Monday, March 13, 2023

Navalny: The Russian Dissident Who Shocked The World

 By José Alberto Hermosillo

“Navalny” is an intense political thriller, astonishing and shocking! This leading-edge Academy Award-winning jaw-dropping documentary is exceptionally made, with trustworthy first-hand information and unexpected twists and turns.

“Navalny” is a character-driven story that follows the attempted assassination of former Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020.

Navalny’s ordeal started when he felt sick from drinking poisoned tea. His airplane from Moscow to Siberia had to be diverted to Omsk. Navalny’s case continued under the reflector lights of the world’s newscasters to another hospital in Germany. 

While planning his return to Russia after 32 days in an intensive care facility in Deutschland, he recovered, regrouped, and started his quest to unmask the corrupt and anti-democratic Russian gubernatorial system.

Navalny needed more than a new Perestroika to win the elections against Putin and reform the political system in the entire country. His people supported him, but the Russian secret agents severely impacted his life and his family’s safety. 

Therefore, Navalny’s ideology vanishes before his eyes over his imperative need for survival. Nevertheless, starting with Alexei’s case, he organized the “Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation” to prosecute Putin’s agents who participated in disappearing adversaries, dissidents, and Loud protestors in and outside the former Soviet Union. The vicious internal acts of repression happened as a prelude to the Ukraine War in 2022.

Screening of "Navalny." Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

The investigation turns complex when documentarians follow the trends of the story before Navalny’s poisoning by the Russian secret service. At the same time, it parallels Navalny’s inquiries about the overwhelming evidence of his executioners over the phone, in real-time, and disclosing those incriminating testimonies with the proper authorities and on social media.

Director Daniel Roher., "Navalny." Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

When Canadian filmmaker Daniel Roher (‘Once Were Brothers”) was working on a different project in Ukraine, he had to go to Vienna but could not return to Ukraine to continue his work. It was when his American producers brought up the subject of the Russian dissident. Daniel and his crew went immediately to Germany to interview Alexei Navalny and set the story right.

The documentarians gathered over a month of recordings, with 4,000 pages of transcripts, pictures, videos, and other materials. The first cut of the documentary ended as an extensive 15-hour project, the product of four cameras rolling at the same time during the last interview. Before locking down the intense 1 hour 39 minutes final cut, they reviewed all the vital information and added it to the film’s final discussion. 

During the process, the crew communicated with the security code LP9 (Love Pushing 9) to not let any information be leaked to the Russian Secret Service.

“Navalny” director Daniel Roher, cinematographer Niki Waltl, and Alexei Navalny

Finishing the film was a mission impossible because new events developed daily. Still, Daniel Roher was determined to follow the story until Navalny’s nine years plus sentencing in a maximum security penal colony after being found guilty of large-scale fraud and contempt was given in the Moscow courthouse. 

In his acceptance speech at the 95th Academy Awards, Daniel Roher passionately stated, “Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, is in solitary confinement for what he calls Vladimir Putin’s unjust war in Ukraine.” The director wanted to dedicate the award to all political prisoners in the world. 

Alexei Navalny is a politician with millions of followers on YouTube. He reaches the masses online through social media with his slogan, “Do not be afraid.”

Panel with "Navalny" director Daniel Roher. Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

Now, the young documentarian Daniel Roher can deliver more than a promise to Alexei Navalny, who was hoping to get an Academy Award nomination and, why not, an Oscar 
win. More importantly, the Awards are showing broadly in Russia and the world, and he knows that people in his county will be watching. That will keep his name and intention to become Russia’s next president relevant at the highest stage during the Awards ceremony, like a message hidden inside a Trojan horse. The award means the world to everybody – the director, the idealist, the family, and the followers.

Daniel Roher knows that his provocative documentary will not show in a multiplex in Moscow anytime soon. But the director’s dream is to show his project to Alexei in a movie theater in The Golden-Domed City. That moment will be remembered as epic, as winning the Oscar for Navalny’s cause.

"Navalny" director Daniel Roher & film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

A House Made of Splinters: And the Shattered Children of Ukraine

 By José Alberto Hermosillo

A House Made of Splinters
A House Made of Splinters: And the Shattered Children of Ukraine

“A House Made of Splinter” is a powerful and moving documentary of extraordinary beauty made in Ukraine before the invasion. Emotionally devastating.

The documentary chronicles the lives of several Ukrainian children inside a shelter where they find a sanctuary during the madness of the external world. 

The mêlée in Ukraine occurs in the interior of every broken family affecting the most vulnerable, the children. 

