Lorna Codrai is a freelance journalist based in the UK and the UAE. She writes about film, television, lifestyle, travel, and Middle Eastern culture.
In 180 Degree Rule, director/writer Farnoosh Samadi’s debut feature film, silence speaks louder than words. The movie offers a bold story about a woman facing a complex and harrowing moral choice with no easy answers.
For two months in 2019, widespread flash flooding affected 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces. The floods caused at least 70 deaths, displaced tens of thousands of citizens, and destroyed nearly 2,000 cities and villages. This catastrophic event forms the backdrop to Manijeh Hekmat’s fourth feature film—and second return to Toronto—Bandar Band, which follows a group of musicians as they attempt to make it across horrendous flooding in Khuzestan province to perform in a musical showcase in Tehran.
In the penultimate episode of HBO’s Euphoria, Zendaya describes Morgan Freeman in Se7en as the guy who’s “always calmly putting the pieces of the case together while everybody around him is freaking out.” As soon-to-retire homicide detective William Somerset in David Fincher’s acclaimed crime thriller, Freeman tells his young, idealistic new partner David Mills (Brad Pitt) “this isn’t going to have a happy ending.”
This year, Palestinian director/writer twin brothers Arab and Tarzan Nasser return to the Toronto International Film Festival with Gaza mon amour. The film reprises the Nassers’ unique brand of comic absurdity against a backdrop of complex societal issues, first demonstrated in their hit 2015 debut feature Dégradé.
“Awesome, oh wow! Like, totally freak me out! I mean, right on! The Toros sure are number one!” How many times have you sung this to yourself? What about the film’s classic opening number: “I’m sexy, I’m cute, I’m popular to boot”? Peyton Reed’s “Bring It On” celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and the cheerleading teen comedy has achieved a cult following since its release and spawned a further five instalments in the series.
“I was a violent child. Anyone that got in my way was fair game. Don’t go thinking all violence is the work of hateful men. Sometimes it’s just the way a fella makes sense of his world.” This opening statement by Douglas “Arm” Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) foreshadows the brutal, yet unexpected nature of director Nick Rowland’s feature film debut and the emotional journey anti-hero Arm is to endure in this Irish crime drama.
There is an old Hollywood superstition that says any film with a question mark in its title will be a failure. 20 minutes in and I was blaming the question mark for cursing Elise Duran’s undemanding Can You Keep a Secret? However, the film’s lackluster script and dull, clichéd formula are the true culprits behind the film’s ultimate letdown, despite two charming lead actors who, frankly, deserve stronger material.
Apocalypse Now is as renowned for its disastrous three-year production as it is for its stark, realistic portrayal of the Vietnam War. Never straying far from any critic or fan’s top ten list, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war epic has achieved almost cult-like status, and no war film has captured the depravity of war the same way since.
Arab representation within Hollywood is rife with stereotypes and, generally, Islamophobic with its portrayal of Arabs and Muslims. Sufficient representation is scarce—even less so in animation. Thus, it’s quite refreshing to see The Knight and the Princess—which is Egypt’s first animated feature ever, and has been 20 years in the making.
The Journey Is the Destination is based on the true story of photojournalist and activist Dan Eldon. His tale is an inspiring one, albeit heartbreaking as well. Born in London and raised in Kenya, Eldon achieved so much during his short 22 years. He was a champion of human rights and an artist, having kept numerous personal fine art journals documenting his travels to 42 countries.
How often have you sat around with your friends pondering life’s great mysteries or discussing socio-political issues? How often have these discussions occurred in your pyjamas over cereal? This is what director and co-writer Sophie Kargman presents in her short film Query, alongside co-writer and producer Ryan Farhoudi. The topic of societal norms regarding sexuality is openly debated between two young males over the course of one day.
Escape at Dannemora—based on the extraordinary true story dubbed “the Shawshank case” by the media—is a seven-part miniseries starring Patricia Arquette, Benicio Del Toro, and Paul Dano. Arquette stars as Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, a seamstress working at a maximum-security prison who becomes entangled in a complicated love triangle between convicted killers, Richard Matt (Del Toro) and David Sweat (Dano).
In 2015, icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin reteamed for the first time since 9 to 5 (1980) for Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris’ television series Grace and Frankie. The series follows retired beauty mogul, Grace Hanson, and hippie art teacher, Frankie Bergstein, as they try to navigate their lives after their lawyer husbands, Robert and Sol (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston), announce they have been having a decades-long affair and now plan to get married.
The difficulty of finding a satisfying ending combined with the long-term investment you bring to a show makes the few who do wrap up cleanly all the more sweet, so this month for our Staff Inquiry, we’re highlighting some of the series that left us feeling just right.
LORNA CODRAI – 12 MONKEYS (2015-2018)
Prior to her debut fiction feature film Son-Mother, Mahnaz Mohammadi’s documentary work focused heavily on her activism. A prominent women’s rights activist, Mohammadi was jailed for five years in 2014 for allegedly collaborating against Iran with the BBC, and for “propaganda against the state,” which she staunchly denies. Mohammadi has a history of arrests and incarceration due to her work of campaigning for women’s rights throughout Iran.