Havel

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

50/100

An okay biopic about a remarkable man. Havel chronicles the story of Václav Havel, a Czech playwright who would later become known for his activism. The film recounts his life during the late 60s, 70s, and 80s as Havel became increasingly involved in politics and refused to sign the Warsaw Pact (Operation Danube) in defiance of the Soviet Union and other pact signatories.

Viktor Dovrák’s performance and similarity to Havel is uncanny, but it isn’t enough to sustain a film that could have been so much more. Havel’s efforts as a dissident, activist, playwright, and humanitarian are glossed over in favor of an account of his personal life and internal struggles. Learning about Havel on a personal level would have been more effective if the filmmakers had shown what he accomplished or how these struggles shaped the man we know today.

Instead, Havel’s accomplishments are relegated to the end credits where images of Havel meeting with world leaders are shown. Nowhere in this film, although it’s implied, do we learn about Havel’s influence as a statesman who was described by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a titan of morality, civility, and political courage. I was disappointed because I tend to love films with historical or political leanings.

I still encourage you to watch this film, especially if you appreciate history and personal accounts of political figures. If you are not steeped in the politics and history of Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union, this movie might be a solid introduction. For those who are more familiar, I suspect you might find this film less engaging.

Recommended

Havel Trailer

– – –

If you’d like to learn more about Havel in his own words follow the links below. The links in this section will direct you to his biography (print), remarks by Secretary Albright, and the link to his foundation.

Written by Havel (if you intend to purchase a work by Havel consider supporting your local bookstore).

Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990 | Power Of The Powerless | Summer Meditations |Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala |The Garden Party: and Other Plays

Biography

Havel: A Life by Michael Zantovsky

Havel is currently awaiting North American Distribution

Visit the Havel Foundation | Secretary Albright’s Remarks in the Spectator and SIPA

Havel is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Episode 88: The Outside Story / MLK/FBI / 76 Days

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of the Prime Video Titles: I’m Your Woman & Sylvie’s Love. Followed by Official Selections to the Heartland International Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival, and the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival. These Official 2020 Film Festival Selections are: The Outside Story, MLK/FBI, and 76 Days.

Visit us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Streaming links for titles this episode

MLK/FBI will be released by IFC FIlms on January 15th 2021

76 Days is currently available in Virtual Cinemas

The Outside Story is currently seeking distribution.

Drink in the Movies would like to thank PODGO for sponsoring this episode. You can explore sponsorship opportunities and start monetizing your podcast by signing up for an account here. If you do please let them know we sent you, it helps us out too!

Belly of the Beast

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

65/100

Erika Cohn’s directing and storytelling do not do a worthy story the justice it deserves. Clocking in at 72 minutes, this documentary is a concise exposé on forced sterilizations in California prisons. Throughout the movie we focus on two women: Kelli Dillon, a Black woman who was imprisoned after killing her husband, and Cynthia Chandler, former Co-Founder of Justice Now and current director of the Bay Area Legal Incubator (BALI), an attorney for compassionate release.

The driving narrative behind this doc is the intentional sterilization of women in prison. The filmmakers emphasize that women of color, and Black women in particular, are who suffer most from these practices. They detail at least a dozen or so cases of forced sterilization. On the surface, this is a story about reproductive injustice but, at the same time, it is so much more than that.

“Did this happen to me because I was all three?

Kelli Dillon, a Black woman and former inmate

The documentary is at its strongest when it talks about the intersections between health care service provision, race, and class in the United States. When these issues are intertwined, they make a compelling argument. The filmmakers also trace the history of eugenics to the early 20th century in the US. During that time period, about 20,000 forced sterilizations occurred in California alone. Later on, state audits and prison reports showed that 1,400 forced sterilizations occurred between 1997 – 2003.

This piece concludes on a more cheerful note with the passage of Senate Bill 1135 (2014), with bipartisan support, that prohibits the forced sterilization of inmates for birth control purposes. In 2019, Assembly Bill 1764 was introduced to establish compensations for forced or involuntary serializations victims. Kelli Dillon hopes that her story will help others come forward and set a standard that other states should follow. I would recommend this movie for anyone who wants a quick introduction to the US criminal justice system or is interested in law.

