REVIEW: “THE COURIER” (2021) Lionsgate

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Benedict Cumberbatch is undoubtedly best when speaking in his own voice i.e, accent, giving us characters he can sink into and he proves this to us again in “THE COURIER”. Director Dominic Cooke along with writer Tom O’Connor, bring us this nail-biting tale based on the true story of Greville Wynn, a English salesman turned Cold War spy.

With Benedict Cumberbatch starring as our lead, Greville Wynne, who by all accounts is a happy-go-lucky English, drinking & golfing businessman who is married to Sheila (Jessie Buckley), and the father to Andrew (Keir Hills). Wynne is invited by acquaintance Dickie Franks (Angus Wright), to have lunch with an American “consultant” Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), where he is pressed into “service” for Great Britain, and with the line “I can’t believe I’m having lunch with spies” tells us just how he thinks he’s sitting at the ‘cool kids’ table and you read not only the shock on his face, but the underlying thrill in it as well.

Wynne’s mission, should he accept it, (yes, I know – completely different movie but is just so apt here) and let’s be honest here, there isn’t much of a choice. is to travel to Moscow and collect nuclear defense images of Russia’s presence in Cuba from one Col. Oleg Penkovsky (Mereb Ninidze). Penkovsky is a high-ranking Soviet officer who has grown wary of Nikita Khrushchev’s (Vladimir Chuprikov) threats of nuclear war. Realizing how close to fruition they are coming, Penkovsky is willing to betray his country to save his family and the world, risking everything, including his life.

It’s a startling tale of what one person can actually do to change the course of the world and again, along with decent acting and the refreshing take of Cumberbatch not trying to do accents he just doesn’t succeed in, here it all comes together along with a top performance by Ninidze and Buckley as well. Brosnahan proves that she can be more than just ‘Mrs. Maisel’ as well, with a completely believable turn as the American who first helps turn Wynne from a salesman to a spy, and then is the one who steps in to help as well. ‘The Courier’ adds verifiability to the overall vibe with a look of a desaturated, grim tone color palette, which definitely set the scene for the movie.

All in all, this one is a good thriller with a remarkable story and tension that won’t let you go until the very end.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE COURIER” is available on Video on Demand (VOD) Friday, April 16, 2021.

REVIEW: “THE FALLOUT” (2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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Finishing up my last review of SXSW Film Festival with “THE FALLOUT”, which was hands down one of the best films of the festival. Rather than being just a film on gun control, instead the films takes us through the various reactions and interactions that each person affected by it has after such an horrific event as a school shooting.

Vada Cavell (Jenna Ortega) is a 16 year old high school student who find herself in the school restroom when she hears gunfire starting up. We never see the shooter or the actual shooting itself, instead writer/director Megan Park starts the story from the point of view of Vada and Mia Reed (Maddie Ziegler), as they find themselves hiding in the bathroom stall together in sheer terror of what’s happening outside of the bathroom. While in the stall, a battered young student Quinton (Niles Fitch), runs in to escape the gunfire as well and joins them. It’s important to note that none of them are friends with one another, as it happens to be in most schools, they are in very different friendship circles. Mia is the ‘popular’ girl, and one that Vada and her best friend Will (Nick Ropp), would probably never be friends with, and would also be the ones to make snarky comments about behind her back – most likely something done vise versa with Mia and her friends as well.

Vada, Mia & Quinton form an unlikely bond after the shooting, as Vada’s and Will are having a hard time connecting afterwards. He has channeled what happened to him in a completely different manner than the other three and becomes an anti-gun activist and spokesperson. Vada’s parents, Carlos (John Ortiz) and Patricia (Julie Bowen), are at a loss of how to help their daughter deal with something that no parent should ever have to. Taking the brunt of Vada’s complete change of life is her younger sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack), with whom she was very close to and now has no idea how to even talk about the most basic things of daily life with. Vada and Mia both struggle with their emotions, and start to depend on each other, while Quinton has some serious fallout to deal with as his brother was a victim of the shooting. Not only does he have grief to deal with, but the impact and toll it has taken on him as well, though eventually he and Vada get closer, though not in the way she tries to be. Unable to talk to her parents or deal with her younger sister, Vada does end up seeing a Anna (Shailene Woodley), a therapist with whom she finds it hard to open up to as her life has been forever altered by this tragic event.

