AFF ’28: ‘The Falconer’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In life, there are many ways to approach difficult situations. Sometimes, they are not morally acceptable and certain decisions are made out of desperation. The Falconer is inspired by true events, there are two best friends, Tariq (Rami Zahar), an Omani teenager and Cai (Rupert Fennessey), a privileged Westerner, who conspire to steal animals from the zoo. They plan to sell them on the black market to raise money for Tariq’s sister’s divorce from an abusive marriage. They are forced to wrestle with morally complex choices that reveal the vast distance between their worlds.

What Tariq and Cai go through during this film and the decisions they have to make together, shows the true bond of friendship. It’s inspiring to see how connected these two are and how far they are willing to go for each other. What fascinated me the most is the exploration of the black market through animals. It is never fully shown on screen and it was interesting to see it all play out. Even though Cai and Tariq are the central characters, we also dive into the mistreatment of women by seeing what Tariq’s sister Alia (Noor Al-Huda) has to endure early on in her marriage.

The fact that Alia wanted to keep the physical abuse a secret because divorce is frowned upon is unsettling. No matter the circumstances, women should be able to freely speak about their partner and their reasons for separating. The physical abuse was subtly shown and was effective. The freedom of Alia was important a paralleled birds flying free, specifically the falcon at the end of this film. Its beauty and importance really come together to reinforce how humans and nature tie in together. That there is a balance between both and how restrictions can be harmful.

The Falconer explores different territories and has a well-written story. It shows the strength in connection and how that matters more than cultural differences or social class. The film has recently won Best Narrative Feature at BendFilm Festival and Best Narrative Premiere at Heartland Film Festival. It is refreshing to see this friendship on screen, with such a layered story added to it. Friends do become family; you fight for them, lie for them, and help them in any way you can. Directors Adam Sjoberg & Seanne Winslow slowly build this story to have the audience fully grasp their friendship.

AFF ’28: ‘Cusp’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In today’s society, there’s a failed connection when it comes to teenagers. From the perspective of an adolescent, they want to be taken seriously because they have been through their own trauma by the age of sixteen. Some parental figures do not understand that what they do or say can affect them in the long-run. In their debut documentary, Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt give audiences a glimpse into authentic American girlhood in Cusp. Over the course of one summer, they follow three spirited teenager girls as they go through their daily life.

What was the most fascinating aspect of this documentary is that, at such a young age, these young girls are suffering from so much mental trauma without anyone fully grasping what they are going through. The title of this documentary is effective because they are still teenagers, yet they are treated like adults in the worst way possible. These young girls have to grow up faster because of their living conditions with their friends and family. Whether they are verbally or physically abused, these teenage girls have to build up their strength in order to overcome certain issues.

It seems that it is always the next generation making the conscious change to be stronger than the previous one. These young girls understand the double standards and the misogynistic mentality that surrounds them. It’s heartbreaking to watch because they are addressing such strong issues that women face at a young age. After experiencing their own trauma, they go through an act of rebellion. These young girls were forced into adulthood; yet because of their age, they are still controlled by adults, who can’t even take care of them. It’s a vicious cycle and Cusp dives into every single aspect of living in a small military town in Texas.

Cusp is a very strong documentary about the perception of teenage girls and how they are unfairly treated. They are treated like children by their parents, yet have to deal with adult situations. It is a fine line that they have to walk across until they are eighteen and it is incredibly frustrating. Anyone can connect with these girls because, at some point, we have all been given more responsibility than we should have had at that age. The second girls develop into teenagers, the typical gender roles are pushed upon them and it’s more damaging than people realize.