Miele smartly leans into Luna’s Mexican identity and weaves in the spirituality of Day of the Dead. In fact one of the movie’s greatest feats, amid a touching and well-realized screenplay, is that it includes scenes captured at LA’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery, shot precisely during the popular Day of the Dead celebration. Bringing Luna, one of the most recognizable and beloved Latino actors working today, into a crowded event where the vast majority of the attendees are Latinos is alone a daring move. There’s absolutely no way he went unnoticed.
International cinema tends to be a strong point at AFI Fest and this year was no exception. Mohammad Rasoulof’s “There Is No Evil,” the winner of the Berlinale’s top prize, continues the Iranian auteur’s defiant career of making movies in secret. The film is comprised of four narratives about the morality of the death penalty, presented through the lens of those forced to carry out the killing and the ones who pay a high price for refusing to do so. It’s another masterful entry in Rasoulof’s lauded filmography.
Lighter in tone but just as affecting, Greek director Christos Nikou’s auspicious debut “Apples,” presented in the New Auteurs section, deals with an amnesia pandemic that has forced the afflicted to construct new personas for themselves by collecting experiences deemed essential for human beings. Aris Servetalis (seen in Yorgos Lathimos’ “Alps”) plays a lonely man who’s just become amnesiac and is undergoing such process of reintegration into society.
Like many of the country’s projects that reach our shores, (Babis Makridis’ “Pity” for example), “Apples” is deadpan and curious, but also poses some profound questions. If we didn’t remember the concept of shame and other societal conventions, who would we be? Would we dance freely not caring who could laugh at us or are certain qualities inherent to the human condition? Nikou’s movie doesn’t have a U.S. distributor yet, but actress Cate Blanchett served as executive producer.