Thursday, May 25, 2023

Mafia Mamma: The Difference Between "The Godfather" and "The Godmother"

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“Mafia Mamma” is one hundred and one minutes of pure fun! The women’s driven dark comedy pleases everyone, including those fine Italian members of “La Cosa Nostra” and other groups of dubious reputation.

In “Mafia Mamma,” Toni Collette moves out of her comfort zone and plays an Italian-American struggling-class mother neglected by a cheating husband, a diligent teenage son, and a toxic and misogynist working environment. When her grandfather is killed by the Italian mafia, her character of Kristin Balbano receives the call to become an accidental female version of “The Godfather” or perhaps one of the Capos of “The Sopranos.” Tony Collette can pull off a hell of a gang fight.


Colette had never played this type of witty and action character since the beginning of her successful career back in Australia when she started in the unforgettable international hit “Muriel’s Wedding,” followed by her Hollywood realization of stupendous blockbusters such as “The Sixth Sense” and “Miss Little Sunshine.” Both works earned her an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Then, some other contemporary suspenseful and horror pieces came, such as “Hereditary,” “Nightmare Alley,” and “Knives Out.”

Once Kristin’s grandfather, Don Giuseppe Balbano, passed in Italy, Bianca, played by the gorgeous former “Bond Girl” Monica Bellucci (“Malena,” “The Matrix,” and “Irreversible”), calls demanding Kristin go to Italy immediately to take over Don Giuseppe’s affairs. This business includes running a poorly managed Italian winery and all the other mafia affairs. Kristin has no idea how to deal with those eventful situations, mostly because she has not watched any of “The Godfather” movies since those classics are over three and a half hours long.

Accidentally Kristin becomes no “Don” (recalling “Don Corleone”), but “Dona Balbano,” and her first task is to make peace with the enemy, in this case, Carlo Romano, the new appointee of the opposite Italian mob. At their first meeting, a toast with limoncello in his hotel room can be the next best thing, and the Italian heartthrob becomes a magnet. As we previously learned in the long expository lines at the beginning, Kristin had not had sex in three years. Therefore, her effervescent body is ready to co-mingle with the attractive Italian capo. But things get sour when she says she has not watched “The Godfather Part II.” While she is getting killed by the seductive man, her bodyguards eat cannoli outside in the hallway, making every situation even more comedic.

“Mafia Mamma” does not abuse the Italian stereotypes as the HBO’s series “The White Lotus, season 2” does. The film, cleverly directed by Catherine Hardwicke (‘Twilight,” “Lords of Dogtown”), uses those stereotypes to its advantage, moving forward with women’s empowerment and a more feminist point-of-view.

“Mafia Mamma” is a story of casualties. The main character falls into difficult circumstances and slowly moves from the “traditional American working mom” role to a genuine Capo one. The exciting thing is when the character’s arch evolves into this newly liberated woman who wants to succeed. Her entire progression comes too late to make the film transcend into something more than pure entertainment.

The film could be more stylish, with more adrenaline. Still, it is not about “Baby Driver.” It is more of a realistic adaptation of what could happen to an American woman who inherited a vineland in Italy during a mafia war between two powerful families.


After the movie, do not forget to drink a nice glass of rosé. The Balbano vintage has an extra kick that will make you feel like you are already in Italy. 

“Mafia Mamma” is a delightful female-driven dark comedy with authentic Italian flavor where in the end, men will be men, and women will rule.

MAFIA MAMMA | Official Trailer

Friday, April 14, 2023

Joyland: A Cinematic Rejoice from Pakistan

By José Alberto Hermosillo

Joyland,” an intimate allegory of love, despair, and melancholia. A triumph in Pakistani Cinema.

“Joyland” moves consciences on so many levels as a painful coming-of-age story and a mirror of society that denies the fundamental rights of inclusion, freedom of speech, and equal opportunities for all, including those who may think outside the box. In life, we tend to generalize and level anyone, when instead, we must analyze and assess every subject individually as an essential part of the community.

The film centers on Haider Rana (Ali Junejo) and his conservative family. He lives with his wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), his father, his mother, and his elder brother’s family in Lahore, Pakistan. 

Haider is an unemployed and a hard worker timid guy who gets a job as a backup dancer in a Bollywood-style burlesque. Soon, the helpful and naïve man becomes infatuated with Biba (Alina Khan), a glittered trans woman who runs a show in a nearby theater. As things get complicated, Haider must emerge unharmed from his double life.

Biba tells Haider 
an innocent but meaningful joke – “The chicken and the mosquito shared a kiss. Then, the mosquito died of bird flu... the chicken died of dengue.” Then, she explains herself: “Because falling in love means death.” The joke is related to those two main and opposite characters, the religious married man and the openly gay transgender person seeking freedom in a conservative society with orthodox laws.

“Joyland” is an accomplished and flashy production that centers on three main and unique characters, Haider, Mumtaz, and Biba.
For Haider, his family is as important as the show’s success. He takes Biba’s safety personally and his family’s well-being equally, but in real-time, it is not easy to balance everything out.

Mumtaz is emotionally unstable. She wants to be pregnant but questions her husband’s job due to his notorious absences.

Biba’s multidimensional character is not sugar-coated nor pretends to be cute. She is an energetic, confident, and trustworthy trans woman who wants to get out and emigrate to Germany. Her honesty makes her reject those who care for her, including Haider. Alina Khan’s performance is as good as Daniela Vega’s in the Award-winning Chilean film “A Fantastic Woman.”

What is more striking about this moving production is that for all the extraordinary actors who participated in the film, it was their first experience acting in movies.

