Reviews - Page 85

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

Review: ‘Wormwood’

Wormwood (USA, 240 min.) Dir. Errol Morris; Writ. Kieran Fitzpatrick, Steven Hathaway, Molly Rokosz   “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” observes director Errol Morris while interviewing subject Dr. Eric Olson in Wormwood. Morris talks with Olson at great lengths about the bizarre but true story surrounding the death of his father, Frank Olson. The quote from Hamlet is an on-point conclusion for the Shakespearean proportions of the very strange circumstances of Frank’s death. Eric Olson is the first to raise the Hamlet parallels while describing a story that spirals from messy tragedy into full-fledged government conspiracy. It’s

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Review: ‘Chavela’

Chavela (USA/Mexico/Spain, 93 min.) Dir. Catherine Gund, Daresha Kyi   “My name is Chavela Vargas,” says the titular subject in on the opening of this documentary. “Don’t you forget it.” While fans might know the singer as “La Senora,” “Chile Verde,” “The Rough Voice of Tenderness,” or, more likely, simply on a first name basis, non-Hispanic audiences might be hearing Chavela’s name for the first name. However, they’ve almost certainly heard her music, perhaps on the soundtracks for films such as Julie Taymor’s Frida, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel, or any number of films by Pedro Almodóvar, including his most recent

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Review: ‘Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas’

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas (Canada, 55 min.) Dir. Larry Weinstein   Don’t let Adam Sandler’s The Chanukah Song fool you: the Jews sure know how to write a good Christmas carol. Larry Weinstein (Our Man in Tehran, Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star) playfully chronicles the unsung Jewish history of the holidays in Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas. The doc dives into a history that many viewers might have heard in passing or anecdotally, but never received at length. It’s the story of Christmas carols written by Jewish musicians. Carols like The Christmas Song and White Christmas were penned and tuned by writers such as Mel Tourmé and

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Review: ‘The Devil’s Freedom’

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The Devil’s Freedom (Mexico, 74 min.) Dir. Everardo González   Introducing his new film at a RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montreal) screening, Everardo González said that his primary motivation was to give voice to Mexicans brutalized by his country’s relentless violence. The horror can come from many directions. You can be kidnapped, tortured, and buried alive not just by representatives of the drug cartels, but also the army and the police. The approach that makes The Devil’s Freedom so different from the many other films and media reports about lawless persecution is that González does not limit himself

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Review: Zaatari Djinn

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Zaatari Djinn (Netherlands, 90 min.) Dir. Catherine van Campen   Years ago, in south-western Morocco, I was walking across a wide plain with Mohammed Baidou, a friend who loved telling tourists anything and everything about his village and its culture. It was a dark night, nobody in sight as far as the eye could see, and I said something in a loud voice. He told me to bring it down because I was attracting djinn. Djinn, in Catherine van Campen’s engaging film, Zaatari Djinn is a reference point, motif, and metaphor. During a Q&A following a screening at the Rencontres

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Review: ‘My Piece of the City’

My Piece of the City (Canada, 60 min.) Dir. Moze Mossanen   Earlier this year, Charles Officer’s Unarmed Verses wowed audiences at Hot Docs and other festivals with its story of youths in Toronto’s Villaways housing community. Officer’s doc centred on one young woman, Francine, and saw through her eyes the transformation and redevelopment of her neighbourhood. Francine watched her community and life transform before her eyes as developers changed the character of Villaways. At the same time, the film featured Francine pursuing music lessons and finding her voiced while the city stripped Villaways of its own. A complementary verse

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Review: ‘Brasilia: Life After Design’

Brasilia: Life After Design (Canada, 88min.) Dir. Bart Simpson   Through scrutinizing the complexities behind Brasilia’s glossy surface and embracing its politics, economics and social issues, Bart Simpson embarks on a journey through the city’s inventive urban planning and architecture in his new documentary Brasilia: Life After Design. Simpson’s fascination with Brazil’s capital is understandable. The design of Brasilia was conceived on a cross-axial grid, with one section, the Monumental Axis being designed for government, monuments and institutions and the other, the Residential Axis being used by the inhabitants. The architects were the acclaimed Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa and they

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Review: ’24 Snow’

24 Snow (Russia, 90 min.) Dir. Mikhail Barynin   What’s it like to live in a place where temperatures drop to minus 65°C? Ask Sergei, a horse breeder from the Sakha region in Russia and the protagonist in new Mikhail Barynin’s documentary 24 Snow. Yakutia or the Sakha Republic is situated in northeastern Siberia, a land famous for its austere climate. The region is predominantly populated by ethnic Sakha people and has two official languages: Russian and Sakha. Sergei’s family lives in a small village bordering the Arctic Circle but he is only a visitor in his own house due to

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Review: ‘Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas’

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas (Sweden/Germany/Finland, 80min.) Dir. Joakim Demmer   Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas confronts and redefines the conventional Western understanding of international development by examining the toll this practice has taken on Ethiopia. Known for its fertility and biodiversity, Ethiopia grapples with famine and poverty, while relying on food aid to feed its starving population. Simultaneously, amidst the heightened global interest in commercial farming, the Ethiopian government has started leasing hectares of its land to international agricultural investors. As famine looms in Ethiopia, the government keeps allowing private companies to export food overseas while their own population

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