SXSW 2020 Narrative Feature Competition: I’ll Meet You There Review


BY: AMANDA GUARRAGI

I’ll Meet You There is a family drama that follows the life of a Muslim – American family living in Chicago. The narrative is split into three stories based on the lives of each family member. The backstories all come together through conversations of Muslim culture and the Western ideologies being tested. There is Majeed, (Faran Tahir) who is a police officer, investigating cases in his own Muslim community, Dua (Nikita Tewani), a dancer, who is auditioning for Juilliard and Baba (Qavi Khan) her grandfather, who came over to visit from Pakistan.

Each family member is rooted in their own cultural ideology. Majeed is a policeman in the system of America, Baba is deeply rooted in the cultural and religious constructs of his homeland and Dua is a combination of both Western and Muslim ideology. It’s an interesting mixture of perspectives and the way the narrative unfolds allowed each character to be fully grounded in their beliefs. The only way to make peace with a changing world, is by having tough conversations that challenge your own culture or religion.

The conversations I found most important were the scenes involving Baba and Dua. Their generation is more conservative, their set of values are completely different than her generation. It was just interesting two ends of the spectrum have those conversations about how to conduct yourself in society. It’s also completely different for Muslim women in society, but in the Western world, I believe that there is more freedom of expression and that’s one major difference between generations.

Iram Parveen Bilal wrote a great screenplay that truly captured the different lives and perspectives of three Muslim-American people. Her direction also felt very natural and candid, while bringing these stories together. The pathways of each character, were tied together so well and allowed each backstory to be fully developed. Each character had their moment, while still maintaining their position in the family. It was an emotional journey for Dua, Baba and Majeed considering what they went through as a unit. Bilal wanted to show the lives of Muslim-American’s in a post 9/11 world, where their image had been tainted by Americans. The writing for this story is so intricate and personal, that Bilal makes you question why Muslim-American’s are perceived in such a way. Like any other immigrants moving to America, they are proud of where they come from and want to integrate their culture into the Western world.

Dua, is the perfect combination of the two and I think it’s one of the most important journey’s in the film. She is completely westernized and takes up dance as a form of expression. Dua incorporates Bollywood style in her dance movements and this keeps her connection to her late mother. She is free to dance, go to parties, smoke and drink, like any other student. When Baba comes into the picture, he makes her re-evaluate what it means to be a Muslim woman and forces her to questions her passion for dance, in the name of religion. Seeing her go to the Mosque in modern clothing, while wearing a headscarf “hijab” and then change into dance clothing in the next scene, showed the duality of being a Muslim woman in the modern world.

I’ll Meet You There is a very important film about family and different ideologies that was accurately represented by Iram Parveen Bilal. It’s a film that is timely and can transcend generations. Not only is it a film that is geared towards one culture or religion, it’s a film that symbolizes all immigrants and minorities living in America. All immigrants are trying to find a sense of community, in a place that is systemically set in their ways. The film breaks barriers and it’s definitely one that should be seen by all.

SXSW 2020 Documentary Feature Competition: We Don’t Deserve Dogs

We Don’t Deserve Dogs is a heartwarming documentary about how much of an impact dogs make on humans. Director, Matthew Salleh travels around the globe and finds such intimate stories about dogs and their owners. Dogs are such incredible animals and we don’t realize how selfless they are. Unless you are a pet owner or genuinely love animals, you won’t understand the beautiful connection that is formed with a dog.

This documentary was very emotional because of the stories that were chosen from around the world. It showed that the love for a dog is universal and each person who has a dog as a pet, feeds of off their calming energy in order to restore balance to their own mind. People who suffer from mental illnesses feel safe when there is a dog in their lives. The documentary highlights stories from different cultures who live in war torn countries and see dogs as support animals, for those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorders, or those who live in countries that host birthday parties for their pups, or even cultures who don’t see dogs as pets at all.

Salleh integrated so many cultures and the transitions between stories flowed quite nicely. I loved that certain shots were from the dogs point of view, there were some lovely shots of the dogs walking the street or playing in an open field. What was beautiful about this piece was the direct emotional connection the audience gets from the owner on screen. The subject is placed in the centre, with the dog laying directly beside them and you could feel their connection through the screen.

Dogs are such beautiful creatures and this is possibly my favourite documentary involving animals. It’s all about finding a universal human connection and Salleh found it through the special emotional relationship humans have with dogs. It was also lovely to see how different cultures accept the dogs into their homes or work environments. Every single story about dogs is in this documentary, from how owners treat them to cultures not accepting them as pets, to other countries allowing them in to pubs and even businesses having them as guard dogs.

This documentary is so special and I loved every single story that was chosen to show how important dogs can be. Dogs are more than animals you entertain or play with, they definitely sense how their owner is feeling and even the slightest emotional shift will affect them. Dogs will love you unconditionally and always be there for you in your darkest times to lift you back up. They truly are mans best friend and everyone deserves to treat them as a family member.

 

SXSW 2020 (Documentary Spotlight): We Are As Gods

PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEWART BRAND DOC

BY: Amanda Guarragi 

We Are As Gods is a documentary based on the legend Stewart Brand. Brand lived a very full life and began his journey at Stanford University, where he studied biology. During the late 1960s and early 70s, Brand developed the famous The Whole Earth Catalogue with the subheading, “access to tools”. The Catalogue is a publication that coincided with social and cultural experimentation in this era, which was directly associated to counterculture.

