Jury Coordination and Notes

Blacklight * Thrilling, Fast-Paced, Intricate, Strong Performances, Impeccable Cinematography

February 22nd, 2022

Trust, identity, and the danger of unchecked power push a covert operative to the edge in director Mark Williams’ intense action thriller Blacklight. Travis Block (Neeson) lives and fights in the shadows. A freelance government “fixer,” Block is a dangerous man whose assignments have included extracting agents out of deep-cover situations. When Block discovers a shadowy program called Operation Unity is striking down ordinary citizens for reasons known only to Block’s boss, FBI chief Robinson (Quinn), he enlists the help of a journalist (Raver-Lampman), but his past and present collide when his daughter and granddaughter are threatened. Now Block needs to rescue the people he loves and expose the truth for a shot at redemption. Nothing and no one is safe when secrets are hidden in Blacklight.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Thrilling, fast-paced and intricate, you won’t want to miss Blacklight! Liam Neeson’s strong performance, the plot by Nick May and Brandon Reavis and impeccable cinematography all make this film a joy to watch.” See his full review below.

Blacklight

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Thrilling, fast-paced and intricate, you won’t want to miss Blacklight! Liam Neeson’s strong performance, the plot by Nick May and Brandon Reavis and impeccable cinematography all make this film a joy to watch.

The film follows Travis Block (Liam Neeson), a freelance government operative coming to grips with his past, present (still a bit of a gray area) and future, which he sees in his daughter and granddaughter. When he discovers a plot undermining the safety of American citizens that has proliferated through the upper echelons of national intelligence, Block is pitted against FBI director Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn), whom he once protected while on tour in Vietnam. Using the help of tenacious journalist Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman) to get the truth out, Block must find a way to keep his daughter and granddaughter safe while combating grave danger.

Just as he plays all of his roles, Neeson seems to have invested all of his mental and emotional energy into perfecting Block’s troubled and cerebral personality. He portrays the agent’s struggle with great conviction and vigor, and he certainly is my favorite actor in the film. I have to say, though, that as a journalist, I have a soft spot for Emmy Raver-Lampman’s character Mira Jones. From Jones’ first scene, her grit and tenacity are visible. She even confronts the head of her news corporation! Just as Raver-Lampman acts from her heart, Jones writes from her heart, and I’m sure she would have taken some inspiration from her own craft to portray Jones’ courageous quest for the truth. The production of the film isn’t all about the acting, though. The variety of unique, dramatic shots in the film including several cutaways, medium shots and closeups, adds to the intensity of several scenes. As is apt for a film with “light” in the name, the lighting plays a large role in the cinematography; the number of bright scenes steadily decreases over the course of the film as the characters descend to the dark depths of their lives.

Blacklight promotes honesty, valor, persistence and perseverance. There’s really no other way to put it. Regardless of how many hurdles Mira Jones faces in her pursuit of the truth, she never backs down. Similarly, Travis Block, however ragged he may look, never throws in the towel in his pursuit of the shadowy figure from his past. There is some violence to look out for and in one scene, a political activist is murdered.

I give Blacklight 4.5 stars out of 5, and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Blacklight is available in theaters now.

Share this page on:

Dog * A Compelling Story About Two Warriors That Rescue Each Other

February 19th, 2022

Dog is a buddy comedy that follows the misadventures of two former Army Rangers paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime. Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois dog) buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time. Along the way, they’ll drive each other completely crazy, break a small handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards in order to have a fighting chance of finding happiness.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Selene W. comments, “Dog is a thought-provoking film about an important subject.  This movie tells a compelling story about a former Army Ranger and his journey to bring a canine hero to the funeral of his previous comrade and handler.  In the end, the two warriors rescue each other in their odyssey of self-discovery.” See her full review below.

Dog 

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14  

Dog is a thought-provoking film about an important subject.  This movie tells a compelling story about a former Army Ranger and his journey to bring a canine hero to the funeral of his previous comrade and handler.  In the end, the two warriors rescue each other in their odyssey of self-discovery.   

Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois K-9 Working Dog) are joined together against their will to honor the service and sacrifice of Sergeant Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo) at his distant funeral.  Along the way, they drive each other crazy, exhibit self-destructive and bad behavior while also escaping dangerous situations. They begin to bond on their journey and heal the wounds they both experienced from combat situations which makes them realize that life can move forward in unexpected ways.

