stills_beforethestreetsBefore the Streets is opening on Friday night at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver.

It’s a powerful film, an impressive debut achievement for director Chloé Leriche, and the first feature film in Atikamekw, a dialect of Cree.

This isn’t a Hollywood film made on a rez.  Although fiction, it feels like a glimpse into everyday life…and it illuminates beautifully.

Check out this research on a local government website: about 5,000 years ago, there were 100,000 people living on what we now call the Gulf Islands.  Today’s population is 25,000.  Think about that.

Smallpox (twice), residential schools, stolen land.  Before the Streets shows us the effects, and it even gives a realistic antidote.  It’s not political: they simply speak their own language on their own land.

The non-professional cast is superb.  And I couldn’t ask for a more appropriate ending.  Not surprising for an oral culture to take a linear art form to the next level.

Before the Streets opens tonight (Friday) at the Cinematheque!

Friday, April 21, 2017 – 6:30pm
Sunday, April 23, 2017 – 6:30pm
Monday, April 24, 2017 – 8:25pm
Saturday, April 29, 2017 – 4:30pm
Sunday, April 30, 2017 – 4:30pm

The Cinematheque in downtown Vancouver has a stellar weekend line up…and it all starts tomorrow.

Bruce McDonald has created another prize winner in Weirdos.

It all starts out innocently enough; at first glance you may even be less than impressed.  But don’t underestimate even the first few frames; Bruce and Daniel McIvor have scripted a seamless tale that keeps getting deeper the longer you watch.

I won’t divulge all the -isms this gem brings to light, but to say it confronts them wouldn’t be fair.  You may not even see some of the most subtle, but even though it is set in 1976 (around July 4th, no less), the same issues torment us today despite the efforts of artists like Bruce McDonald.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is a beautiful film, shot in gorgeous B&W, with acting that just couldn’t be better.

Weirdos is a road movie, a coming-of-age film, and a teen-aged rebel flick, all mixed into one.  And the soundtrack kicks; many times it takes over centre stage as a player in its own right.

Dylan Authors as Kit, is spot on, but even so, Julia Sarah Stone (as Alice) simply steals almost every scene.  Alice is a complex character that runs through virtually every emotion we have, and Julia plays it as if she has lived every moment herself.  A stunning performance.

I can’t say enough about the scripting and direction.  What impressed me most is how the film built on what we are all built on: childhood experiences with our families.  The initial glimpse into both families sets the stage; the final scene is far from Hollywood but nonetheless provides hope and promise and will leave you with a lasting smile, if you’re not moved to joyful tears instead.

Weirdos plays:
Friday, March 17 @ 6:30pm
Saturday, March 18 @ 6:30pm
Sunday, March 19 @ 4:30pm
Sunday, March 19 @ 8:00pm
Wednesday, March 22 @ 8:00pm

Another classic Canadian film screens on Sunday as part of the monthly Cinema Sunday series for families at the Cinematheque: Hockey Night.

This one slipped past me when it debuted, but I’m glad I caught up with it now.  I can hardly wait for my daughter to see it!

Released in 1984, Hockey Night follows in Bobby Orr’s footsteps by bringing a fatherless family to Parry Sound.  Megan Follows shines as Cathy Yarrow, a teenager missing her dad and finding herself mostly alone after moving from the big city.

Despite the sexism of the times, Cathy tries out for the local team.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Rick Moranis plays Cathy’s coach, a somber role just as his career as a comedian was taking off.

There’s no need to add “in Canada” to the film’s title; it’s gushing with Canadianisms (as much as they exist) and if you’ve ever watched the sport, you’ll enjoy what’s portrayed on this big screen.

Hockey Night plays Sunday, March 19 @ 1:00pm.

Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees is a slightly different documentary that took me a while to adjust to.  I’m glad I did.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is an unabashed advocate for forests around the planet, and with good reason.  She not only will inform you of their worth and necessity, she can impart her deep well of feelings for all things tree, even using only 2 dimensions!  I won’t be surprised if she adds another dimension or two when she appears in person on Saturday!

This film resonates on many levels, but as someone who lives in a forest myself, I can vouch for all that she scientifically states when it comes to the personal wellness that forests provide humans.

Sadly, I can also vouch for the desertification in our neighbourhood through the clearcutting of trees.  Her research leaves little room for doubt; thousands of years of practice provides overwhelming evidence.

Unlike many documentaries of civilized destruction, this one provides the tools for remedying the situation and Diana seems to be the first in line around the world in applying them.

Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees plays:
Thursday, March 16 @ 6:30pm
Friday, March 17 @ 8:15pm
Saturday, March 18 @ 4:30pm with Special Guest Diana Beresford-Kroeger

The Skyjacker’s Tale is the final film of this four, and it intrigues from the start.

Another doc, this time about Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly Ronny LaBeet), a US soldier turned Black Panther who highjacked an American Airlines flight from the US Virgin Islands to Cuba to escape life behind bars for a crime he claims he did not commit.

Candidly, Ishmael admits to many other crimes on screen.  His first lead to Vietnam horror: the Judge dropped the charges if he agreed to sign up for the US military.  Despite his mother’s wishes, he became a soldier until he witnessed the death of a villager that reminded him of his mother.  That brought him dishonourably to New York, where he quickly found a home in the Black Panther Party.

Anyone interested in American politics, economic disparity, colonization, and racism will be fascinated by this story.  A rarity for any Black Panther of any rank to escape death or life imprisonment, to hear Ishmael’s story first hand is a treat.  I’ll leave the rest of it for you to hear yourself.

The Skyjacker’s Tale plays:
Thursday, March 16 @ 8:15pm
Saturday, March 18 @ 8:15pm
Sunday, March 19 @ 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 22 @ 6:30pm

It’s a tough call which film to prioritize, so come in from the rain and take in all 4!  Enjoy!

Well, Théâtre la Siezième has done it again: they’ve brought to life another incredible script of Michel Tremblay, this time Bonjour, là, bonjour.

I read the English translation just before seeing the show and I was taken aback by the depth this company gave the words. And as an anglophone, I know I missed much of the nuance of the Joual; many Quebecois in the audience were brought to tears.

The genius of M. Tremblay is not just the content, both linguistically and literally, and more than the dramaturgy. He can find the beauty in the most disgusting, and show the power of love in so doing.

La Siezième boldly presents M. Tremblay on a stage that is simple in some respects but also, like the script, bold in others.

A giant cast for a theatre of this size, all 8 perform like the symphony they bring to life, hitting each note with precision and appropriate zest.

Joey Lesperance opens and closes the show, and aging 20 years without a drop of makeup, embodies a deaf, elderly father from the 70’s in Quebec perfectly. More subtly than in À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie Lou, he again steals the show.

Lyne Barnabé is spot on with Lucienne, the eldest daughter who, despite having it all financially, is desperately empty. She, like two of her 3 sisters, endlessly seeks fulfillment to no avail. Émilie Leclerc and Annie Lefebvre play the pharmaceutical and food addicted sisters that don’t hide their desires for the baby of the family, the recently returned 25 year old Serge.

Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin plays Serge beautifully, showing his newfound maturity and self-knowledge from a 3 month European trip by resisting the incessant pulls of each family member save his father. And he doesn’t rely on his good looks to pull off this role, around which the play revolves.

His overbearing aunts, played by Leanna Brodie and Thérèse Champagne, provide much of the comedy with their unabating dysfunction.

Siona Gareau-Brennan admirably played the left-out sister, Nicole, who steals Serge’s heart. With Gilles Poulin-Denis’s gutty direction, while the family eats sugar pie, Nicole and Serge feast on their own dessert, in front of the family with no one seeing. A powerful metaphor that likely applied to many working class Catholic families of the 70s, both in Quebec and beyond.

The power of this piece lies in its ability to show love emanate despite how it manifests. As with most civilized families, dysfunction often overwhelms the profound love that is all of us. To see it shine through on stage was a treat rarely beheld.

Despite its forbidden source, love is still love which has no end and which always attracts more of it. M. Tremblay makes no secret of his preference for love over right or might. And I couldn’t agree more.

Tonight and Saturday night’s performances, like all the previous performances, are sold-out.

Théâtre la Siezième has added a Saturday Matinée (March 11, 2017) at 4pm, with English Surtitles…as of this writing, there were tickets still available.

Enjoy!

thumb_cos_manufacturedlandscapesThe Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver has another Free offering next Wednesday, February 8 at 7:30pm: Manufactured Landscapes (looks great!) and Corral (a milestone in Canadian cinema).

Coming up on February 3-5 is a German chuckler that may be too real for your liking: The Forest for the Trees.  It’s part of a two film series to celebrate the recent release of Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann.

The Forest for the Trees is Maren Ade’s first full feature, shot with video, so it has that extra “real” quality to it.  The lead is stellar, a young teacher that desperately wants to be with the “in” people and won’t recognize her tribe if it hits her over the head.  Ade hits this one on the head, showing the subtle lies that inevitably get caught and beget even more, all in the name of trying to look cool.