3. Stewart on Further

What is fully realized in this documentary is that people in the 60s and 70s, did many things on their own. They discovered new ways to look at the world and without those pioneers, like Brand, nothing we have at the moment would have been possible. Brand experimented with life and if he hadn’t done so, then the photo of the Earth would have never been released. Brand pushed the boundaries of human existence on this planet and how we all function as a society.

While watching We Are As Gods I was blown away by the information being tossed around by biologists and environmentalists. The documentary does show Brand’s life but also dives into a project he is currently working on, which is de-extinction. Brand is now using biotech to resurrect extinct species, in order to restore balance to our ecosystem. Our planet is rapidly deteriorating and Brand’s goal is to preserve the Earth. Humans have destroyed the environment, have chased away or killed species and it’s getting worse.

The directors, Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado created such an important piece educating viewers about the history of the Earth and the current state humans are living in. They showed that there is a possibility that useful sciences could eventually restore some sort of balance to our deteriorating planet, while still countering the idea by using other scientists who disapprove of this de-extinction theory. It’s such an interesting topic and I appreciated the integration of Brand’s footage because sometimes all it takes, is one person to ask a question that could change the future.

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David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” this is the opening line in The Whole Earth Catalogue. Stewart Brand tried to question science in order to make it evolve so future generations could live in a better world. We are the only ones who can control our own future, we ARE our own gods and we have accessibility to different forms of sciences that can help redesign and hopefully save the planet. This can only happen if people actually have faith in these theories and understand that it’s for a greater good.

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Stewart Brand

I also loved the way that this documentary was filmed, the cinematography was stunning and the framing for certain landscapes captured the beauty of the world. There was a sequence in a tunnel, where the permafrost is located and it actually took my breath away. Everything from the lighting to the camerawork made that sequence beautiful. It’s truly amazing work from Sussberg and Alvarado. This documentary about Stewart Brand’s life holds so much value because of his views on humanity, science and the entire planet.

 

SXSW 2020: I Will Make You Mine Review

| Header Courtesy of Gray Hat Productions |

BY: AMANDA GUARRAGI

Lynn Chen’s directorial feature debut, I Will Make You Mine is a film about three women at different stages of their lives. Erika, Rachel and Yea-Ming all have one thing in common and his name is Goh. It is also the final instalment of the Surrogate Valentine trilogy, written and directed by Dave Boyle. The film explores past relationships, longstanding connections and addresses the burning question, that we all hate to ask ourselves, “Did I really change that much?” Chen integrates her love of music throughout the film, as she handpicks her soundtrack and incorporates original music, making the atmosphere authentic to a musician’s ear.

Not only did Chen direct this film, she also wrote a realistic story that deeply resonated with me. Every woman has that one person in their life that they could never really let go of. It could be a high school/college sweetheart, a close friend or someone they’ve silently yearned for. These three women, all had different relationships with Goh and Chen effortlessly created these characters. Each woman questioned who they were with/without this man in their life. The conversations between each woman and Goh, were very natural and each scene flowed nicely into the other.

The woman I identified with the most was Yea Ming (Yea-Ming Chen) because she yearned for Goh (Goh Nakamura). I think it’s one of the most painful moments to process in one’s life, to want someone so badly and having them not reciprocate the same energy. You could give so much of yourself to someone, without even realizing it and then one day you just snap out of it. Yea Ming is a musician and she shares the same love of music with Goh. There is so much power in music because it connects to so many people. Chen uses music as their creative outlet, to tell each other how they truly feel and I think that’s the most wonderful aspect of this film. Yea Ming wanted to forget about Goh, she desperately wanted to move on, but somehow, she couldn’t find it in herself to do so because she felt that connection.

So many scenarios and topics are brought to the forefront in Chen’s film and I think it’s incredible that she managed to incorporate everything seamlessly. Each woman was presented at different stages in their lives, at different moments, trying to make sense of who they are and I think it’s beautiful work. It’s a film that will stay with me because of how deeply I connected with each of these women.

Chen’s direction and stylistic choices for the film also make it unique in the telling of this story. The choice to film this in black and white, somehow brought more focus to the musicians and I thought that it was effective. The lighting and tones in a black and white film can sometimes be challenging, but Chen had a great eye for composing the frame. There were some shots that were stunning to see in black and white, one that stood out to me was when Yea Ming was playing the piano and smoking, the lighting in that shot, combined with the close up, looked lovely and it stayed with me. The entire film looked very sleek and it suited the musical atmosphere Chen created.

The film also shows the importance of having a creative outlet. Most of the time adults forget what made them happy in their teenage years because they get so caught up in building their current life. Goh’s music made such an impact on these women, that long after they met him, they still felt connected to him. The music brought back memories and feelings that they never thought they would still feel in their current lives. The association of a medium to any memory is such a powerful thing and Chen truly captured that in the best way possible.

I Will Make You Mine makes you reminisce about your own memories that you’ve had with people, who have impacted your life in any way. It almost forces you to re-examine how you are approaching your current life, it shows you that change is necessary and comfort can sometimes be damaging. It’s a thought provoking film and it’s because of Lynn Chen’s natural approach in discussing human behaviour. It’s a lovely directorial debut and I look forward to seeing what she does next.