Friday, April 12

2024 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – April 8th - 11th

 Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2024 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.


By Emery Snyder - @leeroy711

THE OLD OAK – Directed by Ken Loach

Ken Loach’s latest and final film tells the story of a small village in Norther England that takes in a group of refugees from war-torn Syria. The town’s barkeep TJ (David Turner) begins a friendship with one of the foreigners (Elba Mari), much to the dismay of some members of his community.

This subject matter was right up my alley and the film’s patience, and execution handles the topic beautifully. This is immediately in contention for my year’s end list. Loach perfectly illustrates how effectively certain powers can turn the working poor against immigrants and refugees. This film magnificently manages to convey these struggles without painting the locals as evil, stupid or even unsympathetic (mostly). The film's true antagonist is off screen somewhere, turning the screws and stacking the decks against our community and our characters.

The performances, specifically by Mari and Turner almost dare you not to open your heart to their stories.


 SHE IS CONANN – Directed by Bertrand Mandico

 This film reimagines the legend of Conan the Barbarian as a time traveling lesbian? I’m not exactly sure but your comprehension of the actual plot is completely unnecessary.

It's safe to say that I won't see anything like this again. I think this is Mandico's best feature to date. It's well directed, and I responded more narratively to this than his previous work. But in all honesty, this film works best as shock art. It's a visual feast that easily makes up for any lack of cohesion with plenty of flamboyance.

The set design and camerawork here complement each other well. At times, this film aesthetically reminded me of Jim Henson, Guy Maddin and even Woodkid. I'm a fan of all of those previously mentioned artists, so I tended to respond positively to most of the set pieces here as well.

I don't know if this will land as the cult classic that it has the potential for. I don't even know if that's actually a thing anymore, to be honest. But based on Mandico's previous success, I suspect you'll be able to stream this one for a couch full of unsuspecting victims before the end of the year.  


PROPERTY – Directed by Daniel Bandeira


Theresa and her husband take a sabbatical at their multi-acre farmhouse to escape the violence of Brazil’s urban life after a traumatic encounter with a kidnapper. But while there, the workers revolt after learning of the impending closure of the farm. She is able to lock herself in her newly armored vehicle but cannot start the engine. The ensuing siege plays out as two desperate parties are separated by a layer of glass.

Immediately, this film reminded me of Jason Kohn's fantastic Brazilian documentary from 2007 called MANDA BALA (With a Bullet). In that film, we explore the many new industries created by Sao Paulo’s kidnapping trade. Among these was the car armoring businesses. The wealthy there learn to keep decoy wallets, take helicopters from building to building, and they’ve even perfected a plastic surgical procedure to recreate your ear after the kidnapper removes it for ransom purposes. The doc’s tagline is “When the rich steal from the poor… the poor steal the rich.” This film felt almost like its spiritual sequel.

We live in a world with such a starkly divided wage gap, that those with wealth are terrified of those without taking restitution. Brazil, like most Central and South American countries has seen its resources plundered and hoarded by corporations for decades with the help of corrupt politicians. Here in the U.S., multimillionaires and billionaires watch news coverage of violent cities while they stockpile resources and dig literal bunkers. This film, in a microcosm, illustrates how violence is the great equalizer. And how so many in this world are due for balance.

My only issue with this film is a technical one. Much of the time we spend is locked in an armored SUV with Theresa. Typically, this space would have felt much more enclosed and claustrophobic. I never really had that tightness in my chest that I would have expected. And this atmosphere would have served the narrative well. Overall however, this was a fantastically made flick and I’ll surely revisit it.


PROPERTY plays again on Saturday, April 13th at 9:45 PM


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