There’s so much this week that I’m going to split out documentaries and feature them on Monday. Before we get into it, I also want to mention “Scare Package” on Shudder. It’s a horror comedy anthology movie with segments directed by Emily Hagins and co-directed by Hillary Andujar.
On to the reason you’re here:
Love, Victor (Hulu series)
co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger
When I was growing up, the only Latinx role model I had in a coming-of-age series was Mario Lopez in “Saved by the Bell”. As A.C. Slater, he was second fiddle to Zack Morris, a character who read as white (though he was played by an actor who’s a quarter Indonesian). Slater would either give in to Zack’s plots, or would lose out in competition with him. In other words, the only Latinx role model I had on TV essentially played the Daffy Duck to Zack Morris’s Bugs Bunny – always a step behind, not as cool, only successful when his more privileged friend allowed him to be. It was good to have the representation, but there was a lot lacking in the way it was conveyed.
There’s so much more now than there once was – “One Day at a Time”, “Ugly Betty”, “Jane the Virgin”, “East Los High”, just to name a few. And now there’s “Love, Victor”. It takes place in the same world as the movie “Love, Simon”. Where that film poses a (relatively) smooth version of coming out, “Love, Victor” throws more obstacles in the path of its protagonist. Victor is in a new city, figuring out his sexual orientation while at the same time wondering how to discuss it with his family.
There’s something of a split in attitudes toward LGBTQ people between older and younger generations of Latinxs in the United States. There’s more acceptance in younger generations, and it’s much more of a norm. Older generations often have difficulty in large part because of how ingrained Catholicism is in Latin-American cultures.
Another factor is that immigrant communities try to assimilate to U.S. norms in order to fit in and decrease bigotry aimed at themselves. One of the easiest ways to assimilate into U.S. culture is to adopt the bigotries U.S. culture aims at other marginalized groups. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature of U.S. culture that keeps marginalized groups tearing each other down in an attempt to keep themselves safe. Younger generations have the benefit of more modern norms, and clearer eyes on how systemic this is. Obviously, this can create a lot of clashes between older and younger generations, especially when it turns out one of their kids is also part of another group their own generation has been taught to marginalize.
Elizabeth Berger is showrunning with Isaac Aptaker. The pair are coming off a run as showrunners of “This is Us”, so they know how to put together a ranging, multi-generational story with a large cast.
You can watch “Love, Victor” with a Hulu subscription.
Miss Juneteenth (digital rental)
directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples
“Miss Juneteenth” is a pageant that offers a chance at a full scholarship to college. A former winner is determined to get her daughter to win it, and sees it as an opportunity to provide a better life than she’s had.
I want to highlight the lead here. Nicole Beharie is a superb actress, probably best known for dragging “Sleepy Hollow” along for its first three seasons as Fox dreadfully mismanaged and obsessively re-cast an initial success into complete non-function. Few actors could have anchored that mess through so much as well as she did.
This is the first feature by writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples. She’s written episodes on Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” and has a few shorts to her name, but otherwise she’s a new voice.
Mr. Jones (digital rental)
directed by Agnieszka Holland
“Mr. Jones” is a biographical film that follows Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. He’s the journalist who began to reveal the Holodomor in the 1930s, wherein the Soviet Union starved Ukraine by seizing its food and wealth for itself. Entire harvests were stolen away, leaving ethnic Ukrainians to starve.
Estimates of the true cost in human life vary anywhere from 3.3 to 12 million. The U.N. has estimated it between 7 and 10 million. Either range puts it on a scale approaching that of the Holocaust under Nazi Germany. Somehow, debate remains as to whether this was a genocide, though I don’t know what else you call the forcible starvation of an entire people.
The Soviet Union would respond to the mass loss of life by encouraging Soviet peasants to take over the farms and land of the starved. That contributes directly to the Ukraine-Russia situation today, where Russia has annexed Ukrainian land such as Crimea and established a military presence in eastern Ukraine – the areas with a higher portion of Russian populations.