Channing Tatum (Army Ranger Briggs) adds a lot of humor in his character’s dialogue and in the physical comedy between Lulu and him.  Tatum also co-directs this movie along with Reid Carolin who wrote the screenplay as well.  My favorite scene is when Briggs coaxes Lulu into taking a bath—and there are many other funny physical interaction scenes between the two of them when they are fighting or at odds.  There are some touching scenes together as well, such as when Lulu is comforting him after a severe headache.

The message of Dog is that life typically unfolds in unexpected ways and embracing change can bring about unexpected happiness.  Both Army Ranger Briggs and Lulu are wounded warriors and together they experience this journey of healing. Parents need to be aware that this film has some mature elements involving language, drugs and sexual material.  Younger audiences may also be frightened by some of the dog’s aggressive behavior. 

I give Dog 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. The film opens exclusively in theaters on February 18, 2022.

Share this page on:

Jockey * Pride and Vanity Don’t Take You Anywhere

February 7th, 2022

An aging jockey is determined to win one last championship, but his dream is complicated when a young rookie shows up claiming to be his son. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments,I like Jockey because it is a movie full of inspiring scenes. The storyline is very interesting and worth watching.” See his full review below.

Jockey
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Jockey is about a famous and talented jockey named Jackson (Clifton Collins, Jr.) Jackson is looking forward to winning his last race, but he has been suffering from pain due to the multiple injuries through the years of competing in horse races. He meets this young man named Gabriel (Moises Arias) who claims to be his son and starts working with him. Jackson is not happy about the news, but still takes him under his wing and trains him to be a jockey. Jackson feels threatened by Gabriel because he becomes a good jockey and might take his place soon. The film has a twist that will leave the audience in awe. You need to watch the movie to find out.

Jockey is written by Clint Bentley and directed by Bentley and Greg Kwedar. It has beautiful scenery like the sun rising above a lake. The music is appealing and goes well with each scene. My favorite scene is when Jackson is training Gabriel at the jockey’s training gym. Gabriel sits on a horse-like device. It shows how jockeys gain confidence training on this device, how they work on their grip and how to manage a horse.

The moral of this movie is that being vain doesn’t take you anywhere. Jackson is a proud and vain jockey. He thinks he’s so good that he’s irreplaceable until he realizes he is not the young jockey he used to be. It took Gabriel to open his eyes.

I give Jockey 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. This movie is rated R. Jockey will be released in theaters on February 4, 2022.

Share this page on:

The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild * The Crazy Characters Of Ice Age Are Back!

February 1st, 2022

The all-new animated adventure, “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild,” continues the hilarious escapades of the beloved sub-zero heroes from the wildly successful global “Ice Age” franchise as they create more prehistoric pandemonium. The thrill-seeking possum brothers Crash and Eddie have grown restless in Snow Valley. They need plenty of wide-open space to practice their extreme stunts and are eager for a bit of independence. Their older sister, the woolly mammoth Ellie, is over-protective and worries too much. Still, Eddie and Crash are like sons to Ellie and Manny (her woolly mammoth husband), whom they met following a devastating flood, and they have bonded to become a make-shift family.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calee N. comments, “How wonderful it is that the crazy characters of Ice Age are back with a new adventure. Having watched the Ice Age movies from the beginning, I am familiar with their sarcastic and humorous personalities. It’s almost like hanging out with old friends.” See her full review below.

The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild

By Calee N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Sid (voiced by Jake Green) in THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

How wonderful it is that the crazy characters of Ice Age are back with a new adventure. Having watched the Ice Age movies from the beginning, I am familiar with their sarcastic and humorous personalities. It’s almost like hanging out with old friends.

Crash (Vincent Tong) and Eddie (Aaron Harris) crave adventure and feel Elli (Domonique Jenning) is preventing them from living their “best life.” Eddie and Crash leave the safety of their pack and find their way to the Lost World. Not realizing the actual dangers of the Lost World, Eddie and Crash unexpectedly become reunited with Buck Wild when he has to rescue them from unruly dinosaurs. Buck Wild is in the middle of trying to restore harmony to the Lost World and doesn’t have the time to deal with the Opossum brothers. Eddie and Crash are oblivious to the risks involved in staying but have no choice because the cave entrance was blocked. Together with Buck Wild, Eddie, Crash set on a quest to restore the peace of the Lost World.

