Sundance 2021 Review: Violation

Written by Taylor Baker

88/100

SYNOPSIS: With her marriage about to implode, Miriam returns to her hometown to seek solace in the comfort of her younger sister and brother-in-law. But one evening a tiny slip in judgement leads to a catastrophic betrayal, leaving Miriam shocked, reeling, and furious. Believing her sister to be in danger, Miriam decides she must protect her at all costs, but the price of revenge is high and she is not prepared for the toll it takes as she begins to emotionally and psychologically unravel.

REVIEW:

“What’s wrong with a little Sammy Harris?”

Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer)

Built on naturalistic landscapes and a swelling score, Violation presents the brutality at the core of it’s story in close-up. Whether stirring batter, deboning a rabbits leg, or watching a spiders legs twitch while it suffocates under a cup. It forces a sense of brooding and suffocation onto the viewer in classic yet unconventional ways.

First time feature film writer/directors Dusty Mancinelli and Madeline Sims-Fewer—who also leads the film—present a somber look at pain and murder. Their collaborative first feature makes sound design it’s fulcrum and while at times it’s score propels us along, just as often and craftily it dips out allowing the stirring of nature to envelop us. Defining a sense of place that intensifies the collage, sometimes spectre like imagery that dances on screen with it.

Madeline Sims-Fewer plays Miriam a woman whose distanced from her family and is having trouble at home with her husband. In lieu of spoiling the narrative, I’ll just say an “event” occurs, prompting Madeline’s “Miriam” to commit a violent murder. The twist here is not so much a conventional twist as a spurring on of the form we’ve already seen employed, now toward active violence. The murder scene is cripplingly human, Miriam’s reaction to her own actions is like a dagger twisted into the gut of the viewer. Her anguish undeniable.

Many have written about the discomfort that they experienced during the film, and I don’t want to completely write that off. But I think that in high caliber pieces of cinema that have similar topics, these feelings of discomfort are more a sign of greatness than any indicative modicum of banality. I can’t quite say I’m thrilled by this film, but I was astounded. 

Violation Trailer


Highly Recommended

Violation played during the Sundance 2021 Film Festival and scheduled to release in multiple territories on March 25th 2021 on Shudder.

Sundance 2021 Review: Night of the Kings

Written by Taylor Baker

76/100

SYNOPSIS: A young man is sent to “La Maca,” a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named “Zama King” and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn.

Night of the Kings has been formally submitted in the category Best Foreign Language Film by Côte d’Iviore (Ivory Coast) for the Oscars.

REVIEW: A finished story is a dead man. Or so it seems in Philippe Lacôte’s sophomore feature. About a prisoner who is renamed Roman on an ominous night when the moon turns red and the title of storyteller is foisted upon him. Hinging on the words of debut performer Koné Bakary(Roman), this Scheherazade-like fable mixes reality, history, and desire.

Night of the Kings is at it’s most engaging in the prison(La Maca) as we’re witnessing Bakary engage in the act of storytelling. Holding his own against the crowd of prisoners shouting, singing, and jeering as he weaves his tale. When we shift to the images of the story being told they often lack atmosphere, tension, and propulsiveness. Things that immediately leap back into the viewer as we shift–often mid-scene back to the prison.


I found these choices to be deft and thoughtful ones. Reproposing the hypothesis: does a story belong to the storyteller or the audience? It does this all while engaging in the meaning, expectation, responsibility, and duty of telling of ‘your’ story not just as a man but as a nation. Rather than proffering answers Night of the Kings lingers on the cost of these questions.

The contemporary in prison timeline is sumptuously lit, with warm lamps and a near total absence of natural lighting until daybreak. Fabric hangs everywhere, the sets are dressed with care but not overfilled. The sound design and foley work seam together trickles of water, chirping insects, and dampened bare-feet splashing small pools of water to evoke an atmosphere that, were I able to view in a theater would assuredly be all encompassing.

Night of the Kings tells it’s story, and performs a transference of emotion. Emotion at a sense of history, a sense of loss, a hope for the future, but the agony and vigor it takes to just reach one more day. One thing is sure, I want to see more out of Philippe Lacôte as a writer/director and if he can re-team with newcomer Koné Bakary all the better.

Recommended.

Night of the Kings Trailer

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.

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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.

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