Brooklyn Film Festival (May 21st - June 9th)
Hank and Asha might be the best modern love story since Once or Before Sunset. It's beautifully written, tender, honest, funny and sweet without veering into melodramatic or schmaltzy territory. Hank (Andrew Pastides), a New York-based filmmaker, corresponds with Asha (Mahira Kakkar), an Indian woman studying in Prague. How does he communicate with her? Via video diaries that they send one another and, briefly, via letters. You can feel the chemistry between them palpably even though they spend no time together onscreen. Just when you think Hank & Asha will only offer lightheartedness, it goes into a slightly dark territory that gives it a little much-needed edge and depth. This is the rare love story that has both style and substance.
Forbidden Voices takes the cake for Best Documentary because it's powerful, timely, heartbreaking, enraging, vital and riveting. Director Barbara Miller follows three brave young women around the world who bravely blog against their dictatorial governments. Yoani Sanchez blogs from Cuba, Zeng Jinyan blogs from China, and Farnaz Seifi blogs from Iran. This doc puts a human face on these bloggers who risk everything for the sake of democracy and freedom of speech. Every young American ought to watch Forbidden Voices before America becomes a dictatorship---America is already sliding toward an Orwellian state as we speak given the recent revelations that our government has spying on our actions on the internet and phone. Perhaps this doc will inspire others to use their heart, brain and courage to speak out and make a difference before it becomes late.
Helen McCrory deserves this award for her heartfelt, well-nuanced portrayal of an aerospace engineer who delevops a sexually-charged relationship with an Algerian student, Kahil (Najib Oudghir) who's Muslim. The more she spends time with him, the more she becomes aware of the paranoia of Muslims post-9/11. She gets into trouble when she arrives at work one day and gets detained because authorities claim that Kahil is a "person of interest." What evidence do the authorities have against Kahil, though? He own life and career now remain in jeopardy because of the unreasonable, unfair, unjust paranoia. McCrory sinks her teath into the role with utter conviction and anchors the film in way that makes you emotionally invested in her character's struggles.