Maverick Life

KEEP AN EYE OUT

On the best streaming content this month, Cannes highlights and the Durban International Film Festival

Maverick Life’s pick of the best newly released and upcoming content to look out for (or avoid) on streaming sites and virtual film festivals in July 2021. 

On Netflix

A second season of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson was released on 6 July. This off-the-wall comedy series pushes sketch premises to their most extreme conclusions. Check it out if you enjoy schadenfreude, general silliness and shows like Saturday Night Live.

Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendia? This Spanish slowburn political thriller documentary takes a deep dive into the mysteries of the Mexican journalist’s assassination in 1984.

If you still haven’t heard about American media company Vox’s poster-child docuseries, you’re in for a treat. New episodes of Season 3 of Explained are airing weekly as of 16 July. Each episode is a succinct, beautifully produced standalone documentary explaining both obscure concepts and basic ones hidden in plain sight.

Avert your eyes

Gunpowder Milkshake, released 15 July, is being pushed embarrassingly hard. There will definitely be an audience willing to relinquish two hours of their lives to watch a team of female assassins kill bad guys and crack wise, but chances are they’ll come out of it disappointed. To their credit, Netflix tried to distinguish Gunpowder Milkshake from the ongoing barrage of formulaic hitman revenge films by throwing some comedy and girl power into the mix, but when they also added pretentious references, sloppy directing and one too many spelt-out jokes, the concoction sort of blew up in their faces. Go figure.

Chernobyl 1986 (21 July): An historically inaccurate Russian film attempting to capitalise on the success of the 2019 HBO series. It frames the cataclysmic disaster as little more than an inconvenience, in a hunky fire-fighter’s heroic love story.

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On Showmax

With its artful cinematography, careful foreshadowing and thematic complexity, Parasite has an enormous amount of rewatch value. The absolutely masterful Korean thriller, which took home the Palme d’Or at Sundance and Oscar for Best Picture in 2019, was added to Showmax on 1 July.

Joker, added 5 July, is another gem of 2019. Many glossed over it at the time, thinking it was a superhero film rather than a nuanced psychological thriller. Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of a lifetime, personifying the Joker’s madness, suffering and transformation. It’s disturbing yet oft-times painfully beautiful.

Just Mercy, released on 8 July. A predictable but powerful biographical courtroom drama starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, adapted from the memoirs of civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson. An idealistic Harvard law graduate’s attempts to save a young black man from being sentenced to death.

For the sci-fi fans out there, Edge of Tomorrow is being added on 19 July, and I Am Legend on 22 July. Neither are particularly extraordinary but both are underrated, and should be able to scratch your sci-fi itch.

If you’re looking for South African content, you may be interested in Devilsdorp, Showmax’s first original true crime docuseries, being released on 29 July. It investigates and re-enacts the events of a series of “satanic murders” which devastated the town of Krugersdorp. The superstitions of the familiar South African small-town characters are cringy, but true crime is always freakier when it happens on your doorstep.

Avert your eyes

Oslo (1 July). A watchable but badly timed take on the Oslo accords – the “peace process” between Israeli officials and the Palestine Liberation Organisation which was facilitated in Norway in the early 1990s. Its kumbaya, aggressively neutral politics come off as naïve and unhelpful.

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On Amazon prime video

There aren’t many notable new releases on Amazon Prime this month, but if you’re up for some classics, Rear Window and Vertigo, two of Alfred Hitchcock’s most beloved thrillers, were added to the Amazon catalogue on 1 July.

The Pursuit of Love, which will be added on 30 July, is a British period drama set in the years leading up to World War 2, adapted from Nancy Mitford’s career-making novel. It has all the romantic and hedonistic thrills one seeks in scandalous historical tales of the British elite, but similarly to titles like Little Women or Pride and Prejudice, it is rooted in the experiences of young women whose fate was all too often decided by the economic ambitions of patriarchs.

Avert your eyes

The biggest Amazon release this month was The Tomorrow War on 2 July. Chris Pratt is a time-travelling, all-American, ex-military golden boy who saves the day from an alien apocalypse. The excessive amalgamating of sci-fi tropes is not enough to distinguish The Tomorrow War from other spacey Hollywood smashbangs.

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Apple TV+

Fathom, released June 25, is a documentary following the research of two scientists who study humpback whale culture and communication from opposite sides of the world. Read the full review here.