Crash (voiced by Vincent Tong) and Eddie (voiced by Aaron Harris) in THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the talented cast, visual and animation department, director John Donkin produced an action-adventure film that embraced the Ice Age saga and introduced a fresh outlook.

The music by Batu Sener brought life into the action scenes by absorbing the person into the movie. Danger, drama, and humor were not only told through dialogue but also musical notes. The animation team directed by Marshal Fels Elliot seamlessly brought all the original characters back onto the screen while at the same time introducing new friends and foes. The details and color of the animated plants, animals, and birds captured the moviegoer’s attention from start to finish.

Zee (voiced by Justina Machado), Eddie (voiced by Aaron Harris), and Crash (voiced by Vincent Tong) in THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Teamwork, family, and courage are themes throughout Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. The pack realized that family is family even if you are apart. Love for each other doesn’t change just because you have added distance.  Change is not something to be afraid of, and taking risks to find your true happiness takes courage.  

I rate Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 13. I would have rated the movie higher if it had included all the main characters I love and did not have so much dialogue. Adults will also enjoy watching this action-adventure film. Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild premieres on Disney Plus on Friday, January 28, 2022.

Share this page on:

Welcome To Earth * Exciting Six-Part Documentary Exploring Far Reaches Of The Globe

December 11th, 2021

It might seem humans have mapped every inch of our planet’s surface, but look closer and you’ll discover that there is still so much more to uncover — the age of exploration is far from over! Welcome to Earth, a Disney+ original series from National Geographic, follows two-time Academy Award® nominee Will Smith on an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world to explore Earth’s greatest wonders and reveal its most hidden secrets. Throughout the six-part limited series produced by visionary Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, Protozoa Pictures, Jane Root’s Nutopia and Westbrook Studios, Will is guided by elite explorers on an awe-inspiring journey, getting up close and personal with some of the most thrilling spectacles on the planet — from volcanoes that roar in silence to deserts that move beyond our perception to animal swarms with minds of their own. Combining breathtaking cinematography with Will’s boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, the blockbuster series is an exciting, multisensory ride through Earth’s most mind-bending portals.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “I loved Welcome To Earth, a six-part documentary featuring Will Smith traveling to the far reaches of the globe in search of Earth’s hidden secrets. It is exciting to watch Will find himself in places few have gone before, which forces him to conquer his fears as he embarks on life changing expeditions that alter his perception, and the viewer’s, of the world we live in.” See her full review below.  

Welcome To Earth
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

I loved Welcome To Earth, a six-part documentary featuring Will Smith traveling to the far reaches of the globe in search of Earth’s hidden secrets. It is exciting to watch Will find himself in places few have gone before, which forces him to conquer his fears as he embarks on life changing expeditions that alter his perception, and the viewer’s, of the world we live in.

Audiences will follow Will from the Nambia Desert to Norway, from Brazil into the depths of the ocean and to top of a volcano, as well as to other fascinating places. He witnesses the secrets of nature in hidden places that most people don’t often see or notice. Viewers will be both educated and enchanted by the wonders they encounter in each episode, especially since the different camera angles and tricks that capture the speed of movement give viewers images of these incredible sights.

My favorite scene is in the episode called “Descent Into Darkness” when Will Smith and Melissa Marquez (a marine biologist) travel by submarine 3000 feet below sea level to a mind-blowing place that looks like another world. They explore and learn about a variety of sea creatures that live in the Twilight and Midnight zones below the ocean. It’s fascinating to learn how the animals communicate using bioluminescence, the emission of light. And since a very small percentage of the ocean has been explored, Will’s below-the-sea trip is particularly meaningful and also quite terrifying. I also appreciate how each experience has expert guides. Many of them have faced challenges of their own which makes it even more interesting. It’s eye opening to hear from multiple people on what they’re passionate about and learn about their past. Ultimately, Will Smith is an incredible host who combines humor with education and is very enjoyable to watch.

