2017, 106 min, Germany, Dir: Ute Wieland

Inseparable best friends Nini (Flora Thiemann) and Jameelah (Emily Kusche) live in the same working-class Berlin housing project, attend the same school and love Tiger Milk, a mix of milk, brandy and passion fruit juice. For the rebellious 14-year-olds, the summer means a chance to finally break from the innocence of childhood - partying, falling in love and perhaps finally doing “it.” But one evening, the girls witness a crime that hits so close to home that nothing will be the same again. Wieland’s adaptation of Stefanie De Velasco’s best-selling novel skillfully relays the relevant social tension of the source material and draws performances from the young protagonists that offer an authenticity rarely seen in coming-of-age films.

2017, FilmRise, 107 min, USA, Dir: Marc Meyers

Filled with pathos and melancholy, this elegant character study spends a year in the company of a high school loner who would go on to become one of the most nefarious serial killers in the annals of crime. Jeffrey Dahmer’s (a heart-breaking Ross Lynch) parents are divorcing, his dad makes him change his hobbies, and his friends only want to force “dares” on him. By looking at a character for whom a lot could have been different, MY FRIEND DAHMER reminds us that monsters are not born but shaped through endless encounters with the world around them. The rest of the cast gamely match up to Lynch’s performance, including a brilliant Anne Heche as Dahmer’s equally lost-in-the-world mother.

2017, Neon , 129 min, Japan , Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Very few filmmakers can stake claim to the extraordinary run that Kiyoshi Kurosawa had from CURE (1997) to PULSE (2001), films energized by the director’s anger and frustration with society. In this thought-provoking sci-fi drama, the vanguard of an alien invasion arrives to take control of human bodies and study our emotions and values. But even as the invaders learn that most of us aren’t worth saving, Kurosawa cannot give up on his fellow man and woman, and humanity’s most positive qualities could be the key to our salvation.

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