Excuse My French (Netflix)
Hany Abdallah Peter has to switch from a posh private school to a public one after his father's death. Due to an oversight, he is assumed to be Muslim, like the rest of the boys. Hany, wanting to fit in, does not try to clear this misconception, even taking part in a religious song competition. The first prize—which he wins—a prayer mat and a copy of Koran. When his religious identity is revealed, you can see a shift in the way he is treated by his classmates and the principal. It's a funny and interesting way of looking at the Muslim-Christian divide in Egypt from a child's perspective.—Nipa Charagi
Pushkar-Gayathri adapt their own 2017 Tamil film of the same name. We wrote in our review of the Saif Ali Khan and Hrithik Roshan-starrer: “From the start, you can sense the presence of a writer pulling the strings. A special unit of the Lucknow police is about to embark on a raid. Their leader, Vikram, greets them one by one on his way to kicking in the door and starting a gunfight with a group of gangsters. We learn a little about each through the skirmish and after—two brothers have just paid off their father’s long-standing loan, another has a fondness for sex workers. This kind of detailing is good writing period, but even more so when, deep into the film, the idle talk assumes a significance. Then we realize how little is wasted, how every joke, every gesture is bait to catch a larger fish.”
A Jazzman's Blues (Netflix)
In a rural black community in Georgia, teenagers Bayou (Joshua Boone) and light-skinned Leanne (Solea Pfeiffer) find comfort in each other. She's abused by her grandfather; he's disliked by his father. It's the summer of 1937. Leanne moves away to Boston and their paths cross again a decade later. She's now posing as a white woman, married to a white man. But their coming together is fraught with danger. Bayou escapes to Chicago, and finds success as a jazz singer. But he's, fatalistically, drawn back to Leanne. Tyler Perry apparently wrote the script 27 years ago.—NC
X (Amazon Prime)
This slasher film follows the cast and crew of a porn film shooting in rural Texas who are targeted by a killer. Released earlier this year, it has recently gained a prequel film, Pearl, and will get a sequel next year Starring Mia Goth, written and directed by Ti West.
Wood and Water (MUBI)
In Jonas Bak’s contemplative film, a recent retiree in Germany (played by his own mother) impulsively travels to Hong Kong to meet her son, who’s been away for years, and who can’t leave because of the political protests there. We never see the son; instead, we observe Anke’s first couple of days in Hong Kong, marked by loneliness and kindness from strangeness. There are numerous pensive shots of Anke, and some nice details of Hong Kong life. Bak doesn’t offer a window into personal or national psyches, but his film does have a sophisticated look, complemented by Brian Eno’s score.