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Posts Tagged ‘independent films

Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace (2004)

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Maria Full of Grace

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family.

My Review: One of the best things about this film was how universal the story was. There are themes that anyone can relate to, whether you speak the same language or not. These include struggling to provide for your familial love,  community, and more. Another aspect that made the story universal is how Maria was able to be in Columbia even when she wasn’t in Colombia. For instance, a snack that she had in Columbia could also be found in New York City’s “Little Columbia” district.

Another great aspect of the film was the characters. Maria starts out as a caring yet innocent young woman who wishes to “go somewhere else”, but becomes street smart and resilient. Don Fernando, the most compelling character of the film, is a compassionate and warm figure who supports his fellow Colombians through hard times.

Lastly, the most compelling aspect of the film is how it put a human face on drug trafficking. The characters and the plot felt like it could have been a chapter in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. It is something that will haunt you and make you root for the characters.

Overall, this was a poignant film. I recommend this for foreign film fans and anyone who is willing to do anything to provide for their family or a loved one.

Written by Serena Zola

October 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: Filly Brown (2012)

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Filly Brown film

Source: IMDB

Plot Summary: (Taken from IMDB): A promising hip-hop rhymer from Los Angeles finds herself in a gray area when a record producer offers her a compromising shot at stardom.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this film is the characters. For instance, the main character Filly Brown is not just an aspiring rapper. She is also a protective older sister named Majo who is willing to do anything to free her jailed mother.

Also, Majo doesn’t take crap from anyone who hurts her or her loved ones. Meanwhile, her dad is a single parent and a contractor who puts up with prejudice from his employer to support his daughters. Another sympathetic character in the film is Filly’s younger sister Lupe, a teen on the verge of growing up too fast.

Another notable aspect of the film is the acting. Gina Rodriguez is great as Filly the rapper and Filly the person. Lou Diamond Phillips does a good job displaying the fierce and vulnerable sides to Filly’s dad. Last but not least, the late Jenni Rivera had an excellent film debut as Filly’s mother, playing the manipulative yet caring personality well.

Besides the characters and acting, the portrayal of the music industry was well done. Filly Brown’s experience shows how aspiring musicians of any genre may be forced to sacrifice who they are in order to sell lots of records. It also shows how big an ego musicians and record companies can have when they have lots of money.

Finally, the soundtrack was very good. The best songs in the film are the ones that Filly Brown does because they reflect her character development. Other tracks provide atmosphere to Filly Brown’s neighborhood or her hip-hop lifestyle.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and poignant movie. I recommend this to hip-hop music fans everywhere. I also recommend this to Latino viewers looking to see their experiences in film.

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Sapphires (2012)

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The Sapphires

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is the blending of Aboriginal Australian culture with that of American culture and history. Since the film’s main characters are discriminated against for being Aboriginal and considered black, it is easy to connect their strife with the turmoil going on in America in the late 60’s. In addition, the American soul music and a hymn sung in the Yorta Yorta language all play a prominent role that is moving and entertaining.

Another good aspect of the film is its characters. Greta is the fierce older sister who stands up for herself and her sisters’ safety. Julie is  the headstrong younger sister who wants to prove herself. Kay is the fair-skinned sister who grapples with her racial identity. Cynthia is the romantic who is also slightly careless. Lastly, Dave Lovelace is the careless yet caring manager.

Besides the blending of cultures and the characters, the acting and singing are excellent. Although two of the main actresses actually sing their roles, their vocals are very good. Of the two, Jessica Mauboy is the strongest singer. As the most prominently featured vocalist, she makes Julie shine bright.

While Juanita Tipper’s vocals get a touching moment in the spotlight, it is her acting that gets the most attention. In addition to Jessica Mauboy and Juanita Tipper, Chris O’ Dawd is great as Dave Lovelace. Many of his scenes will make viewers laugh, but there are a couple of tear-jerkers too.

In addition to the acting and vocals, the film’s plot was very well done. It developed its characters realistically around historical events and racism. Although it is loosely based on a true story, the entire movie felt like a real biopic.

Overall, the movie was fantastic. If you are a fan of 60’s soul music or enjoy music films, then I recommend this film.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The First Grader (2010)

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The First Grader

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

My Review: One of the best aspects of the film is the characters. The main character Marugue is a resilient spirit who has survived the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. After enduring much hardship and tragic losses, Marague wants to better himself by attending school for the first time. His teacher, Jane Obinchu,  is the kind and bold.  Also, the other children lighten the story with song and dance, but a couple of them also bring out the best of Marugue.

Another good aspect of the film is the use of its setting, the country of Kenya in Africa.  It made the experience of the main character Maruge very palpable for the viewer. For instance, you see how simple his house is, a structure made of logs and the surrounding land almost bare except for a small garden and a goat. You also sympathize with him when you see how far he has to walk to get to the primary school.

Besides the characters and the use of its setting, the cinematography made the film powerful. The flashbacks are positioned so that the viewer slowly gets to know Maruge and see how traumatized he is by his terrible past.  The African vocals heard during certain scenes provide a meditative atmosphere for the viewer to think about the film as the movie progresses.

In addition to the characters, setting, and the cinematography, the film provides excellent commentary on the value of an education. One of the most striking scenes in the film involves the adult education school, which reflects so many of today’s public schools. Another powerful scene occurs when Maruge forces education officials to see why good teachers are necessary. Other commentary occurs in the form of lines like, “You never stop learning until you have soil in your ears.”

Overall, this was a very poignant film. Due to the strong violence and empowering message, I recommend this film for high school students and up.

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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