Recommended

Belly of the Beast Trailer

Belly of the Beast is currently available to watch through select Virtual Cinema Venues

Follow the links below to read the bills’ text, learn more about Justice Now, view a petition for survivors of forced serialization, and access the doc’s official site.

SB-1135 | AB1764 | Justice Now | Petition | Official Site Get Involved Page

Belly of the Beast is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up and Double Exposure Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Finding Yingying

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

80/100

I could see myself in Yingying Zhang’s story. I came to the US to study as well. I came here looking for a better future and aware of the financial and emotional sacrifices my family made for me just like her family did for her. Yingying’s description of independence, loneliness, and homesickness are also emotions that I grappled with when I first arrived in this country.  

While, the cinematography was nothing remarkable Yingying’s passion for learning and her family’s determination to find her made this a compelling watch. The story was told through a mix of Yingying’s diary entries, testimonials from friends, family, and the FBI as well as interrogation footage of her assailant. 

As we began to uncover what happened Yingying’s family discusses the differences between the criminal justice system in the United States and China. Her family respected the work of US authorities but grew increasingly frustrated waiting for the trial. I wish they spent more time explaining these differences.

It pains me to even suggest that I wanted to “learn” more about her assailant. But when incidents like this happen we forget to ask how did this radicalization occur. I think about this question frequently when similar acts of violence occur around the world. How can someone torture, assault, decapitate another human being? 

This documentary should be an urgent call to action for academic institutions to invest more resources in counseling and mental health services. Some might say that the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign failed to act when the assailant discussed thoughts of hurting others during a counseling session. However, in April 2019, a judge sided with the University when he dismissed a case brought up by Yingying’s family claiming the University should have alerted the authorities. 

By all accounts Yingying was an independent, curious, steadfast, and passionate woman. In the end, my heart broke for Yingying’s family. They were never able to find her remains despite their best efforts. It was devastating to see her family, especially her mom, come to terms with what happened. One of Yingying’s diary entries mentioned “life was to short to be ordinary.” This is the only fitting way to remember a woman who wanted to pave a future for herself in her own terms. I sincerely hope Yingying’s family finds the comfort they need to overcome her loss. 

Recommended

To find more details about the latest lawsuit check here.

Finding Yingying will be available in Virtual Cinemas on December 11th you can find screenings here.

Finding Yingying is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up and Double Exposure Film Festival 2020 line up.

Thanks to David Magdael & Associates for providing this film.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Sophie Jones

Written by Taylor Baker

63/100

Jessie Barr’s directorial debut Sophie Jones starring her cousin Jessica Barr manages to to feel personal enough to never lose the interest of the viewer. Though one may meander away briefly in scenes when Sophie lays down in the grass and looks at the sky or has another empty conversation with a peer from school. The film opens up on Jessica Barr’s Sophie rummaging and ruminating in her mothers closet. Looking as one does after a loss for ‘something’. Sophie continues that search for the runtime of the film. Often entangling herself physically if not romantically with a few boys, before realizing they aren’t providing her that ‘something’ either. 

Sophie Jones ultimately leans on the strength of it’s tone and the directness of the conversation of Sophie to nearly everyone she encounters. It’s the small moments that provide the bits of depth to the teen. Such as when she begs her sister to sit with her at lunch after her best friend departs for college, or when she is isolated at a party and goes to sit by herself. Those quiet personal moments give us some much needed empathy for the teen. I do find myself unsure about the full runtime of the film. Her journey doesn’t feel particularly remarkable or defined, rather an extended snapshot of a young girl’s grief. This will certainly be more than enough to grab onto for some viewers, but like Sophie in her mother’s closet at the beginning of the film, I’m still looking for that ‘something’.

There’s a lot of promise in this bootstrapping duo of storytellers. Sophie Jones may have enough sincerity to ring through into the coming of age film audience, if given a solid VOD acquisition to get there. I can certainly see enough potential here for a young adult cult classic. As with many debuts, I’m curious how they’ll follow this project up, and if they can lean more into their comedic sensibilities on the editing side on the next go around. There was a bit to much melancholic harshness during some quite absurd moments for me to feel like this is the best possible edit of the film.

Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/10/20

Sophie Jones is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can check out the HIFF Website here and stay up to date on Jessie Barr’s work here.