With these type of shootings happening weekly here before the pandemic and now once again as things slowly ‘return to normal’, it’s beyond painful to see what anyone has to deal with during such a horrific event, but it’s so much worse when it’s kids. Kids who simply went to school that morning and never make it home and those that survive, aren’t equipped yet to deal with such trauma. It’s no wonder that the films portrays coping mechanisms such as alcohol, sex, and smoking some joints in attempts at self-healing by Vada and her friends. The film also doesn’t shy away from the difficulties they face in returning to school – or returning to anything resembling normalcy after attending the numerous memorial services for their classmates. Again, the writing and direction that Park shows, allows us the audience, to experience every aspect of Vada’s recovery, the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. And then, when we are least expecting it, throws us a gut-punch of an ending that stuns you to the core of your being.

Performances are key here and keep a strong eye on Jenna Ortega as you won’t forget this performance anytime soon and are sure to be seeing a lot of her in the future. Add in the strong writing and direction from Grace Park, and this film is sure to be one to stick with you for a long time to come.

Grade: A+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Prodigy Public Relations

“THE FALLOUT” PREMIERED AT SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL – FULL RELEASE DATE TBA

REVIEW: “THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” (2021) Hysteria Pictures

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Billed as being as a gothic feminist horror and thriller, “THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” by director Kevin Pontuti, is anything but any of those things listed. Based on the short story of the same name by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the film shows us a long drawn out story of a woman, Jane (Alexandra Loreth) who is the victim of ignorant and sexist medical ‘treatment,’ and is confined by her husband in a room with yellow wallpaper. What should be a creepy study of madness and oppression, takes a different turn in this full feature version.

Though it has been adapted several times before, the story is a difficult one to capture as much of it takes place within Jane’s mind and with her relationship with the wallpaper in the room where she is kept. In this instance Alexandra Loreth, who wrote this adaptation, (which should give it something of an edge), seemingly looses track of what the story is actually about as it meanders along. The film opens with a shocking incident which may or may not be real and from there we follow as Jane is nothing of the norm that society of the time, tells her she should be. When her doctor husband John (Joe Mullins), orders that she be confined for the sake of her mental health as she is considered by him to be suffering from a nervous disorder. The ‘cure’ prescribed is just to rest, rest, rest – all the time. From the beginning, Jane feels that something about the room with the yellow wallpaper is off, but she has no control over her own paths in life, and there is always the lingering threat of being institutionalized being held over her. She is oddly forbidden from reading or writing, she has nothing to do with herself except diagnose the pattern on the wallpaper, which she finds herself at odds with. All the while, she ignores more and more not only every day things of life, but her newborn baby as well.

The story unfolds slowly and requires more than just a little patience from it’s audience to get through. With it’s beginning alluding to the early stages of a mystery, we continue to wait to see what could possibly be unfolding between this odd couple. Why they have come to this place and why she is made to stay in this room that disturbs her so much? Sadly, we never really come to find out what it is that does just this as the film plods along instead watching a woman who clearly has post-partum depression, something completely unknown at the time, but slow descent of her mental state without any ‘gothic horror’ is also certainly is not anything remotely ‘feminist’. We do however get treated to some beautiful cinematography and that will just have to do for the time being.

Grade: C-

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Review screening: Courtesy of KO-PR

“THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” PREMIERED AT CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVALFULL RELEASE DATE TBA

REVIEW: “THE DROVERS WIFE” (2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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While having not read the short story on which the film is based, being a fan of Leah Purcell was enough to entice me to find out what a Drovers Wife was exactly. A NSW/Australian project, “THE DROVER’S WIFE”, is the full feature version based on Henry Lawson’s short story of the same name, and Purcell not only directs, but plays the lead Molly Johnson aka the Drovers Wife, as well.

Our story is beautifully set in the bleak harshness of the Australian outback and we see Molly give early aid to the new lawman come to town, Sergeant Klintoff (Sam Reid) and his London-born wife Louisa (Jessica De Gouw). Louisa’s goal is to publish a newspaper for women trying to empower them, her husband is set on not having this happen due to wanting to keep up the appearance of being a strong lawman. The film turns out to be somewhat of a message movie for women in mid 19th century Australia, and the world, to be free of fear of abuse from their husbands. We watch and we suffer with and through Molly’s marriage to a abusive alcoholic and unfaithful husband along with her struggles to raise her four children alone.

