Streaming Surprises, Volume 17

Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old. Titles are available from various streaming services.

“Poorna” (2017)

“Poorna” is based on the true story of a courageous and determined thirteen-year old girl from a tribal region of India. Poorna, an Adivasi (indigenous) becomes the youngest girl in history to climb Mount Everest. It is an uplifting film about how people can raise themselves up in spite of social and economic constraints. It is an inspiring story about female empowerment and follows Poorna from Telangana to Darjeeling to Sikkim to Nepal and as she reaches the summit of Mount Everest. The stunning cinematography directed by Subhransu Das used static and drone cameras to capture spectacular landscapes of the film’s locations that posed logistical challenges. Directed by Rahul Bose Rahul Bose who also stars, along with Aditi Inamdar as Poorna Malavath.

Submitted by Joan K. Sharma. Available on Amazon Prime Video. (English subtitles)

“Strong Island” (2017)

Strong Island is a documentary that has a clear yet all too familiar story of an unresolved killing of a young black man. A small dispute ends with William Ford, Jr. being shot, and his killer set free. What sets Strong Island apart from other true crime stories is its personal nature. The director, Yance Ford, is also the brother of the victim as well as a significant participant of critical events. Yance carefully details not only the first-hand accounts but also includes the past and current racial relations of the Long Island community that contextualize the case. Strong Island escapes the typical linear documentary format in favor of an emotional narrative, with all the subjectivity it entails. Facts of the case are revealed in a selective order as if guarded by grief and shame. Surrounding the entire narrative is the secret Yance could not share with his brother, his queer identity, which plays a role in the dramatic events in the film. Strong Island excels most when it is intensely personal, encapsulated by its tight facial framing and its detailed family histories and the devastating impact tragedy has had on them.

Submitted by Cassandra Ruby. Available on Netflix.

“Babette’s Feast” (1987)

Winner of the 1988 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, “Babette’s Feast” takes place in a rural village on the coast of Denmark in the 19th century, where the villagers are religious ascetics. The daughters of the Protestant minister, having shunned love and possible fame in favor of a life focused on good works, are now spinsters growing old together. Enter Babette, a political refugee from Paris. The sisters provide a home for Babette, who will clean and cook for them. The former chef of one of the finest restaurants in Paris, Babette willingly prepares the common fare preferred by the villagers – boiled salted fish and a porridge of stale bread and ale. Fourteen years later Babette wins the French lottery and wants nothing more than to prepare a French feast for the sisters and their friends. How can the sisters deny Babette’s wish when she has never before asked anything of them? Having granted Babette’s wish, however, they begin having nightmares about the decadence of the experience. The night of the feast arrives, as, with trepidation, do the guests. Watching the villagers experience the meal is a true feast for the audience. As they sample flavors previously unknown to them – wines, cailles in sarcophage, (quails in coffins), fruits so ripe they drip with flavor – their countenances soften, as do their attitudes toward one another. The film closes with the guests leaving the feast, hand in hand, sharing in the beauty of the starlit evening.

Submitted by Linda Knight. Available on Amazon Video.