BAMcinemaFEST (June 17th - June 28th, 2015)
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Director Amy Berg's new doc, Prophet's Prey, about the abusive, manipulative and evil former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Warren Jeffs, who's currently incarcerated for sexual assault. He's a malignant narcissist and psychopath, and even in prison, he shows no remorse by constantly pleading the 5th Amendment. Berg does a great job of showing testimonial evidence of Jeffs' crimes by interviewing his victims, young girls whom he brainwashed, married and abused. Many of them, not surprisingly, are afraid to speak out. The victims' accounts are heartbreaking while the fact that Jeffs was enabled to continue his abuse for so many years feels enraging. Berg even interviews Jeffs' nephew, Brent, and explores how Jeffs rose to power in the church. Jeffs' father, Rulon, wasn't that much better than him and essentially passed his evils down to his son--as the saying "like father, like son." The fact that Warren Jeffs not only manipulated the girls and boys in his church, but also the police in his town is quite horrifying--his church practically owned all of the town, so his victims had no where to turn to for support. Bravo to Berg for provide Jeffs' victims with a way to bravely share their traumatic experiences. Hopefully, this powerful doc will encourage more victims to speak out. It would make for a great double feature with Berg's recent exposť about sexual abuse in the Hollywood industry, An Open Secret. Prophets Prey opens at IFC Center on September 18th via Showtime before debuting on Showtime on October 10th. Writer/director Alex Ross Perry's Queen of the Earth is a drama that gradually veers into psychological horror territory. Elisabeth Moss gives a bravura performance as Catherine, a young woman who breaks up with her boyfriend and briefly moves into the lakeside home of her best friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston). Friction between the two women rise to the surface as Catherine undergoes a meltdown. The third act of the film feels equally creepy, heartbreaking and devastating. It's like Hitchcock meets Cassavetes. Nasty Baby starts off as a quirky comedic drama, but turns into something totally unexpected midway that won't be spoiled here. Polly (Kristen Wiig) hopes to pursuade one of her two friends, Freddy (SebastiŠn Silva) and his boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), to donate their sperm so that she can be artificially inseminated. Writer/director SebastiŠn Silva takes the film into dark, unpredictable territory in a way that's surprising, but doesn't quite go far enough. Tonals shifts don't help the film, either. For a more heartfelt and intelligent drama, look not further than The Grief of Others, writen and directed by Patrick Wang who also wrote/directed the very fine drama In the Family. Wendy Moniz and Trevor St. John play a married couple who struggle to cope with grief after the death of their baby. Much of the film is tragic, but there's some dry comedy throughout, and the tone feels somewhat like that of a Todd Solondz film. Just like with his last film, Wang trusts the audience's intelligence and patience without holding their hands along the way. On top of that the performances are very natural, and the cinematography as well as the editing are terrific. The last 5 minutes of the film, in particular, are quite thought-provoking, refreshingly unique, memorable and haunting. If you're looking for a totally bonkers film that blends comedy with sci-fi inventively, there's Uncle Kent 2 which is the kind of film you'll have to see to believe. Kent Osborne pitches the idea of a sequel to Uncle Kent to Joe Swanberg, and what ensues will make you feel like you're on a roller-coaster ride of bizaress as Kent goes to a comic book convention. Not much of what transpires makes much sense, but it's consistently amusing, occasionally funny and increasingly outrageous and bizarre. It's unlike any sequel you've seen before which in and of itself is quite a feat. You might be better off watching Uncle Kent 2 at midnight, though, while drunk/stoned.