Reviews - Page 95

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

Review: ‘Night School’

Night School (USA, 85 min.) Dir. Andrew Cohn   Greg Henson, Shynika Jakes, and Melissa Lewis are going back to school. They’re freshmen once again as they hit the books in search of a second chance at life. The trio are just three among many students who were part of the inordinately high dropout rate within Indianapolis’s education system. Going back to class isn’t easy for these students aged 31, 26, and 52, respectively, and Night School follows the characters for one year as they pursue their studies. The road to redemption, and to a better life, is easier said

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Review: ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (USA, 84 min.) Dir. Steve James   Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) finds the ultimate David and Goliath tale of the 2008 financial crisis in Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. The film examines the bizarre case of the only bank to be charged for mortgage fraud following the crisis and housing market crash. The culprits—or, perhaps more appropriately, “targets”—of this case are the employees of Abacus Federal Savings, a small and independently owned bank in New York’s Chinatown. The riveting human drama that James finds in the tale of the Sung family and their

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Review: ‘Score: A Film Music Documentary’

Score: A Film Music Documentary (USA, 93 min.) Dir. Matt Schrader   Imagine the nerve-wracking beach scenes of Jaws without the deep chords composed by John Williams or the horrific shower scene of Psycho without Bernard Herrmann’s shrill strings. Consider the menace of Darth Vader in Star Wars without John Williams’ contrasting themes of good and evil or the timeless romance of Casablanca without Max Steiner’s arrangement of the melody of “As Time Goes By” swirling through the air. These classic films would just be images and motions, shots and edits—mere pieces of a whole. Without music, film is just

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Review: ‘Mansfield 66/67’

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IMansfield 66/67 (USA/UK, 84 min.) Dir. P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes   Jayne Mansfield endures as one of Hollywood’s legends. The blonde bombshell with the iconic bust and signature walk died at the age of 34 in a tragic car accident in which she may or may not have been decapitated. Her accident might be the greatest drama she left behind, at least for the filmmakers of the peculiar doc Mansfield 66/67. In it, the directing duo of co-husbands P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes chart a campy retrospective of Mansfield’s legacy that pays more attention to her death than

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Review: ‘Ginger Nation’

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Ginger Nation (Canada, 66 min.) Dir. Shawn Hitchins, Mitch Fillion   “Even polar bears get more respect than I do,” quips comedian Shawn Hitchins in Ginger Nation. “It’s because they’re white.” Hitchins, the stand-up comedian behind the one-man show of Ginger Nation, voluntarily self-identifies as a minority. Yes, this tall white male belongs to an ostracised group: red heads. Gingers account for only 1% percent of the world’s population, and when one factors in the variable that Hitchins is openly gay, he speaks from a subset of a very small cultural group. Ginger Nation owns Hitchins’ self-ascribed minority status in

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Review: ‘Jewel’s Catch One’

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Jewel’s Catch One (USA, 90 min.) Dir. C. Fitz   In the ‘70s, Los Angeles was a divided place with a problematic nightlife. Many bars and discos refused to serve gay African Americans. Police raids and civilian arrests were common practices that targeted black and gay communities. Jewel Thais-Williams, a black lesbian and UCLA graduate, was familiar with the racism and homophobia prevailing in the city. Witnessing how it inhibited her community, Jewel decided to open her own disco. She wanted to create a space where everyone was accepted and treated equally. In 1973, with only a $500 budget, she

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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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