Reviews - Page 75

Giving you our points of view on the latest docs in release and on the circuit.

Review: ‘Whose Streets?’

Whose Streets? (USA, 90 min.) Dir. Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis   Whose Streets? is a significant fusion of citizen journalism and documentary filmmaking. Director Sabaah Folayan and co-director Damon Davis provide a courageous and eye-opening account of the 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black male, by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer armed with a handgun and the department’s pervasive history of institutionalized racism. Whose Streets? gives footage from the thick of the protests as Ferguson residents rallied to draw attention to the rampant violence and oppression of Black

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Review: ‘On Putin’s Blacklist’

On Putin’s Blacklist (Canada, 76 min.) Dir. Boris Ivanov   One can’t label a charge of “Fake News” against Boris Ivanov’s timely documentary On Putin’s Blacklist. This documentary raises numerous concerns about Russia’s fall into the dark ages in the era of Vladimir Putin. Ivanov outlines the many reasons for which Russia is a human rights activist’s worst nightmare and, while much of the news is familiar, On Putin’s Blacklist makes a compelling argument that few countries deserve a greater sense of shame than Russia during Putin’s reign of terror. Ivanov doesn’t spend too much time on worrying about the

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Review: ‘California Typewriter’

California Typewriter (USA, 104 min.) Dir. Doug Nichol   There’s a great scene in Fred Zinneman’s Julia featuring Jane Fonda and a typewriter. Fonda, playing writer Lillian Hellman, becomes frustrated while typing at her machine. She gives the typewriter two middle fingers and yells at it. Then she tosses it out the window. This scene from Julia, unfortunately, doesn’t make its way into California Typewriter, but director Doug Nichol affectionately eulogizes this machine that drove writers mad for over a century. The doc illustrates the many pleasures of this increasingly obsolete relic from the analogue age through a variety of

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Review: ‘Human Flow’

Human Flow (Germany, 140 min.) Dir. Ai Weiwei   “The more immune you are to people’s suffering,” says Princess Dana Firas of Jordan in Human Flow, “that’s very dangerous. “It’s critical for us to maintain this humanity.” Firas speaks with filmmaker and artist Ai Weiwei for his exceptional documentary Human Flow. The film calls attention to Firas’s words by drawing upon the common elements of humanity that endure in the most precarious of places. Human Flow emphasizes an urgent global plight as Ai travels the globe and observes stories of migration. The range of subjects might be vast and compelling,

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Review: ‘Bowhead Whale Hunting with My Ancestors’

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Bowhead Whale Hunting with My Ancestors (Canada, 40 min.) Dir. Zacharias Kunuk, Carol Kunnuk   Zacharias Kunuk took audiences on a riveting hunt in the Arctic with 2001’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Deemed the best Canadian film ever made in a 2015 poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival, Atanarjuat endures as a landmark of Canadian cinema for presenting an Inuit story told by an Inuit filmmaker in his own language. Kunuk brought audiences back to the north in the dramas The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006) and Maliglutit (2016), but his documentaries, while under-seen by comparison despite being

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Review: ‘Holy Angels’

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Holy Angels (Canada, 14 min.) Dir. Jay Cardinal Villeneuve   Number 34. That is the name that Lena Wandering Spirit recalls receiving upon arriving at Holy Angels Residential School. Not an Anglicized name or a colonial name, but a number. A cold two-digit label that defined her in the eyes of her teachers, like something they could organize and track, but she defies her teachers and abusers in Holy Angels by finally speaking about the traumas of the past. Lena Wandering Spirit spent a half dozen years of her childhood at the Holy Angels in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, but her

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Review: ‘West of the Jordan River’

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West of the Jordan River (Israel/France, 88 min.) Dir. Amos Gitai   In 1982, a renowned Israeli director Amos Gitai visited the occupied territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to film Field Diary, a documentary that chronicles the region’s escalating tensions. At the time, Gitai and his crew were deeply concerned about the daring vehemence of the right-wing Israeli movement. In his new documentary, West of the Jordan River, which has its North American premiere at VIFF, Gitai resumes the discussion he started in the 1980s with vigor, resilience and determination. Through multiple interviews with journalists, activists,

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Review: ‘Bosch: The Garden of Dreams

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Bosch: The Garden of Dreams (El Bosco, el jardín de los sueños) (Spain/France, 90 min.) Dir. José Luis López-Linares   Earlier this year, Alexandre Philippe devoted an entire feature documentary to analysing a single sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Critics called Philippe’s 78/52 the biggest film geek movie ever made for unpacking all 78 set-ups and 52 cuts of Psycho’s iconic shower scene in passionate detail. The world of fine art receives a similarly focused discussion in Bosch: The Garden of Dreams, José Luis López-Linares’ feature-length analysis of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. It’s a thoughtful seminar on

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Review: ‘School Life’

School Life (Ireland, 99 min.) Dir. Neasa Ní Chianáin, David Rane   It’s fall and the kids are back to school. For John and Amanda Leyden, the season brings about their 46th year at Headfort, an Irish boarding school for primary-aged students. Set in Headfort’s grand 18th century estate surrounded by sprawling lush woods and featuring a great cast of characters, this award-winning observational drops audiences into a few days in the life of a dying breed as the school approaches the end of its tenure and the teachers, like their students, face an uncertain future. The Leydens have a

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Review: ‘Unarmed Verses’

Unarmed Verses (Canada, 85 min.) Dir. Charles Officer   The thought experiment called the ship of Theseus asks if a boat remains the same if one removes all of its boards and nails and replaces them with new ones. The question pertains to any physical structure that carries intangible elements within it that are essential to its identity. Are they ephemeral things like memory and meaning? Toronto has many vessels of this nature in the ever-changing housing communities that fall only to rise as something new. Villaways, for example, saw a forced exodus of its residents over the past year,

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