Director Agnieszka Holland is one of the most legendary filmmakers working today. Her “Angry Harvest” (for West Germany) and “In Darkness” (for Poland) were both nominated for Academy Awards as Best Foreign Language Film, and she was nominated for another in 1992 for her adapted screenplay to “Europa Europa”.
My generation (Millennials) are likely most familiar with her 1993 adaptation of “The Secret Garden”. She’s also directed on series like “The Wire”, “Treme”, and “House of Cards”. She’s one of the best filmmakers that most U.S. moviegoers have never heard of. That should change, and a film about the importance of a free press in the face of authoritarianism is a good way to make that change.
Disclosure: Writer Andrea Chalupa is a friend. This is her first feature.
Babyteeth (digital rental)
directed by Shannon Murphy
“Babyteeth” is an Australian film about a chronically ill teenager who befriends a drug dealer. Her family has to make adjustments in confronting and tolerating aspects of the friendship.
Director Shannon Murphy has helmed episodes for multiple series, including “Rake” and “Killing Eve”. “Babyteeth” is based on a screenplay by Rita Kalnejais, adapted from her own stage play. The film serves as the feature debut for both.
The Short History of the Long Road (digital rental)
directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy
A young woman whose father raises her in a nomadic lifestyle has to fend for herself. She’s only ever known driving through the U.S. in an RV and doing odd jobs. She has to decide what it is she wants for herself. Lead Sabrina Carpenter has gotten a good amount of praise for this role.
Director Ani Simon-Kennedy is a fairly new voice. Her only previous feature is an Icelandic film called “Days of Gray”.
You can rent “The Short History of the Long Road” for $4 from Google Play or Vudu, $5 from Amazon, iTunes, or Microsoft, or $6 from DirectTV or Optimum. (And bravo to the film’s website for actually having a centralized resource to find this.)
directed by Tanya Wexler
Ah, debt collectors. As Millennials go through the second or third (depending on age) major recession of our thus far still pretty damn brief adulthoods, the debt collection industry has boomed. Speaking of, Boomers had mob movies and family comedies, though come to think of it, both were actually about the value of tight-knit family units. Millennials have movies about the people our generation speaks to most outside of our own families – debt collectors and scammers!
Enter “Buffaloed”, where Peg Dahl just wants to escape Buffalo and will try to pull off any scam or con to do it. She ends up becoming successful as a debt collector and tries to start her own business in contention with the city’s more established debt collector.
Director Tanya Wexler has been pretty quiet since 2011’s “Hysteria”, a period romance about the invention of the vibrator. “Buffaloed” is her first feature since, though she has another (“Jolt”) due out soon.
Vampire Dad (digital rental)
directed by Frankie Ingrassia
Look, I’m not going to lie. This had me at the title. “Vampire Dad” is a spoof on 1960s counter-culture films where the central issue at hand – brace yourself – is that a wholesome dad also turns out to be a vampire. You see, he’s a psychologist, and creatures of the night needed someone who could help them with therapy.
I’ve been watching a lot of “What We Do in the Shadows”, so this all seems pretty natural.
Director Frankie Ingrassia might be more recognizable as an actress on shows like “Goliath”. “Vampire Dad” is her feature directorial debut.
Feel the Beat (Netflix)
directed by Elissa Down
“Mighty Ducks” but with dance sounds better than most other similarly inspired films. As a fan of even (especially) the cheesiest entries in the “Step Up” franchise, I’m for it.
Elissa Down is an Australian filmmaker who’s carving a career in young adult films.
You can watch “Feel the Beat” with a Netflix subscription.
The Dustwalker (Hulu)
directed by Sandra Sciberras
Speaking of Australia, “The Dustwalker” crosses alien invasion with fast zombie movies. I’ve read about Australia, so I almost put this in the documentary section for Monday, but nope – it’s fiction.
Writer-director Sandra Sciberras has directed on a range of films, and more often works as a producer.
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