‘Umama’ Short Film: Interview With Talia Smith And Malibongwe Mdwaba


By: Amanda Guarragi

Umama written and directed by Talia Smith shows the true story of a mother whose son has gone missing. It is a story of love, loss and acceptance. The morning after Sibongile made a promise to celebrate her son’s academic achievement, she wakes to find he is missing. Sibongile (Connie Chiume) still goes into work and she must care for the children, of her employer, in order to get home and keep her promise. Before heading to NYU, Smith was born and raised in South Africa. She wanted to highlight these stories in the most honest way. Smith had a personal connection to the story because of her childhood. She had a second mother, which is an Americanized way of labelling her as a ‘domestic worker’. Smith wanted to showcase her heritage through these special relationships.

What started out as a class assignment for Talia Smith had turned into a very important film exploring South African culture,

“This is a very common South African story, but on top of that, non-South Africans can relate to the universal theme but also start to see South Africans, not only their stories, but their talent. There are so many incredible stories so I hope that comes across to non-South Africans audiences.”

– Talia Smith, Umama

The beauty of this story is the connection between Sibongile and the children she cared for, even the dynamic between the mother (her employer) and Sibongile. There is a level of respect and love that can only be felt by those who have experienced connections such as theirs. It is essentially like choosing your own family and at the end of the day, they will support you through anything. That is the love that is shared in this film. Sibongile is having a difficult time with her teenage son Thabiso (Malibongwe Mdwaba). She feels detached from his life but Thabiso is trying to venture out and create his own path.

When watching Umama, we see both perspectives in a balanced way. The worried mother, who is trying her best to work and raise her son. And the teenager, who is trying to survive his high school years by making the right decisions. When asked about his own connection to Thabiso, Mdwaba said,

“To be taken back to that sort of timeline, gave me the time to see the bigger picture and heal from those moments. It really spoke to the kind of work that I love doing. That’s any work that has to do with mirroring society, in the most truthful manner and rarely do we get those stories, where we are literally not fabricating anything and we are just telling it as it is.”

– Malibongwe Mdwaba, Umama

We have all gone through our own hardships, in our teenage years and Mdwaba used this character to heal from his own experiences. There was so much thought, care and love that went into this story.

What Smith and Mdwaba hope audiences gain from this story is the connectivity of human relationships. It does not matter how you are connected to the other person, all that matters is the love and respect that is shared. Smith has had discussions with psychologists that deal with families in a lot of these situations and she is trying to create a toolkit,

“Once people have watched the film, if you relate to a character you will be able to kind of see how you fit into that category and figure out something that you may need, or how you can help other people in your life find resources.”

– Talia Smith, Umama

To see an extension of love and support in this way through filmmaking, just shows how genuine Smith is. Her stories will always be rooted in something honest and personal. It is a reflection of how she sees the world and how she wants people to perceive it through universal themes.

To All The Boys: Always And Forever Interview With Trezzo Mahoro


By: Amanda Guarragi

We all seem have our own traits that we want in a best friend. Majority of us want someone who is the opposite of who we are so they can ground us. As we’ve seen Lara Jean (Lana Condor) evolve over the years, we know that she is very reserved and lives in her own romantic little world. Her best friend Lucas (Trezzo Mahoro) is the total opposite of Lara Jean but that’s why their friendship works so well. Lucas is always the one to add some fun to her life, even if things aren’t going so well for her. In the To All the Boys trilogy, Lucas acts as the universal friend for everyone watching. The one we can relate to and the one who reminds us of our best friends.

We see Lucas grow with Lara Jean and I think that is why we love seeing their friendship. He is someone who just pops up when you need him most. Trezzo Mahoro loves Lucas, as much as we all do and after playing him for a while now, he feels even more connected to him,

His sense of fashion, he’s great but besides that he’s just, he’s a great friend. He’s a friend that I think we all need right now. Especially in this pandemonium we’re in. He would be a very cool person to have and he’s diverse and I love him. I love playing him because I could be his friend. 

Courtesy of Netflix Film

The reason why this trilogy is so wonderful is because it brings back the teenage rom-com in all its glory. There are many romantic comedies that people secretly love and call it a ‘guilty pleasure’, when it shouldn’t be considered one. We can enjoy all genres for what they are. For example, my favourite romantic comedy is When Harry Met Sally. Yes, it’s a bit dated, but for me it’s THE blueprint for all rom-coms. When asked about his favourite romantic comedy, Mahoro answered with 50 First Dates. He agreed that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have great chemistry, much like Noah Centineo and Lana Condor. Sometimes people just click on screen.

