Picks for the 30th Philadelphia Film Festival

The Weekly Roundup, October 20-26

4 minute read
A woman (Clara) in a dark purple, long dress stands in the middle of the road, an ominous tree in the fog behind her.
'Clara Sola' is part of this year's Philadelphia Film Festival. (Image courtesy of LuxBox.)

The Philadelphia Film Festival is back for its 30th year with over 100 films populating a diverse roster. From short films to documentaries and narrative features, the festival returns to in-person screenings for those who might be missing the cinemas. There are virtual screenings and drive-ins, as well!

I’ve made a handful of picks for you to check out during the festival. Be sure to check out the full schedule online. Regular and virtual screenings are $15, with weekday matinees before 5pm coming in at $8. Philadelphia Film Society members are eligible for discounted tickets. You could also volunteer or check out PFS’s free ticketing program.

Drive My Car
Thursday, October 21, 6:45pm; Sunday, October 24, 8pm

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s take on the Haruki Murakami short story of the same name presents a story about an acclaimed actor and playwright coping with the loss of his wife and his foul-mouthed personal driver trying to find her way after the loss of her mother. It looks like they’ve got this burgeoning friendship happening, but I bet there’s a whole lot more to their fates coming together. But I’m not here to suggest or guess plot twists, am I?

Catch the Fair One
Friday, October 22, and Tuesday, October 26, 9:30pm

Kali Reis is a US boxing champion in real life, and she collaborated with writer-director Josef Kubota Wladyka for a “brutal beauty” of a flick. The film follows Kaylee (played by Reis) who sets out to save her young sister who was recently abducted by criminals preying on Native American girls. This title isn’t a light-hearted pick for sure (having Darren Aronofsky attached as executive director is even more telling of that), but if you’re in the mood for a kick-ass revenge story, this might be for you.

Friday, October 22, 7:45pm; Sunday, October 31, 1:15pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be home and to have a home, but I have no idea what it’s like to save a home. Gagarine explores exactly that through the eyes of stargazing teen Youri (Alseni Bathily), who puts his cosmic dreams and engineering skills to work when he and his friends band together to save their beloved housing project from demolition in a downtrodden suburb of Paris.

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes
Sunday, October 24, 5pm; Monday, October 25, 6:15pm

I’m a sucker for a good time loop movie, and Junta Yamaguchi’s debut feature film has all the makings of a classic—for me, at least. The story follows a downtrodden cafe owner’s life after he discovers a time loop that allows him to see two minutes into the future. What makes this film even more compelling is that it’s a one-take film, which is pretty rare.

The Braves (Entre Les Vague)
Monday, October 25, 3:45pm; Wednesday, October 27, 4pm

There’s something special about pursuing the same dream with someone and the bond that forms. It can be a complicated bond and even more challenging pursuit, but Margot and Alma are two best friends that are up for it. The French slice of life piece takes a look at the aspiring actresses as they chase their dreams, work odd jobs, and have a sudden hardship test their plans and their sisterhood.

Clara Sola
Monday, October 25, 12:15pm; Friday, October 29, 10:45am

If magic exists, then it looks a lot like the magic in Clara Sola. The film from Nathalie Álvarez Mesén tells of Clara, a Costa Rican woman believed to possess mystical healing powers. In her remote community, sick townspeople come to her doorstep in search of healing. Clara needs healing herself but refuses, afraid that her recovery would cause her to lose her God-given gifts.

Good Madam (Mlungu Wam)
Tuesday, October 26, 9pm; Friday, October 29, 7pm

Just in time for spooky season, Good Madam is a riff on folk horror from South Africa from director Jenna Cato Bass. Forced out of the home she shared with her recently deceased grandmother, single mom Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) moves in with her estranged mother, who is a live-in servant at an estate in an affluent Cape Town suburb—and something is not right in the sprawling, creepy house. In other words, this isn’t your typical horror film, as the movie draws on generational memories of apartheid-era domestic servitude and the continuing realities of systemic racism—all very terrifying things you don’t see in many films in the genre.

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