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TIFF 2021: Carolyn Talks 'Snakehead' with Writer-Director Evan Jackson Leong

Screening at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, Snakehead the crime saga the debut feature film of writer and director by Evan Jackson Leong is as much about the gritty underworld of human trafficking, as it is about the emotional toll being an immigrant takes on the psyche. Through his main female characters Sister Tse (Shuya Chang) and Dai Mah (Jade Wu) audiences see the generational gap of the new and old.


Desperate to find and reconnect with her daughter after eight years of separation, Sister Tse puts her life in the hands of Snakeheads - Chinese smugglers to traffic illegal immigrants - to the cost of $57,000. Refusing to repay the debt through sex work, Sister Tse works to get in good with the head of the criminal enterprise, Dai Mah, and earn her way out by using her street smarts, keen observational skills and will. As Sister Tse grows closer to Dai Mah she begins to consider whether the woman who has the power to get her killed is worth trusting, and Dai Mah learns that the way she thinks the way the world works, isn't necessarily true. As these two women get into a power struggle, Dia Mah's son Rambo (Sung Kang) begins to make his own moves, that could put everyone and everything in danger with their community and the law.


In my conversation with Leong for Carolyn Talks..., we spoke about these two amazingly complex and relatable female characters played brilliantly by Chang and Mah. Both of their characters posses a ton of personal strength, but display moments of vulnerability and self-awareness that make them admirable and relatable. We discussed the importance of telling different immigrant stories, his use of imagery and the elements to give insight into his characters' emotions and experiences, as with those of Rambo.


Snakehead releases into theatres, on Digital and On Demand October 29, 2021.

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Carolyn Talks 'Mass' with Critic Emily Tannenbaum

Following its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival fellow film critic Emily Tannenbaum, joined me for this episode of Carolyn Talks..., to discuss Mass, a film that asks and in a sense answers the question of how do you have the most difficult conversation of your life with the people who possibly hate you the most?Written and directed by Fran Kranz, Mass is an emotionally intense and at times heartrending film centered around four parents having the most difficult conversation of their life, as they grapple with the why and how of a devastating tragedy that strikes their families. Taking place over the course of one day, set in the conference room of a nondescript protestant in a small suburban American town where Linda (Ann Down), Gail (Martha Plimpton), and their husbands Jay (Jason Issacs) and Richard (Reed Birney) are brought together by a mediator for the couples to find some sort of understanding about the grief, anger and confusion they're each dealing with.With just each other to react to and the minimum of props to provide a distraction the cast give extremely impressive performances as their characters go through the ebb and flow of the intense emotions their characters experience in a conversation that seems to go no where. But it's in this apparent cycle that you realize that somethings have no rational explanation. That there will never be satisfactory answers when the lives of children are taken in an instant. That grief is a constant when tragedy is sudden and devastating. With his direction and script Kranz brilliantly shows that life is unpredictable and humanity is fragile, and in order to cherish the memories we have to have to learn how to let go, even when we don't want to.Mass was released in theatres on on October 8, 2021.