Trailer Park Thursday: “I Am Not A Witch” and “The Wind”

This week in the Trailer Park, we’re looking at previews for three auspicious debut features. All focus on young women in opposition to the environmental and cultural conditions they happen to occupy, but the similarities between them kind of end there. Watching them back-to-back, we’re struck by how they reinforce each others’ terrifying underlying premise: These conditions — of class, gender, religion, and history — are all totally arbitrary, yet they are reinforced as if they are entirely objective. The struggle is real:

If only all singing-based reality television shows were named after classic grunge hits, right? The directorial debut from The Handmaid’s Tale’s Max Minghella (who we last saw on Fandor starring in Art School Confidential) is giving us a distinct “Fish Tank meets The Neon Demon” vibe. Maybe a little bit of A Star is Born and that one episode of Black Mirror, as well? Teen Spirit star Elle Fanning has, over the past several years, become the face of a very particular kind of ingénue femininity — one that often dabbles in, or is touched by, monstrousness or strangeness. Much like Evan Rachel Wood, who is also having a bit of a moment, her classic (read: white with blonde hair and blue eyes) beauty and apparent innocence is often played off of a surrounding “grotesquery” for dramatic effect. How will that manifest here? It’s too soon to tell, but honestly, we’re ready to pay the price of admission just to hear Fanning sing Grimes, or really any of the music promised on-screen. Let’s all hope, for everyone’s sakes, that it’s more Hedwig and the Angry Inch than Glee.

Of all the trailers we’re covering this week, this next one feels the most fresh. It also feels the most nuanced:

From the tone of this preview alone, I Am Not A Witch seems to be much more like Saved! or But I’m a Cheerleader than more recent and earnest fare in the same vein, like The Miseducation of Cameron Post or the upcoming Boy Erased. But don’t let the trailer’s more absurd or screwball elements fool you: Filmmaker Rungano Nyoni based this movie on actual witch trials and “witch camps” — villages of exiled women — in Zambia and Ghana. Through the eyes of a nine-year-old accused of witchcraft and sent away to one of these camps, which is also somewhat of a roadside attraction, we see the machinations of the adults around her for all their cruel and tragicomic ridiculousness. I Am Not A Witch has been submitted to the Academy Awards for next year’s Best Foreign Language Film, and until then it may be hard to find stateside, but it will certainly join the Kenyan Cannes favorite Rafiki — which is actually banned in its home country for portraying a romance between two women — in the emerging new canon of must-see postcolonial cinema that concerns marginalized identities on the African continent.

In the movies, supernatural forces have real effects whether or not they are real, imagined, or the product of madness. Don’t believe it? Two words: Black Swan. Hot off of its TIFF premiere, The Wind promises to not only make good on this premise, but chill some bones and chatter some teeth in the process:

It’s no secret that the horror genre is a way for a culture to process its collective demons, which is why the tropes and indeed, the “big bads” themselves, vary so wildly from country to country. The Wind joins 2015 stunner The Witch as a study in “Americana horror” — that is, scary movies set during peak colonial U.S. history. While Kelly Reichardt’s revelatory Western Meek’s Cutoff isn’t technically horror per se, it would also fit in the loose organization of this subgenre. One could argue to include M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village as well, though that might be a stretch.

Geek-outs about niche terror aside, The Wind hints at antagonism both human and supernatural, with the harsh landscape of the prairie seeming to take on the role of another character on-screen. It also recalls the classic 1928 silent movie of same name, though we’re reasonably certain this isn’t a reboot. The trailer features almost exclusively the voices of women, and the cast is full of relative newcomers, though we definitely recognize Julia Goldani Telles from Slender Man (and, um, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life). We don’t have a theatrical release date for The Wind yet, but something tells us it’ll be worth seeing its sublime, sinister setting on the big screen.

Watch Now: You can’t watch The Wind in theaters yet, but you can watch its spiritual predecessor Meek’s Cutoff on Fandor any old time.

For more half-wild speculation on the next wave of cool flicks to get tickets to, don’t miss our September Movie Poster roundup! And whether you like to read them before or after you see the movie, be sure to check out our reviews of recent releases “Blaze,” “Searching,” and “White Rabbit.”
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