SFIFF2013: “The Kill Team”, “Sofia’s Last Ambulance” and “A River Changes Course” – Capsule Reviews and Trailers

The Kill Team

Kill_team_01three-stars15What happens in the army, stays in the army, especially executions of innocent civilian Afghans.

Director Dan Krauss‘ access to soldiers of an army platoon dubbed “The Kill Team” makes for fascinating insights into bullying, and the military legal system, yet still has all the esthetics of a commercial-free 20/20 episode, albeit one with some gruesome snapshots of dead bodies. Cinematically interesting, this is not, but from a factual standpoint, those who followed this story in the news and are curious as to why and how this happened, you will get your answers.

Showtimes for The Kill Team: Fri, Apr 26th – 9:00pm (PFA – Berkeley)

Mon, May 6th – 3:15pm (Kabuki)

Tue, May 7th – 6:00pm (Kabuki)

Thu, May 9th – 6:00pm (New People)

Sofia’s Last Ambulance

Sofias_last_ambulance_02four-stars4If I wasn’t already aware that this fly on the wall glimpse into the lives of three paramedics as they navigate the day-to-day unexpectedness that comes with their job was a documentary I would have mistaken it as a Bulgarian language film made by one of the directors associated with the Romanian New Wave movement.

Don’t know anything about the Romanian New Wave of filmmaking? Don’t have to. Just know that almost all of the esthetic elements found in that movement are seen here; long takes, the absence of music, realist and minimalist style, and very personal portraits. Hollywood and/or documentary filmmaking 101, this is not.

For filmgoers unused to this more unconventional approach of filmmaking, especially within the non-fiction genre, this style of storytelling may be more jarring than effective. I, however, thought this approach allowed for these paramedics human truths to truly shine. Never once does the director manipulate any edits in order to either glamorize or denigrate these paramedics. Themes of humor, bleakness, hope, pessimism, and acceptance are rarely portrayed this well.

Showtimes for Sofia’s Last Ambulance: Sat, Apr 27th – 2:15pm (Kabuki)

Tue, Apr 30th – 8:50pm (PFA – Berkeley)

Fri, May 3rd – 3:30pm (Kabuki)

A River Changes Course

River_Changes_Course_01three-stars15Intended or not, this powerful documentary’s message is a global one, not just cause for alarm to the struggling class of Cambodia. Three hardworking poor Cambodian families full of blind determination, hope, and hopelessness, from three different regions of their country (a remote jungle, a river, and a small village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh) are the subjects of Kalyanee Mam‘s lusciously photographed and urgently intimate film.

Quite quickly it becomes apparent that the real stars of this film aren’t to be found in any of these likable Cambodian clans. The real stars here lie in the antagonizing effects brought on by that dastardly villain known as overpopulation. Deforestation, mounting debts, and overfishing rear their ugly heads in just about every scene, even the ones where our heroes (the families struggling to get by) are shown expressing joy.

Showtimes for A River Changes Course: Sat, Apr 27th – 7:00pm (Kabuki)

Mon, Apr 29th – 6:30pm (PFA – Berkeley)

Sun, May 5th – 1:00pm (New People)


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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival


  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | Filmbalaya.com - April 30, 2013

    […] Last Ambulance – “Never once does the director manipulate any edits in order to either glamorize or denigrate these pa…” – […]

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