Docs at JAYU Human Rights Film Festival
By Pat Mullen
Toronto’s endlessly busy festival calendar keeps on rolling well into award season. This month, the JAYU Human Rights Film Festival offers an alternative for audiences who might have already seen most of the Golden Globe nominees – or, more likely, aren’t planning their moviegoing adventures around red carpets.
The festival kicks off on Friday, Dec. 7 with the Toronto premiere of TransMilitary, directed by Gabe Silverman and Fiona Dawson. Silverman follows-up his acclaimed New York Times Op-Docs short Transgender, at War and in Love, which profiled Air Force soldier Logan Ireland and his fiancée, Laila Villanueva (an Army nurse) who both came out publicly as transgender and faced discrimination within the ranks. Transmilitary expands the story and follows four members of the Armed Forces as they campaign to repeal the ban on transgender troops in the United States. The film comes to JAYU after winning the audience award at SXSW this spring where transgender film critic Danielle Solzman called it “2018’s most important documentary.” Director Gabe Silverman, subject Laila Ireland, and
executive producer Jamie Coughlin are expected to attend.
Other highlights at the festival include the Toronto encore of Hot Docs hit The Distant Barking of Dogs. Reviewing the film earlier this year, POV’s Daniel Glassman wrote that this portrait of post-war Ukraine “resembles classic Terence Malick in its mix of observation with occasional poetic voiceover.” Also playing at JAYU is Hot Docs and Inside Out audience favourite Love, Scott, an NFB work with an empowering portrait of LGBTQ activist Scott Jones. “Love, Scott is a beautiful tribute to Scott Jones as he considers his place in the world,” wrote Chelsea Phillips-Carr while reviewing the film at Hot Docs.
Making its Canadian premiere at JAYU is Charm City, directed by Marilyn Ness (who produced the acclaimed doc Cameraperson). The film tackles the explosive waves of racialized violence in Baltimore and was filmed over three years covering the lead up to, and aftermath of, Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. “The beauty of such documentaries as Charm City, the type of film that simply shadows an individual or a group of individuals, is that every so often they inadvertently strike gold by capturing someone who can only exist in real life, indirectly exposing the limitations of narrative filmmaking,” wrote Kevin Rakstraw while reviewing the doc at Film Pulse.
Other Canadian premieres at the festival include the feature The Rescue List, directed by Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink, which tackles child trafficking in Ghana. Mikala Krogh’s A Year of Hope, meanwhile, brings a story of street children in Manila. The latter features the Toronto premiere of Your Mother is a Thief! by award winning animator/filmmaker Marie-Josee Saint-Pierre. Most screenings feature audience Q&As with filmmakers or subjects joining either in person or via Skype to engage doc lovers with the relevant questions raised by these films.