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!


28 January 2016

stills_les_demonsPhilippe Lesage’s latest feature from Quebec is so enjoyable and so unusual; it really allows us to feel since he gives the actors so much time to work through their craft.

I got the sense it is an investigation into The Demons of all types, small and large, but woven together in a small Quebec town so seemlessly you’d think it was a docu-drama.

The soundtrack is one of the stars: from Bach to Myriam Makeba’s Pata Pata, it literally takes over the film from time to time.

When Myriam Makeba took the stage, I wept like a baby.  The sense of love between siblings was so clear and so powerful, despite the dysfunction of the parents, it truly inspires.

The Demons starts tonight and runs through this weekend at the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver…bon film!

Thursday, January 28 @ 8:20pm
Friday, January 29 @ 6:30pm
Saturday, January 30 @ 6:30pm
Sunday, January 31 @ 8:20pm

Your Frame of Mind

19 January 2016

This Wednesday, the monthly Frames of Mind series returns to the Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver.

This time, the featured film is Autism in Love, and lovely documentary about 4 adults, mostly independent and living on the autistic spectrum.

Two of these people are in a romantic relationship, which we follow fairly intimately.

Another is just pre- and then post-widowed.  His partner was also autistic and died after struggling against ovarian cancer.

And the 4th is a young single man that has absorbed every little expectation that this civilization has to offer.

I’ve never known an autistic person, but the film suggests that expressing and feeling feelings is the greatest challenge.  These folks mostly overcome this inherent limitation but it seems that maybe another burden is simply being able to filter out cultural messages.  That’s tough enough for those of us not on the spectrum and it seems this self-consciousness just rises to another level for these folks.

Autism in Love plays Wednesday, January 20 @ 7:30pm and there will be a post-screening discussion with Dr. Anthony Bailey, Professor and Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UBC.
Last month, a family crisis prevented me from posting a review of Eva Nova, a stunning Slovak film that dives deep into alcoholism and family dysfunction.

Although you’ll have to hunt to find it, it’s worth the effort.  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.

I’m only sorry this didn’t get to you before it played last month.

This is Wim Wenders first commercial feature, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (his graduation film was the first) and it fits the bill for most first films: a self-reflexive commentary on the world around him.  I’ve found most first works to be brilliant for content and sometimes lacking for polish and technical skill.  This one is not much different.

The lack of polish may be due to the fact it was made in 1971: mostly just fades to black and a cumbersome name.

The brilliance shines in his depiction of the civilized world.  A fit, gorgeous blonde man wanders aimlessly between soccer matches because civilized life really doesn’t have much to offer.  Women become objects of desire and suddenly he kills a playful one.  Wenders isn’t a psychologist, so we don’t delve into the man’s past, but Wenders does very well in showing his anxiety which inevitably comes from his childhood.

Wenders doesn’t go down the Hollywood road and the film is refreshing and wry at the same time.  You can see the beautiful restoration tonight and tomorrow…see if you can tell which parts of the soundtrack are real and which are recreated.  The cost of the music rights far exceeds the cost of the movie!  Perhaps another comment on civilization?

The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick plays at Vancouver’s Cinematheque on Sunday, October 25 @ 6:30pm and
Monday, October 26, 2015 @ 8:50pm

The Cinematheque in Downtown Vancouver has just started the first Wim Wenders Retrospective in 20 years, and it runs through to December.

First up is The American Friend, staring Dennis Hopper as only Dennis Hopper can be…intense, wild, insane, and imminently lovable.  And there’s a great scene of Hopper doing selfies…in 1977!

Justin Trudeau may want to see this film before he next goes off into the Metro to shake hands…his bodyguards may not let him!

Rated for all ages, it’s a bit intense psychologically for younger kids, but the violence is all off-screen at least.

The only child in the film is largely ignored; the storyline is ironic in that a man with leukemia (at that time, the newest incurable disease) is lured down the path of violence in return for setting his wife and child up financially, but in doing so, he destroys his marriage.

Mostly in English with some German dialogue and subtitles, it is a suspense film lover’s dream.

The American Friend plays tonight @ 6:30pm as well as

Saturday, October 24, 2015 @ 6:30pm
Monday, October 26, 2015 @ 6:30pm
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 @ 9:15pm

Very Semi-Serious is all about the New Yorker‘s Cartoonists and gives us a glimpse into the lives of a few of these specific artists and social commentators.

They are geeky, goofy, and funny in a very civilized way.  The film digs deep enough to allow some of them to reveal their less than stellar childhoods as their source of inspiration and motivation to draw and evoke humour from, well, commonplace tragedy and everyday events.

The film also follows the current Cartoon Editor into his personal life and concurrent working life as he creates his own memoirs.  Children also play a part as a newborn changes one cartoonist’s life while another grown child inspires change at the editor’s home.

If you like quick, dry wit, you’ll love these cartoons (and no doubt already know many from reading the magazine).  Some are so famous you’ll recognize them even if you haven’t ever read the New Yorker.

The film does well in keeping the story alive and dynamic, much in the way the New Yorker seems to be doing.  I wonder how many folks will be laughing out loud tomorrow night when it makes it’s final appearance at the Vancouver International Film Festival?

Very Semi-Serious plays Thursday, Oct 8 @ 9:15 pm at the Vancity Theatre

Monty Python: The Meaning of Live documents the hilarious reunion of 5 of the original 6 (or as John Cleese puts it: 1 down, 5 to go), apparently to pay off legal bills from nefarious lawyers and suiters.

Regardless, everyone seems to enjoy these get togethers, fan and performer alike.  The comedy is as fresh and strong as ever and these guys seem to be genuinely honest and gracious as well.

The film is so well put together you’ll wonder where it went, it goes by so quickly.  Just like the 45 years since they started…will this really be the last Python?  Let’s hope not!

Monty Python: The Meaning of Live plays tomorrow, Oct 7 @ 9:15 pm in the Centre for Performing Arts