This Week in Trailers

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week, we care for the dead, over-schedule the kids, learn how to use our bodies to express ourselves, and try to make it in the world today with everything we’ve got.

Two Gods

Director Zeshawn Ali’s debut documentary looks celestial.

In an area of Newark, NJ, where too many funerals commemorate tragically short lives, Hanif, an older man with a troubled past, works as a casket maker and ritual body washer. He is committed to his work and to his Islamic faith and is also a dedicated mentor to two local kids—Furquan, a confident 12-year-old who comes from a rough home and Naz, a 17-year-old who has been fighting through his own struggles as a young Black man growing up in Newark. Challenges come when Furquan’s home life becomes more turbulent and Naz gets caught up in a serious arrest. Hanif, struggling with the fear that he has failed as a mentor, begins to fall into a downward spiral.

Shot in exquisite black and white, Zeshawn Ali’s auspicious feature debut is a lyrical meditation on the importance of community and passing down generational knowledge through faith, brotherhood and redemption.

Maybe it’s because summer movie season is around the corner, or maybe we’re getting more prestigious features being released into the wild now that the pandemic is loosening its grip, but this is exactly what I need right now. This is touching, this is moving, and the choice to film this in black and white is perfect. The subject matter is gnarly, but it’s these kinds of stories that can genuinely uplift and inspire when it’s real people trying to do real things. Life is not easy. Life is hard. But, it’s comforting to know there are people like this in the world.

The Justice of Bunny King

Director Gaysorn Thavatt’s debut feature hits hard.

Bunny King (Essie Davis) is a mother of two, a rough cut diamond with a sketchy past. While battling the system to reunite with her children, a confrontation leads her to take her niece Tonyah (Thomasin McKenzie) under her wing.

With the world against her and Tonyah, Bunny’s battle has just begun.

What’s remarkable about this drama that takes place in New Zealand is that it could be set anywhere in the world. It’s a story, not unlike The Florida Project, that does not romanticize the struggle of trying to get to tomorrow in one piece. Rather, it’s a story that shows, dramatically, what happens when you apply extreme economic, social, and familial pressure to one person. There are moments that feel a little exaggerated and swing rather hard into territory that feels melodramatic, but it’s a small quibble. There is so much to chew on, visually and emotionally, that it’s a welcome change of pace compared to everything else out there.

Chasing Childhood

Director Eden Wurmfeld knows what’s up.

Overprotected and overdirected, American children are wilting under the weight of well-meaning parents. In the pursuit of keeping them safe and creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admissions boards, over-parenting smothers children across socioeconomic classes. CHASING CHILDHOOD follows education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood.

This is either a cautionary tale to all new parents or a very sobering message to current parents who are all too guilty of doing this. Your reaction to the trailer will depend on your own family status at the moment. Kids or no kids, this is the kind of real talk that needs to be shared more often. The trailer efficiently gets to the heart of why kids deserve a voice as they’re the ones directly affected by the parenting of those who may or may not know better. The narratives shared here are stark reminders that we’re not as smart as we think, and maybe we should think differently about how best to raise kids so that they become good adults.

Ailey

Director Jamila Wignot is telling the story of a legend.

Many know the name Alvin Ailey, but how many know the man? Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. Director Jamila Wignot’s resonant biography grants artful access to the elusive visionary who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Even if you don’t know who Alvin Ailey, you can see how important of a story this is. Ailey reimagined dance in a way that was both transformative and artistically transgressive. Seeing the power of those who were a part of this dance revolution, and speak about it, is nothing short of breathtaking.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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