‘En El Séptimo Día,’ In Plain Sight

What follows is a transcript of a talk I gave about En el Séptimo Día for the Westchester Film Club, where I often deliver lectures on new independent and foreign film releases.

This may sound odd, but I am very grateful to have watched this film with you fine people. As a critic I embrace any film that does its job well, regardless of the genre. But I admit I most embrace films that shed greater light on the human condition. En el Séptimo Día achieves this and then some by providing a window into the everyday challenges of an immigrant existence that is too often ignored in cinema.

It is, as David may have told you, the first feature in 15 years from much-revered Brooklyn independent director Jim McKay. A few weeks ago when we were discussing the biopic Mary Shelly, I said that a gifted and empathic person could tell any story regardless of race, gender or any other identity marker. This is very true of McKay, who made his mark with two no-budget movies, Girls Town (1996) and Our Song (2000), which both depicted female high-school students of color. It’s safe to say McKay’s approach to filmmaking is classic neorealism, which I consider to be the opposite of reality TV. By this I mean that that through careful research, scripting, and casting he labors to achieve an accurate glimpse of woefully underrepresented subcultures. Continue Reading →

American Horror Stories (‘Rosemary’ Turns 50)

Rosemary’s Baby turns 50 today, and I’ve been thinking a ton about this film and about the genre of horror overall. For a few decades, dystopias were the alarm clock we all needed, but because the dystopia is now and no satire could possibly outstrip the grotesque burlesque that has capsized the highest chambers of the land, horror is the perfect lens for examining the greatest biases and ugliest fears prevailing in our dying (dead?) republic. That’s why Get Out blew everything else in 2017 out of the water, and that’s why films like The Exorcist and, yes, Rosemary’s Baby haunt us still. The former was about an America possessed–why else do you think it took place within spitting distance of Nixon’s White house?–and the latter was about the way that women are gaslit about everything including their own intellectual and reproductive powers. It’s also why I’m so flatly unimpressed by the emptyheaded Hereditary, the Toni Collette everything-and-the-kitchen-sink horror film that has everyone’s tongue a-flapping this month. Continue Reading →

Oshun’s Sadly Swoon

By the time the delivery guy brought me the wrong order yesterday, I was once again done with the human race and the complicated triggers and traumas we bring to every interaction, all of us butting up against each other like bullies in a sandbox, crying big tears when no one’s looking but fists balled just the same.

The irony of the delivery guy kerfuffle was that on Sunday I’d given an impassioned lecture about Jim McKay’s excellent En El Séptimo Dia, a neo-realist look at the challenges of being an undocumented immigrant working as a delivery person in Brooklyn, where white hipsters with leftist politics treat them like shit. And here I was grappling with the dilemma of how to get my food without causing this delivery person trouble. Especially since, judging from the slip he was wielding, the wrong order was not his fault but his boss’s.

I sorted it out with no permanent harm inflicted on anyone, I think, though not quickly enough to avoid the low blood sugar blues. By the time I finished eating I felt sorry I’d ever relied on other people for anything, even supper.

For the last six weeks I’d been trying to smooth my edges so someone could come close and by yesterday just felt gobsmacked–run over, if you must know. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy