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Berlin Film Festival 2024: Demba, The Strangers’ Case, Black Tea | Festivals & Awards

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Instead, the first chapter, entitled “The Doctor,” leaps into a Chicago hospital where a tearful Amira (Yasmine Al Massri) in a tiny office begins to recall Aleppo, Syria, nine years ago, where she was a combat physician mending bodies broken by a horrific Civil War. Despite the extremist nationalism happening around her, punctuated by killing squads and a constant hail of rockets, today is a special day: It’s Amira’s birthday. She rushes home with her daughter Rasha (Massa Daoud) to celebrate. Their party ends when a rocket suddenly strikes their home, forcing Amira and Rasha to flee the country in the trunk of a car. 

Their journey becomes the film’s throughline: We meet the disillusioned Syrian soldier Mustafa (Mustafa), a poet (Ziad Bakri) protecting his family in a refugee camp, a cold, practical smuggler (a magnetic Omar Sy) in Turkey, and a haunted Greek Coast Guard Captain (Constantine Markoulakis). Each character is a parent, in a film that cloyingly employs children toward emotionally manipulative ends. The startling editing in this glossy picture does the same: Each part concludes on a traumatic cliffhanger, leaving us on baited breath to await some resolution in the next segment. This is a film that treasures misery as a vehicle for tension, but rarely as a chance for humanism to arise. By the end, Andersen has shaken, jarred and overwhelmed his audience so much that he forgets how to inspire them. 

There are few sights more shocking than a talented veteran filmmaker totally whiffing: That rare surprise occurred with director Abderrahmane Sissako’s jumbled and misjudged romance “Black Tea.” The latest film from the director behind the Oscar nominated  “Timbuktu,” witnesses Aya (Nina Mélo), a bride from the Ivory Coast who turns down marriage to learn about tea in China from tea shop owner Cai (Chang Han). In China she discovers a thriving African diaspora fluent in Mandarin with their own businesses – like the beauty shop she routinely visits to feel community. It’s an intriguing premise that welcomes a chance to learn about this neighborhood and its inhabitants. But Sissako doesn’t appear to have control over his narrative. 

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by Xtreme HD IPTV

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