Director: Leah Purcell as Molly Johnson

It is also a strong statement about racial acceptance as the movie progresses, as we learn from an Aborgine man whom she aids that that Molly herself, might be the child of an mixed marriage. It is especially rough when we see there is a legal effort from neighbors to take the children away from Molly, because they are “octaroons” and is heart-wrenching to watch is when her young son Danny (Malachi Dover-Robbins), overhearing the conversation, and asks his mom what an “octaroon” is. He also witnesses so much more that happens to his mother that no child should ever see.

Molly is among the toughest women portrayed in any western— Australian or otherwise, as she is a crack shot with a rifle and, in the course of the film, dispatches at least 5 people for various justifiable reasons. And the acting throughout is decent, it’s just almost sad that it just starts slow, jumps around a bit too much and you lose the sense of the story at times as some of it just isn’t clear due to those jumps, turning it on it’s dull side. Purcell though, is a remarkably strong female lead in this otherwise bleak tale. It is a tough watch at times but demonstrates the power of one woman’s voice to make changes.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening: Courtesy of k2 Publicity and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “THE END OF US” SXSW Film Festival (2021)

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Ali Vingiano is Leah and Ben Coleman is Nick in co-writer & directors Steven Kanter and Henry Loevner‘s “THE END OF US”. This is a fun jaunty little look at what happens when a four year relationship ends abruptly just as the pandemic is setting in and because of the stay-at-home orders that are kicking in everywhere, we get to go on a very different journey of what would usually happen at the end of a relationship. What happens? You end up being forced to continue to live together. Why the breakup? Well, it seems Leah is the grounded one who holds a real, actual paying job and is just done with carrying the load of the relationship in regards to basic things like rent, food, and bills. While Nick, well Nick lives in a dream world of wanting to writing a screenplay and trying to get the few acting auditions that might be available. So it’s easy to connect the dots when Leah says ‘enough’.

The whole situation is unusual, yet the film makes it all work focusing on the issues the two still had to deal with while living under the same roof as it presented its own challenges. With Nick taking a turn sleeping on the couch as the two come to terms with the fact that they are together more now than…well..when they were actually together. The tension and stress is as prevalent as they confide in Zoom meetings with friends Tim (Derrick Joseph DeBlasis), Lois (Kate Peterman) and Hector (Gadiel Del Orbe), that are sometimes overheard by one another and factors in some of the petty emotions that come into play, as do the real ones as well. Apologies and half-apologies are constant, but we see both Leah and Nick change and grow despite the all the challenges presented to them. The ‘will they’ or ‘won’t they’ of getting back together is freshly done and keeps it compelling enough to watch.

Both lead actors are solid and made it work as their chemistry was great throughout and kept it fun. Along with that, the script is fresh and spot on and made the film work as a whole. There are some ‘moments’ but relatability is the key here. Nice work from all involved here as this one would work whether in a pandemic or not.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Courtesy of 42West and SXSW Film Festival

Fun note: The End of Us sent me this!!

REVIEW: “THE OXY KINGPINS”(2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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Opened SXSW with this powerful documentary with “The Oxy Kingpins” which gives us an inside look at who is really behind this whole culture of pharmaceuticals and who actually is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans from all walks of life..and it’s not the dealers.

Directors Brendan Fitzgerald and Nick August-Perna take to task here interviewing some of the street distributors that ending up spending time in prison for their role in dealing oxycontin, and the startling reveal shows how little the part they actually played in this big scheme of things. ‘Kingpins’ also gives the viewer an up close look at how personally dangerous it can be to try to get information of this dangerous criminal network can be, adding a consequence to making the film engaging and informative. But the narrative is straightforward, not only noting, but giving it the feeling of just how pressing and urgently this problem needs to be dealt with efficiently.

Fitzgerald and August-Pernas’ motive is clear from the get-go in bringing to the forefront the team of lawyers that is fighting to bring the real criminals of this epidemic, the ones that should be held accountable for their actions, to justice. This helps the documentary in its quest to provides a sense of urgency that the audience can easily relate to. One of the biggest assets of this documentary, is that it stays simple in its structure and avoids big courtroom drama as well as any dense or hard to understand terminology around its theme. It specifically addresses its viewers with only the necessary information to understand that this is a matter that has long been treated lightly and nothing was done in the meantime to bring these millionaire CEOs to face justice for their greed. The brave act of exposing the damming behavior of these companies and informing the public of the numbers of victims they leave behind in their trail, is surely one that deserves recognition.