Who Are You Charlie Brown, released 25 June, is a short, light-hearted documentary about Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the beloved and influential long-running comic strip “Peanuts”. Fifty-four minutes was definitely not enough time to cover seven decades of cartooning, but it is nonetheless a sweet tribute.

Schmigadoon is a razzmatazz comedy with a talented cast released on 16 July. Comedian Keegan-Michael Key stars as a reluctant cynic who, while backpacking with his girlfriend, stumbles upon a magical town called Schmigadoon where the residents behave like they’re in a 1940s musical. The show disguises itself as a parody of musicals but it actually pays homage to them – if you cringe at frills and jazz hands, watch at your own peril.

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The Cannes Film Festival 2021

Today is the last day of the festival, which began on 6 July. Although it took place in-person, it wasn’t quite business as usual – festival participants had to undergo a 10-day quarantine, and masks and regular Covid testing were mandatory (is it really still Cannes without the celebrity fraternisation and customary cheek kisses?)

With Spike Lee as the head of the jury this year, it’s difficult to predict which film will take home the Palme d’Or this evening, but here are some of the films that made a big splash:

The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson’s 10th feature – a love letter to journalists with a whopping cast.

Annette, Leos Carax’s first English film – a musical about the birth of a power couple’s first child.

Drive My Car, a Japanese slowburn about a grieving theatre director who finds solace in driving, adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami and directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi.

The Souvenir Part II, British film director Joana Hogg’s autobiographical sequel, starring Tilda Swinton.

The Divide, a French comedy-drama about a couple on the verge of splitting up, who find themselves trapped in the emergency room during a big ‘yellow vests’ protest in Paris.

Lingui, the Sacred Bonds, a Chadian film about a woman’s hustle to get her daughter an abortion despite the taboo.

Petrov’s Flu, an erratic Russian sci-fi about a cartoonist’s unusual family.

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Durban International Film Festival

The 42nd Durban International Festival (DIFF) will be taking place from 22 July to 1 August. The theme this year is Disrupt! The shape of stories to come. The almost 140 feature films, documentaries and short films will be available to the public, free of charge, from 23 July.

Here are some of the promising films to look out for, for feature films and documentaries.

Features

The Eagle’s Nest is the opening film of the festival, screening on 22 July. It’s an African action-thriller on migration and poverty by Cameroonian-born British director Olivier Assoua.

Valentina is a Brazilian film about a transgender girl who moves with her mother to a new town in search of a fresh start.

Sons of the Sea is a heart-pumping South African tale of desperation and moral ambiguity about a teenager in a poor fishing community whose older brother convinces him to steal two bags of valuable abalone, from a dead man.

A Little Bird Reminds Me is a Chinese coming-of-age story about a family’s emotionally turbulent experience of the 1990s.

Lost is a Moroccan psychological thriller about a young woman who gets caught in the middle of a mysterious conspiracy.

Documentaries

As I Want. Samaher Alqadi wields her camera as a shield while documenting the growing women’s rebellion in Egypt

Murder in Paris. A political crime thriller investigating the 1988 assassination of ANC anti-Apartheid activist, Dulcie September.

Postcard. When Qatari director Asmae El Moudir finds a postcard with a picture of Zawia, Morocco, where her mother was born, she sets off on an existential quest of identity.

The Last Shelter. An intimate, affecting documentary filmed from within the infamous House of Migrants in Goa, Mali, a haven for African refugees.

The Sit-In, Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show. An American documentary exploring how one week of Belafonte’s interviews influenced the political landscape of the country.

The Colonel’s Stray Dogs. The story of Ashur Shamis, an activist who fought Muammar Gadaffi’s regime for 40 years and lives with a million-dollar bounty on his head, directed by his South African son.

Downstream to Kinshasa. Dieudo Hamadi travels with the forsaken victims of the six-day war in the Democratic Republic of Congo as they petition for justice.

Hard Livings. South African director Solomon Staggie remembers the gruesome, publicly broadcast murder of his druglord uncle in 1996, and examines what led his family to become the most feared street gang on the continent.

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Indy Shorts International Film Festival: The 30th edition of the “largest Shorts Festival in the Midwest” will be taking place from 20-25 July as a hybrid event, so virtual passes are available. DM/ML

You can contact Keep An Eye Out via [email protected]

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