Film Review: "AFERIM!"

Film Review: AFERIM!
Official submission of Romania to the 88th Academy Awards

Saw this film recently at the annual European Film Promotion screening series in Los Angeles. I loved it! It's a dark comedy about the roots of racism set in 1800s Romania or the region known before as Wallachia.

Like most films about slavery, the film is an atonement for this unforgivable sin but this one does it with biting humor that invites the audience to laugh along with every utterances of bigotry that by the time the end credits roll, you'll find yourself stuck in your seat, unable to stand, carrying the shame and the guilt for having been a party to the cruelty you just witnessed.

One will be reminded of the Quentin Tarantino film "Django Unchained" when they watch this film but I find this film's treatment of the subject more masterful and its conclusion more resonant and powerful. The subject of racism is relevant today and will stay relevant as long as there's class discrimination and wealth inequity in every society. I love what the lead character said towards the end of the film, "We live life based on what we can and not based on what we want."

Aferim means bravo in English. Its usage in the film is designed to create a sense of irony whenever it is uttered but believe me when I say that the filmmakers, actors and craftsmen did a truly outstanding film that they deserve an Aferim! for their work.

This film won the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin earlier this year for acclaimed filmmaker Radu Jude. The cast headed by Teodor Corban and Mihai Comanoiu (they play father and son searching for a fugitive gypsy named Carfin played with superb restraint by Cuzin Toma) offer outstanding performances that will almost make you believe they did come from that period.

Aferim! will be released in New York and Los Angeles on January 22, 2016 by Big World Pictures. Watch it!

Rating: 5 glorious stars!

Raymond De Asis Lo

Film Review: "Beasts of No Nation"

Saw this new film from Cary Joji Fukunaga, one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers whose visual compositions and storytelling prowess I truly admire.

His films have this certain aesthetic that lures you in until you are lost in the story and you find yourself virtually immersed in the world that he has created for you.

In "Beasts of No Nation", he takes us to war-torn Africa, to a story of a young boy who witnesses his family murdered by the very government that's supposed to protect them. He escapes and falls into the hands of a violent warlord who trains him in the ways of the war. He becomes a soldier and a murderer. He is forced to become a man in the body of a helpless, scared little boy.

Despite the blood curdling violence, this movie is about the loss of childhood, of innocence, and that is an act more violent than the graphic scenes of boys hacking men to death, or of a woman shot in the head while being raped, or of a young girl trampled to death by a mob of angry boys.

We all know that war can be ugly. But this movie not only shows us how ugly it can get but it takes us to hell. It's horrific and what makes it truly scary is the numbing effect the movie has on you after being subjected to it and you'll feel as if you are the one trapped in it, unable to escape, unable to run. And even if you already find bloody conflicts despicable, this movie will make you abhor it even more.

This film shares some thematic similarity with "War Witch", the Oscar-nominated film from Canada that's also set in Africa and I find both equally masterful and important.

"Beasts of No Nation" bowed in theaters and on Netflix yesterday. It's a major Oscar contender and I wouldn't be surprised if Idris Elba gets nommed for his compelling performance as the rebel leader only known as the Commandant. But the film's greatest performance was delivered by newcomer Abraham Attah, who plays the lead role, Agu. He inhabits his character with a commanding mix of tenderness and ferocity that even if you see pools of blood being rained down on the pavement or walls splattered with blown body parts, when you his eyes, you can't help yourself but glimpse some hope residing in it and we, in turn, pray for his deliverance. I can ramble on forever. Just watch it.

Rating: 5 Stars!

Raymond Lo