Rebecca Hall in Christine.

Rebecca Hall in Christine.

Christine (USA, 2016): In 1974, Sarasota news reporter Christine Chubbuck responded to management pressures for more exciting stories by blowing her brains off on live TV. Since there is no mystery about her fate, this biopic focuses on the many factors that led her to take such drastic decision.

As depicted in the film, Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall, Vicki Christina Barcelona) was the smartest reporter in the room, with hopes to go to a bigger market. Christine was also struggling with depression, infertility and an unrequited crush on the news anchor (Michael C. Hall, Dexter).

The film is broad but successful at exploring all the elements involved in Chubbuck’s suicide. But the movie’s biggest asset is a powerhouse performance by Rebecca Hall, who builds a sympathetic character without betraying the integrity of the person who inspired it. If Christine wasn’t an indie struggling with distribution, I would call Hall a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination. Three planets.

Sand Storm (Israel, 2016): As problematic as the issue of arranged marriages is in the Middle East, there are only so many outcomes available to filmmakers. Sand Storm finds a less explored strain, but fails at distinguish itself from other similarly themed films (Academy Award nominee Mustang hit theatres just last winter).

The eldest daughter of a Bedouin family, Layla believes that because her father allows her to drive and pursue an education, she can pick her own beau. She would be wrong. Mere days after bringing the boyfriend home, she is engaged to a less than stellar individual from her community.

Layla’s stern mother, Jalila, appears initially as the villain of the piece (she is the first one to oppose the young woman’s relationship), but soon becomes clear she is a realist with a better grasp of her husband’s character. Jalila is also fighting her own issues, namely the arrival of a second wife, much younger than her.

Sand Storm brings attention to the limited opportunities women have in this environment and hints at the resilience of patriarchal tradition. Worth watching, if you haven’t been exposed to the subject before. Three planets.

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