Ebertfest 2023: Nine Days, Tokyo Story, My Name is Sara, and American Folk

“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.”

-Roger Ebert

This film, directed by Edson Oda, holds true to demonstrating appreciation for direction in the art of cinema. Nine Days focuses on a man named Will (played by Winston Duke) who does an experiment that lasts for nine days. He has individuals watch a series of videos to help them consider what they can change in their lives. Nine Days shows audiences the positive impact of looking back at life choices to assess what actions can be improved upon. Oda’s direction exposes feelings and encourages understanding which reveals a lot about what is on the minds of its characters and its audience. Nine Days is an invigorating ride.

This is a restoration experience that blew my mind. Originally released in 1953, Tokyo Story is a masterpiece. I have not felt so touched by human interactions portrayed in a film for a long time. The plot involves an old couple visiting their children and grandchildren, but who receive unexpected treatment. The attitude and direction of Tokyo Story and its characters is an in-depth demonstration of cinematic brilliance that had me riveted by every conversation. It leads viewers on a trail of curiosity while they wonder if characters are happy, annoyed, or distracted. I love the connected moments of family and acceptance that flows through the film’s empathetic direction. Revisiting Tokyo Story was an awakening experience which offers deep appreciation of cinema as an art form.

Survival and hope go a long way in My Name is Sara. Directed by Steven Oritt, the film focuses on the 1940s era. It is the true story of Sara Guralnick (played by Zuzanna Surowy), and her escape to the Ukrainian countryside after the death of her family. She lies about her identity to survive. Corrupt politics is where the film goes deep as it portrays the choices Sara must make to survive. My Name is Sara is audacious and a grand true story that will leave a mark of breathtaking cinema to remember for ages.

American Folk is a film where society is challenged based on the many tragic events that impact the world due to 9/11. Directed by David Heinz, American Folk follows two Americans who find themselves on the road from California to New York. Both are folk musicians, Elliott and Joni, played by Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth. On this unexpected road trip they embark upon, they find a connection with each other through their love of music. American Folk is an experience that shows how friendship be born in the most unlikely places. I was touched by these characters and their special connection sparked by music.


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