The message in this series is that you need to face your fears in order to defeat them. You can’t let your fears stop you from pursuing your goals. Will gives the advice to “work with your fear not against it.” He is constantly pushing himself and testing his limits, too. There is some mild cursing that parents should be aware of.

I give Welcome To Earth 5 out of 5 stars. This documentary held my attention and got me excited to learn more about Earth. I recommend this to ages 11 to 17, as well as to adults. It releases on Disney+ December 8, 2021.

Share this page on:

The Intruder * One-Of-A-Kind Mix Of Horror, Humor, Intrigue And A Sprinkling Of Mystique

December 7th, 2021

Inés works as a dubbing actress and sings in a choir in Buenos Aires. After a traumatic experience during a holiday trip, she develops a sleep disorder and starts suffering from very vivid nightmares. At work, the studio microphones pick up strange sounds coming from her body, threatening her career and her singing. Inés becomes paranoid as she has increasing trouble telling what is real from what is not. She begins to entertain a dangerous idea: the characters in her dreams are trying to take over her body.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Its one-of-a-kind mix of horror, humor, intrigue and a sprinkling of mystique make The Intruder, Argentina’s entry for the Oscar Awards, a spellbinding watch. With enjoyably offbeat storytelling and crisp cinematography, this film is not one to miss.” See his full review below.

The Intruder

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Its one-of-a-kind mix of horror, humor, intrigue and a sprinkling of mystique make The Intruder, Argentina’s entry for the Oscar Awards, a spellbinding watch. With enjoyably offbeat storytelling and crisp cinematography, this film is not one to miss.

The Intruder opens with some scenes that are up to the audience’s interpretation, where we meet Inés (Érica Rivas), a voice artist who suffers from troubling nightmares after her partner Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler) commits suicide. Additionally, as every time she tries to dub someone, there is electromagnetic interference (a slight hum) that ruins the recording. Fellow voice-actress Adela (Mirta Busnelli), a wizened and mysterious woman, provides Inés with a curt answer – Inés has an intruder, a being who came to her in a nightmare and was involuntarily invited by Inés to stay. She struggles in a variety of outlandish ways to get rid of this pest. 

Érica Rivas provides a compelling, authentic performance as Inés, and her genuine emotion makes up for some clunky dialogue in the film. The supporting cast of Nahuel Pérez as Alberto, Cecilia Roth as Inés’ mother Marta, Guillermo Arengo as Inés’ maestro and Agustín Rittano as Nelson support the storyline well, with Pérez’s portrayal of the sweet, yet mysterious Alberto truly taking the cake. The film gets complicated when dealing with the secondary cast, as the lines between reality and hallucination begin to blur. Confusion may arise during this segment, despite how clear each of the characters’ personalities are. Music plays a large role in this film, as Alberto is charged with tuning a large church organ and Inés is part of a choir that sings some suitably haunting songs. Every musical element of The Intruder has been carefully thought through and meticulously composed by Luciano Azzigotti. The direction and screenplay by Natalia Meta are also flawless.

The Intruder is all about overcoming tragedy, bouncing back from trauma and confronting your inner demons. Inés’ journey is much like that of humanity as we (hopefully) exit this pandemic and move forward. There are several sexual scenes and dark themes to watch out for.

I give The Intruder 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults. The Intruder is available to watch on HBO Max and Hulu.

Share this page on:

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible * Intense Emotional Journey Pushing The Limits Of Human Endurance

November 25th, 2021

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible explores Nepal’s deep connection to high-altitude mountaineering through the eyes of Nirmal “Nimsdai” Purja, a fearless, fun-loving Nepali climber on a quest he dubs “Project Possible”—to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains in just seven months, breaking the previous record of seven years. With a team of skilled Sherpas, he traverses Mount Everest, K2, and other iconic peaks through extreme weather, life-or-death decisions, and the emotional weight of his mother’s illness back home. 14 Peaks is a thrilling, action-packed story about courage, perseverance, and pushing the limits of human endurance.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mikella G. comments, “14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible is an intense emotional documentary film that highlights the reality of mountain climbing. Most importantly, it showcases the ability that a human being has.” See her full review below.

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible

By Mikella G, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I really like 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible. It’s an intense emotional documentary film that highlights the reality of mountain climbing. Most importantly, it showcases the ability that a human being has.


