The Moneychanger Poster

THE MONEYCHANGER, based on the novel of the same name by Juan Enrique Gruber begins with a scene of Jesus in Biblical times overturning the tables of the moneychangers at the market place with the voiceover underscoring the evil of men be derived from the deed of moneychangers.  

The film setting is 1970s Uruguay (beautifully shot) centred on Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler), who furiously throws himself into the buying and selling of currency, a rapacious endeavour supported by his father-in-law, a veteran in the business of capital flight.  He learns and become expert at this business, controlling everything except his unflappable, tough-as-nails wife, Gudrun (Dolores Fonzi). 

 Trouble arrives when he launders the largest sum of money he has ever seen.  Director Veiroj tells his tale in a deadpan style emphasizing each incident with increasing oddness.   At the end of it all, Brause questions his wife if she loves him when she offers a reply that is equally deadpan.  An intriguing and gripping tale.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN0uTlynHYI

2019 TIFF Film Review: 37 SECONDS (USA/Japan 2019)

37 Seconds Poster

Yuma is a young Japanese woman who suffers from cerebral palsy. Torn between her obligations towards her family and her dream to become a manga artist, she struggles to lead a self-determined life.





37 SECONDS without breathing at birth has caused the now 23 year old Yuma (Mei Kayama) to have developed cerebral palsy.  Now, the physically restricted 23-year-old, wheelchair bound Yuma is over-pampered by her mother (Misuzu Kanno) while working drawing manga for Sayaka (Minori Hagiwara), who passes Yuma’s work as her own. 

 Director Hikaru traces the steps taken by Yuma, with the help of an assortment of friends in the sex industry, gain her independence from her mother and work while discovering sex and other pleasures (like getting pissed).  Yuma also discovers through her uncle that she has a missing twin sister teaching in Thailand.  

Director Hikaru’s film on harsh reality is given the fantasy treatment while blending manga and pop which just does not work.  The audience is to believe that this wheelchair bound girl can fly to Thailand on a whim to meet up with her twin sister with her Japanese friend who suddenly is able to speak Thai.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jyOHL_zgu4

2019 TIFF Film Review: INCITEMENT (Israel 2019) ***1/2

Incitement Poster
Details the year leading to the assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995), from the point of view of the assassin.


Yaron Zilberman

INCITEMENT is a rigorous psychological thriller by American-Israeli director Yaron Zilberman that leads up to the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin through the worldview of his assassin, Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi).  Yigal is an ultranationalist, right-wing Zionist who opposed the leader’s signing of the Oslo Accords.  Zilberman includes lots of newsreel footage to add authenticity to the story.   

Rabin’s murder is held to be a definitive — and infamous — moment in the struggling peace process with Palestinians and also in Israel’s charged history.   The film is entitled INCITEMENT because the film concentrates on Yigal’s motivations (arising from family, friends and protestors) that led to Rabin’s death.  Unlike other films about assassins like THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, INCITEMENT is based on true facts. 

 Director Zilberman has crafted a truly disturbing and chilling period piece while emphasizing the fact that there is no easy solution to the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Trailer: https://www.filmaffinity.com/es/evideos.php?movie_id=543486

2019 TIFF Film Review: THE AUDITION (Das Vorspiel) (GERMANY/FRANCE 2019) ****

The Audition Poster


Ina Weisse


Daphne Charizani (screenplay)

An intense study of how obsession can not only destroy the person concerned but those around the person.  A stern, particular violin teacher, Anna (Nina Hoss) becomes fixated on the success of one of her pupils at the expense of her family life,  from acclaimed German actor Ina Weisse who co-wrote the script with Daphné Charizan.  

 It all starts at the school’s annual entrance exam, and despite the opposition of the other teachers, Anna promotes the admission of Alexander (Ilja Monti), a boy in whom she detects a remarkable talent.  Her relationship with Philippe (Simon Abkarian), her charming, violinmaking French husband, with whom she has a 10-year-old son Jonas (Serafin Mishiev), is in slow decline.  

Besides the brilliantly acted drama, the violin concertos are extremely well orchestrated.  Hoss carries the film just as well as a violin virtuoso captures an audience.  Director Weisse steers the intensity a terrifying climax.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCGuMKbrASw

2019 TIFF Film Review: BLOW THE MAN DOWN (USA 2019) ****

While grieving for the loss of their mother, the Connolly Sisters suddenly find they have a crime to cover up, leading them deep into the underbelly of their salty Maine fishing village.

The setting of this absorbing thriller drama is a fishing village in Easter Cove, Maine.  The film opens in what appears to be a man’s word.  Men are singing in chorus the song “Blow the Man Down”.  But this female directed feature by Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole switches to female mode where the story takes a 180 degree turn.  And more likely for the better.  

Two sisters in a small Maine fishing village try to cover up a violent crime and avoid running afoul of the suspicious and threatening proprietor of the local brothel (Margo Martindale).  One of the sisters murder a low level scumbag while escaping a sexual assault.  She leaves her family knife behind which is picked up by the proprietor who blackmails them to return the money they stole from her.   

