Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s small thriller “Prodigy” competently shows sometimes cagey, sometimes empathetic banter can overcome a claustrophobic visual setting.
Unconventional child psychologist Dr. Jimmy Fonda is asked by old college friend Olivia to evaluate a rather unusual child named Ellie. Despite her physical appearance, the 9-year-old displays intelligence far beyond her age and telekinetic abilities. This time-sensitive evaluation winds up having far larger stakes than determining whether Ellie is a child sociopath.
“Prodigy”’s serviceable dialogue will not give Joss Whedon sleepless nights. The lead actors achieve mixed results in transforming this dialogue into living characters. Richard Neil (Dr. Fonda) does radiate empathy yet lacks a quietly challenging cocksureness. Savannah Liles (Ellie) does convince that she is both super-intelligent and of guarded coldness.
“Prodigy”’s tension may have benefited from suggesting Dr. Fonda might be wrong in his ongoing assessment. Instead, Haughey and Vidal content themselves with building the film’s suspense off the familiar race against time theme. Yet that race never sufficiently matters.
Beth Toni Kruvant’s documentary “Levinsky Park” may be set in and around Tel Aviv. Yet the issues its subjects deal with will be very familiar to American audiences.
The titular Israeli park has become a combination Occupy encampment and S.F. Civic Center homeless space. Refugees from Cameroon, Sudan, Eritrea, and other African countries wind up here while they wait literally years for the Israeli government to officially acknowledge them as refugees. In the meantime, neighboring Israeli citizens do everything from providing a soup kitchen to openly worrying that the former Africans will rape Israeli women. Kruvant’s film introduces viewers to stakeholders ranging from refugee activist Mutasim Ali to hostile Israeli bakery owner Yaakov Zouberi.
Though Kruvant clearly sympathizes with the refugees and those who help make their hard lives better, she doesn’t deliberately demonize their opponents. The director clearly empathizes with Israelis worried about government neglect of their changing South Tel Aviv neighborhood. But she doesn’t soft pedal their offensive characterization of the refugees as “infiltrators.”
Kruvant’s film delivers a practical example of how a government policy of encouraging self-deportation works in practice. Over the five years covered by “Levinsky Park,” Israeli government actions can be characterized as perpetual immigration status limbo, denial of any service that would help the refugees survive, and even offering to pay refugees to leave.
Israel may have been founded by refugees fleeing persecution elsewhere. But that past and the country’s principles of equality and justice feel hollow when their official application seems reserved only for Jews.
Kruvant’s film shows the inhumane consequences of ignoring or downplaying the desperate circumstances that make becoming a refugee a reasonable option. People forced to take this option deserve more than being condemned to a mythic Elsewhere.
Norwegian drama “All the Beauty” attempts to recount a relationship using eight different actors to portray its central couple at various stages of their lives together and apart. But director Aasne Vaa Greibrokk’s ambitious aims aren’t matched by dramatic effectiveness.
Gynecologist Sarah pays noted writer and former lover David a weekend visit. The writer needs his ex-lover’s aid in finishing a play about their former tumultuous relationship. Yet is David’s ultimate aim collaboration or a posthumous creative stewardship?
The film’s main story concerns the history of Sarah and David’s decades-long relationship. It’s apparently framed as a production of David’s completed play. The three act title cards further buttress this interpretation.
Yet there are also moments that seem more behind the scenes moments than actual scenes from the play. Sarah initially refuses to help David or even read what he’s written. Later, she suggests to David that he exaggerate the number of her affairs.
The multiple actors in a single role device will prove only partially successful with certain viewers. Identifying the actors playing the couple at age 23 won’t be a problem. But the facially blind viewer who can’t distinguish between the stage middle-life David and Sarah and the real midlife ex-couple will be confused by and even unsatisfied with some particularly dramatic scenes.
Van Greibrokk may ultimately fail to leave the viewer emotionally shattered by the time the credits roll. But the director certainly earns points for attempting a unique approach on a familiar theme.
Ramsey Denison’s infuriating documentary “What Happened in Vegas” portrays official Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) culture as a cauldron of brutal unaccountability. The notorious LVMPD fatal shootings of Trevon Cole, Eric Scott, and Stanley Gibson provide the film’s dramatic heart. It’s impossible to respect a police force where unnecessary escalation and illegal cover-ups are standard practice.
LVMPD’s chief uniformed slime Sheriff Doug Gillespie and his top managers foster an authoritarian culture where protesting LVMPD is worse than child sex trafficking. Sidewalk chalk protesters receive LVMPD overkill.
The Las Vegas business establishment share culpability for LVMPD’s abuses. Costco conveniently loses the parking lot security footage of Eric Scott’s shooting. Critical news coverage of questionable police shootings are rarities. Casino owners bend election laws to lavish campaign contributions on Gillespie’s hand-picked successor.
Denison could have been less self-conscious about rebutting wrongful criticism that his film is an anti-police hatchet job. He’s not the only person who subscribes to the popular assumption that cops are the good guys and criminals are the scum of the earth. But the cops shouldn’t act like an occupying army.
LVMPD deserves to have its actions challenged when it pays $1 million in “disability” to the racist officer who killed Stanley Gibson. Denison’s film brings Las Vegas’ heartbreaking story to outsiders.
(“Prodigy” screens on March 8, 2017 at 9:30 PM and March 10, 2017 at 10:00 PM. “What Happened in Vegas” screens on March 7, 2017 at 2:00 PM and March 9, 2017 at 6:30 PM. “Levinsky Park” screens on March 11, 2017 at 10:35 AM. “All The Beauty” screens on March 9, 2017 at 6:45 PM and March 10, 2017 at 9:15 PM. All screenings take place at the Century Downtown 20 (845 Middlefield Road, Redwood City).)Filed under: Arts & Entertainment