Exactly how any of this is supposed to shed light on Bryant’s state of mind, Australia’s gun laws, or on the senseless deaths of 35 people is unclear. The film has no momentum to speak of, and the palette is grimly unvaried. Kurzel also directed a film called “The Snowtown Murders,” based on a real-life string of killings in Australia in the 1990s. With that and “Nitram,” he has carved out a singularly off-putting niche.
Nabil Ayouch’s Moroccan-French co-production “Casablanca Beats” is the most conventionally crowd-pleasing film in competition. Despite the movie’s being set in an area that one character calls Casablanca’s equivalent of the Bronx, the general contours of the film could take place in practically any city on Earth. Working at a cultural center, Anas (Anas Basbousi, playing a character based on his experiences) teaches teenagers the art of rap—not just how to rhyme, but how to feel it. What you need, he says, is attitude.
Predictably, the parents aren’t thrilled that the kids are learning hip-hop at the cultural center, but the teens gradually get into the rhythm of things, rapping about dress customs, religion, and gender in Morocco—details that give the film a distinct flavor, and differentiate it from any number of Hollywood movies about inspirational teachers. Still, I was expecting more electricity from the rap scenes.
Finally, there was “France,” the new film from Bruno Dumont, who made his name with brutish philosophical slogs like “Humanité” but lately seems to be in a more playful mood, with the series “Li’l Quinquin” (probably as close as he’ll come to channeling Jerry Lewis) and a pair of films, “Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc” (2017) and “Joan of Arc” (2019), that asked the question: What if the Maid of Orléans were a head-banging metalhead?