Her spiral down is well done: believable and scary.

I’m sure you’ll chuckle but this story was too real for me to laugh at.

The Forest for the Trees plays…
Friday, February 3 @ 6:30pm
Saturday, February 4 @ 8:50pm and
Sunday, February 5 @ 6:30pm

And speaking of too real to be fun, Do Not Resist uses real footage to show the path that American Police Forces have been on for the past 60 years.  Released in honour of Black History Month, it shows the brutality that Police Forces around the world are becoming famous for.  Best of all, much of it is told by the officers themselves.  And with Trump making waves already, this film seems all the more relevant.

Do Not Resist only shows once, on Friday, Feb 10 at 7pm at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver.

The Cinematheque in downtown Vancouver is hosting another film festival, this time featuring Canada’s Top Ten of 2016.

It all starts Friday, January 13 at 6:30pm with refreshments, a reception and special guests.

As I’ve been going through the films, it struck me that this is as much of an international film fest than anything else: Persian, Inuit, Chinese, Quebecois….

stills_ctt_window_horseThe first film blew my socks off: Window Horses is an animated feature by Ann Marie Fleming and the storyline is superb.  It went straight to my heart since it’s about a girl who thought she was abandoned by her father.

It’s such a crazy story, it must be true!

But even more impressive is how it weaves in many different cultures, confronting racism, sexism and classism without even hinting at any isms.

And the stick person star is wonderfully adorable.

The only problem I found with it is that it ends too soon!

Coincidentally or not, the next two films line up perfectly with each other.

stills_ctt_angry_inukAngry Inuk is an impressive doc about some Inuit fighting for their economic lives against…the anti-seal hunt eco-warriors!  Many illuminating facts are highlighted (i.e., baby seals generate millions every year for environmental groups) throughout the decades long story.

And if you think you’re social media savvy, check out these Inuit activists!

Fighting the EU and the animal rights lobby is no small task as you will see.  Fighting the way they do is not only inspirational, it’s heartening.  You may just get an appetite for seal meat by the end of it!

Angry Inuk educated me enough to have a much better understanding of the background storyline for Maliglutit (Searchers).

stills_ctt_maliglutitMaliglutit is all in Inuit so I wondered about the translations: the English seemed harsher than needed but then the story is horrific.  Two women, mother and daughter, are taken by a group of men while the father and one son are away hunting caribou.  The grandfather is murdered but  stays alive long enough to pass on his spiritual heritage…

The cinematography is amazing, utilizing the incredible landscape of the far north in winter as a setting for a thrilling retribution attempt.

Filmed almost as a doc, it is scarily real but doesn’t use any Hollywood tricks.  The wide shots keep the violence at a distance and is much less shocking.

The last line spoken and subtitled shocked me most, and has been inspiring me since.

stills_ctt_oldstoneOld Stone is filmed in Shanghai and is an ironic film.  A taxi driver, like most in the city, is working hard to scrape by.  A rich fare causes an accident and the compassionate taxi driver goes above and beyond to save the accident victim’s life.  Which starts the end of his own!

Mildly humorous to start, the film becomes a classic film noir by the end.

Moralistically, it embodies all that civilization offers.  Unfortunately, this will not inspire you up the spiritual ladder, but may confirm your darkest nightmares.

stills_ctt_thosewhomakerevolutionThose Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves is over 3 hours long, so sit back and relax; the first 5 minutes you can even close your eyes.

I’m not sure if the film is really trying to be everything to everyone, but it certainly offers art, documentary (Justin Trudeau included), and dramatics.

For me, it paints a typical picture of revolutionaries: elitist, separatist, intellectuals that are angry but disconnected from all other feelings.

The antics and actions of the group of 4 are interesting, but perhaps this film was chosen for this film fest because it ultimately undermines any activist notions that may be present in the audience.  Not a bad thing when you consider that a full revolution simply brings us back to the starting point.

Funny how creating a fundamentally different reality is rarely portrayed.  But then, that couldn’t be part of Canada’s Top Ten, now could it?

It’s a busy weekend ahead:
Friday January 13
6:30pm – Reception + Refreshments + Guests in Attendance
7:30pm – Introduction and screening of Window Horses

Saturday, January 14
4:30pm: Angry Inuk
6:30pm: Maliglutit (Searchers)
8:20pm: Old Stone

Sunday, January 15
7:00pm: Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves

stills_cos_thedogwhostoppedthewar_0And earlier Sunday, at 1pm, is the Free Screening (also at the Cinematheque) of The Dog Who Stopped the War (La guerre des tuques)

Enjoy!

The Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver has a couple of series starting, including two classic West African films screening tonight at 8:15pm (as well as on Monday, January 9 at 6:30pm).

The two restorations of Ousmane Sembène, “the father of African Cinema,” showing tonight are Black Girl and Borom Sarret.

Borom Sarret is a short film depicting a day in the life of a “suburban” Dakar worker.  The soundtrack is superb if you love West African music.

stills_blackgirlBlack Girl tells the tale of a young Senegalese woman who strikes it big by getting first a child-minding job for a white French couple, and then is sent to the south of France to work as their housemaid.

Although the acting is adequate and the voiceovers replace live audio, the cinematography is stunning in black and white and the stories are classic Sembène.  He subtly but vividly portrays the sexism, racism and colonialism rampant at the time and which still persists today.

Most importantly, his films are for his people, undermining the unthinking belief in modernity, capitalism and civilization, and providing a fresh and realistic take on what most West Africans could never experience first hand.

Also at the Cinematheque, starting tomorrow evening, is a year long program of free Canadian features.  My American Cousin and When the Day Breaks (an animated short by two Emily Carr grads) start off the series at 7:30pm, with free refreshments and Sandy Wilson (the director of My American Cousin) in person.

Other free screenings already scheduled for the next couple of months are:

The Dog Who Stopped the War (La guerre des tuques)
Sunday, January 15 @ 1pm

The Bitter Ash + The Supreme Kid
Monday, January 30 @ 6:30pm

Manufactured Landscapes + Corral
Monday, February 8 @ 7pm

Les Ordres (Orders) + Rat Life and Diet in North America
Sunday, February 19 @ 7pm

Don’t forget that the Cinematheque is just one block east of the Hornby separated bike lane with lots of bike parking out front.  Enjoy!

More EUFF Tonight!

25 November 2016

A quick note to alert you to another excellent European Film Fest screening tonight at 6:30pm at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver.

Family Party (FamilenFest auf Deutsch) is a searing take on wealth and family dysfunction.  Not as funny as I expected, but it still has lots of dry humour.  It was much more realistic than many family dysfunction parodies.  I particularly pleased and surprised at the insight it gave when the patriarch convincingly recalled his father…no doubt about what alice-miller.com writes: it’s all passed down generation to generation.

The über-wealth allows for “clue” (the game) -like settings which are fun despite their ostentatiousness.

And the realistic (read: non-hollywood) ending shows there’s hope even in a quagmire like this family was engulfed in.

Highly recommended, if not for the entertainment, then certainly for the insights and stimulation.

One Shot has played but is also related in that it shows the family dysfunction without the wealth to buffer and hide it.  Well acted and upliftinng at the end despite the potential trip to prison for the main character.  This Croatian film was well produced, too.

I have to admit this is one of my favourite film fests of the year…the quality of films is always stunning but you do have to be on top of what you want to see, because each film only plays once.  All screenings are at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver.

This year, the EUFF runs from November 18 to 30 and has 23 different films in the lineup.

thumb_euff_eva_novaThe opening film, Eva Nová, is more than appropriate to start off such a stellar ensemble.

This is a stunning Slovak film that dives deep into alcoholism and family dysfunction.

Emília Vášáryová, the so-called “First Lady of Slovak Film and Theatre, is spot-on throughout the film, playing an actor living with a serious addiction.

But the main focus of the film centres on Eva as a parent that has abandoned her son, and this is where it achieves its greatest success.  Not surprisingly, her dysfunction has been well passed on and reentering her son’s life doesn’t seem possible.

A microcosm of civilized life, Eva Nova will provide hope for anyone suffering from addiction and needing inspiration to make positive change in one’s life.

Eva Nová plays Friday, November 18 at 6:30pm

thumb_euff_imageThe same night, Image from Belgium play at 8:35pm.

Image is at times, fast-paced and violent, but definitely intriguing.  Not sure if the acting or the writing undermined a few believability points, but the context is more than valid: media depictions of ethic minorities.

Specifically, it deals with Moroccan youth in Brussels and how they are stereotyped.  But since this is a feature, it mimics some aspects of documentaries by portraying a driven young woman working for an ageing – and fading – famous newscaster.  Exploitation is exposed at every level, but the twist at the end will likely surprise you…at least twice!

Not for the faint of heart given the blood and graphic violence.  Definitely made for the mainstream in Brussels, so the subtle and not-so-subtle commentary on mainstream media is a welcome gift that may open a few more eyes…or not.  The ending shot suggests not, but then maybe that will inspire change?  Let’s ask Donald what he thinks…

Image plays Friday, November 18 at 8:35pm

thumb_euff_irreplaceableThe next night, Irreplaceable from France will shine on the Cinematheque’s screen.

