Sundance 2022: “892”, “Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power”, “Fresh”, “Emergency”

Due to the increase in cases, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s board decided to go entirely virtual, similar to last year. Despite the sudden changes and additional obstacles, the program was meticulously prepared, as evidenced by the graphic design, interviews, and pre-screening chats.

The following article recapitulates a few positions that I’ve had a chance to see in the last few days during Sundance 2022. The films differ from each other in terms of genres, style, and the after-thought that they provoke.

Due to the increase in cases, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s board decided to go entirely virtual, similar to last year. Despite the sudden changes and additional obstacles, the program was meticulously prepared, as evidenced by the graphic design, interviews, and pre-screening chats.

The following article recapitulates a few positions that I’ve had a chance to see in the last few days during Sundance 2022. The films differ from each other in terms of genres, style, and the after-thought that they provoke.

Emergency

EMERGENCY / Sundance 2022

The first film I saw at Sundance 2022 was Emergency. Directed by Carey Williams, the film initially appears to be a witty comedy. On the other hand, the third act transforms into a powerful statement, prompting self-reflection and stimulating debate.

The night can flow in various ways, and the group of friends is about to find out. As they prepare for a legendary party night, three college students—Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), Sean (RJ Cyler), and Carlos (Sebastian Chacon)—must decide whether to call the police when they find themselves in an unexpected and dangerous situation.

Cyler, Chacon, and Watkins give competent and thoughtful performances that linger with a viewer for quite some time. Watkins as Kunle, in particular, manages to intrigue and move the audience during the heartbreaking finale. The film begins almost innocently, but its presence is intended to make a statement about police brutality and highlight how frequently the Black community is forced into difficult situations.

Emergency holds the audience’s attention with a solid narrative and detailed direction. In addition, the superb cast ensemble captivates at all times.

Fresh

FRESH / Sundance 2022

Mimi Cave’s spine-chilling thriller, with an elevated script by Lauryn Kahn, not only shocks but disgusts. Fresh is perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s film festival, and it’s one we won’t soon forget thanks to its complex script and shocking conclusion.

When Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is about to give up on numerous dating apps and the mission of finding “the one,” she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), a charming and educated man. Contrary to popular belief, the couple meets at the bar in an old-fashioned, even archaic manner.

But Noa quickly realizes that even the old way won’t work if you’re only out for meat and blood—literally. In a shocking twist, the main female character becomes a prisoner of true evil and fights for survival at any cost.

Fresh isn’t an easy watch; it will often shock you to your core and put your instincts to the test almost every step of the way. There are numerous possible conversations to have after the closing credits roll on the screen. First and foremost, the film reminds us of the perils that await single women in this brave, new world. Furthermore, it provides a contemporary commentary on society, materialism, and the splendor surrounding the riches—highly recommended.

892

892 / Sundance 2022

Nothing can prepare you for what Abi Damaris Corbin accomplished in 892. The thriller, co-written with Kwame Kwei-Armah and premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, is filled with shocking twists and turns, and unbelievable tension.

Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega), a Marine veteran, faces mental and emotional difficulties as he attempts to reintegrate into civilian life. Unfortunately, Brian’s situation worsens when Verenan’s Affairs withholds the last of his paychecks.

Utterly helpless, the man decides to rob the bank. After Brian takes the measure into his own hands and takes bank tellers Estel (Nicole Beharie) and Rosa (Selenis Leyva) into a hostage situation, we can thoroughly feel Brian’s high range of strong, ambivalent emotions that fill the screen.

892 doesn’t slow down for a single second. It commences swiftly, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats for almost the entire film. Boyega, Beharie, and Leyva are all enthralling and often heartbreaking characters. I was floored by 892, which, with the appearance of late Michael Kenneth Williams, left me nearly screaming with helplessness towards this country’s broken system.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power

BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER / Sundance 2022

While diversity and female representation continues to grow and evolve as we educate ourselves, many harmful elements in our daily lives remain ever-present and, worse, go unnoticed. Thankfully, Nina Menkes takes matters into her own hands in Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, focusing on a critical subject: the portrayal of female eroticism in film through the male gaze.

Menkes raises awareness and zeroes in on a serious yet critically overlooked issue in the film industry by presenting collected data and conducting interviews with specialists. Furthermore, the director provides many brilliant and comprehensive examples from films spanning many decades to help better visualize the problem and be aware of it as we move forward.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power appears to be an ordinary documentary, yet it feels different as it focuses on the issue of female eroticism presented via the male gaze and presents the negative results of it that we must address quickly. Menke’s film does a good job of bringing the issue to light, and its structure is substantive, clear, and, more important; necessary.

2022 Sundance Film Festival is taking place from January 20 to January 30 virtually on www.https://www.sundance.org/.

TIFF21 Capsule Review: “Petite Maman” is An Imaginative, Emotional, Innocent Drama About Childlike Wonder

etite Maman, written and directed by Sciamma, tells an extraordinary story. The film’s imaginative viewpoint and truths hidden between the lines all resurface at the film’s emotional conclusion.

Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz in “Petite Maman” / Neon.

We’ve all felt a pull towards our heritage, our family’s past, especially as children. We want to know what our parents were like when they were our age. In their spare time, what did they enjoy doing? Petite Maman is about all of this, but it’s so much more. Céline Sciamma’s latest drama film is an elaborative, often emotional film that beautifully depicts a mother-daughter relationship, family ties, and the magic of childlike wonder.

After 8-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) loses her grandmother, whom she adored, the little girl assists her mother (Nina Meurisse) and father (Stéphane Varupenne) in cleaning her mother’s childhood home located near the forest. Shortly after, Nelly meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) as she explores the surrounding area. Struggling to accept her grandmother’s death, Nelly helps the newly-met friend build a hut in the middle of the forest. The girls grow closer to each other over time, sharing many secrets that connect them in an unusual, beautiful way. 

sJoséphine Sanz and Nina Meurisse in “Petite Maman” / Neon.

Petite Maman begins quietly, nostalgically, and subtly, laced with sadness, departure, and grief. Because of personal reasons, the first act hits extremely close to home. My wound from losing my grandmother not long ago hasn’t healed yet. As a result, watching Sciamma’s latest work feels extremely relatable. Especially when Nelly tells her mother, “I didn’t say goodbye to her. The last goodbye wasn’t good. Because I didn’t know”. The similarities don’t end with that. In addition, as a young girl, I lived very close to the forest. I spent time exploring various paths, just as Nelly, and discovering many hiding spots.

Although initially very personal and heartbreaking, the film has a rather innocent tone as told from the perspectives of Nelly and Marion. Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz are at the heart of the film, stealing the spotlight from every other supporting character. The young actresses are thoroughly endearing and sweet. Their characters truly embody the childlike wonder and curiosity that we, as adults, often lose as we get older.

Petite Maman, written and directed by Sciamma, tells an extraordinary story. The film’s imaginative viewpoint and truths hidden between the lines all resurface at the film’s emotional conclusion.

The film is an excellent choice to kick off the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s subtle but powerful. It’s both innocent and heartbreaking. It will elicit reflection afterward and linger in our minds as we go about our day.

Grade: 10 out of 10.