The 48th Chicago International Film Festival kicked off last night and is now in full swing! There are quite a few interesting movies premiering at the festival this year. I’ll be bringing reviews of select festival films to The Young Folks for the next two weeks starting now. Below are reviews of two movies premiering at the fest this weekend!
The Central Park Five
The first movie I saw at CIFF and it’s the one that has stuck with me the most so far. The Central Park Five is a documentary telling the story of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping and beating a white woman in Central Park. I’m sure many of you have heard of the Central Park jogger story? It happened just weeks after I was born, but many years later, it was still a major story in the media that I and many other young people know about it. However, you may not know that those five teenagers were innocent, and they were exonerated when years later, a serial rapist confessed to doing the crime. All five teenagers (now adults) share their stories and struggles in this documentary directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon.
This documentary is emotional and eye-opening. It does a great job of explaining how New York City was at that time, providing sufficient context to the crime. We meet the five wrongfully convicted men, and seeing them it’s so hard to believe what happened to them, how they were manipulated by the NYPD into taping false confessions. It’s jarring piece of work, and something I think everyone, especially young people, should see. It serves both as a compelling true story and a warning for anyone who feels pressured to do something that isn’t right.
It also tackles important topics, like how racism and social status are connected and can be used against innocent people. While we’d like to think that we’ve improved as a society twenty years later, there’s still threads of these kinds of sociological issues weaved into society. Each of the five and other interviewees shed light on these issues and bring interesting perspectives to this crime and other crimes like it.
While it can be a little redundant at times, The Central Park Five is a must-see documentary that spreads awareness on a corrupted and unfair justice system by telling five men’s harrowing stories.
Rating: 7/10 ★★★★★★★
The Central Park Five plays on Sunday, October 14th at the Chicago International Film Festival. Buy tickets here!
Something in the Air
Olivier Assayas semi-autobiographical story about a teen living in early 1970s France was… I guess the best way to put it as is not for me. The film follows Gilles, a young man and revolutionary living outside of Paris in 1971. He splits his time being an artist and political activist. When he decides to focus on his art, his friends (all aspiring revolutionaries) don’t quite understand, but Gilles is determined to follow his own way.
Assayas is a wonderful director. There’s a sweeping quality to his filmmaking that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, it couldn’t make this movie any more interesting to me. The audience is sort of thrust into Gilles life, and if you don’t have any prior knowledge on the political and social climate in early 70s France, like I admittedly didn’t, then you’ll likely be confused. Sure, it’s evident that there is a violent riff between the police and revolutionaries as the opening scene indicates. But as someone who usually likes to know why people are rioting, I was disappointed. However, as the story continues, the reasons are made clear, even though it doesn’t really matter that you know anymore.
Furthermore, many of the characters are so underdeveloped. It’s a coming-of-age story, yet I couldn’t connect with or completely understand most of the characters. Hardly any of them were interesting, and at times, I thought I was watching a behind-the-scenes video for an Urban Outfitters photo shoot. The female characters are underwritten and, honestly, just there to help define a couple of the male characters. It’s during the dragging and boring middle-to-end part that it seems like Assayas is mainly worried about getting the look of 1970s Europe right, not the story or people.
Something in the Air is a beautiful two-but-feels-like-four hour film that tries very hard to engage. There’s moments when it works, and I did like the whole idea of watching a man turn away from activism instead of into it. But in the end, the story still failed to captivate me.
Rating: 4.5/10 ★★★★☆
Something in the Air plays on Sunday, October 14th and Wednesday, October 17th at the Chicago International Film Festival. Buy tickets here!
Stay tuned for more reviews of CIFF films in the coming days!