Also noticeable is the sense of delivering more than just unnecessary points of view, but instead showing us actual human stories from the addicted themselves, the dealers, and from those who have lost loved ones to due to it given to them in any quantity requested — well over the amount of what one singular human being could even take. Some towns with populations of a couple of thousand residents at best, is given millions upon millions of doses of Oxycodone and the complicity of the small town doctors and pharmacists who set up ‘pain management clinics’ is also brought to the fore front. This isn’t a film that was created out of a personal vendetta or some type ulterior motive, but it’s an all out exposure of the many entitled companies that use power to hide their footprint under the premise of providing drugs to those who supposedly need them. The fact that The Oxy Kingpins is made with straight up accurate facts and a straightforward delivery of them, gives this story true it’s power. The result is a difficult, deep cutting piece that allows the audience to see the full scope on how pharmaceutical corporations truly operate and is constantly reminding us of the many who lost their lives or were used as pawns in a larger scheme to fill the pockets of these greedy businessmen and the companies they worked for.

Rarely do I get personal in a review – but this affected me personally as someone who has had numerous surgeries I can well attest how at one point in the early 2000’s, they were trying to give it out like Good n Plenty candy and how many doctors tried to give me Oxycontin, as in pushed and pushed it on me. When I finally did try it – thankfully the small amount taken was enough to make me say NOPE! Sadly many people didn’t say no and lost their lives, their families, homes, and included people from all walks of life.

It’s an eye opening look at how those responsible walked away with millions, and those not so responsible ended up in jail or lost their lives.

Grade: B+


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Review Screening: Courtesy of Betsy Ruddnick PR and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “WITCH HUNT” (2021) SXSW Film Festival

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There isn’t anything better than a good modern day witch story — the kind where you contemplate not only how you would react if they do exist, but if they just randomly turned up in society. Questions would arise to be sure. How would we treat them? How would we make or shift laws for example, to accommodate these ‘magic beings’ and their powers. Luckily we have “WITCH HUNT” from director Elle Callahan to guide us through what those challenges entail.

The film centers on Claire (Gideon Adlon), a young woman whose mother Martha (Elizabeth Mitchell), offers a way station of sorts in Southern California for fugitive witches on the run. It’s essentially a safe haven for witches as they wait to be smuggled out of the country by an Underground Railroad network of sympathizers lead by Jacob (Treva Etienne). With an opening scene of men with rifles presiding over a pale, young red-haired woman being burned at the stake that continually flashes throughout the film as it’s part of the nightmares Claire deals with nightly. We quickly learn from this that witchcraft has been outlawed in the US and a ‘Bureau of Witchcraft Investigations’ not only exists, but it’s agents are officially charged with rounding up offenders and shipping them off to detainment camps. And one such agent of this bureau is Hawthorne (Christian Camargo), and he has no qualms about handling things in the old Salem way. Having witches constantly in and out of her home bends Claire the wrong way and she starts to despise the process. It’s not until Fiona (Abigail Cowen) and her younger sister Shae (Echo Campbell) arrive, Claire reconsiders her prejudice of ideas, and discovers a big secret about herself in the process.

While at times a bit clunky, Callahan still manages to not only give us a good story, good acting, she also incorporates many well-known superstitions about witchcraft. The most pertinent includes the “sink test,” where a woman suspected of practicing witchcraft is bound to a chair, thrown into a body of water and if she surfaces rather than sinking, well then she’s definitely a witch. That Witch Hunt shows this ‘test’ being given by government agents to a group of teenage girls feels especially disturbing. It’s effectively comparing the singling out of one group of people, in this case, white, red-haired woman, in a sneaky and very effective way of noting modern day immigration realities that many are experiencing at this moment — being shown through one of the best modes of political storytelling – the horror movie.

Grade: B-

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Review screening : Courtesy of Falco Ink. PR and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “HOW IT ENDS” (2021) SXSW Online Film Festival

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Shot entirely during the pandemic, “HOW IT ENDS” takes on a delightfully quirky look of a one young woman’s journey of her last day on earth. While it was a bit chilling to note was how the streets of LA were essentially a ghost town, it definitely ended up playing in the movie’s favour. Being that the movie was very minimalistic due to pandemic restrictions, directors Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein use this to their advantage as it aptly adds to the general aesthetic of the idea that it’s all about to end.  

