Sundance Film Festival: ‘Fire of Love’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

What do love and volcanoes have in common? Katia and Maurice Krafft. If you have never heard about these two lovely souls, director Sara Dosa brings them to the screen through their archive footage. For two decades, the daring French volcanologists were seduced by the thrill and danger of this elemental triangle. Everything that we have learned about volcanoes doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how lethal, yet beneficial they are to our planet. It is a massive piece of rock that lives and breathes with the core of the Earth. Each volcano has different features that can form something new as the plates converge beneath the surface.

Katia and Maurice Krafft became the dream team who travelled to different locations, chasing eruptions and their aftermath. As they documented their discoveries with stunning photographs and breathtaking films they shared that with the public in media appearances and lecture tours. From the very first moment, we meet Katia and Maurice; their love for one another is the driving force of this journey. The documentary dives into their relationship and how their loneliness ultimately lead them to their passion for volcanoes. They were two halves of a whole and discovered so much together.

As we see in this documentary, venturing out to explore these volcanoes isn’t an easy task. There were some fun, lighthearted moments that showed Katia and Maurice’s playful side and their genuine love for each other. Katia was extremely detail-oriented which would keep Maurice grounded, while he focused more on the bigger picture. They complimented each other so well and fully trusted each other in order to complete their studies. The most beautiful moment was watching Maurice walk right beside the lava. The richness of the red tones against the black volcanic rock with Maurice in his white suit walking toward the camera is an image that I will never forget.

We find out later that Katia and Maurice lost their lives during a 1991 volcanic explosion on Japan’s Mount Unzen, but they definitely left a legacy that would forever enrich our knowledge of the natural world. Fire of Love is a very educational look at the importance of volcanoes and their aftermath. The strength of this documentary lies in their relationship because their trust flows through into their work as volcanologist partners. The fact that they stayed together through it all, side-by-side, making new discoveries and exploring what they love just made this a heart-warming documentary.

Sundance Film Festival: ‘After Yang’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

As technology advances, humans grow more attached and forget what life can be like without it. As each year passes, we get more wrapped up in the social aspect of technology and forget to make connections in person. Maybe the connections we make online have more of an emotional depth because they are not physically present in your life, thus causing an illusion of intimacy that has recently developed. Eventually, these advancements will move further into artificial intelligence, fully removing the emotional connectivity to feed the human soul. If our relationships are already so dependent on online validation, then what would happen in the future when AI’s become the replacement of that connectivity to another human?

In Kogonada’s sophmore film, After Yang, we meet a lifelike, artificially intelligent android named Yang (Justin H. Min). Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner Smith) purchased him as a companion for their adopted daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). One day, Yang abruptly stops functioning, and Jake just wants him repaired quickly. But having purchased Yang “certified refurbished” from a now-defunct store, he’s led first to a conspiracy theorist technician and then a technology museum curator. Instead of Yang having spyware in his core, they discover that Yang was actually recording memories. As Jake learns more about his companion through his memories, he realizes that he lost a piece of himself and his connection to the world he is currently living in.

Kogonada created such a futuristic atmosphere while grounding the rich colour palette in nature. There are some great framing choices, especially when Kyra and Jake speak to each other; the editing allowed them to speak face to face and have them in the full frame with a change in aspect ratio. This is a technical feat for Kogonada because of how he visually shows Yang’s memories. After Jake put on those glasses, he stepped into Yang’s mind and it felt like it was virtual reality. Imagine being able to step into someone’s memories and pick them out like a file from a cabinet. Then being able to rewind, fast-forward or stop the memory entirely.

The only issue with After Yang is the pacing of the film. We get deep, emotional moments between Yang and every member of the family, but those moments faded into the background when the focus shifts back to Jake trying to fix him. If the film focused more on that human connection with the AI, it would have resonated with me a bit more. There was this feeling of detachment from Jake and Kyra that kind of overpowered the deeper meaning of the film. Perhaps the feeling of detachment from the characters is something Kogonada wanted you to feel, in order to parallel our detachment to our fellow people and nature itself.

Sundance Film Festival: ‘The Princess’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

After decades of processing Princess Diana’s untimely death, she continues to evoke mystery, glamour, and the quintessential modern fairy tale gone wrong. As we all know, Diana was the People’s Princess. This documentary directed by Ed Perkins highlights the struggle within the castle and in front of the cameras. She was a woman whose very presence left the monarchy and the media completely shaken. Her every move was documented which was the ultimate invasion of privacy. Whether she was performing her rightful duty to her country, being a mother to her sons, or navigating the media landscape, Princess Diana lost her sense of self and her public persona snowballed into something uncontrollable.

The documentary is crafted entirely from immersive archival footage and Perkins constructs a narrative that many did not see all those years ago. This was a more personal approach to Princess Diana’s story, as every piece of footage that was chosen showed the full spectrum of her emotions and her true story. Even with the media swarming her, she was always gracious and welcoming, but all of that takes a mental toll. We see the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana fall apart right in front of our eyes. The interviews and body language within them, show that there was a clear disconnect and something more was happening behind closed doors. Princess Diana had to deal with so much and still present herself as the person the media created.