Things seem to be running smoothly in a refuge for children in East Ukraine. Outside the facility, people still feel the prelude of war and remain inside their homes. This story elapses a year or two before the Russian invasion and during other previous incursions. 

The facility’s principal describes the situation as overwhelming and challenging. The film juxtaposes her affectionate narration with distant images of the impoverished Eastern European country. She states, “Life was difficult, but the war worsened things. So many people lost their jobs. Now, every tenth door hides a broken family. When a family is broken due to alcoholism, violence, or homelessness, the social worker brings the children to our shelter.”

The Oscar-nominated docudrama exquisitely displays children actively interacting with their teachers and classmates. But the children miss their parents and still want to communicate with them, even if they know they are alcoholics and cannot be reached. The children experience the delights of friendship, their first love, then how their hearts get broken, loneliness, and hope.

The children narrate, in first person, their experience of domestic violence and physical abuse and even witnessed the murder of one of their parents. The unseen chaos living on the battlefields is brought inside their homes, causing anxiety, depression, and internal fights.

Transferring the children from the shelter to an orphanage or foster family is painful for some, mainly if they have siblings remaining in the center. Tearing families apart is always problematic and emotionally distressful for the little ones.

When the grandparents or one of their mothers visit or pick up one of the children, they become joyous, and their happiness is overpowering. 

The extraordinary camera work of the cinematographer/director Simon Lereng Wilmont reveals an intimate concealment where the shelter’s occupants can interact naturally. Mr. Lereng patiently waited for the right moment to show the children’s most affectionate moments as they opened up with honesty and courage in front of the camera.

In “A House Made of Splinters,” every child’s story has a similar behavioral pattern – Sasha, Kolya, Eva, Zhenyia, Kristina, and Polina – most of them need professional help because it is devastating for anyone to have that feeling that nobody wants them. Those memories will stay in their hearts for the rest of their lives. No human being deserves to feel unwanted.

When a girl grows up, she also could become a mother, and she will be an alcoholic and could give up her parents’ rights to a foster family. For Ukrainian children, their future is not promising.

El cuarto desnudo/The Naked Room
El cuarto desnudo/The Naked Room

Another profound and analytical documentary on children’s psychology with mental conflicts is “El cuarto desnudo/The Naked Room,” directed by Nuria Ibañez, in 2013, which has similar portrayals of children who undergo a psychological evaluation and special treatment in a hospital with naked walls in Mexico City.

“A House made of Splinters” keeps the audience hooked and wondering about the future of these vulnerable children who are not precisely victims of their parent’s actions or their violent environment. Still, of the circumstances, they have to live in their place and time. 

The children must be loved as we all have to learn to appreciate the beauty and vitality as “hope does last.” The film closes with a lullaby, as we are left heartbroken, helpless, and powerless. 

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023


By José Alberto Hermosillo


1.    The Whale
2.    All Quiet on the Western Front
3.    Avatar: The Way of the Water
4.    The Banshees of Inisherin
5.    Close
6.    Vengeance 
7.    The Batman
8.    Top Gun: Maverick
9.    The Woman King
10.  The Menu
11.  Tàr
12.  A Reason to Leave
13.  Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
14.  The Fabelmans
15.  Women Talking
16.  Argentina, 1985
17.  My Policeman
18.  Everything Everywhere All at Once
20.  Stars at Noon
21.  RRR
22.  X

Special Mention to:

Aftersun, A House Made of Splinters, All That Breaths, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, A Man Called Otto. Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Bones and All, Brian and Charles, Cairo Conspiracy, Corsage, Dramarama, EO, Fire of Love, Fresh, Frank and Penelope, Holy Spider, Joyland, Joyride, Last Film Show, Living, On the Count to Three, Prey, She Will, Three ThousandYears of Longing. The Quiet Girl, The Territory.  The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse. Voodoo Macbeth, War Sailor, Where the Crawdads Sing.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023


By José Alberto Hermosillo

Surprises and, for some, disappointments. The announcement of the Oscars 2023 nominations came as one of the weirdest, wildest, and most uneven in Oscar’s history. 

Films that deserved some Academy love got too little or no love at all -- “The Woman King,” “The Whale,” “Till,” “The Menu,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” “Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” “Holy Spider,” “The Territory,” “A Man Called Otto,” “Decision to Leave,” “Nope,” “Bones and All,” “Devotion,” and “Corsage.”

This is the year of the blockbuster nominees. “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick” combined grossed $4 billion globally at the box office. Another big money maker is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” It was not nominated for Best Picture but has been nominated in five other categories, including Angela Bassett for Best Supporting Actress.


Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)
Malte Grunert, Producer
Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios)
James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures) 
Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, and Martin McDonagh, Producers
Elvis (Warner Bros)
Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick, and Schuyler Weiss, Producers
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)⭐⭐⭐
Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, and Jonathan Wang, Producers 
The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures)
Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, Producers
Tár (Focus Features)
Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan, and Scott Lambert, Producers
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)
Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison, and Jerry Bruckheimer, Producers
Triangle of Sadness (NEON)
Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober, Producers
Women Talking (United Artists Releasing/Orion Pictures)
Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Frances McDormand, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

Austin Butler, Elvis
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser, The Whale⭐⭐⭐
Paul Mescal, Aftersun
Bill Nighy, Living

Actor in a Supporting Role

Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway
Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once⭐⭐⭐

Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett, Tár
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once⭐⭐⭐
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo by Jose Alberto Hermosillo 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau, The Whale
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once⭐⭐⭐
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Animated Feature Film

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio⭐⭐⭐
Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Alex Bulkley
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
Dean Fleischer Camp, Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan, and Paul Mezey
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Joel Crawford and Mark Swift
The Sea Beast
Chris Williams and Jed Schlanger
Turning Red
Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins


All Quiet on the Western Front⭐⭐⭐
James Friend
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Darius Khondji
Mandy Walker
Empire of Light
Roger Deakins
Florian Hoffmeister

Costume Design

Mary Zophres
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever⭐⭐⭐
Ruth Carter
Catherine Martin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Shirley Kurata
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Jenny Beavan


Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once⭐⭐⭐
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Todd Field, Tár
Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness

Documentary Feature Film

All That Breathes
Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Laura Poitras, Howard Gertler, John Lyons, Nan Goldin, and Yoni Golijov
Fire of Love
Sara Dosa, Shane Boris,, and Ina Fichman
A House Made of Splinters
Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström
Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, and Shane Boris
The Martha Mitchell Effect, Netflix

Documentary Short Film

The Elephant Whisperers⭐⭐⭐
Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
How Do You Measure a Year?
Jay Rosenblatt
The Martha Mitchell Effect
Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
Stranger at the Gate
Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Film Editing

The Banshees of Inisherin
Mikkel E.G.,, Nielsen
Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond
Everything Everywhere All at Once⭐⭐⭐
Paul Rogers
Monika Willi
Top Gun: Maverick
Eddie Hamilton

International Feature Film

All Quiet on the Western Front⭐⭐⭐
Argentina, 1985
The Quiet Girl
The Batman⭐⭐⭐
The Batman makeup⭐⭐⭐ 

Makeup and Hairstyling

All Quiet on the Western Front
Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová
The Batman
Naomi Donne, Mike Marino,, and Mike Fontaine
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Camille Friend and Joel Harlow
Mark Coulier, Jason Baird, and Aldo Signoretti
The Whale⭐⭐⭐
Adrien Morot, Judy Chin, and Anne Marie Bradley

Music (Original Score)

All Quiet on the Western Front⭐⭐⭐
Volker Bertelmann
Justin Hurwitz
The Banshees of Inisherin⭐
Carter Burwell
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Son Lux
The Fabelmans
John Williams

Music (Original Song)

“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler, and Ludwig Goransson; Lyric by Tems and Ryan Coogler
"Naatu Naatu" from RRR⭐⭐⭐
Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
Music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne, and Mitski; Lyric by Ryan Lott and David Byrne

Production Design

All Quiet on the Western Front⭐⭐⭐
Production Design: Christian M. Goldbeck; Set Decoration: Ernestine Hipper
Avatar: The Way of Water
Production Design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter; Set Decoration: Vanessa Cole
Production Design: Florencia Martin; Set Decoration: Anthony Carlino
Production Design: Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy; Set Decoration: Bev Dunn
The Fabelmans
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

Animated Short Film

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse⭐⭐⭐
Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud
The Flying Sailor
Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
Ice Merchants
João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano
My Year of Dicks
Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake, and I Think I Believe It
Lachlan Pendragon

Live Action Short Film

An Irish Goodbye, Tom Berkeley and Ross White⭐⭐⭐
Ivalu, Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan
Le Pupille, Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuarón
Night Ride, Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen
The Red Suitcase, Cyrus Neshvad⭐


All Quiet on the Western Front, Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, and Stefan Korte
Avatar: The Way of Water, Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, and Michael Hedges
The Batman, Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray, and Andy Nelson
ElvisDavid Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson, and Michael Keller
Top Gun: Maverick,⭐⭐⭐ Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor

Visual Effects

All Quiet on the Western Front, Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, Markus Frank, and Kamil Jafar
Avatar: The Way of Water, ⭐⭐⭐Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon, and Daniel Barrett
The Batman, Dan Lemmon, Russell Earl, Anders Langlands, and Dominic Tuohy
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, R. Christopher White, and Dan Sudick
Top Gun: Maverick, Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson, and Scott R. Fisher

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

All Quiet on the Western Front, Screenplay by Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson & Ian Stokell
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Written by Rian Johnson
Living, Written by Kazuo Ishiguro
Top Gun: Maverick, Screenplay by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie; Story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks
Women Talking, ⭐⭐⭐Screenplay by Sarah Polley
Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Banshees of InisherinWritten by Martin McDonagh
Everything Everywhere All at Once, ⭐⭐⭐ Written by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
The Fabelmans,  Written by Steven Spielberg & Tony Kushner
Tár, Written by Todd Field
Triangle of Sadness, Written by Ruben Östlund


92 years have passed since the American movie based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Now, the German version has 9 nominations, including Best Picture. If the war movie succeeds, it will be the second film based on a previously published material to win, after Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” won in 2006. Also, the Netflix production will be the second streaming studio to win Best Picture, after Apple TV+ won for “CODA” a year before.

90 years old, music composer John Williams gets a nomination for “The Fabelmans” for Best Original Score, becoming the oldest living person with most nominations.

53 times John Williams has been nominated. He is near reaching Walt Disney’s record of 59.

42 years have passed since Judd Hirsch got nominated for the first time for “Ordinary People” in 1981. At 87, he gets his second Oscar nomination for “The Fabelmans.”

16 out of the 20 performers in the 4 acting categories were nominated for the first time.

11 Oscar nominations for Irish Cinema, four in the acting categories. “The Banshees of Inisherin” has 9, including Best Picture. “The Quiet Girl” is up for Best International Feature Film. And “The Irish Goodbye” for Best Live Action Short.

4 Oscar nominations for Asian performers in the acting categories -- including the first nomination for an Asian leading lady for Best Actress, Michelle Yeoh, for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Also, for Supporting Actress Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” And the extraordinary performance of Hong Chau for Best Supporting Actress in “The Whale.”

4 European movies are nominated in the Best International Feature Film category, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, and Poland. One from Latin America, Argentina. No Asian or African films are represented at this time. If Argentina wins, it will be the second time the South American country has won the Soccer World Cup and the Oscar in the same year. ‘The Official Story” won in 1986, as their soccer team won the World Cup in Mexico ’86.

3 are the projects nominated for the famous three Mexican directors known as the “Three Amigos.” They are getting a nomination in the same year, and the last time it happened was in 2007 with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Babel,” and “Children of Men.” The Mexican director Guillermo del Toro only earned one nomination for Best Animated Feature for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (the animated film was expected to have the same success as in the BAFTAS with at least three more nominations). Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s project is up for Best Cinematography for “Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.” Alfonso Cuarón co-produced the Live Action Short made in Italy, “Le Pupille.”

3 are the projects representing India this year with nominations, and all with strong possibilities to win, “RRR” for Best Original Song, “All that Breaths” for Best Documentary Feature, and “The Elephant Whisperers” for Best Documentary Short Subject.

One Oscar nomination for Cuban performer Ana de Armas for her provocative interpretation of Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde.” Never a Latina actress has won this category.

One is the nomination for an actor playing a superhero in a Marvel Studios, and it is the first time a character from that company gets nominated. The honor goes to Angela Bassett for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

One is the Oscar nomination under scrutiny. The Academy is reviewing the Best Actress nomination of Andrea Riseborough for “To Leslie” and whether their Oscar campaign promoting the movie followed the rules or intentionally alternated the algorithms. That nomination may be revoked, even if other actors campaigned for her. The controversy grew bigger for other people in the industry who were making allegations based on race - staying that other colored actors with quality projects, who campaigned intensively and followed the rules, did not get in, such as Viola Davis for “The Woman King” and Danielle Deadwyler for “Till.”


Everything Everywhere All at Once, 11
All Quiet on the Western Front, 9
The Banshees of Irisherin, 8
Elvis, 8
The Fabelmans, 7
Tàr, 6
Top Gun: Maverick, 6
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, 5
Avatar: The Way of Water, 4
The Whale, 3


  1. A24, 17
  2. NETFLIX, 16
  3. WARNER BROS, 11
  4. DISNEY + 20TH CENTURY, 10
  9. NEON, 3
  10. APPLE TV +, 2
Winners will be announced during the 95th Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 12, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
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