The Painter and the Thief
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As a scientist and daughter of immigrants, this subject matter really intrigued me. And I wasn't disappointed. Okada and Taylor sensitively and entertainingly probe sensitive issues of our time, and what more can we ask of art? I recently streamed this movie and, lucky me, I'll be watching it again at the Inwood Art Works film festival.
Love, science, race, culture, and ethics brilliantly woven together in a unique and touching way.
We need more smart, detailed science fiction like Anya. The idea -- a couple's infertility issues turn out to be caused by the fact that one of them is a genetically distinct species of humans -- forces us to consider what it is to be human, how we define species, and how we as a society would treat a subspecies. It's a superb thought experiment set in NYC, and I only wish the film were longer so we could delve more into the background of this species called the Narval and their cultural norms. The filmmakers focus on the Narval belief called 'the curse' which is the belief that those who leave the community will not have kids. Of course this is based on their inability to breed with the general population. But there were others hinted at, and I wanted to dig in more. I thought the acting was excellent, the pacing of the film was brisk, and the music in particular evoked the beating heart of NY's different immigrant enclaves. Excellent science based drama.
Seems like a bunch of New York locals who had a very bad plot idea decided to get together with friends and make a poor movie. Much of the acting is average or worse, and it had clumsy story development. I give science-based narratives a pretty wide narrative - but this one falls well outside.
Once the scientist starts driving the plot I was hooked. A lot of cool stuff here. The scientist accidentally discovers something worth digging into. I like that because scientists often make discoveries by accident. This to me was quite realistic yet also dramatic. Another interesting layer is that the scientist, a geneticist, is black. He is under pressure as a minority academic in ways that non-minorities are not. This is not overtly talked about in the film other than one almost throwaway beat that I caught. A woman is taking the scientist to talk to people is wants to research, and she says something like, "They're not going to like you." And he kind of mumbles something like, yeah no kidding. And when she says it's because you're a doctor, he registers surprise. I took that as a subtle nod to the scientist making an assumption about other people's prejudice that in most cases would be accurate -- 'they're not going to like me because I'm black' was superseded by 'they're not going to trust me because I'm a doctor.' Really interesting!
The fact that the people the scientist wants to research are another species of humans living in plain sight -- another fascinating conceit! Who are these people? What's their deal? Where did they come from? All really interesting questions that the scientist wants answers to. But he's sort of in an ethical quandary because of the way he discovered them is so unorthodox, ie -- not strictly through his research but through a friend who wanted help with fertility issues. I found it all quite realistic and a fun journey, a lot to chew on.
The couple are trying to have a kid and of course because one of them is of this different species, they aren't having any luck. And the species' culture has this idea of a curse that comes to those who leave their community are doomed to never have kids. I found this to be another great layer of how a community interprets natural biological things they can't easily explain. It's quite a dense movie with a lot of interesting layers. Like I said, a lot to chew on.
Mysterious science fiction set in modern times, it is really up my alley because I lived in Jackson Heights, Queens and loved how they shot all over the neighborhood and represented it in such a cool way.
The story is sort of a love story wrapped in a science mystery. I'm binging a lot of Star Trek so I felt like while this is not set in space or the future, it had a similar feel. Like the people in the story are using their brains way more than the average story, so you really get the sense that the filmmakers are for once respecting the audience's intelligence and their ability to unwrap a pretty complex set of circumstances.
None of the actors were familiar to me but the performances were all solid.
I had a bad feeling about this movie but ended up loving it. First there's a lot of science so if you don't like minutia and process then this movie is not for you. I looked at filmmaker's website and they did a lot of research with some world class geneticists and got a lot of details right about how genetics is done, from pipetting to PCR. The cultural aspects were also really well researched and frankly quite engrossing as one of the filmmakers is an anthropologist by training. Add to that some good performances by up and coming actors as well as some veterans (I'd seen Ali Ahn in a bunch of shows like Billions), and you have a really strong sci-fi independent film.
I loved this movie. This is the first time I have reviewed a movie, and In my enthusiasm I have somehow miss-posted my first review of Anya, or perhaps it is floating in cyberspace.
ANYA is an intimate love story. Jacob Okada, the filmmaker, has composed his plot beautifully and with expert cinematography. (When the movie ended, and the credits began, I wished for the film to be unending, I had fallen so deeply under the spell of the characters and the backdrop of forbidden genetics. That hope prevails — against all odds and tides and fortunes — is the profound kismet of this movie.
Okada coaxes performances of acuity and subtlety from the main actors. Our heroine falls in love with our hero almost against her discipline of career first. She dodges complexities. But the haunted face of her husband is so mute and sorrowful, that we accept their impossible odds at conception; and root for them.
Okada has shot the boroughs of Manhattan beautifully. In many ways, this feature film is a tribute to the great love and great faith that having a child engenders.
Taylor's anthropological research is intriguing and marks the ensemble character of this production. So much had to fall into place, including —as I have said— the truly extraordinary performances of the actors. Okada's superb editing of suspense, danger, confrontation, and redemption, is beautifully accomplished and the skylines and layers of blue horizon In each shot are unrivaled. One senses a deep and mature tribute here—— to the trust that bridges culture, and the faith that bridges time. One imagines that Jacob Okada has watched a great Banyan tree shade true love from too much outside scrutiny. One senses that Okada has, himself, grown up near mysterious rivers, and that he believes in patience and the long haul of fate.
I recommend this film without any reservations whatsoever.
Thought it would be a secret find.. but acting (especially the men) was pedestrian throughout. Storyline and feel felt like a highschool drama class play (not in a good way). It only gets a 2nd star for the 5 final minutes that were lovely.
"Anya" is a movie for our time. At its heart is a love story between a couple from two very different cultures who are desperately trying to have a baby. Jacob Akira Okada and Carylanna Taylor, the filmmakers, have evidently researched the genetic science which is believable and possible in the "real" world. But, what makes this film really worth watching is the tension between the three central characters — Libby, the wife, her husband, Marco, and Seymour, Libby's ex-lover and geneticist, who is faced with some life-changing choices that have future consequences not only for the three of them, but for the entire world. The film which is hopeful, leaves you with some important questions about the science and ethics of our world today. Great acting by all, with a stellar performance by Motell Foster who plays Seymour.