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)


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 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 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 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

The Canadians take over the International Film Festival’s Home Theatre starting Friday for a week of full-length comedies, dramas, and documentaries, many made right in Vancouver.

The Pass System is a stand out doc.  Read more about it below.

In the feature side of these offerings, I found that Quebec film easily outshines the Wet Coast’s offerings.  From the acting to the writing, it’s just more mature and the depth of directors from Quebec continues to expand.

cdnfilmwk_lionspathUnfortunately, The Lion’s Path (Le rang du lion) plays only once, so mark the time and date: Wed Apr 20 @ 12:50pm.  It’s the debut of yet another talented Quebecois director; impressive is an understatement.

It’s hip, poignant and insightful: it depicts younger people (20’s) looking to heal themselves and finding therapy in a similarly aged professor and his countryside home.

What seems like a simple and sweet arrangement soon becomes deeper and darker after Alex refuses to leave because he’s sick of feeling alone.

It speaks to the work of Michael Mendizza who documents in Magical Parent, Magical Child how our culture produces an extremely clever and creative, defensive, self-centered and aggressive population.

It seems you simply can’t trust some of those who profess to heal.

passsystemtheSpeaking of trusting those in authority, The Pass System will amaze all; if your family was subjected to the content, it will explain more of the trauma that was induced.  If you aren’t aware of the depth of oppression of the peoples that have always lived in “Canada”, you’ll be impressed at all the laws that were broken…by the lawmakers themselves.

The Pass System was introduced in 1885 and enforced for over a half century.  Remember apartheid?  We created our own version even before South Africa, without the formality of passing laws.

This doc is very well made, easy to watch and understand.

The Pass System plays Wed Apr 20 @ 11:15am •and Thu Apr 21 @ 8:05pm.

cdnfilmwk_pattersonswagerPatterson’s Wager is a made in Vancouver Special, with guest appearances from Bigfoot herself.

It well written but not well staged or acted.  Certainly clever but disappointing despite its well meaning story.  Lots of great shots of Vancouver though…

Patterson’s Wager plays Sun Apr 17 @ 8:25pm and• Wed Apr 20 @ 5:30pm.

Go Canada Go!

I’ve seen three of the films at Festival DiverCiné, which is playing at the Cinematheque in Vancouver.

stills_heritagesTonight, you can see Héritages (Mirath) at 8:20pm.  It’s a fabulous family film that investigates Philippe Aractingi’s family’s history with Lebanon’s.

Using special effects to overlay his family into archival footage, he recreates familial scenes and historical events with his own family of actors!

More deeply, he shows the angst of separation within a family when external events cause disruption beyond one’s control.  Being kept away from where your heart lies is painful no matter how it is implemented or mitigated.  But he also shows how the human heart is stronger than anything imposed; love will indeed conquer all.

stills_carte_blancheCarte Blanche is a Polish film that literally starts off with a bang.  If you ever wanted to witness a car crash AND walk away unharmed, here’s your chance.  I’m still shaking…

This film is superb.  It throws bits of humour into a dramatic, real life story as we watch a compassionate teacher spiral his way down into blindness, right after losing his mother and only family member.

Set in Poland, a society seemingly even harder than ours, he doesn’t have a lot of love from the adults in his life to support him.  That’s where the younger generation comes in – again.  The teenage flock that he tutors literally stop him in his tracks when he tries to quit.  Simply by treating these teenagers as humans, with respect and understanding, he unleashes a force much greater than he.

Of course, it gets even more interesting when he chooses to not let anyone at school know he’s going blind…

Unfortunately, it only played once, last Saturday when my connection to the outside world came crashing down and prevented me from alerting you to it…and you could have practised your Polish, too!  Cześć!  Dobranoc!

stills_runAnd it was followed by the first ever Ivory Coast film to premiere at Cannes: Run.

It’s the name of the lead character and the film brought me right back to West Africa, with the beauty of the people and area and the chaos of a military dictatorship.

It’s has the typical pace of a West African film: adding depth to scenes and time to absorb all the subtleties of the acting and scenery.

A huge achievement in any part of the world, for Côte d’Ivoire, this film is a celebration!

Black History Month

14 February 2016

Vancity Theatre has an excellent series of documentaries lined up for Black History Month (i.e., February) this year.

I’ve enjoyed two of them recently, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Ninth Floor.  Both are stellar in their own way, but both could also be part of a series that exposes Government’s efforts to control “its” population at all costs.

blackpanthersvanguardoftherevolutionMargaret Mead is attributed to saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  The Black Panthers certainly did this in an incredibly short period of time.  At least until J. Edgar Hoover noticed.

The film transitions from documenting how people with so little made life so much healthier for a lot, to documenting how the American Government became obsessed with destroying this “terrorist threat”.

Look no further than Fred Hampton.  He was so very young when the FBI invaded the apartment in Chicago that he was sleeping in.  The evidence is right on the screen and irrefutable, including testimony from their plant.  Fred was murdered because he was brilliant, courageous, committed, and an amazing organizer.

Once divided, the Panther’s fall was spectacular, but not without a valiant attempt at conforming and getting elected first.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution plays Monday Feb 15 @ 8:20 pm, Tuesday Feb 16 @ 8:30 pm, and Wednesday Feb 17 @ 1:00 pm

ninthfloor_vifcNinth Floor is much more than a documentary; Mina Shum wrote and directed and really created a beautiful, moving, insight to Canada’s seminal moment of being outed for systemic racism directed at Blacks.  Indigenous people have been blatantly targeted for centuries.

Before it became Concordia University in downtown Montréal, Sir George Williams University is the workplace of an assistant biology professor that pushes the limits of decency even further than that day’s norm.  That he acted is a racially discriminatory manner is also irrefutable, despite the exoneration he eventually received.

What the film focuses on though, is the maelstrom that ensued after a few students officially lodged a complaint against him.

Mina uses Montréal’s bleak winter as a perfect accompaniment to the telling of this story.  Despite little archival footage and lots of talking, she creates montages that are visually pleasing but still relevant to the story.

And again, the Government’s actions make it clear: do as we say or die.  Only in Canada, it’s a nicer death, by fire and smoke inhalation.

Ninth Floor plays Monday Feb 15 and Tuesday Feb 16 @ 6:30 pm

I really think both of these films would do well in a White History Month.  So Black or White or someone else, I can’t urge you enough to check out these films!