With the jist of the story being that an armageddon-type meteor is speeding towards a collision course with Earth and will extinguish all life as we know it. Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones), and her younger metaphysical version of herself (Cailee Spaeny), charmingly referred to as “YS,” take to the streets of Los Angeles on a journey to find one last party and instead find themselves on a journey of self-discovery as well. Initially, Liza has no interest whatsoever in attending this party and just wants to hang out by herself and get stoned, eat a pile of pancakes, drink some wine and let it all go. Liza’s only problem is well, Young Liza, who pressures her(self) to attend the Apocalypse Party being thrown by Mandy (Whitney Cummings).

How It Ends’ is an interesting and hilarious concept. Some of what makes this film so charming is the realization that until she set out on this journey, no one could see or knew about her ‘YS’, or so she thought. Running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way is all part of the fun and delight here. From a reconciliation with her mom (Helen Hunt), or realizing she wants to tell her ex-boyfriend Nate (Logan Marshall Green), that she really does love him — to hashing out a long overdue grudge with her friend Ali (Olivia Wilde), or stopping by her dad’s (Bradley Whitford), it’s all in a days work when it’s the last day on earth. By using characters and having a metaphysical younger version of themselves works hugely in the film stories favour as it turns out they meet others with the same along the way, only adds to the delight.

While Lister-Jones might be doing triple duty here as a writer/director and lead of the film, its truly Cailee Spaeny that carries us up and off, elevating the entire movie and delivering an impressive performance that I just couldn’t take my eyes off. Truly they are brilliant together, forming an aura of pure enjoyment and putting a smile on every viewers’ face. Keep an eye out for the standout cameos as well as so you don’t miss the appearances by: Finn Wolfhard, Logan Marshall-Green, Fred Armisen, Bradley Whitford, Sharon Van Etten, Olivia Wilde, Lamorne Morris, Helen Hunt, and Colin Hanks.

Honestly, if it ever comes down to the time where all life is about to end, and earth itself is about to cease to exist… you realize you’re left with nothing but yourself, and all the unfinished business you’ll need to deal with so you can die in peace. Doing something that you might regret later is an inevitability of life, but making amends with it shouldn’t be left to an extreme chance or to the very last moment when everything is about to end… and this is a message I can get behind.

Grade: B

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Review screening : Courtesy of 42 West PR and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “WOMEN IS LOSERS”(2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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It’s the early 1960’s in San Francisco, California and the social rules of the time, laws, cultural norms and obstacles are set in place to keep women ‘in their place’ which as the old saying goes, is essentially barefoot and pregnant. It’s worth pointing out that at this time period in America a woman could not open a bank account on her own, get a credit card in her own name, let alone get birth control unless married. All this sums into an old Janis Joplin song released around the same time period, even titled the same, and you realize there couldn’t be more fitting way to put meaning and a story to lyrics than Lissette Feliciano’s film “WOMEN IS LOSERS”. Pulling out a story from an old Joplin song might seem odd, but when you hear and listen to the words, you understand exactly what direction Feliciano’s film is taking you.

Celina (Lorenza Isso) is 17-year-old Latina Catholic schoolgirl living in a household with an abusive alcoholic father Don Juan (Steven Bauer), and sadly, compliant to the violence is her mother Dona Carolina (Alejandra Miranda). Along with her best friend Marty (Chrissie Fit), she goes to a party for her boyfriend Mateo (Bryan Craig), who has just returned from service in the Vietnam War. A minor indiscretion and being told “nothing can happen the first time,” results in Celina getting pregnant. Until that moment, her two favourite things were school, where she is somewhat of a math wiz, and having fun with Marty. After losing Marty to a back-alley botched abortion by a dentist of all people, Celina realizes she has no option but to accept the shame given from her community, school and family. So cue to nine months later Celina gives birth and starts to raise her son on her own, with no help from Mateo.