This third instalment makes you feel like you are back in high school because of the senior trip, college applications and the most important event, prom. Mahoro does think that everyone can relate to this trilogy because we have all been through the similar situations as Lara Jean or, even Kavinsky in our early days,

I’m sure we can all think of that one crush that we had back in grade six to eight or whatever grade we were in. So, 100% I related to all of the material in there BUT at the same time it was kind of hilarious because when I did take myself back there, I was like oh geez, I can’t believe that is what I was doing at that time. So Lara Jean definitely did it better than I did. 

Courtesy of Netflix Film

Even though we all suffer from secondhand embarrassment, I’m sure we all enjoyed feeling all of those emotions again through these characters. We can all learn from these characters and that is the most important thing, these teenage romantic comedies can give us. We can’t learn about life experiences through a textbook in school, we need to be grateful that movies can give us these lessons, no matter how old we are. Mahoro also learned a lot from this trilogy,

This trilogy taught me how to be more patient, that’s for sure. The same way that Peter and Lara are with each other. They definitely taught me that and also to just have fun and have a good time. That is very, very important. I feel like people have forgotten how to do that now. That is an important aspect in our lives right now. 

Patience is always the key and can be applied to how you handle everything in your life. Mahoro also goes on to say that Lara Jean and Kavinsky’s relationship can help everyone take chances. To not be be afraid in taking the first step. That if you want something, to just go for it and put your all into it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about relationships but this is what the trilogy has given everyone. It spreads love and gives us all hope that romance isn’t dead, that people will love you for who you are and that any relationship can be a great love story.

‘Jumbo’ Official Poster And Trailer Release


By: Amanda Guarragi

Darkstar Pictures just released the official poster and trailer for their film ‘Jumbo’, which premiered at Sundance in 2020. Jeanne, a shy young girl, works the graveyard shift as a cleaner at an amusement park and lives at home with her mother. Jeanne enjoys tinkering around with wires, light bulbs and spare parts, while creating miniature versions of theme park rides. During her late-night shift, Jeanne begins spending intimate time with the new Tilt-A-Whirl ride that she decides to call Jumbo.

‘Jumbo’ Trailer

The concept is really interesting and it will explore relationships in different ways. Writer-director Zoé Wittock stumbled upon an article describing the story of Olympic gold winner in archery, Erika Labrie, who got married to the Eiffel Tower in 2004. There is a condition called, “Objectum sexual” that is what she apparently suffered from.

‘Jumbo’ Production Stills

“Jumbo” explores the unknown. Theme park rides are tied to childhood, so Whittock takes that innocence and decides to challenge it. It highlights female identity and sexuality through a coming of age story. ‘Jumbo’ will be opening in virtual cinemas on February 19th and releasing on VOD/DVD March 16th.

Alex Kahuam’s Feature Film ‘Forgiveness’ Has A Chilling Trailer


By: Amanda Guarragi

After Alex Kahuam’s success at Horror Fest International last year, he is releasing his first horror feature Forgiveness. His film Red Light won for Best Midnight Movie at the festival. Similar to the tone of his short film, Forgiveness captures the human condition and how everyone fears something different. Just after watching the trailer, you will understand Kahuam’s style of filmmaking and it’s really unique to the horror genre.

The trailer definitely makes an impact and leaves you wanting more. Just within minutes, Kahuam isolates the viewer into the thing they fear most. The score that accompanies those eerie scenes locks the viewer in this trance, almost like it is locking you into this nightmare. The visuals are very obscure and the editing in the trailer works extremely well to create an eerie atmosphere. These people are trapped inside an isolated room with their most important senses stripped from them.

Imagine not being able to hear…

Imagine not being able to speak..

Imagine not being able to see…

Now imagine being trapped without any of those abilities.

Kahuam is extremely talented because he understands the human condition and brings out the fear in simple situations. It is always exciting when a filmmaker approaches a genre in a different way and brings something interesting to the table. Forgiveness is definitely one to look forward to, so keep it in mind, the next time you need a nice little horror movie. The film will be out soon enough but this trailer is enough to hold you over!

2020 Year in Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

2020, what a year!

It was a rough year but we had some great films that came out to help get us through the madness! So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2020 with some honourable mentions of course.

1. Promising Young Woman
dir. Emerald Fennell

(center) Carey Mulligan as Cassandra Thomas
Courtesy of Focus Features

“This film is unlike anything I’ve seen and it is because of how the story is structured. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, only to pick back up and deliver one of the most controversial endings of the year. Some will agree with the ending and others will most definitely be infuriated. However, the ending of the film is the perfect reflection of how women are treated and what men deserve.”

