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Friday February 3rd

Column: Awards contenders steal the show at Film Fest 919

<p>The Lumina Theater, as pictured here on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, is launching a September series that will showcase Black-centered movies. A large portion of proceeds from this series will go the NAACP.</p>
Buy Photos Lumina Theater hosted the 919 Film Fest from Oct. 19 until Oct. 23, 2022.

While most people were off on their Fall Break, I stayed in Chapel hill, enjoying the surprisingly stacked lineup at the Film Fest 919.

The local film festival opened on Wednesday, Oct. 19, with a screening of “Devotion,” a film about fighter pilots in the Korean War, and closed on Sunday, Oct. 23, with a showing of “Glass Onion,” a sequel to Rian Johnson’s popular whodunnit “Knives Out.” 

Snuggled in between the flashier bookends, though, were some of the best films on offer anywhere in the world in 2022. Here are some of the highlights from last weekend’s event.

‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ 

What if your closest friend decided he hated you the next day? For no reason. And he told you, point blank. Weird, right?

Well, that’s just what Pádraic Súilleabháin (Collin Farrell) had to deal with when his old pal Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) told him off in writer-director Martin McDonagh’s newest dark comedy. 

The outstanding chemistry of Farrell and Gleeson paired with McDonagh’s tight, hyper-realistic writing provides countless raucously funny moments on the fictional island of Inisherin off the coast of Ireland. The trio did the same to great acclaim in 2008’s “In Bruges.” 

Yet, the movie’s about much more than poking fun at a silly situation. 

It’s a multi-dimensional view of human relationships, their highs and lows, set against the beautifully vast expanse of the sparsely-populated island. 

The movie is an aesthetic triumph, with awe-inspiring shots of clouds rolling over hills dotted with stone walls to demarcate property boundaries, smoke sneaking out of chimneys come nightfall complemented beautifully by serene, hymnal music. 

The grandeur of the scenery truly puts the importance of friendships, or, in the case of Pádraic and his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), familial relationships, into perspective. And the spectacular performances from its whole cast will leave audiences wondering not only about their own relationships but about the meaning of life itself.



The winner of the 2022 Grand Prix at Cannes, the second-place prize at the world-renowned film festival, “Close” delivers a different perspective on the power of friendship. But, in doing so, it delivers the most moving story put to the silver screen in years.

The Belgian film, largely in French but including some Dutch, is about Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele), two 13-year-olds whose intense bond makes them appear more like brothers than friends. 

Initially, the film revels in the innocence and beauty of their affection for each other, showing the two making faces at the dinner table or running through the endless sea of colorful flowers on the farm Léo’s family owns while playing pretend.

But when the two start middle school, they’re met with questions from their classmates about whether they’re “too close,” which motivates Léo to become more distant from Rémi. This rift eventually leads to tragedy, with Léo attempting to piece together what happened and make peace with it.

The performances from the film’s cast are spectacular, and are all the more impressive because two child actors lead them.

The film’s directing helps guide the audience, revealing tensions beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary interactions by revealing subtle changes in facial expressions with close-ups or by physically separating the feuding pair of friends while they’re fighting. The editing team provides a crucial assist, cutting to the next scene whenever Léo comes close to tears, building tension until finally, at the very end, they just leave him be…


And the camera zooms in to see the outbreak of emotion that the audience has been waiting for all movie. 

And if you don’t at least shed a tear along with him… well, you might not be human. 


‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’

I didn’t think a documentary would sneak onto my viewing itinerary for last weekend. But I was encouraged by the fact that the film won the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival, the top prize there.

It follows the career of Nan Goldin, an acclaimed photographer whose work is displayed in the world’s finest museums, and her activism against the Sackler family, who, in addition to patronizing the arts, were executives of the OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma. 

And it is not for the faint of heart. 

The film begins with Goldin telling the story about her difficult upbringing and how it was even more difficult for her sister. Then, it moves forward in time to the start of Goldin’s career as a photographer and her personal struggles with opioid addiction.

But the film, like Goldin’s work, is also highly political. In addition to weaving in present-day footage of Goldin and her friends in the art community staging protests at the Guggenheim, the Victoria & Albert Museum or the Met, the movie focuses on Goldin’s activism as a young artist, advocating for health care for those suffering from complications due to HIV and AIDS during the Reagan presidency. 

It’s a powerful story told in a creative way, as the story is broken up into segments by slideshows of Goldin’s photographs. And it made for a very engaging watch, despite its above-average runtime. 



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