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The First Wave (15)
Directed by Matthew Heineman
FOR anti-vaxxers and those who still believe Covid-19 is just like the flu, Matthew Heineman’s no-holds-barred, gut-wrenching documentary is a stark reminder of how exactly deadly coronavirus is as it explores the unrelenting fight by front-line medical staff to battle the disease and save lives.
With exclusive access to one of New York’s hardest-hit hospitals, the film chronicles the first wave of the pandemic in March last year as seen through the eyes of emergency workers.
It follows Dr Nathalie Douge, her staff and two Covid patients as they fight to survive — 35-year-old Ahmed Ellis, who works with the NYPD, and Brussels Jabon, a pregnant nurse who was forced to have an emergency caesarean section — as well as their families.
It is an extremely difficult film to watch as the camera captures the desperation and emotional breakdown of doctors and nurses who witness the deaths of patient after patient. They stand holding a minute’s silence at the bedside of one dead victim while another is seen being bagged up and taken to a makeshift mortuary, full of bodies in plastic bags.
Skilfully crafted, Heineman delivers a powerful US counterpart to 76 Days, which captured the pandemic in Wuhan and a fitting homage to healthcare workers everywhere. A must-see film for Covid cynics and waverers.
In cinemas November 26
Directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith
A YOUNG Colombian girl has to face the infamy ignominy of being the only member of her family without a magical power in this delightful and inspiring toe-tapping musical animation from Disney.
The studio’s first since Frozen II, it features brand new songs by Lin Manuel Miranda, who seems to be on a musical roll this year following In the Heights and Tick Tick … Boom!
Not as complex or creatively nuanced as Pixar’s Coco Encanto, it nevertheless has its own indelible charms and will appeal to a much younger audience.
It is full of colourful characters and has an enchanting lead in Maribel (Stephanie Beatriz), who has to save her family without any magical help and learn to love herself for who she is. Un encanto.
Directed by Philip Stevens
THE narrative feature debut for both director Philip Stevens and writer Laura Turner, Lapwing offers up an intriguing mix of The Witch with the harsh, chilling sobriety of Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale — the result a masterfully lean and effective religiously tinged horror tale.
Set in 16th-century Lincolnshire, Lapwing depicts the fallout of an England under the auspices of the Egyptians Act of 1554 which, for more than three centuries, sought to expel Romani and Gypsy people from English shores.
Borderline-psychotic salt farmer David (an unhinged Emmett Scanlan) offers to aid one such family’s escape for selfish reasons, and when the affections of mute sister-in-law Patience (a towering but raw Hannah Douglas) for the son of said family come to light, his malevolence floods quickly to the surface.
An effective use of open space and gorgeous locales to build a desolate, daunting environment do wonders for Stevens’s very confident and assured debut.
The same sadly cannot be said of writer Turner — whose tendency to sideline integral characters proves something of a hurdle — but this is nonetheless psychological terrorism writ large, and an absolute career-best for Scanlan.
In cinemas and on digital platforms
Rebel Dykes (18)
Directed by Harri Shanahan and Sian A Williams
A DECADE before the feminist punk Riot grrrl movement of the 1990s, the political and sociological upheaval of Thatcher’s Britain gave rise to the Rebel Dykes, a London-based community of lesbian activists and artists, whose stories comprise this insightful chronicle from first-time helmers Harri Shanahan and Sian A Williams.
Designed with the haphazard aesthetic of a club night flyer and propelled by the music of the day, Rebel Dykes starts off as a looser, more ramshackle doc than you’d like.
As it progresses along through its tight-and-tidy 80-minute runtime however, its ample charm and “zero fucks given” attitude begins to wear down such concerns, eventually proving itself unmissable and heartbreaking when discussing the terrifying days at the height of the Aids crisis.
Warmth and wit quickly prove the strongest assets in Rebel Dykes’ arsenal, deployed with kick-ass energy to deliver a pivotal piece of LGBTQ history.
Dying to Divorce (15)
Directed by Chloe Fairweather
THE directorial debut of British documentarian Chloe Fairweather, Dying to Divorce charts the ever growing and terrifying spate of femicides that have, in recent years, become an unfortunate fact of life for the women of Turkey.
Following the legal advocacy of Turkish grassroots organisation We Will Stop Femicide, Fairweather’s film chronicles the lives of several femicide survivors as they grapple with the further pain inflicted by the systemic shortcomings of a legal system with seemingly no interest in their wellbeing.
Powerful, politically charged and poignant, Fairweather interweaves the stories of her subjects with bleak footage of national pride in decidedly misogynistic President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s regime has, as we know, spent several years now rounding up lawyers as millennials once did Pogs; making our point-of-view for Dying to Divorce — the admirably brave Ipek Bozkurt — the unlikeliest of real-world heroes for a harrowing and heartbreaking story.
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