out.
He finds some respite when a nice teacher called Miss Nelly comes to the school and shows him some kindness. She has a Christian name so Hany assumes she’s like him (this is later disproved). Miss Nelly encourages Hany’s scientific side and he wins a prize but something nasty happens to her and she leaves.
There’s a segment that causes me some confusion here. To explain, Miss Nelly is attacked by some older students. Hany overhears their plan to grab and ‘grope her’, and tells her to dress in more demure clothing but he doesn’t exactly warn her. With no context for his slut shaming comments, she tells him off for being rude.
Later the older boys are punished for what they’ve done to Miss Nelly. Then one of their big brothers, a gangster, comes to the school to seek revenge on the teacher that punished them. It’s very odd and uncomfortable – and nobody bats an eyelid. A way to illustrate just how things worked round these parts at this time?
Hany’s mother btw has forbidden Hany to, a) make friends and b) discuss religion with anybody. He does break the first rule when he makes a friend but when Hany gets beaten up by Aly and his mum comes storming into the school to confront the head teacher, he is outed as Christian. Oopsy.
This does not make things better for Hany but he’s made of stern stuff. There are some other developments including an attempt by Hany’s mother to emigrate them to Canada but in the end, they stay to face the music. Question is, will Hany ever truly fit in or will he become a second class citizen like the minority Christians at school?
Well, that’s for you find out, innit?
This was an okay way to spend a Sunday afternoon in bed (it was a long weekend of travelling for us, okay?). It was darker than I originally expected and that’s okay, I mean school is tough enough, without the topic of religion being thrown in the mix. It won’t hurt anybody to look at these issues in simplistic terms through the eyes of a kid.
The film might not change lives and is a bit of a mess but it’s presented in such a way that you can’t help feeling something. This time it’s the Christians that are treated as sub-standard, a change from the ‘western way’ in which Muslims are painted as the problem with all things, ever. Interesting to get this perspective.
That’s as political as I’m going, don’t worry. My copy of the film was terrible and the subtitles ran way too fast so I found it challenging to keep up but apart from that, it was amusing and touching in places.
The lead (Dash) was delightful and defiant as Hany, his mother (Allouch) has shades of Monica Belluci about her (a good thing) and I loved the bully, Aly more than I should have. He reminded me of Chris Lilley’s Jonah.
All in all, it took the serious topic of religion and still managed to be fun and warm. In fact, I don’t even feel like religion is the main subject matter in this, it’s more a study in bullying and facing up to that. Bullies are fucking dicks but the psychology of why they do the things they do is fascinating (though not really explored much here).
My Rating: 3/5. Okay. Thinking back on it for this post, it’s not as powerful or topical as it could have been but maybe you’ll enjoy it anyway.
What did Jillian think? Would she beat the shit out of this movie for being one thing or would she rather learn about it’s differences and therefore become a more enlightened being? Find out here ❤