This film follows the journey of Nimsdai Purja as he manages to climb the world’s 14 highest and most dangerous mountains in just a few months. He calls his mission “Project Possible,” and we see the reality of this challenge and how it affects his life. However, Nimsdai’s confidence, courage and hope inspire his team to help him break this record. 

Something I enjoy about this film is its structure. Throughout the movie there is footage of Nimsdai climbing the mountains, as well as background information. The director really makes sure that the audience has enough information about climbing to fully understand the film. They also interview some important people in Nimsdai’s life, in order to help us understand him better. Another thing that really stands out is the quality of the movie. Even during the shots of the climbers high up in the mountains with snow blowing from every angle, you can still see what is going on. The entire film feels very ready for the big screen; even though most of the mountain shots aren’t filmed by professionals, they are definitely remarkable.

The message of this documentary film is that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, even if it seems impossible. This film does include some profanity.

I give 14 Peeks: Nothing is Impossible 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. You can watch 14 Peeks: Nothing is Impossible on Netflix starting November 29, 2021.

Share this page on:

Home Sweet Home * Different From Other Reality Shows Because It Focuses On Celebrating Differences

November 24th, 2021

Created by Ava DuVernay, a social experiment focuses on real families of different backgrounds who experience a new way of life when they trade homes. The participants boldly step out of their comfort zones, taking part in each other’s daily routines, getting acquainted with new friends and neighbors, trying unfamiliar hobbies and more. Afterward, the families come together to share stories as well as their new perspectives and learnings. Their emotional, inspiring journey begins as a celebration of differences, but in the end, it might just reveal that they have more in common than they think.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “This show is different from other reality television shows because it focuses on celebrating differences, things that families have in common and connecting people rather than conflicts, like many other reality TV shows.” See her full review below.

Home Sweet Home

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Home Sweet Home is not just another show where families switch lives! This show is different from other reality television shows because it focuses on celebrating differences, things that families have in common and connecting people rather than conflicts, like many other reality TV shows. It really is a breath of fresh air.

Home Sweet Home is an unscripted nine-part docu-series created by Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ms. Ava DuVernay that follows two families with very different lives as they swap homes, eat each other’s meals, meet each other’s loved ones and experience their traditions and lifestyle.

One of the best parts of the show is that Ms. DuVernay picked families that have never been on a television, had no desire to be famous and are genuinely interested in understanding other people. I love that different families, even the children, learn about other cultures and ways of life that they may not be able to experience any other way. During the social experiment, the families must remove personal photos or anything that may give the other family clues about who they are so the “switch family” really keeps an open mind while staying at their house. It’s hilarious watching the families try to guess things about each other based on what they see in their homes, like their food and decorations. It’s really cool that, at the end of each episode, the two families sit down for a meal together to share what they learned about each other and themselves throughout the experience.

Home Sweet Home is all about kindness and understanding others. The lesson in this series is to learn how to have an open mind and heart to see life through other people’s eyes. The families are able to appreciate how other lives and learn that we all want the same things at the end of the day and that we are all human.

I give Home Sweet Home 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18, plus adults. You can enjoy a free screening of episode 4 of Home Sweet Home now through November 28 during the American Black Film Festival at www.abff.com. The series premiered on October 15, 2021, on NBC and moved to Peacock on November 12, 2021.

Share this page on:

The Rumperbutts * Interesting And Fun To Watch, Better For Older Teens

November 23rd, 2021

A married couple and indie band duo, who never reached the success that they had always hoped, decides to stop pursuing their dream when a financial opportunity arises for them to perform on a new children’s program called “The Rumperbutts.” In spite of all the money and newfound success, the two of them are miserable and have spilt up. However, on one magical evening, a mysterious stranger comes into their lives and gives them a second chance.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Alma K. comments, “The Rumperbutts was interesting and fun to watch, but it’s geared for an older audience than me. I did like the storyline a lot and the editing is great. My favorite bit is probably the music. Yeah, definitely the songs – some are a little corny (the Rumperbutts ones), but some are actually really, really beautiful.” See her full review below

The Rumperbutts

By Alma K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The Rumperbutts was interesting and fun to watch, but it’s geared for an older audience than me. I did like the storyline a lot and the editing is great. My favorite bit is probably the music. Yeah, definitely the songs – some are a little corny (the Rumperbutts ones), but some are actually really, really beautiful.

