Doc Highlights at Ottawa’s Mirror Mountain Film Fest

Danielle Sturk’s El Toro is one of the doc highlights at this year’s Mirror Mountain Film Festival (July 26-27)
Photo by Rhayne Vermette

Ottawa’s Mirror Mountain Film Festival returns this year with a mix of local, Canadian, and international films covering the best in indie-alternative cinema. The fest, which runs July 26 and 27 in Ottawa’s Arts Court Theatre, features a number of documentary highlights including Hot Docs hits, a Canadian premiere feature, Indigenous stories, artists breaking creative boundaries, and a diverse spectrum of voices representing a range of experiences and practices. Here’s a rundown of the doc highlights at this year’s Mirror Mountain Film Festival. (And stay tuned for reviews of select titles!)

Doc to Die For: Riplist
Dir. Mike Scholtz | USA
Saturday, July 27 at 10:00 p.m.

Forget fantasy football leagues! Riplist spotlights a group of friends who place bets on which beloved celebrities will be next to “Rest in Peace.” The game might be downright morbid for some, but there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary with hedging such bets in today’s era of celebrity gawking and mass Twitter hysteria over the deaths of stars and has-beens. Riplist, which has its Canadian premiere at MMFF and is festival director Christopher Rohde’s pick for the fest, encourages audiences to have laugh over the mania of celebrity culture while acknowledging the one inevitably we all share. No matter how much the stars may nip and tuck themselves to cheat their age, the celebrity death pool is a reminder that everyone eventually kicks the bucket.

Riplist – Trailer from Mike Scholtz on Vimeo.

Home-Cooked Documentary: El Toro
Dir. Danielle Sturk | Canada
Saturday, July 27 at 8:00 p.m.

What is it about Winnipeg that inspires such creativity? Danielle Sturk offers an eclectic and personal documentary with El Toro, a whimsical animated collage about a family-run greasy spoon that united Winnipeggers over fries and friendly service in the heart of the city’s Francophone community. The film calls to mind the ani-doc oeuvre of fellow Manitoban Mike Maryniuk, particularly his own ode to club sandwiches and good times, Packin’ Up the Wagon, as it mixes nostalgia and memories with sparks of creativity that satisfy a viewer with a slice of home-cooked documentary. There’s nothing canned to be found in this enjoyably offbeat film, which was a hit at Hot Docs this year and placed in the top five for the audiences rankings in the mid-length feature category. El Toro screens with the mid-length drama Pragmatopia directed by Pixie Cram.

TRAILER_ElToro from Danielle Sturk on Vimeo.

Eat Local: Docs at Local Heroes
Friday, July 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Speaking of good home-cooked meals, MMFF’s city spotlight Local Heroes offers three documentaries, including Mommy Goes Race by Charlene McConini, a Wapikoni Mobile short that previously played Hot Docs and delighted audiences with its tale of a mother of two who turned heads and left men in her dust as the only female race car driver of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation. The program also features two very personal films by local talents: Leaving Vernon by Emily Lubbers and The Haircut by Maya Annik Bedward. The former sees Lubbers return to her rural community of Vernon from her new home in Toronto as she makes sense of small town life with the aid of the town’s only lifelong resident. The latter doc features an intimate portrait of the filmmaker’s father, who was the only Black student in his Ottawa high school and still feels the pain inflicted upon him by a white society that didn’t understand cultural differences. Both films are hometown premieres.

Doc Showcase: True Stories
Saturday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m.

Doc fans looking to get the most bang for their buck can check out MMFF’s documentary spotlight True Stories. Derek Kwan serves up a story of food and family in Me while two-spirited Métis filmmaker Nadine Arpin channels ghosts of the past and hybridity in Anna Lisa and Sage Petahtegoose reflects upon Anishinaabe history in Biskawbiyung: The Return. George Annanack offers a valuable self-portrait (and gorgeous view of the Northern Lights) in Inuk Hunter, while Kara Blake mixes interviews with animation in The Snowball Treasury to convey the mind-altering beauty of northern living during Canadian winters in Dawson City. Blake’s portrait of the mythology and history of the Gold Rush ghost town is easily worth the ticket to the screening alone.

The Snowball Treasury – trailer from Philtre Films on Vimeo.

Mirror Mountain Film Festival runs July 26 to 27 in Ottawa.
Check out the complete line-up here.