Watching the lengths that the paparazzi went to just to snag one photo was sickening. Yes, the monarchy needed to change, but to make them populist ultimately changed the perception of the Crown itself. After everything Princess Diana had to go through publicly; her wedding, the birth of her two boys, the adultery, the suicide attempts, and even her life after Prince Charles, all of it was done to make the monarchy more relevant and it was just self-destructive. Sure, they’ve had scandals, but once you get the media involved, these scandals take on a life of its own. We see how harmful her living situation was to the full extent, leading to her eventual “death”. Perkins structured the story through the eyes of Princess Diana and her spirit came through with the archival footage. We saw her for who she was and how all of this was unfair to her and her children.

The Princess connects the people to Princess Diana once again, but Perkins managed to show her in a different light. Even though the documentary feels a bit by the numbers, Princess Diana’s story will haunt the monarchy forever. The fact that films are still being made today to show the unfair treatment from the Crown and the invasion of privacy from the media, proves that she will forever be an example of an injustice that no one will ever fully understand. The monarchy created a monster through the media that consumed one of their kindest members. The perfect image of their institution will forever be tainted by the stories that surrounded the People’s Princess.

Sundance Film Festival: ‘When You Finish Saving The World’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut, When You Finish Saving The World, he explores the idea of what it truly means to help others. As we know, there are many different ways to help others, but what people fail to realize is the intention the olive branch stems from. Is there genuine compassion to help others, or is there an ulterior motive for personal gain? In this film, we meet Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) who performs original folk-rock songs for an adoring online fan base. This concept completely baffles his uptight mother, Evelyn (Julianne Moore), who runs a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse. We see a very strained relationship between mother and son because they are actually very similar.

While Ziggy is busy trying to impress his socially engaged classmate Lila (Alisha Boe), by making more politically driven music, Evelyn meets Angie (Eleonore Hendricks) and her teen son, Kyle (Billy Bryk), when they seek refuge at her facility. She notices that Kyle needs the proper guidance to move away from his current working-class lifestyle and decides to take him under her wing. The dynamic between Ziggy and Evelyn is interesting because they both want to help others through their own narcissistic lens but don’t bother to confide in each other. They both look elsewhere to fill the void that the other created inside them. Both characters are difficult to connect with because of how self-absorbed they are and think their service is a gift.

One thing that can be said about this film is that Jesse Eisenberg’s voice was evident throughout its entirety. For years we have admired Eisenberg’s ability to deliver lines so sharp and eloquently. Eisenberg’s entire personality and his intellectual process seep through the dialogue, making Evelyn and Ziggy, two halves of a whole. Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard both deliver great performances but unfortunately the film itself was lacking an emotional connection. There are strong moments between the two of them; one actual conversation that was the turning point of the film and the other a full-out argument that felt extremely authentic.

When You Finish Saving The World is a strong directorial debut from Jesse Eisenberg because of how distinct his voice is. Forget about the story and the characters themselves, this felt authentically Eisenberg and that is definitely a sign of a director with a strong sense of who he is. Even if this film isn’t your cup of tea, Eisenberg made something completely in his voice and his style and that is the most interesting aspect of this movie. This film explores the feeling of being incomplete and attempting to help others in order to be satisfied. The truth is, you can never help enough people, to fill that empty void inside of you. Instead, you have to work through that emptiness to make yourself whole again.

Sundance Watchlist 2022

By: Amanda Guarragi

This will be my second year covering the Sundance Film Festival! I couldn’t be more excited about the films that I have chosen to watch. Of course, these are the films that I have reserved and will be planning to watch as many as I can over the period of the festival. So here are the films that I will be reviewing from Thursday, January 20th to Sunday, January 30th.

My Schedule:

January 20th

When You Finish Saving The World
dir. Jesse Eisenberg

When You Finish Saving the World
Courtesy of A24

January 21st

FRESH
dir. Mimi Cave

FRESH
Courtesy of Legendary

After Yang
dir. Kogonada

After Yang
Courtesy of A24

The Princess
dir. Ed Perkins

The Princess
Courtesy of Altitude Film Sales

January 22nd

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
dir. Sophie Hyde

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Courtesy of Cornerstone

Resurrection
dir. Andrew Semans

Resurrection
Courtesy of Square Peg / Secret Engine / Tango Entertainment / Rosetory

Master
dir. Mariama Diallo

Master
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Speak No Evil
dir. Christian Tafdrup

Speak No Evil
Courtesy of Profile Pictures

January 23rd

Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul
dir. Adamma Ebo

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.
Courtesy of Ejime Productions

Cha Cha Real Smooth
dir. Cooper Raiff

Cha Cha Real Smooth
Courtesy of PICTURESTART

Lucy and Desi
dir. Amy Poehler

Lucy and Desi
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Nanny
dir. Nikyatu Jusu

Nanny

January 24th

AM I OK?
dir. Stephanie Allynne Tig Notaro

AM I OK?
Courtesy of PICTURESTART

Alice
dir. Krystin Ver Linden

Alice
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment / Roadside Attractions

God’s Country
dir. Julian Higgins

God’s Country
Courtesy of Cold Iron Pictures

Sirens
dir. Rita Baghdadi

Sirens
Courtesy of Animal Pictures, Lady & Bird, Endless Eye

January 25th

Emily the Criminal
dir. John Patton Ford

Emily the Criminal
Courtesy of Low Spark Films

Girl Picture
dir. Alli Haapasalo

Girl Picture
Courtesy of Citizen Jane Productions

I am really looking forward to all of these films. Keep it locked here on Candid Cinema and my Twitter @amxndareviews for Sundance 2022 updates!