The directors create a dark, moody and scary atmosphere which is the reason the film works so well.  Nothing is what is seems in the story where women take the upper hand and men are at their mercy in this deliciously wicked and entertaining fable.

2019 TIFF Film Review: KNUCKLE CITY (South Africa 2019) ***

Knuckle City Poster

KNUCKLE CITY takes place in the the reputed birth place of world champion boxers, in the director’s home township of Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa where crime and drugs are rampant.  

The film centres on Dudu (Bongile Mantsai), a local who has become a womanizing professional boxer and his brother Duke (Thembekile Komani), now a career criminal, chasing money and thrills at every turn.  With Duke set to be released after a three-year stint in prison, Dudu enlists the help of his brother’s criminal connections to try to get himself one last shot — but both end up with a much bigger fight than they bargained for.  Qubeka’s fast paced family boxing family drama is all action accompanied by a wild soundtrack of rap music.  

Qubeka does not judge his characters and they act and behave the way they do because they do not know any better.  Such a dangerous lifestyle leads to trouble.  But as their father told then boys when they were young: “It is all about family”.  

KNUCKLE CITY also reveals the poverty of the township while keeping the audience entertained with lots of boxing action.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqLice1D7Pc

2019 TIFF Film Review: EASY LAND (Canada 2019) ***

Easy Land Poster
Jasna, a Serbian architect and mother, wants to create a better future for her daughter but her mental illness proves to be a problem in their relationship.


Sanja Zivkovic

A single mother bringing up a child is a dauntless task.  Director Zivkovic adds on to the protagonist’s problems by adding on two extra ailments.  Jasna (Mirjana Jokovic) is a single mother who with her daughter, Nina (Nina Kiri) are Serbian refugees trying to settle in a new country – Canada. 
 Jasna, a previous architect is currently suffering from mental problems and takes meditation so that she can keep her work and hence life straight.  The film is a two-handler with the story intercutting between the two protagonists.  Both protagonists, mother and daughter, Nina are also at loggerheads with each other.  When the two come together in certain scenes, the film gathers greater strength.  Both actresses Nina Kiri and Mirjana Jokovic  deliver strong and convincing performances.  
The film’s setting is Toronto.  The neighbourhood where the mother and daughter reside is not stated, but from the view of the Toronto subway whizzing by, one can guess roughly where it is set. 

2019 TIFF Film Review: MARIA’S PARADISE (Marian paratiisi)(Finland/Estonia 2019) ****

Maria's Paradise Poster
The orphan Salome is the servant and devout follower of Maria Åkerblom, a charismatic sect leader. But as Salome befriends a rebellious outsider and starts to have doubts, Maria turns dangerous.


Zaida Bergroth

Forget Avi Aster’s Scandinavian religious sect horror MIDSOMMAR.  MARIA’S PARADISE is the real thing – based on the real events that took place with a religious sect in Finland in the 1920’s.  Where Aster has instilled his odd humour and imprint on MIDSOMMAR making it more terrifying but less believable, director Bergroth lets the real horror as seen by one of the sect members reflect the terror without resorting to any theatrics.  

Salome, a teenage follower begins to question the teachings (and actions) of the fringe religious sect in which she has been raised.  Salome eventually discovers that her mother was murdered by the sect and that she is being led into the same dilemma by the cult’s leader, Maria.  When Salome leans that her best friend is also murdered, she decides to take matters in her own hands with an escape plan.  Director Bergroth has her own style and it is one that underscores the credibility of the events. 

 The film is slow moving but the horror unfolding is even more lasting.  Chilling and captivating!  Shot in Finnish.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smFtoYp5QUo

2019 TIFF Film Review: LA GOMERA (THE WHISTLERS) (Romania/Germany/France 2019) ***** Top 10 Film

The Whistlers Poster
A policeman intent on freeing a crooked businessman from a prison on Gomera, an island in the Canaries. However, he must first learn the difficult local dialect, a language which includes hissing and spitting.

The foreign title of the film is the name of a Canary island – LA GOMERA.  The English title THE WHISTLERS refers to the people that speak the land’s native tongue, a language totally formed out of whistling – a whistling language called El Silbo Gomera.   

Crooked cop Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) learns to speak this language from his Spanish-speaking Mafioso ‘friends’ so that he can communicate with them without the knowledge of the cops who has every place under surveillance including Cristi’s home.  The story unfolds in 8 chapters each one named after a character in the story.  For such a serious theme on the Mafioso, director Corneliu Porumboiu is unafraid to inject his brand of humour.  Porumboius’s film is full of similar surprises.  

Besides the nod to Hitchcock’s PSYCHO shower scene, director Porumboiu brilliantly places a clip from John Ford’s THE SEARCHES that includes a scene where a whistle signal is made in a crucial moment.  It is the attention to detail and the outrageous plot unfolding in absolutely dead seriousness with style and wit that makes Porumboiu’s film so deliciously wicked and entertaining.  

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRFK2i0FklI