Film Review: MOM Film Fest: Block 5: Life Lessons

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers: Petra Terzi, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, Tammy McNeil, John Collee, Kareema Bee, Mandy Schmieder, Sabrina Seidner

Directors: Petra Terzi, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, Miranda Edmonds, Khrob Edmonds, Kareema Bee, Shaina Feinberg, Sabrina Seidner

Life lessons are one of the most important parts of our development, things we wish we had known sooner, tough truths and important milestones. The fifth block of the MOM Film Fest takes this as its theme, aligning six quite different films that move away from direct experience of parenting to look at differences in age and understanding around the world.

One of the most unusual entries in the festival is Petr Terzi’s 49 Years After –Above Limits which dramatises the Second World War experience of her father, a Greek fisherman, forced to transport Nazi soldiers across the bay each day. Referencing To Have and Have Not in particular, the noirish quality of the building confrontation sits alongside a classic period drama approach that asks questions about humanity and decency during conflict – and one of the few films on offer to have a male protagonist.

The oddly named Tango Underpants also dispenses with a family focus as a young Australian woman rediscovers her confidence during a three-month backpacking tour of South America. Told as a first-person narrative with a voice-over some of the messaging from writer John Collee around what to wear to feel sexy or womanly may raise some eyebrows but directors Miranda and Khrob Edmonds create the feel of Buenos Aires across the 14-minute running time while retaining a focus on the lead’s evolving emotional state.

Mandy Schmieder’s film raises some similar concerns as a 40-year old Real Estate Agent becomes obsessed with having a child. For much of Unnatural, directed by Shaina Feinberg, lead Samantha’s story is engaging and fun, using a comic approach that shows her drinking heavily during other people’s baby stories and enduring an hilarious dating montage. But the final section presents Samantha behaving oddly with a client and it is disappointing to see yet another story about fertility that portrays childless women as crazy and desperate for comic effect.

One of the most pointed films in the festival, Kareema Bee’s A Rose by Any Other Name, uses a job interview scenario to follow a young African American woman who realises she must dispense with her real name and style to land a role in a prestigious PR company. As Sonique Brown becomes Sally Brownstein, Bee’s film reveals much about ingrained prejudice and unconscious bias.

The final collection of movies in this Block are more abstract, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens and Tammy McNeil’s e.ro.sion envisages a panel interview about people’s achievements, suggesting individuals who cannot find or lose an important love no longer deserve ‘mandatory deletion’. The use of sand pouring from their bodies and collected in jars signifies time running out. Sabrina Seidner’s absurdist Murmur unites a group of misfits for a bizarre therapy session for the grief stricken – both films are odd but enjoyable.

In Life Lessons it is particularly interesting to see films about older women and men showcasing the work of writers and directors with wider interests in history, comedy and social politics. There are some really interesting approaches in this fifth strand that expand beyond notions of female filmmakers as mothers to create stories that defy gender, age and class.

Available here until 17 August 2020

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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