FARIDA EL KAFRAWY reviews Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann’s 2018 documentary, New Moon, chronicling her conversion to Islam. What begins as an audiovisual journey, charting the changing landscape and cultural fabric of life on Kenyan island town Lamu amid construction of a local coal plant, gradually and delicately transforms.  Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann’s New Moon (2018) develops into an exploration of the director’s own shifting sense of identity throughout a period of spiritual conversion to Islam. Returning to the country in which she was raised as a child, Ndisi-Herrmann seeks to witness change occurring around her.  Instead, as she explains in the intimate ERC-funded ‘Screen Worlds’ screening and Q&A session at SOAS, University of London, the project progresses very slowly, failing to capture the levels of change she had anticipated. Curiously, while life in Lamu remains relatively untouched, it is Ndisi-Herrmann who is gradually starting to develop. She slowly unearths a completely different sense of personal identity…Continue Reading

NEW MOON

JARVIS CARR reviews Ben Berman’s debut feature, The Amazing Johnathan Documentary. As its title states, the focus of Ben Berman’s documentary began as ‘The Amazing Johnathan’, the stage name of John Szeles, an American magician who gained fame in the 1990s for the bravado, blood and banter in his act. Whether appearing to snort an entire jar of cocaine or by pushing the same plastic straw through (almost) all of his orifices on stage, The Amazing Johnathan inspired the likes of Penn Gillette and Carrot Top – the next generation of Las Vegas magicians-turned-celebrities. In 2014, Johnathan was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given one year to live. He decides to embark on a farewell tour: cue documentary crew. It starts as one has grown to expect this kind of documentary to. We are introduced to Szeles via an external narrator – in this case, an Amazon Alexa –…Continue Reading

THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY

PHYLLIS AKALIN reviews Xavier Dolan’s eighth feature film, Matthias et Maxime. Xavier Dolan’s eighth film readopts many of the themes highlighted in his former works (Mommy, 2014, Laurence Anyways, 2012): the question of identity and sexuality, complicated mother-son relationships, and, most importantly, friendship. Yet, the repetition of these recurrent themes does not render their depiction any less sincere and raw. The film starts with a group of male friends in their early thirties spending the weekend together in a cottage by a lake in Québec. Erika, the sister of one of the friends, is directing a short movie for her film studies and needs two actors. Matthias and Maxime, close friends since childhood, reluctantly agree to help her without knowing that the scene requires that they share a kiss. After initially reacting with shock upon receiving instruction of this stage direction, they awkwardly assure Erika that the kiss does not pose a problem.…Continue Reading

Matthias et Maxime

LYDIA DE MATOS reviews Olivier Assayas’s latest film Non-Fiction. Concerned primarily with questions of the transition of media into the digital age, Non-Fiction (2019) is a film which attempts to establish itself as a portrait of modern times, attuned to the current zeitgeist of technological anxiety. However, an inherent contradiction is found in the way director Olivier Assayas chooses to present us with his view of the modern age. Despite marketing itself as a witty, farcical comedy of bored couples engaged in a zig-zagging pattern of affairs that would feel more at home in a Woody Allen film, Non-Fiction predominantly consists of conversations between a group of upper-middle class intelligentsia types; all of whom seem to be almost completely sealed off from the world around them. The farcical cheating simply ends up serving as background noise; a loosely contrived plot to string the series of conversations together.  Vincent Macaigne plays Léonard…Continue Reading

Non-Fiction