Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
The sun is shining, college is ending, time is freeing and new movies are still being added to streaming services every day: what more can we ask for? In this week’s streaming picks, we look at some more MUBI additions, cyborg action and understated dramas.
- And if you’re still begging for more, take a look at last week’s picks.
Tomboy (2011, directed by Céline Sciamma, starring Zoé Héran and Jeanne Disson)
Where can I watch it? MUBI and Amazon Prime.
What is it about? When ten year old Laure moves to a new neighbourhood in the south of France with her parents and her sister, it isn’t with the thought that it could change her whole life. Yet when her neighbour Lisa mistakes her for a boy, she assumes a new identity as Mickaël with curiosity. As the summer goes on, Laure/Mickaël learns to explore gender and sexuality in ways that had never crossed their mind before – but the threat of the school year starting and secrets getting revealed still looms like an unpleasant shadow over those warm holidays.
Why should I watch it? Sorry to French-hating folks – as long as MUBI keeps adding Céline Sciamma’s films to its catalogue, we will keep recommending them. Tomboy is an understated story taking place in the all too complicated and seldom understood world of teenage identity. While the film is short in its runtime and has a fairly low-budget, its themes are explored in a truly honest way and Sciamma gives us an intriguing look into what childhood looks like when you’re different in a way no one ever told you you could be. A must watch for anyone interested in questions of gender identity.
The best of our streaming picks for: Those who can’t wait for summer, and anyone who still isn’t tired of our undying love for Céline Sciamma.
Wadjda (2012, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, starring Reem Abdullah and Waad Mohammed)
Where can I watch it? MUBI and Netflix.
What is it about? It’s not easy being a young, rebellious ten year old girl in the conservative world of Saudi Arabia; but the young Wadjda tries her best to make the most out of it. When she falls for a beautiful green bicycle up for sale in her small neighbourhood, she will do everything in her power to raise enough money to buy it, despite her mother’s disapproval. Step by step, riyal by riyal, she will defy the expectations of conservative Arabian womanhood – all from the seats of her primary school.
Why should I watch it? Some films are valuable to watch solely because of their historical value: and indeed, Wadjda is an important one, as it is the first ever Saudi Arabian film directed by a woman. But outside context aside, this simple tale of a girl and her bike is a wonderful way to spend a relaxed afternoon or evening. Any conventionality in the plot’s structure is outshined by the characters’ bright personalities and the sincerity of their actions. If you want to witness an uplifting story, the start of an already impressive career for Haifaa Al-Mansour (who went on to direct Mary Shelley and Nappily Ever After, both also available on Netflix, as well as this year’s The Perfect Candidate) and a new page being turned for Saudi Arabian cinema, you know what to look for on your next Netflix night.
The best of our streaming picks for: A family movie night with an international twist.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019, directed by Robert Rodriguez, starring Rosa Salazar, Jennifer Connelly and Christoph Waltz)
Where can I watch it? SkyGo and NowTv.
What is it about? Waking up in the body of a robot with no prior recollection of who you are doesn’t do much for your mood – and Alita, a citizen of the futuristic Iron City is living proof of that. After being adopted by a kind doctor, the both of them soon realise that the materials she is made of may hint towards a darkest past they ever thought possible. While a growing drive to fight for justice in the junkyard that the world has turned into in 2563 makes her robotic drive beat, Alita sets out on a journey to find both the truth about herself and Zalem, the mysterious wealthy sky city looming above her and her loved ones everyday.
Why should I watch it? Hollywood adaptations of Japanese original stories have been historically rejected by fans – but Alita: Battle Angel might just be good enough to break that curse once and for all. Adapted from the manga of the same name, its aesthetics might disarm at first but the quick-paced story and charming heroine are soon enough to make us believe in its strange universe, with all its cyborg fights and romantic subplots. Keep in mind that Robert Rodriguez has been made famous by his violent films, and that you probably shouldn’t show this to your children right now. But if you don’t mind a couple of broken robotic limbs, you should be fine.
The best of our streaming picks for: An accessible look into the world of sci-fi manga that mainstream audiences didn’t even know they needed.
Short Term 12 (2013, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr. and Lakeith Stanfield)
Where can I watch it? Amazon Prime.
What is it about? Grace is a young caretaker at a foster care facility for troubled youth. Everyday, she along with her staff help young people deal with the problems that life has thrown at them. But Grace herself is not as mentally stable as she’d like to make her coworkers and her boyfriend think; and when a new teen with a history of self-harm checks into the facility, she is forced to face her own demons once and for all.
Why should I watch it? A compassionate drama powered by an incredibly moving main performance from Brie Larson, Short Term 12 is the rare film that addresses mental illness without romanticizing it. It might not always be the prettiest thing to look at, but neither is living with trauma, and Cretton understands it very well. It feels special in a way that few stories get to be.
The best of our streaming picks for: Those who prefer raw honesty over pleasant idealisation.
Which of our streaming picks will you watch this week? Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below!