Abraham Lincoln

RVIFF Reviews: A Political Thriller at Al-Azhar, Body Shame Horror, and Early Indigenous Indie Cinema

September 14th, 2023 | Robin

A Ken and Robin Consume Media Special Feature

For the second year running, my wife Valerie and I are attending our own at-home film festival. It takes the place in our hearts and vacation plans formerly reserved by the Toronto International Film Festival. The Robin and Valerie International Film Festival is the cinema event you can play along with at home, with a roster of streaming service and SVOD titles. Its roster includes the foreign, independent and cult titles we used to love to see at TIFF, but cheaper, hassle-free, and on the comfort of our own couch. Daily capsule reviews roll out throughout the festival, with a complete list in order of preference dropping a day or two afterwards. Review ratings are out of 5.

The Exiles [US, Kent Mackenzie, 1961, 4] Native American residents of L.A.’s Bunker Hill neighborhood blow off steam as the pregnant wife of one partier waits and frets. Early slice-of-life indie drama presents a frank, sympathetic portrait of a community, and incidentally provides a time capsule of a now demolished neighborhood.

I programmed this to emulate a fondly remembered program from the classic TIFF years, Open Vault, dedicated to restored prints and archival rarities.

Master Gardener [US, Paul Schrader, 2023, 4] Ordered by his exacting employer (Sigourney Weaver) to offer an apprenticeship to her prodigal grand-niece (Quintessa Swindell), a rigorous gardener (Joel Edgerton) steps onto a path that will reveal his former self. Taut character study as obsessively controlled as its protagonist, but I said Paul Schrader already.

Cairo Conspiracy [Sweden/France/Finland/Denmark, Tarik Saleh, 2022, 4] When the Sunni Grand Imam dies, an unworldly new student at Al-Azhar University becomes a pawn in the covert political struggle to choose his successor. Masterfully told political thriller with fresh mosque-and-state twists and turns.

Piggy [Spain, Carlota Pereda, 2022, 4] Fat teen conceals what she’s seen when classmates who torment her over her weight are taken by a serial killer. Slasher horror builds wrenching identification with its protagonist as it centers themes of bullying and body shame.

Due to moderate demand, the RVIFF shirts I made for the two of us are available in the Ken and Robin merch store.

If you enjoy this special text feature of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast and don’t already support our Patreon, consider tossing a few bucks in the tip jar. Or check out my book on action films and their roleplaying applications, Blowing Up the Movies. Or the roleplaying game inspired by the Hong Kong films I first encountered at TIFF, Feng Shui 2.

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