 Saim Sadiq, "Joyland." Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. Copyright © FestivalinLA
First-time writer-director Saim Sadiq said that “Joyland” is a very personal work because he comes from a diverse, middle-class family who is also looking to climb up the social ladder, as the characters in his movie. But he also had to acknowledge that people in Pakistan live in a patriarchal society that sets boundaries for progress, love, and desires.
Director Saim Sadiq wrote an honest and objective script, keeping the “trans” theme and social conflict consistent, creating a solid dramatic arch and an open ending.
Politically speaking, Saim knows all about the power of the extreme right-wing in his country and how his work will upset manySaim said that after showing his controversial film in Pakistan, he was not expecting everybody to come out of the movie theater and hug him. But his film is out there for people to enjoy, assimilate and keep thinking about it.

The highly acclimated Pakistani work transcends with winds of freedom and acceptance.

Joyland” is the winner of the Jury Award of Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2022It won Best International Film at the Independent Spirit Awards 2023 and Best Artistic Contribution at Cairo International Film Festival in Egypt. The acclaimed film won Best Ensemble in Bangkok and the Audience Award at the Valladolid International Film Festival in Spain.

“Joyland” was the Pakistani entry for Best International Feature Film for the 95th Academy Awards and was one of the fifteen shortlisted films. 

The unexpected twists and turns of “Joyland” take us to places we have not been before. The movie’s rich urban scenarios, colors, and textures, combined with powerful storytelling, enhance the cinematic experience and immerse the viewer deeply in the story. 

More importantly, the representation of the vibrant Pakistani youth who work hard and want to naturally explore outside their family’s nucleus to new horizons without social restraint. 

In “Joyland,” every character desperately wants to feel accepted, loved, and respected as audiences witness the struggle, beauty, and diversity pf Pakistani society and of every community has around the globe.


Violette, When Women Dare to Write  


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Thursday, April 13, 2023

War Sailor: A Reflection on Norway’s Entanglement in WWII

By José Alberto Hermosillo  

War Sailor” is a revealing, totally gripping, and insightful depiction of the forgotten Norwegian sailors who endured the atrocities of World War II.


Until now, War Sailor,” known as “Krigsseileren,” has been the most expensive production ever made in Norway. The film attempts to set history right by presenting the struggle of the sailors considered by many heroes. Still, people in charge see them as a public burden, criminals and deserters who deserve to be forgotten and dismissed without benefits of the law for their service.

“War Sailor” lobby at a Beverly Hills screening. Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA

During WWII, more than 30,000 Norwegian and 10,000 American sailors participated in the Scandinavian peninsula and the North Sea War. 

War Sailor” courageously unwraps straightforward the participation of those sailors who fought in those epic battles and the devastating repercussions for them and their families back home.

The film connects the sailors’ past pains with their present, showing how those traumatic experiences were passed on through generations.

The story focuses on Alfred, played by Kristoffer Joner (The Wave,” “The Revenant”), a working-class Bergen sailor head of a family. He is close to his childhood friend Sigbjørn (Pål Sverre Hagen, “Kon Tiki”), and they worked on a merchant ship for years.


When WWII started, they saw themselves fighting on the front line with civilian clothes, no weapons, and a starving crew, when their merchant ship was targeted by German submarines. Their journey continues from being rescued to trying to go on with their lives separately, and how their families suffer from their absence and subsequent PTSD.

Marie Wilmann, "War Sailor." Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA

Actor Marie Wilmann who plays Cecilia, Alfred’s wife, took her work in the movie personally. Her parents and grandparents lived during the war years, and she felt how they coped with those losses. The ramifications of the war affected women like her mother and grandmother.


Researching for the epic film was a colossal process. Norwegian writer/director Gunnar Vikene (Here is Harold”) based his original screenplay on factual events, interviews, and numerous field trips to museums and Norway’s National Archives. Then, he diverted his investigation to the sailors’ emotional, physical, and financial struggles.


To make this movie, the director’s most significant influence was the contemporary, Oscar Award-winning short documentary “The White Helmets.” A spellbinding real-life chronology of the UN first responders saving lives in Syria. Norwegians did not know much about the importance of that war, but the newly arrived Syrian immigrants helped to educate locals about their disturbing experiences in their troubled country.


“War Sailor” vividly illustrates how war affects everyone in the community. Director of Photography Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (“Victoria,” “Another Round,” “Rams”) moved with the camera intuitively. His exceptional close-ups of the eyes of the actors are as beautiful as his landscapes and ocean views.

At the Oslo premiere, some attendees opposing the truth conflicted with the story. The filmmakers talked extensively with war veterans about how the war affected them and their families. Ironically, when they got a medal, they also got a bill to pay for making the medal. In addition, the people of Norway had to pay extra taxes for food and supplies. War sailors returned to their country with bills to pay, alcoholism, and addiction to medication and other drugs. Norwegian veterans never got the proper recognition or compensation for their service. Many sailors were from different countries, including Americans.

Pål Sverre Hegen & Marie Wilmann, "War Sailor." Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA

According to the actors, producing the film during the pandemic was even more difficult and expensive, as part of the cast and crew got sick with Covid-19. War Sailor” is the most prominent Norwegian production shot in Malta, Germany, and Norway.


War Sailor” is Norway’s Best International Feature Film entry for the 95th Academy Awards. Now, it is streaming on Netflix as a three-episode miniseries. 


Pål Sverre Hegen & Marie Wilmann, "War Sailor." Critc José Alberto Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA

WAR SAILOR trailer

Violette, When Women Dare to Write  


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