It’s nice to be able to compare notes with others at AFI Fest 2019 Presented by Audi. You get to hear what other people have seen and were impressed by, or just compare notes and confirm that what you saw was pretty bad. Sometimes such discussions can make you rethink your schedule.
I opened the day with Searching Eva, a documentary film by Pia Hellenthal about a young woman (at the time, see note below) in Berlin. She is a sex worker, blogger, and model. In the film she self-identifies as bisexual. I went in thinking this could be really bad. But she has an interesting view on the world and lives her life very freely and openly on her own terms. The film includes some of her blog posts and comments made by others on her blog—some supportive, some dismissive, some questioning. Whether her lifestyle and philosophy appeal to you or appall you, Searching Eva is an interesting look at a unique person. [Note: Prior to the screening, the festival program mentioned that the subject of the film has since transitioned to male. For the purpose of this review, I use female pronouns to fit the subject at the time of filming.]
An interesting coincidence with the next two films: both are stories about women, motherhood, and struggle. In Adam, from director Maryan Touzani, Samia, a young heavily pregnant woman, goes door to door looking for work and a place to stay. Abla, a single mother and baker, reluctantly takes pity on her letting her in for the night, then a few more. Abla’s daughter Warda is happy to have someone else in the house. Abla as tired, cold, and perhaps a bit bitter. As the days progress, the two women find strength in each other for their struggles. More, they find strength to hope for something better than life has given them so far. Adam is Morocco’s official Oscar Internationals Feature submission.
Maura Delpero’s Maternal is set in a home for unwed mothers run by a group of nuns. Lu, one of the mothers, is very rebellious. She is frequently in trouble with the nuns. One day she leaves, abandoning her young daughter Nina, with Lu’s roommate Fati, who has a son and a daughter on the way. Nina is very taken with a newly arrived nun, Sister Paola, who is yet to take her perpetual vows. Nina asks to sleep with Sr. Paola, and soon a very close bond begins to form. Does this cause Paola to have second thoughts about her vows? When Lu returns, what will that mean for Nina? Both Lu and Paola love Nina, but in very different ways. One is more spiritual, the other much more primal. Probably neither is completely what will give Nina all she needs in life.