Thursday, November 22, 2018

film review: Border (Gräns)

Directed by: Ali Abbasi
Written by:  Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf and John Ajvide Lindqvist (based on a short story by Lindqvist)

ChinoKino score: B+

Review by Allan Tong

What the hell did I just watch?

Border plays like an art-house European drama but veers into sci-fi, noir and even romance. At times, it unwinds drily, while at others, Border mesmerizes. Throughout, it is unsettling.

Border follows Tina (Eva Melander) as a lonely, cold customs agent. Tina looks part-animal with a big forehead, fang-like teeth, heavy body hair and scars galore. She looks repulsive, and has drawn scorn all her life, from schoolyard bullies to adults who openly call her an "ugly bitch." Naturally, she has developed a thick emotional shell. She isn't warm. She's guarded, and hard to know--and like. Meanwhile, her father (Jörgen Thorsson ) is falling into dementia while her boyfriend (Sten Ljunggren ) leeches off her in a loveless relationship.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

film review: Science Fair

Directed by: Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster
Written by:  Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster and Jeff Plunkett

ChinoKino score: B

Review by Allan Tong

It's a good idea for a documentary: follow nine bright high school students from the States as well as Brazil and Germany as they build innovative science projects to compete at the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in L.A. This Superbowl of science pits 1,700 of the smartest teens from 78 countries to battle for the US$75,000 top prize.

Co-director Cristina Costantini knows first-hand what these science geeks are feeling: she herself is a two-time alumna of ISEF. Costantini and her team deftly capture the personalities who star in this film. The most engaging is Anjali (above), a 13-year-old child prodigy from Louisville, Kentucky, who's built an arsenic-testing device that could save millions of lives. Anjali is confident, articulate, but also nervous at competition time. She wins us over instantly.