Bonnie (Kori Gardner) and Jack (Jason Hammel) met in 2005, formed a band and started dating. Three years later, they became partners on a popular kids’ show, The Rumperbutts. The show made them break up and become miserable and they still had another THREE years on their contract! Then, they both are invited to meet with a guy named Richie (Josh Brener) who tricks them into smoking magical pot which sends them on an unexpected journey.

The acting in this is one of the highlights. I especially like the performances of Josh Brener as Richie and Kori Gardner as Bonnie. Kori Gardner has a gorgeous voice and the songs are quite beautiful. Some of the songs have nice messages like “listen to your parents.” Josh and Kori really embody their characters in a way that is very fitting. I also really like the costumes. Julia Knapp made the Rumperbutts costumes which are the funniest ones in the movie. The photography and editing are really good and the animation when Richie snaps his fingers and the setting changes is excellent. I like the plot. The storyline is well thought out and well written, planned and directed. It has multiple sets that are all really good.

The message of the film is: you made your bed, now you have to lay in it. You should be aware that there are some curse words in the movie and there is pot smoking.

I rate The Rumperbutts 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 16 to 18, plus adults. The Rumperbutts releases on digital November 19, 2021. Go check it out!

Share this page on:

India Sweets and Spices * The South Asian-American Coming-Of-Age Film Of The Year

November 19th, 2021

Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali) returns to her family’s posh suburban New Jersey home after a year away at college and upends their well-ordered life with her newfound independence. Befriending Varun (Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the local Indian grocery, she invites his family to a weekly dinner gathering with her parents’ wealthy friends. She is shocked to learn that her perfectionist mother Sheila (Manisha Koirala) has a previous connection to Varun’s mother Bhairavi (Deepti Gupta). Alia’s surprise turns to indignation when she uncovers secrets about both her parents that push her toward a daring and transformative confrontation. India Sweets and Spices celebrates a young woman’s coming of age set against a lovingly framed glimpse of the life of an Indian American family.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “India Sweets and Spices is the South Asian-American coming-of-age film of the year – a tale of family, feminism and biscuits and bravery. With masterful acting, beautiful cinematography, and a strong script, it’s certainly not a film to miss!” See his full review below.

India Sweets and Spices

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

India Sweets and Spices is the South Asian-American coming-of-age film of the year – a tale of family, feminism and biscuits and bravery. With masterful acting, beautiful cinematography, and a strong script, it’s certainly not a film to miss!

Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali) returns to her family’s New Jersey hometown after a year away at UCLA and upends their life with her free-spirit personality. She befriends Varun (Rish Shah), the son of the new owners of the local grocery store, India Sweets and Spices. But when she invites his family to a dinner party at her house, family secrets from their Delhi University days are uncovered and lives are changed. Alia is motivated by the new discoveries to seek out more information about her parents’ pasts, which mounts up to a powerful (and slightly hilarious) rebellion.

Everything about this film is well thought-out and executed. I’m a massive fan of the star cast. Veteran Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala plays Alia’s mother Sheila. She is known for her work promoting women’s rights, and so it was only logical that she chose to be a part of this film. Her journey with feminism in the film (which I won’t spoil for you) is also one you won’t want to miss. A master of her craft, Koirala shows great depth of emotion and truly becomes her character in the film. Sophia Ali seems to hit one note for a large part of the film, and comes through with an emotionally dynamic performance towards the last half hour of the film. Deepti Gupta plays Bhairavi Dutta, Varun’s mother. Her portrayal of the warm, yet fiery shopkeeper truly steals the show. There’s so much mystique to Bhairavi, which Deepti plays beautifully.

India Sweets and Spices promotes standing up for yourself, especially in the context of women’s rights. It teaches others to never bend to the will of others if it goes against your principles. Some profanity is used and there are some intimate scenes.

I give India Sweets and Spices 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. India Sweets and Spices releases in theaters November 19, 2021

Share this page on:
Kid movie news & Free DVDs:
Join KIDS FIRST! on Twitter Join KIDS FIRST! on YouTube Join KIDS FIRST! on Instagram Join KIDS FIRST! on Facebook Join KIDS FIRST! on Pinterest