The Place That Makes Us, directed by Karla Murthy, focuses on efforts to rescue Youngstown decades after its steel mills closed down. Read the review on the Columbus Free Press website.
By Richard Ades
After watching the unbearably tense (and now Oscar-nominated) Quo Vadis, Aida?, I was ready for something a bit calmer. Instead, I stumbled onto After the Murder of Albert Lima.
The documentary follows an American named Paul Lima as he heads to Honduras in 2013 to seek out his father’s alleged killer. The man in question, Oral Coleman, has actually been convicted of the crime but remains at large, apparently having bribed enough officials to evade prison.
The murder, by the way, took place 13 years earlier. Since then, Lima has devoted his life to seeking justice, but it appears to be in short supply in the Central American country. As a result, he’s hired bounty hunters Art Torres and Zora Korhonen to accompany him to the island where the suspect lives.
The plan: Find Coleman, subdue him with drugs and restraints, and turn him over to the proper authorities for delivery to prison. The problem: Coleman is a prosperous businessman/gangster who’s always surrounded by bodyguards and ever-vigilant underlings.
Torres, the more assertive of the two bounty hunters, effects an air of self-confidence as he assures Lima that their plan is sound. But even he seems taken aback when he learns how well-protected Coleman is, and how lawless and hazardous life on the island can be. Nevertheless, the three set about gathering the supplies they need for their dangerous mission, including a pair of poorly maintained firearms.
Is Lima setting himself up for the kind of tragic end that befell his father? Are bounty hunters Torres and Korhonen as competent as they claim, or are they in over their heads? Director Aengus James encourages such questions while keeping the dread factor high with help from composer Adam Sanborne’s ominous score.
The only respite comes during interludes that explain why Paul Lima decided to undertake such an insane quest. We come to understand that his need for closure largely overrules his instinct for self-preservation. That’s because his life is stuck in limbo and will remain there unless he succeeds in bringing his father’s killer to justice.
Like a condensed, real-life version of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, After the Murder of Albert Lima blends psychology and suspense in the tale of an obsession that both defines and endangers one man’s life. It’s quite a yarn.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
After the Murder of Albert Lima is available beginning March 18 on Crackle, a free screening service.
By Richard Ades
Quo Vadis, Aida? is set during the Bosnian War (1992-95), which gave rise to Europe’s most deadly outbreak of genocide since the Holocaust. Not only that, but it takes place in the town of Srebrenica, site of one of the conflict’s most infamous atrocities.
That should clue you in that the film won’t make you feel good about the human condition. Instead, you’ll feel drained, exhausted and saddened by its depiction of the hatred and cruelty one people can direct against another people—and of the inability of well-meaning but powerless institutions to prevent it.
Writer-director Jasmila Zbanic has created a breathless account of what happened in July 1995, when Serbian troops set their sights on Srebrenica even though the United Nations had declared it a safe zone. The fictionalized but based-on-reality tale is told through the eyes of Aida Selmanagic (Jasna Djuricic), a Bosnian Muslim teacher who works as an interpreter for the UN peacekeeping detail.
It’s Aida’s job to convey to other Bosnians what she’s told by the Dutch officers who are attempting to protect the town on behalf of the UN. This soon puts her in a bind, as she begins to suspect they have little power to stop the advance of Serbian forces under a ruthless general named Ratko Mladic (Boris Isakovic).
Though she’s charged with relaying a calming message, Aida becomes increasingly concerned for the safety of the thousands who’ve sought sanctuary in Srebrenica, including her husband and two sons. It’s an impossible situation, and a terrifying one.
As Aida, Djuricic digs deep to express the anguish of a woman caught between her duties to her employers and her loyalties to her countrymen. Most of all, she defines the fierce courage of a mother who will do anything to protect her family.
Throughout the ordeal, writer-director Zbanic mostly spares viewers the sight of actual violence by locating it just beyond our field of view. Otherwise, she’s merciless in her tense depiction of a wartime tragedy in the making.
The tension begins to abate only in an extended postscript that finds our heroine numbed by all that has happened. As the viewer, you’re likely to feel the same.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (no MPAA rating) is available through VOD outlets beginning March 15.
Test Pattern, written and directed by Shatara Michelle Ford, delves into sexual and racial politics as it shows what happens after a woman is violated while incapacitated by drugs and alcohol. For a review, visit the Columbus Free Press website.