Promising Young Woman Review Excerpt

2. Emma
dir. Autumn de Wilde

(left) Mia Goth and Anya Taylor Joy
Courtesy of Working Title Films and Focus Features

“The film felt like the embodiment of the character of Emma Woodhouse, like her entire soul was spread into the corners of the frame and we could feel her presence, even if she wasn’t on screen. De Wilde captured Ms. Woodhouse’s entire being and made sure we understood who she was.Emma had the perfect balance of tension between possible suitors and a whirlwind of situations that caused Emma to spin out of control.”

Emma Review Excerpt

3. Da 5 Bloods
dir. Spike Lee

(left) Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors
Courtesy of 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

“The wonderful thing about Spike Lee, is that he makes you fall in love with his characters in the first act of the film. In the second act, he shows you their pain, flaws and grievances. Then in the third act, he exposes his characters, like an open wound, to the world that has so deeply wronged them, time and time again. It is a film, like every other Spike Lee film, that unloads accurate information about Black history. Lee has never shied away from telling it like it is and has always managed to show every perspective on racial ideologies.”

Da 5 Bloods Review Excerpt

4. The Invisible Man
dir. Leigh Whannell

(center) Elisabeth Moss
Courtesy of Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures

“Not only did Whannell write a fantastic story, he also created a chilling, isolated atmosphere that affected his protagonist, as well as the audience. You feel everything with Cecelia because of the framing and camera movements, it feels as if you’re stuck with her on this journey. The sound design is also something that flowed nicely throughout the film and was utilized at the right moments, for dramatic effect.”

The Invisible Man Review Excerpt

5. Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
dir. Cathy Yan

(left) Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Basco and Jurnee Smollett -Bell
Courtesy of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.

“I loved everything about this, especially the fact that it focused on the many ways women can be mistreated by men. It definitely has a different girl power energy and maybe it’s because I’m older but this badass, anarchist, violent, R rated energy just gives off a higher level of empowerment. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like that. Seeing all those women on screen, harnessing their powers and setting aside their differences in order to take a villain out.”

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Review Excerpt

6. Soul
dir. Pete Docter

(left) Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx
Courtesy of Disney Pixar

Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again.”

Soul Review Excerpt

7. Palm Springs
dir. Max Barbakow

(left) Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg
Courtesy of Lonely Island Classics and Neon Hulu

“It has a nice mixture of comedic moments and realistic discussions about life, which I really appreciated. The perception of loneliness, is always something that should be explored and how life can sometimes seem meaningless, if you do not have someone to share it with. That is why placing the central event, as a wedding day, in this film was extremely beneficial because of the weight it holds on everyone’s lives. It is very well crafted because they address so many different ideas of love and relationships.”

Palm Springs Review Excerpt

8. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
dir. George C. Wolfe

(left) Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Viola Davis, Michael Potts, Glynn Turman
Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane

“The direction had this dual sense of atmosphere. Even though it takes place in a recording studio, it did not feel stuffy and static, like other plays that have been adapted for the screen. Wolfe created two separate rooms that had separate energy from each other. What was most impressive was how Wolfe captured his actors.It felt like we were on stage with these actors, the close ups and tight knit camerawork that was used was extremely effective.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Excerpt

9. One Night in Miami
dir. Regina King

(left) Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Eli Goree
Courtesy of Snoot Entertainment and ABKCO

“Regina King’s direction was subtle and effective. She took the stage play and made it her own. It felt effortless as everything flowed from scene to scene, even light conversations to deeper ones. Even though the film takes place in one room for majority of the runtime, it’s the dialogue that holds you and the way King focused on her actors. She brought out such fantastic performances and the way she moved them through each scene was strong.”

One Night in Miami Review Excerpt

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7
dir. Aaron Sorkin

(left) Sacha Baron Cohen, Danny Flaherty, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance
Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures and Amblin Partners

“The film is not a representation of this current era that we are living in. Instead it represents the long fight against systemic racism and how this level of injustice has not been handled properly. A Sorkin script is never easy to get through, many actors have said that it is harder than it seems. It is fast paced and the soundtrack also brought everything together, it wasn’t overused and it came in at the right moments.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Review Excerpt:

Honourable Mentions

Best Animated Feature

Wolfwalkers
dir. Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

AND…

Over the Moon
dir. Glen Keane

Courtesy of Pearl Studios, Sony Picture Imageworks and Netflix Animation

HIDDEN GEMS

Definition Please
dir. Sujata Day

Courtesy of Atajus Productions

Swallow
dir. Carlo Mirabella – Davis

Courtesy of of IFC Films

Miss Juneteenth
dir. Channing Godfrey Peoples

Courtesy of Sailor Bear and Ley Line Entertainment

Well there you have it! For a year with limited new theatrical releases, there have been some great films. There’s more to come in 2021. So start making your lists now!