Sundance Critic’s Notebook #2 (Steve Dollar): Jockey, Human Factors and President
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jockey

After so much meta-ness, it was practically relaxing to kick back in the waning hours of this year's Sundance with such solid and old-fashioned drama as Jockey. Much like The Wrestler, devoid of the confident Dardenne-ian camerawork, this southwest slice of life follows an aging athlete – title jockey Jackson (Clinton Collins Jr.) – as he faces the end of his long drive. At least on the racetrack, though the overall damage caused by a series of back injuries is now threatening to cripple him, or worse, if he sticks to it.

The director and co-writer Clint Bentley, who previously co-wrote and produced the border patrol thriller Transpecos (2016), relies on atmosphere and landscape. The former is largely due to the endless blue skies and dark sunsets that stretch over the Phoenix Range that Jackson presides over. He works loyally with Ruth (Molly Parker), the trainer he has worked with for years. The latter is very much Collins himself, or rather his character's weathered face struggling to maintain a stoic facade as his body collapses. There are more than usual reasons to hold on despite the risks. It's the creature Jackson calls "a swan with teeth," a new mare that Ruth is dying to turn into a champion. If he has to go out, Jackson goes out on a missile ship. There's also the arrival of another game-changing new factor, a young jockey named Gabriel (Moisés Arias) who adores Jackson, and one day he stuns the older man by telling him he's his son. That doesn't go well, but Jackson slowly warms up to the idea and soon takes the boy under the hand.

The twists and turns in the narrative are well known, but the pleasure the film offers is watching the main cast impersonate their roles with a casual naturalism, creating a mood that extends to the supporting cast, many of whom are real jockeys and racing drivers are industry professionals. The classicism of the narrative is somewhat modernized by the film's engagement with the actual world it represents, not dissimilar to Chloe Zhao's approach in Nomadland or, to stick with the equestrian theme, The Rider, which eschewed professional actors. Bentley takes care of showing some of the actual work processes on screen, everyday experiences from daybreak at the booths to nightly tequila parties around the campfire. The subtle, pulsating score by Bryce and Aaron Dessner (from the National) adds subtle colors and moments of dramatic uplift, a balanced approach that matches the tone of the story, is rich in emotion and vulnerability, but like the jockeys themselves avoid excess baggage. The film's emotional wallop is enough without melodrama.

To revise the classic line by Wim Wenders & # 39; The American Friend: In Hamburg there are no cowboys (or jockeys) from Human Factors by German director Ronny Trocker. Instead, a family is on the verge of breaking up. This division is reflected in the structure of the film: a four-part narrative in which an event and its consequences are viewed from the perspective of four different characters. The incident in question is an apparent burglary that happened after the family arrived at a holiday home near the Belgian coast. Nina (Sabine Timoteo) and Mark (Mark Waschke) run a successful advertising agency and have two children, a teenage daughter and a younger boy, who also have a pet rat named Zorro (the rodent may seem like a cute detail, but it is) in the Acted crucial, but saying more would be a spoiler). Half the fun is anticipating how each rephrase of the episode will play out, revealing new details each time, and expanding the dimension of the story. The other half is enjoying the breakdown as the neat facade of a comfortable, liberal Northern European lifestyle is pricked, optimized and stressed to the point of rupture. In addition to the predatory camera lurking in the beach house, there is the suggestion that the family could be the target of politically motivated retaliation, since Mark has accepted a high-profile candidate for an anti-immigrant as a client without consulting Nina on the platform. In almost every social encounter, Trocker expertly finds pockets full of vague anxiety and fearful decoding, albeit with a much lighter, even satirical hand than, for example, Michael Haneke, whose influence is certainly hovering over the scenario.

The timing couldn't be more relevant in putting the president on the American audience. Danish documentary filmmaker Camilla Nielsson's sequel to her extraordinary film Democrats from 2014 revisits the chaotic landscape of Zimbabwe and her restless, fussed and sometimes fatal 2018 presidential elections. This should really come with a trigger warning for anyone who will still suffer from PTSD from November onwards, and with Donald Trump's subsequent campaign to overthrow American democracy. While his second impeachment trial is imminent, poised to dredge the gutters, Nielsson's film will again stir emotion with its energetic and detailed chronicle of a stolen election – a violent and insane parallel to what could and almost did happen here.

This epic of systemic corruption has its hero in Nelson Chamisa, the 40-year-old arsonist who takes over the opposition MDC after its leader dies in the middle of an election campaign. The ruling party and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who orchestrated the 2017 coup against dictator Robert Mugabe, are proving to be formidable enemies, not least because of their willingness to recalculate the election results for their own purposes. Meanwhile, Nielsson and her team plunge into the intense battle, from tense back room meetings to weird courtroom hearings to blood-filled streets, and use their extraordinary approach to deliver a sizzling, vital account of how the story came about and unfolded.

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