In the science fiction/mystery feature Cosmic Dawn, as a child, Aurora saw her mother abducted by aliens. As a young adult, Aurora (Camille Rowe) has long been faced with psychological and medical professionals, along with those close to her, being highly skeptical about her claims. She has visions of a woman that lead her to a bookstore where employee Natalie (Emmanuelle Chriqui) explains about the woman, Elyse (Antonia Zegers), and invites her to a gathering of what turns out to be a UFO cult led by Elyse. Writer/director Jefferson Moneo’s Cosmic Dawn takes place in three different time periods — the time of Aurora’s close encounter, her initial time with the cult about a decade after that, and four years later, when cult member Dieter (Philip Granger) locates her and insists she needs to return to the cult. The transitions during this nonlinear approach are not always smooth, but everything starts blending together at a certain point and winds up with what I consider to be a very satisfying ending. Viewer mileage may vary on that, but Moneo’s path to the climax is an absorbing one, thanks in great part to his well-balanced play as to whether Elyse is a fake or for real, and Rowe’s fine performance as the traumatized and confused Aurora. The supporting members of the ensemble cast all give solid turns as well, including Chriqui as the all-in Natalie, Granger as the assertive Dieter, and Joshua Burge as Natalie’s skeptical husband Tom. A gripping score by Alan Howarth along with music from rock band MGMT and Klatuu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” fit the proceedings well.
Codirectors Noah Dixon and Ori Segev take viewers into the heart of the Columbus, Ohio underground music and art scene with their thriller Poser. Actually, the thriller elements don’t come into full play until the third act, though hints are dropped earlier on that something is amiss with new podcaster Lennon Gates (Sylvie Mix) as she asserts herself into the local arts scene by interviewing artists and musicians while clandestinely copying lyrics and claiming them as her own. She takes a particular shine to Bobbi Kitten (playing a narrative version of herself) of the rock duo Damn the Witch Siren, a charismatic performer who tries to get Lennon to come out of her shell and make her music known to the public. As Gates becomes increasingly obsessed with Kitten, her behavior grows ever more unsettling. Dixon, who wrote the screenplay, and Segev take a unique approach to the thriller genre and their immersion into the Columbus pop culture scene is engaging, with performances by several musical acts and poets. The story heads into familiar territory, though, that is especially reminiscent of a certain well-known early 1990s thriller (which I won’t name here so as to avoid spoilers). Mix is compelling as the titular loner who longs to be accepted by those she idolizes, and Kitten gives a star-making performance as the flamboyant rocker whose lifestyle Gates covets.
Cosmic Dawn and Poser screen as part of the online NIGHTSTREAM film festival, which runs October 7–13, 2021. For more information, visit https://nightstream.org and https://nightstream2021.eventive.org.