AFF ’28: ‘Disfluency’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Before diving into Disfluency, there needs to be a disclaimer because of the subject matter. Even though the trauma Jane endures is not explicitly seen, the emotional depth of the pain is felt. After failing her final college class, Jane (Libe Barer) returns home to her family’s lake house, and comes to terms with the confusing trauma that derailed her senior year. The film begins with the night of her traumatic event blending with the anxiety of returning to class and not being able to focus. The title of this film works into the language used and how we end up silencing ourselves when it can get difficult to articulate our pain.

This is the definition of disfluency: interruptions in the regular flow of speech, such as using uh and um, pausing silently, repeating words, or interrupting oneself to correct something said previously. When watching this, we hear Jane – who is studying to become a speech therapist – struggle with speaking when having panic attacks, due to the flashbacks she has of that night. Writer-director Anna Baumgarten fully explores the mental state of someone who has suffered trauma. She shows Jane struggling with panic attacks, anxiety, and responding with empty words, in order to make everyone think that she is fine.

There are heartbreaking moments in this film that truly show how incredible of a young actor Libe Barer is. It’s really interesting watch her get into this mindset and have you resonate with Jane’s pain. In each moment of panic, or anxiety, Barer takes you on the journey with her. This also plays to the strength of Baumgarten, who let those moments breathe, and she held the frame on Jane to show her processing everything in her own time. The structure of this film works extremely well in order to execute this story to make an impact on audiences. Each moment with Jane is filled with subtle piece of dialogue that reflect her trauma and how much she has changed because of it.

Disfluency is a tough watch but it is important to go on this emotional journey with Jane. Baumgarten’s script is emotional, open-minded, and effective. She knew exactly what she needed to show in order for the viewer to understand the trauma without actually showing it to the full extent. Instead of using blunt visuals, the aftermath of Jane’s relationships with others and her social anxiety in certain situations, made her mental state known. It is a very unique and progressive way to address trauma and mental illness. This is probably my favourite film to come out of the Austin Film Festival so far.

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.