★★★★☆ Nabil Ayouch’s Casablanca Beats takes as its template a dozen or so Hollywood dramas and comedies aimed at instilling the positive value of inspirational education. From Dead Poets Society to School of Rock, the pitch and the arc are fairly similar even as circumstances change.
★★★★☆ French director Audrey Diwan adapts Annie Erwaux’s 2001 autobiographical book about her traumatic experience of an abortion in 1963 France. Happening is a naturalistic, heart-breaking and relentless account of the multiple traumas and injustices that cascade when women are denied their basic bodily autonomy.
★★★★★ In a remote rural Mexican village a war wages between a drug cartel and the authorities. The villagers are inevitably caught up in the middle, their lives eroded and destroyed in unimaginable ways. Tatiana Huezo’s narrative debut is a harrowing account of lives held hostage by exterior forces.
★★★★☆ In his third feature, filmmaker Einari Paakkanen turns his attention to the phenomenon of Finnish karaoke and its capacity to bring disparate people together. Karaoke Paradise is a charming, insightful and often moving study of normal people’s lives through the medium of belting out great tunes.