Butterfly Vision, Tori and Lokita, The Coyote
For the second and final trio of capsule reviews from this reviewer’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma 2022, we begin with Butterfly vision, the title of which is quite fitting considering that all three movies are cut from a similar cloth. As we will underline as our report progresses, these films are all guided by filmmakers with visions that echo each other: variations of Truth cinemaor making documentary-style films.
Butterfly vision is directed by Maksym Nakonechnyi and tells the difficult story of Lilya (Rita Burkovksa), a Ukrainian army veteran who specializes as a drone pilot. It is revealed early on that she was captured in the field by Russian forces (her unit ventures into combat zones to operate). Her subsequent return home is celebrated and broadcast via online live streams, but memories of her time in enemy hands haunt her. Adjusting to life at home with friends and family proves to be a daily struggle, especially when two things come to light. First, her husband Tohka (Lyubomyr Valivots) spends his nights as a member of some sort of patrol militia protecting the streets, or so he claims. Second, Lilya is pregnant, but not by her husband.
There are only so many ways to tell a story like this. No one is going to make a romantic comedy about a veteran who was raped in captivity and has to reckon with a pregnancy while her husband shows signs of extremist behavior towards the country’s ethnic minorities. Director Nakonechnyi strives for a curious balance between a non-intrusive, non-flashy cinematic style and an overall theme of observing through technology, near and far. Overall, the movie is pretty chill, with big moments and surprises revealed in a factual way. The protagonist, played terribly Burkovska, is an isolated figure because of her experience. Protecting herself from privacy, she must now also deal with the fallout of a terrible crime of which she was the victim.
It’s a tough story to make palatable, and Nakonechnyi keeps it as simple as possible. That is, except for the cinematography and editing flourishes reminiscent of a drone camera’s point of view. Several set-up shots are from a drone’s perspective, and Lilya’s interrupted flashbacks are cut to look like digital camera interference. The effect is somewhat confusing until the film’s final moments, when the audience is given an explanation as to why the realism was interspersed with such stylistic thrusts. Butterfly vision comes across as the kind of film that has things to say, does its best to say them, but doesn’t entirely come together thematically. The individual plot threads are relatively interesting and the lead performance is excellent, but it’s hard to discern what Butterfly Effect aims globally. PTSD? Insulation? Emotional depression experienced by veterans? Racism in Ukraine? Voyeurism? Maybe a bit of everything.
Tori and Lokita
The duo of Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are back in force with their latest opus, Tori and Lokita. The film was in competition for the last Palme d’Or at Cannes. He didn’t win the coveted prize but walked away with the event’s special 75e Anniversary price. Anyone familiar with their artwork has an idea of what to expect before Tori and Lokita. The siblings strive for social realism, exposing the evils of our world (focusing primarily on Belgian realities) through stories about the excluded, forgotten, and disadvantaged of the community.
The main characters are young Africans who have recently arrived in Brussels as refugees. Early on, the audience learns that Tori (Pablo Schills), the youngest boy, has his papers in order and can stay in the country. The eldest daughter, Lokita (Mbundu Joely), does not prove and has to prove to the immigration authorities that she is in fact Tori’s sister… which she is not. Despite lacking a true blood connection, the two are very similar and support each other like good siblings. Very little time is spent observing their domestic life. The Dardennes are more interested in how the budding siblings manage to make ends meet, which mostly involves selling and producing drugs for people who take advantage of their precarious status, in addition to paying people back. who helped bring them into the country.
The title of the image is very appropriate. Not only watch Tori and Lokita a fascinating experience, but so is observing the characters of Tori and Lokita themselves. Jean-Pierre and Luc have made a name for themselves by tapping into the flaws of modern society and illuminating its darkest spots, albeit through scripted material. Inequalities in life sometimes don’t seem fair. It could be because government red tape is a hindrance, different cultures don’t understand each other, or sad as it may be, there are bad people in the world out there out to take advantage of less fortunate souls. .
Tori and Lokita straddles a delicate and magical line. It rightly reminds viewers that traveling to a new country as a refugee must be incredibly difficult. At the same time, he paints a picture of the lives of these two young people in particular. It’s easy to forget the big picture the movie is arguing about when the two leads are so interesting, well-written, and brought to life by terrific new talent. Additionally, the holistic take on the difficulties of navigating the waters of immigration is done by way of a second half that plays like an adventure thriller. Keep in mind that the Dardennes aren’t one to use fancy cinematic tricks. No thrilling score accompanies the action, nor are there any special effects to speak of. Through a skilfully constructed narration, always bathed in honesty, Tori and Lokita is, ultimately, a more thrilling movie than most probably anticipate, at least judging by the opening act.
The cover ends with a local film, The Coyote. It is also another attempt adhering to stylistic and narrative realism. Director Katherine Jerkovic graduated from Concordia University in Montreal’s film program and gained some recognition for her 2018 project, Roads in February. She continues her journey as a filmmaker exploring individuals and families trying to build something for themselves while no longer living in the country they originally called home.
His second effort follows Emilio (Jorge Martinez Colorado), a former restaurant owner who now spends his nights as a concierge in Montreal. It’s not the most rewarding job in the world, but it pays the bills. His aspiration to return to the restaurant world has not been denied, as he continues to go for interviews. The light at the end of the tunnel comes in the form of an offer made by a former partner now based in La Malbaie. The chef position should be open in about a month, which is music to Emilio’s ears. But then her adult daughter and single mother Tania (Eva Avilia) unexpectedly shows up. She has to go to rehab and has no one else to turn to for her young son Zachary (Enzo-Desmeules Saint-Hilaire). Emilio reluctantly agrees to take care of the boy, but will Tania’s rehabilitation be completed in time for him to get back to business and return to the job he loves the most?
Among the three films under consideration for this mini-blitz of reporting on festivals, The Coyote is by far the most touching. That’s not to say director Jerkovic gives in to all sugary fiddle playing. Quite the contrary. His eye for the little meaningful moments of daily life is mature and discreet. The Coyote plays a lot like a kind of “slice of life” project, only in this case said slices are the trials and tribulations of a father, turned unexpected grandfather, dealing with things he thought he had buried in the past . The key word to describe the tone is “delicate”. Moments like Emilio picking up his grandson from school after class, running for shelter in the rain or sharing fries add up to create a project that tells the story of a chapter in the life of a nobody. Said chapter can be tedious at times, but always rooted in love and benevolence.
Congratulations to Jorge Martinez Colorado for a brilliant performance. One can discern the fatigue and the relative tension which weigh on his character. Despite this, he continues to help and make sacrifices so that those around him can pull through, especially those with whom the past has been incredibly difficult. He doesn’t say much, but a lot is communicated through looks and body language. Acting, story and directing technique come together to create one of the most engaging FNC films of this year and possibly 2022.
The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma takes place from October 5 to 16 in Montreal, Canada.