Keep the Change, written and directed by Rachel Israel, is a warm, funny and heartfelt love story about two adults on the autism spectrum, David (Brandon Polansky) and Sarah (Samantha Elisofon), who meet at a support group for adults with mental disabilities and gradually develop a romance. David's parents don't approve of his new girlfriend, but that doesn't stop him from continuing to see her. The screenplay by Rachel Israel maintains a sense of realism from start to finish that makes the film feel like a documentary. In fact, one particular audience member in attendance thought it was a documentary. Part of what makes it feel so authentic is also the convincingly moving performances by Polansky and Elisofon who are the film's heart and soul. If you thought that The Other Sister, which treaded similar ground, was too Hollywood and schmaltzy, you'll love the much more nuanced and tender Keep the Change. It will surely win your heart over unless you're made out of stone. The Divine Order, about a housewife, Nora (Marie Leuenberger) who leads the women in her village on a strike and leave their families to campaign for the right for women to vote in 1971 Switzerland. Based on a true story, the screenplay by Petra Biondina Volpe is everything that Suffragette wasn't, but should have been: witty, captivating, moving, rousing and crowd-pleasing. Marie Leuenberger gives a radiant performance that breathes life into the film and allows for you to care about Nora as a human being. Don't be surprised if you'll stand up and cheer for her every step of the way as she gathers more and more housewives to support her cause. The Divine Order is one of the most powerful dramas in the festival and it deservedly won the Audience Award. The charismatic performances by Juno Temple and Julia Garner lift One Percent More Humid ever so slightly above its mediocre screenplay by writer/director Liz W. Garcia. Temple and Garner play Iris and Catherine, two childhood friends who reunite one summer in their New England hometown. A tragic accident from their past involving their mutual friend, Mae (Olivia Luccardi), threatens to break apart their friendship. Meanwhile, Iris has a sexually-charged affair with her married college advisor, Gerald (Alessandro Nivola), and Catherine plays with fire when she flirts with Mae's brother, Billy (Philip Ettinger). Although the first two acts feel a bit pedestrian, the third act picks up a little steam as it adds some much-needed poignancy. Thanks to Temple and Garner's winning performances, the friendship between Iris and Catherine feels palpable. Hopefully, the film's title will change by the time it gets a picked up by a distributor for theatrical release so as not to make it sound like a documentary on global warming.
The Reagan Show, directed by Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez, uses archival footage showing how former President Ronald Reagan was known as The Great Communicator. To viewers who watch his speeches and interviews, he displayed his warmth, charm, and witty quips. He had no shame in repeating the Russian proverb "Doveryai, no proveryai" meaning "Trust, but verify" over and over throughout his career. When Reagan used the slogan "Let's make America great again!", it's hard not to think about how Donald Trump used it for his own campaign. Most tellingly, though, is how Reagan says in an interview at the very beginning of the doc that he can't imagine how someone can be President of the Unites States without having prior experience as an actor. Sociopsychologist Irving Goffman once wisely observed that life is like theater with a script, costumes, and so on. Reagan seemed to understand that when the cameras were rolling Everyone acts differently "behind the curtain," though. The Reagan Show provides you with a peak just before Reagan was preparing to go onstage in front of that curtain. By not using narration or talking heads to comment on what you're watching, the filmmakers wisely step back and let audiences use their own critical thinking to decide what to make of the footage. Most importantly, The Reagan Show doesn't take any sides; it humanizes Reagan, although not as profoundly as Hillary Clinton was humanized in last year's underrated doc Clinton, Inc.. Perhaps this doc could serve as a lesson to some audience members who are too easily charmed by politicians and make them wonder what the President might be truly like when he's not putting on a performance in front of the camera. At brief running time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, The Reagan Show is a refreshingly amusing, unbiased, and captivating documentary. It opens June 30th, 2017 at The Metrograph via Gravitas Ventures and CNN Films.