The French title is Medecin de Compagne (Country Doctor) which may give you a better sense of what the film’s about.

Despite the Hollywood ending, it is a beautiful and touching film, which lots of subtle humour and insight into what keeps us going in this civilized world.

A country doctor, who is much more than a doctor to every patient (especially elders) in the area, gets a brain tumour and won’t slow down despite the onset of debilitating symptoms.  Enter the young nurse who just finished medical school that grew up in the same area.  He is far from welcoming but she is determined.  Dramatic events unfold and through it all, both actors shine.

In addition to the entertainment, the film sheds light upon how people can really add love and value to the work they do, with little extra effort, if they allow themselves to care about the people in their community.  Nothing unusual in healthy small towns, but definitely an eye opener for most urban dwellers.

Irreplaceable plays Saturday November 19 at 6:30pm

thumb_euff_geloGelo looks great!  I wasn’t able to see all of it before sending this out, but will update this brief review on reellife.wordpress.com asap.

This Portuguese film is all fantasy and switches back and forth in time.  A young woman starts film school in the big city and mysteriously is courted by a couple of older students…do they know something she doesn’t know?  Well acted and very slick, the architecture is worth viewing on its own!

Gelo play Saturday November 19 at 8:30pm

I’ll continue to review and set you up for a wonderful festival as the EUFF continues, so check reellife.wordpress.com regularly for all the latest reviews…have a great European Vacation!

Tower of Power

6 November 2016

You still have 3 screenings left to see a most impressive film on a topic that I rarely give any attention to: mass murder.
featurebox_towerTower is a partly animated film that recreates the US’s first school mass shooting in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin.

What impressed me was the focus of the film: the feelings of the people involved who survived and the internal struggles they went through during that inconceivable 2 hours.

The killer is only shown at the end as a 3 year old and done so to show the direct connection between childhood experience and adulthood choices.  The victims are each recreated and given voice as the killing spree starts and continues so we can understand deeply what they went through.  And they also share how this experience shaped the rest of their lives.

The archival footage is overlapped and woven into the animation, which adds a special quality to this story-telling.  No wonder it won the Documentary Feature prize as well as the Audience Award at SXSW this year.

Of course, the heroic efforts of ordinary people are highlighted, but the people that couldn’t help because of fear are also given voice.

Tower is truly a remarkable film and it plays 3 more times at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver:

Sunday, Nov 6 @ 4:30pm & 8:30pm and
Monday, Nov 7 @ 8:30pm

Okay, I’ve mixed up the names of 2 very interesting films about to play at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver.

large_thefarewellparty_usposterThe Farewell Party only plays once, tomorrow, Wednesday, October 19 at 7:30pm.

This gem comes from Israel (and I’m not one to recommend anything from there) and will leave you laughing out loud.

It’s in Hebrew and has a group of elders assisting other elders to die…illegally, of course.

One of the stars uses bicycle parts to create the machine that kills mercifully.  All of them are hilarious in their subtle sincere ways.  Two are even in the closet…literally!

And believe it or not, the cop steals the show.

But it’s not all fun.  It raises some serious issues and shows many sides to each.  It even shows family dysfunction for what it is.

I love stories with substance that inspire you to laugh.  This is one of them and it’s playing tomorrow as part of the Frames of Mind Monthly series at the Cinematheque.  You’re welcome to stay after the film for a discussion with two ethicists from the Richmond VCHA.

stills_under_the_sunUnder the Sun will give you a glimpse of life in North Korea…a film meant to be a documentary, all scripted and rehearsed right on screen!

A Czech film crew was given permission to film in North Korea but only if they followed the script provided, and used the actors you’ll see.

Obviously, it’s meant to be a propaganda film (unlike Hollywood films;), but the filmmakers go well beyond the script to include setup shots and incidentals, to show us that life in North Korea isn’t very mechanized (most jobs are human-powered) and quite similar emotionally to much of the rest of the civilized world.

The cinematography is excellent and you’ll be amazed at the Soviet style architecture and monuments.

Too bad the true picture of North Korea won’t be seen in this film…but the one you’ll see is interesting indeed.

Under the Sun plays at the Cinematheque:
Thursday, October 20, 2016 @ 6:30pm
Friday, October 21, 2016 @ 4:30pm
Friday, October 21, 2016 @ 8:30pm
Saturday, October 22, 2016 @ 8:30pm
Sunday, October 23, 2016 @ 6:30pm