29th Philadelphia Film Festival: Quick Takes And Top 5 Films

by Rachel Bellwoar

Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness

Written and Directed by Massoud Bakhshi

What if trials were carried out like American Idol, with viewers texting in to decide a person’s fate?

Accused of killing her husband, if Maryam (Sadaf Asgari) doesn’t convince her husband’s daughter (Behnaz Jafari) to forgive her, she will be executed. The premise feels surreal, from the garish chairs the people sit on onstage, to the breaks for musical guests, yet Yalda is based on a real TV show in Iran.

Marionette Land

Directed by Alexander Monelli

A documentary on Robert Brock, who runs the Marionette Theatre in Lancaster with his mother, Nanny Lou. Brock isn’t just the guy pulling all the strings (which would’ve been impressive enough). He makes the puppets. He writes the scripts. He does his own lighting. 2020 was supposed to be the theater’s 30th anniversary and if there’s a downside to the documentary coming out now it’s that Brock won’t get to immediately benefit from the publicity (though the theater does have a YouTube channel and a Facebook fundraiser going on).

While I would’ve loved a few more scenes on Brock’s craft (we see him rehearsing songs, for example, but I would’ve loved to learn more about how he came up with the lyrics), he’s truly a one of a kind artist.

The Vigil

Written and Directed by Keith Thomas

Having recently left the Orthodox Jewish community, Yakov (Dave Davis) is reluctant to act as shomer when another shomer quits last minute. It’s a paid position, though, and Yakov only needs to watch over the body of Rueben Litvak (Ronald Cohen) for five hours. The mythology and concept of the monster in this movie are great, but the horror elements fail to match. The creature design is nondescript, and the scares don’t feel as specific as the rest of the movie, yet Davis makes you invested in his character’s well-being and the parts of the film that work outweigh the parts of the film that don’t.

Personal Top 5 Films from the 29th Philadelphia Film Festival:

  1. Preparation to Be Together for An Unknown Period of Time
  2. The House of Us
  3. Ema
  4. Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness
  5. Black Bear

The 29th Philadelphia Film Fesitval ran from October 23rd to November 2nd. Click here for the full program.

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