Five international movies to stream now

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Belgium-based Cameroonian filmmaker Rosine Mbakam’s documentaries are disarming with their intimate yet expansive portraits of black femininity. “Delphine’s Prayers” exemplifies the miraculous elasticity of Mbakam’s work: a series of straight-forward interviews with a longtime friend of the director opens with a rich, vernacular investigation into colonialism itself.

Captured in relaxed and familiar poses on her bed or couch, 30-year-old Delphine recounts her upbringing in poverty in Cameroon, recounting rape, an abusive family and tales of sex work. She eventually married an older Belgian man (not out of love, she admits, but out of a need to escape and secure her children’s future) and immigrated to Brussels, only to find that “white paradise “wasn’t all it was made out to be. . There too, she struggled to find work and sometimes had to prostitute herself for money.

It is the strength of Mbakam’s film that, however dark the testimonies of its subject, “Prières de Delphine” does not invite pity or voyeurism. Instead, what stands out is a truly vibrant sense of camaraderie between the two women – evident in Mbakam’s tender interventions behind the camera – and Delphine’s courage: here’s the flash in her eyes as she declares: ” No one will stop this story from being told – as long as I’m the pilot of this plane.

Released in the United States 13 years after its premiere in Japan, “Air Doll”, directed by author Hirokazu Kore-eda, feels like a missive from another time – a parable about modern life told with a distinctly late blend of melancholy and wonder. On a morning like any other, Nozomi, a life-size inflatable doll owned by middle-aged waiter Hideo, suddenly comes to fleshly life. In the particularly delicate hands of Kore-eda, this seemingly silly premise becomes a deep meditation on the perils and pleasures of the human condition. As Nozomi learns the ways of the world, sneaking on adventures while Hideo is at work, her wide-eyed curiosity is contagious. Alternatively, the routine debasement she faces at the hands of men is dark and unsurprising.

In a film with minimalist and elliptical dialogues, actress Bae Doona’s delightfully modulated face becomes a canvas for understanding the world anew. Nozomi is never reduced to an empty vehicle for allegory, however; there’s a genuine and thrilling weirdness to the film, including a fantastical erotic sequence involving the inflation and deflation of the doll. In a reflective gesture, Kore-eda centers the narrative around a video store where Nozomi finds part-time work. Cinema becomes his means of analyzing reality, providing a backdrop rich in references to the film’s own play with fantasy, desire and discontent.

Stream it on Mubi.

Salome Jashi’s documentary is an unusual epic of mythical grandeur and mundane tragedy: a chronicle of the uprooting and transportation of giant, ancient trees from various corners of Georgia to a park owned by the country’s former prime minister, the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. An unseen figure who nonetheless figures prominently in the film, Ivanishvili personally selected nearly 200 distant trees to ship to his estate, requiring an extravagant logistical effort that included blocking trains and widening riverbeds.

Jashi’s observation camera directs its lens on two interrelated subjects, one aesthetic and the other cultural. His stunning compositions capture alternately sublime and terrifying visions of nature bending to the machinations of man: I shuddered at an aerial view of a tree as tall as a skyscraper gliding over the Black Sea on a raft. These images are complemented by intimate glimpses of the communities from which these trees – and the memories and traditions they represent – are uprooted. In the tearful, amazed faces of the villagers who gather to watch the trees leave their neighborhoods, the asymmetries of power and capital at the heart of Jashi’s film come into full view.

In this tense and twisty Indonesian thriller, Suryani (Shenina Cinnamon), a student at an elite high school, wakes up after a rowdy night out with her theater troupe to find photos of herself drunk on social media. What was an evening of fun for her wealthy classmates turns into a nightmare for Suryani, as she loses her scholarship for indecent conduct and is kicked out by her strict religious father. A computer student with guts and a technical mind, she embarks on a quest to piece together what happened that night by hacking into her classmates’ phones.

“Photocopying” deftly combines high school clique politics with a darker look at misogyny and class inequality in Indonesia. As the plot unfolds, it often takes trust – the crime Suryani eventually uncovers is a bit too bizarre – but that has the unintended effect of making the film really unpredictable: I couldn’t see any of its turns. wild come, and the ensemble cast’s low-key performances help sustain the thriller until the very end. Director Wregas Bhanuteja also displays a knack for beautiful atmospheric compositions, especially in a high-level setting that deftly weaves a student performance of “Medusa’s Tale” into the off-stage action.

Stream it on Mubi.

On paper, the “monopoly on violence” seems hopelessly idealistic. David Dufresne’s documentary brings together a variety of French citizens – historians, academics, politicians, cops, protesters – in small one-on-one conversations about police brutality, as videos of the country’s yellow vest protests are shown on the big screen. But rather than indulge in double-meaning blandness or navel-gazing, Dufresne’s clever film uses the power of imagery to provoke the kind of dialogue that seems rare in contemporary society.

Guiding these discussions is German sociologist Max Weber’s assertion that the state exercises power by claiming “a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical violence.” The documentary asks, is this unilateral right to use force really legitimate? The film’s interlocutors bring a whole range of experiences—theoretical, lived, official, familiar—to this question, and Dufresne’s radical gesture is to give them all equal weight. We are invited to examine the analytical reflections of theorists on the historical flaws of French democracy alongside the moving and moving testimonies of victims of police violence, some of whom bear permanent wounds. Revisiting the images of their brutalization, these victims convey the genuine sense of grief, betrayal and despair that underpins the protest.

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