Sure as Shootin'

Courtesy photo

Ucha Pind (2021)

Though parts of it are culturally specific, “Ucha Pind” easily trumps Hong Kong movies in the number of times ruthless characters double-, triple-, quadruple-cross one another. It sets up the titular village as a lawless gangland under tyrannical rule, but a few dauntless and reckless outsiders, who may or may not be working with one another, are willing to challenge boundaries. The violence is also gratuitous and graphic, traits seemingly more characteristic of H.K., South Korean or even Hollywood films.

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Stuck at Home


Islands (2021)

“Islands” shines a light on someone that few would spare a second thought: Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas) is a middle-aged Filipino custodian at a Canadian university who lives with his elderly parents. Although his coworkers invite him for lunch and even offer to pick up the tab, Joshua prefers to sit alone in the breakroom eating baon packed by mom (Vangie Alcasid) and scratching a ticket. He doesn’t have much of a social life, not to mention a love life. When both of his parents become ill and require full-time care, he quits his job to tend to them. Soon after, he relents and calls his cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco), who has just fled an abusive job situation, to help look after mom and dad (Esteban Comilang) and move into his brother’s old room.

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City Still on Fire

Well Go USA

Raging Fire (2021)

Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse face off in “Raging Fire.” Finally, we have a bona fide Hong Kong action flick more than a decade after the once prolific and self-sustaining industry began to suffer a talent and capital drain mostly to the burgeoning and lucrative mainland Chinese film scene – and also to Hollywood, where Mr. Yen has landed a few supporting roles in high-profile tentpoles such as “Rogue One.”

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Court of Last Resort

Courtesy photo

Chehre (2021)

Any time a movie character on the road suddenly finds themself stranded on some god-forsaken stretch of earth, in rotten weather and with no cell reception to boot, and then a helpful stranger appears out of nowhere to offer refuge, that should raise all kinds of red flags for viewers. But Sameer (Emraan Hashmi) apparently hasn’t seen “Misery” or the recent “In the Earth,” so he follows Bhullar (Annu Kapoor) to a chateau where a group of giddy seniors eagerly awaits a visitation.

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Alien Nation

Rhythm Boyz

Chal Mera Putt 2 (2021)

The gang’s all back in “Chal Mera Putt 2,” the sequel to the Punjabi diaspora blockbuster about a ragtag of undocumented immigrants living together in Birmingham, Britain. To uninitiated gringos, think “Limbo” reimagined as a rowdy comedy. Though the sequel attempts to replicate the original’s success formula, it seems far less concerned with immigrants toiling away at dead-end jobs or evading threats of deportation and more with their romantic prospects. For them, family affairs such as matchmaking, celebrating Diwali and funeral processions all must be conducted over FaceTime.

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Sibling Revelry

Andrea Walter

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers (2021)

Director Dante Basco and three of his siblings co-wrote “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers,” a boisterous comedy set in Pittsburg, Calif. They, along with another brother, also co-star in the film, which centers on events leading up to wedding festivities and presents four distinctive Asian male archetypes that challenge the omnipresent stereotypes in American cinema – they don’t even speak Tagalog, they’ll have you know – but the filmmakers also make it abundantly clear, on at least one occasion, that the film is mostly for the edification of white people.

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Dead Ringer


Here Before (2021)

In “Here Before,” Andrea Riseborough plays Laura, grieving the loss of her daughter, Josie (Grace O’Dwyer), who died in a car accident. Laura is inexplicably drawn to Megan (Niamh Dornan), the young girl who has just moved in next door along with her family. In their few interactions, Megan shares some anecdotes suggesting that she is possibly possessed by Josie’s ghost, or so Laura thinks.

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Spin a Yawn

Faraz Fesharaki/DFFB

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (2021)

“What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?” is a modern fable set in the nation of Georgia. There’s allegedly magic in the air per the voiceover narrator, though it’s his narration that does the heavy lifting. We don’t get to witness much of the miraculous the way we do, say, in a Jacques Tati film.

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Covering a Multitude of Sins

Eigakobo Harugumi

A Balance (2021)

“A Balance” centers on Yuko Kinoshita (Kumi Takiuchi), a sensationalist TV journalist investigating the deaths of teacher Mr. Yano and his 16-year-old student Hiromi. The two allegedly engaged in lascivious behavior on school grounds, which apparently led to their dismissals and suicides. Meanwhile, at the cram school operated by Yuko’s father, Masashi (Ken Mitsuishi), she catches a pupil named Mei (Yuumi Kawai) cheating.

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Go With the Flow

Burn the Film

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces (2021)

There have been film festivals and reviewers characterizing “A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces” as a documentary. We are not going to do that, as such would be factually inaccurate. The film was shown in the Forum section of Berlinale, which “focuses on contemporary international cinema productions and eschews conventional distinctions, such as that between fiction film and documentary” – a category truly befitting it.

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