Being from such a structured, strict, religious community and having not finished her high school education, Celina struggles at a menial job to earn and put away money for her son’s future. She is constantly under the eagle eye of her supervisor Minerva (Liza Weil) who tries to find fault in everything she does. But eventually with her strong work ethic, she catches the eye of her superior, Gilbert Li (Simu Liu), who has his own Chinese immigrant story as well. While Gilbert promotes her from typist to teller at the bank, as he gives her a helping hand as well and teaches her the ways of investing in land, housing etc., there is of course there is always an ulterior motive and Celine learns this the hard way. She also earns the respect of Minerva, who is also defying community with her own inter-racial relationship and gives her a helping hand as well – but with no ulterior motives attached. During all this Mateo and Celine reconnect, marry, although ultimately unsuccessfully, as he is not only jealous of Celine’s work ethic, but he goes back to his old cheating ways with Lois (Alessandra Torresani). Seemingly the only way out for her is divorce or she will fall into being something she does not want be – exactly like her mother.

Director: Lissette Feliciano – “Women Is Losers”

The acting by lead Lorenza Isso truly makes the character of Celine come to life as she gives us her all with every emotion of wanting to laugh, cry, and fight right beside her. The supporting cast of Craig, Chrissie Fit, Miranda, Liza Weil, Liu are all fantastic and only add complexity to this colourful story. There is one scene at the beginning that shows the range of this cast that is done a-la ‘West Side Story‘ style, of a dance off that is truly a choreographed wonder to watch. In addition to the wonderful cast is what it is precisely that “Women Is Losers” brings to the table. To start off with, it speaks volumes about the true struggle of not only women, but marginalized women whether it be because of race, colour or religion – someone is always trying to hold you back. For every step taken forward, five are added to reach the next level. But there is always a price, and while this story ends well, so many do not. If anything to take away from this film, it’s the celebration at the end of Roe v Wade at the end and how this right must never be taken away again as more women like Marty will pay the price of doing so.

Grade: A-

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Review screening : Courtesy of 42 West PR and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “LUCHADORAS” (2021) sxsw FILM FESTIVAL

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Going into this SXSW viewing of “LUCHADORAS” and expecting it to be just about some female wrestlers is probably the biggest misconception someone can make about this film from Directors Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, including myself.

This fascinating look at not only female wrestlers of Cuidad Juárez, Mexico but all the women of the city. Focusing specifically the stories of four woman – Lady Candy, Baby Star, Little Star and Mini Sirenita who yes, while they are female wrestlers are also so much more. For those who might not be aware, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has a reputation for being the most dangerous city in the world while just across the border is El Paso, TX, said to be the safest city in the world. This stark fact is made clear when we see one of the women, Lady Candy, fighting to get her two children back after her husband has taken them over to El Paso – and stops contact with her. We watch as she attempts to get a visa just to visit them, but cost is a factor. She makes $300 a month and the cost of just the visa alone is $160. But going back to the beginning to make this clear from the start. The film begins with voiceover telling us a story about a woman riding the bus to work in one of the factories in the industrial part of the city who was abducted, beaten, and assaulted by the driver. Luckily, she survived to tell her story but it is soon after that we start to find out the true stories of the almost 100 missing women of Juarez. Any of our four women could be one of them, or even the next one as we delve into each of their varying stories of abuse and how of all things, wrestling is what letting them reclaim their power so to speak.

 Again, the stories vary here from Lady Candy’s, to Mini Sirenita who is returning to the ring after a hiatus working in a factory so that she can afford to help her adult daughter living in Mexico City because wrestling pays more. In a completely different vein, we have Baby Star and Little Star. These two sisters, who never remove their masks even in daily life, are trying to figure out the best way to honor their family wrestling legacy while setting an example for Baby’s young daughter who of course, wants to be just like her mom. What Calvo and Jasim do so well here is highlight the every day normalcy of these women’s lives outside of the ring, providing us an inside glimpse at their personas, their fears, and their dreams. But also giving focus to the everyday struggles and the fight from not only these four women, but the many women of Juarez who get out there and stand up and fight for not only themselves and their families, but for the rights of all the murdered women of Juarez. Putting it straight up – these women are more than just wrestlers, they are mothers, daughters, sisters and women standing up for themselves at a time when doing so, can get them killed.

“Luchadores” is raw and defiant, tension filled, yet also filmed with love as you can see each women’s story for what it truly is. And it is beautifully filmed showing every crack and emotion of feelings from joy, to sadness, anger and most of all, inner strength. This is so much more than just a female wrestling movie and I hope more people than just myself take the time to find this out.


I stand with the women of Juarez – and so should we all.

Grade: B+
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Review Screening courtesy of Ryan Bruce Levey film distribution and PR services & SXSW Film Festival