Reviews - Page 92

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

Review: ‘Small Talk’

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Small Talk (Taiwan, 88 min.) Dir. Hui-Chen Huang   “It’s not good to talk about this,” mutters Anu after her daughter, the film’s director Hui-chen Huang, wonders why her mother has never opened up about her sexuality. A Taoist priest, divorcee and a daring gambler, Anu identifies as a lesbian, the word which Anu’s family and friends avoid using at all costs, substituting it with such terms as “tom boy.” Although Small Talk audaciously confronts homophobic stigma in Taiwan, the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriages (although several nations have never passed laws making it illegal), it primarily centres

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Review: ‘My Wonderful West Berlin’

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My Wonderful West Berlin (Mein wunderbares West-Berlin) (Germany, 97 min.) Dir. Jochen Hick   Paragraph 175 in the German Criminal Code made intimate acts between people of the same gender illegal and was vigorously utilised by the Third Reich. While the Nazi regime was abolished after the War, paragraph 175 continued as the law for several decades. My Wonderful West Berlin reveals the LGBTQ community that developed and flourished in post war West Berlin despite homophobic laws and public prejudice. While having a reputation as one of the most liberal and inclusive European cities, West Berlin only gradually grew into

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Review: ‘The Tesla World Light’

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The Tesla World Light (Canada, 8 min.) Dir. Matthew Rankin   Peter Mettler’s Picture of Light proves that a filmmaker can capture the fleeting radiance of the Northern Lights to create an image of dreamlike beauty, but can one also control light to express illumination? Director Matthew Rankin (Mynarksi Death Plummet) and his team at the NFB prove that one can take hold of the elements and make them sparkle. His experimental hybrid film The Tesla World Light, which premieres at Cannes’ Semaine de la critique, strips film down to its essential element—light—and puts illumination at the core of its

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Review: ‘Brand Canada’

It’s the Canadian sesquicentennial, a time when this country can engage in celebrations, critiques and a vast array of looks at what has happened here over the past 150 years. CBC must have been pleased when Big Cedar Films’ producer-director Geoff Morrison suggested that his company make a ten-part series about Canada’s “brand” and how it’s perceived nationally and internationally. The results, which range in length from slightly over a minute to slightly under six minutes, will be available from Canada’s national broadcaster in multiple ways, including online, after a launch on May 15. Like all anthology series including Morrison’s

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Review: ‘Risk’

Risk (USA/Germany, 92 min.) Dir. Laura Poitras Featuring: Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Jacob Appelbaum, Jennifer Robinson, Edward Snowden   Communications, security systems and global politics have shifted dramatically since Julian Assange started WikiLeaks in 2006. An Internet startup like no other, Assange’s organisation hasn’t made billions but it’s changed the world. The complete tale of WikiLeaks may already be too complex to tell in one film but Laura Poitras has certainly made the best doc yet about Assange’s tempestuous recent life in her newly revised version of last year’s Cannes feature entry, Risk. When American documentarian Poitras began to shoot

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Review: ‘Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS’

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Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS (USA, 99 min.) Dir. Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)   Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested’s new documentary, is the closest thing we’re likely to see to a comprehensive narrative about the Syrian Civil War. Where films like City of Ghosts and Last Men In Aleppo tell the incredibly complicated story of the war through the individual stories of, respectively, the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the volunteer

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Review: ‘Long Strange Trip’

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Long Strange Trip (USA, 240 min.) Dir. Amir Bar-Lev Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)   One can’t help but appreciate the nod to the longevity of The Grateful Dead in the running time of Long Strange Trip. This epic four-hour rock doc is a cradle to grave saga of one of the most peculiar success stories in American music. Fans of the band are bound to relish all 240 minutes of this amped-up archival feat, but one doesn’t need to be a Deadhead to enjoy the show. Even if one knows Jerry Garcia primarily as the inspiration for a flavour

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Review: ‘Rebels on Pointe’

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Rebels on Pointe (Canada, 90 min.) Dir. Bobbi Jo Hart Programme: Singular Sensation(s) (Toronto Premiere)   In Rebels on Pointe, Montreal filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart profiles Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the successful New York based company that knocks the stuffy art of ballet off its pedestal and makes it an open, inclusive, and accessible experience. The key to “the Trocks” is that it’s a very funny all-male, all-gay company. The Trocks offer a positive space for people who don’t fit the conventional roles of ballet. Their performances incorporate classical technique with camp, drag, and farce, and this spirited

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Review: ‘Give Me Future’

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Give Me Future (USA/Cuba, 85 min.) Dir. Austin Peters Programme: Artscapes (Canadian Premiere)   Before The Stones rolled into Cuba for their 2016 Havana Moon show, Major Lazer drew huge crowds of young Cubans to a groundbreaking performance. The core of this electronic dancehall world music unit are the deejaying trio of Florida’s Diplo, Jamaica’s Walshy Fire, and Trinidadian Jillionaire. Heavily influenced by Caribbean riddims and popular on the islands, Major Lazer’s motto is “make the world smaller by making the party bigger.” They promote the mingling of musical styles, nationalities, and races. Lean On, their best-known song, just hit

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Review: ‘Machines’ and ‘Cold Valley’

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Machines and Cold Valley are part of a cluster of films at Hot Docs that fall into the sub genres of labour and environmental investigation. Cold Valley by the young German director duo Florian Fischer and Johannes Krell is a white cube documentary art installation, which actually started out in a heavily stylized, antiseptic gallery space. The camera zooms in on a framed image of lush green plants through shrinking white, empty wall space—until we notice the plants moving under raindrops. Then the film swallows us for the next 12 minutes into structured, textured, monochrome whiteness, carried by a monotone

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