Among the films that played recently at the 2016 AFI Fest here in Hollywood, I was able to see the following:
Kill Me Please (orig. Mate-me Por Favor)  [IMDb] [AC.br]*(written and directed by Anita Rocha da Silveira [IMDb] [AC.br]*) is a campy (if still decidedly _upscale_ ...) BRAZILIAN John Hughes-like film about a group of 15 year-old girls living in an new subdivision of high-rises somewhere at the edge of Rio de Janeiro where there were RAPES/MURDERS, usually of young (often teenage) women, happening in the still existing scrublands all around. Where were the parents? Well, that appeared to be part of the problem. In classic John Hughes-like fashion, they're not around. The parents of Bia (played wonderfully by Valentina Herszage [IMDb] [AC.br]*) the film's heroine are divorced and though Bia's been living nominally with her mother and increasingly creepy / disheveled older brother, ma' has a new boyfriend (presumably somewhere "in the city") and so she's NEVER AROUND as are none of the other parents (and the teenagers' school teachers / coaches play nominal presences in their lives). So the teens, not unlike the teenagers in The Maze Runner  are left pretty much to their own devices even as there are truly inexplicable things -- RAPES / MURDERS -- taking place "in the scrublands" / "bushes" ALL AROUND.
Since this is a contemporary Brazilian film, religion does play a role. It's a somewhat goofy one, but not altogether disrespectful. After all there were TERRIBLE THINGS happening "all around" and so the teenagers would come together to pray -- in a wildly exaggerated teen-oriented charismatic / evangelical manner. But then, honestly, in the absence of any parents or any other credible civil authority, it became a totally reasonable response to a terribly frightening situation.
All in all, the film could make for an entry to a VERY INTERESTING film festival / series featuring young women directors focusing on the experiences of young women today. Other entries could include The Virgin Suicides  and The Bling Ring  by Sofia Coppola, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night  by Iranian-American Ana Lily Amirpour, Girlhood (orig. Band de Filles)  by Franchwoman Céline Sciamma and the Oscar nominated Mustang  by Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven... -- 3 Stars
Harmonium (orig. Fuchi Ni Tatsu)  [IMDb] [AW] (written and directed by Kôji Fukada [IMDb] [AW]) is an Cannes En Certain Regard award winning JAPANESE psychological thriller about a recently released prisoner named Kusataro Yasaka (played spectacularly with quite / unspoken RAGE - by Tadanobu Asano [IMDb] [AW]) who after serving-out a sentence of some 10 years, decides to reenter the life of his once best friend Toshio Suzuoka (played by Kanji Furutachi [IMDb] [AW]).
For his part, Toshio has spent the last 8-10 years building his life, having taken over his (Toshio's) since deceased father's machine-shop business, gotten married to a lovely, quite innocent-proper / morally straight (Protestant Christian) wife Fumie (played again wonderfully by Mariko Tsutsui [IMDb] [AW]) and together with Fumie has come to have a cute-as-a-button 8-year-old daughter named Hutaru (played by Momone Shinokawa [IMDb] [AW]).
And yet, there, one day, at the front day of his shop, stands ... Toshio's once BFF Kusataro and ... Kusataro asks Toshio for some help. How can Toshio refuse? And yet ... of course ... Fumie, his wife, knows NOTHING of who this former best friend, was. And yet (again), she's a lovely, young, humble Christian wife/mother who's been taught to trust / defer to her husband and (also) to be kind to and "help the stranger."
Of course this can't possibly go well, and (mild Spoiler Alert...) IT DOESN'T. Still one can not but feel for the wife, Fumie, who, after all, HAS DONE EVERYTHING ACCORDING TO THE WAY SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO, and yet, WHAT A NIGHTMARE UNFOLDS ALL AROUND HER. Great and often _very sad_ film -- 3 1/2 Stars.
Panamerican Machinery (orig. Maquinaria Panamericana)  [IMDb] [FA.es]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Joaquin del Paso [IMDb] [FA.es]*) is an award winning feature-length MEXICAN parable / social satirical piece that played recently at the 2016 AFI Fest here in Hollywood:
The President of a quite random if also quite large "Civil Engineering Firm" just one day ... dies. He's just found dead in his chair one morning.
Well, needless to say, the employees are "shocked" as they would naturally be upon hearing of the sudden death of any boss, coworker or acquaintance of theirs. However, soon it becomes clear that this death was going to have more impact on their lives than other such deaths as they are informed by the Firm's chief accountant (and snake of a man) (played wonderfully by Javier Zaragoza [IMDb] [FA.es]*) that the Firm "hasn't produced anything in years" and had existed only because of the now dead boss lazily kept it afloat with his own money. But OMG, now he's dead. What now?
The chief accountant recommends that the employees all barricade themselves in the firm's compound (while _he_ burns all its financial records ;-). A random, public accountant comes by for random accounting business. The employees "arrest her," tie her up and throw her into a bathroom which starts to serve as a make-shift jail. One or another of the employees gets the sense to try to just leave ... After all, her job (like everybody else's in the place) is now over. Why not just try to start anew? Again, the hysterical employees catch her before she "jumps the fence" and throw _her_ into their make-shift jail as well.
Why are they doing this? Can't THEY ALL see that their future at this firm is over? Well, obviously they're scared. But scared of what? Scared of the future? Scared of having to have to work again? Just complacent? The film does make for an amusing social commentary -- 3 1/2 Stars
* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.
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