The 2022 ReFrame Film Festival kicks off tonight and lets audiences across Canada encounter one of the doc scene’s best-kept secrets. Over 70 social justice docs stream in this year’s virtual edition of ReFrame Film Festival with screenings available nationwide, allowing doc fans to catch up on some of the biggest hits from the festival circuit as well as hidden gems. This year’s festival boasts a strong mix of Canadian and international titles, shorts and features alike, while the line-up includes a noteworthy sample of Indigenous stories curated from festivals worldwide.
To help readers select their screenings for the festival, here are five films at the 2022 ReFrame Fil Festival that are POV approved. If any of these titles or other selections catch your fancy, contact us at [email protected] for a five-film flex pack to sample the docs at this year’s festival. (Only one pack is left, so act quickly!)
Here are POV’s top five picks for the 2022 ReFrame Film Festival.
One of the major hits on the festival circuit since it’s award winning debut at Cannes, Payal Kapadia’s debut doc stuns. The film ingeniously plays with form and fiction to consider one young woman’s political awakening. Kapadia presents letters, allegedly found in a hostel, that recount the relationship and break-up of two students. As the woman considers the growing political unrest and student protests around her, her lover remains indifferent. A hypnotic collage of images mix the pleasures of student life with the harsh realities of violence other students face on and off campus. This experimental essay evokes a bold new voice. “This is active and engaged filmmaking,” I wrote back at TIFF. “As the young woman’s love letter evolves into a monologue, a manifesto, her story tells how there is no going back to a life of blissful ignorance when one sees inequality throwing the streets into chaos.”
Since ReFrame runs through February 4, audiences might want to hold off for a Black History Month screening. Jennifer Holness’s acclaimed Subjects of Desire offers a worthy film for BHM since it confronts the double standards and racial bias of the cosmetic industry. The film considers how gatekeepers and tastemakers uphold whiteness as the standard for beauty, but draws upon Black women from different walks of life who encourage audiences to expand their definition of beauty and celebrate Blackness in all its forms. The film is the only documentary on TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten list for 2021. “For Holness, making this film was as much a personal love letter to her Black daughters and to all Black women, as it was a historical, cultural unpacking of how this society treats Black beauty and Black women,” wrote Gesilayefa Azorbo while profiling Subjects of Desire in issue #114.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of 2017’s Faces Places, directed by Agnès Varda and JR, JR’s follow-up feature Paper & Glue hasn’t had much of a run in Canada. The get makes it one of the reasons why doc fans should look closer at ReFrame and, at the very least, take in a doc that hasn’t screened elsewhere. The film offers a similar conceit to Faces Places as JR revives his practice of taking portraits of everyday people and plastering enormous printouts on the walls around the world. He’s a global phenomenon who uses his platform to inspire onlookers to reconsider all the things that are usually swept out of view. “Watching Paper & Glue, one can’t help being impressed by JR’s artistry and convictions,” noted Marc Glassman while reviewing the film. “He truly marks art that empowers people while never forgetting the terrible circumstances that surround and often overwhelm individuals trapped in systems that are not of their own making.”
The Cost of Freedom – Refugee Journalists in Canada lets Canadians take in a local talent from the Peterborough fest. The film is a portrait of journalists who were forced to flee their home countries after breaking urgent human rights stories. Abdulrahman Matar from Syria, Luis Nájera from México, and Arzu Yildiz from Turkey share their perspectives about the ongoing threats that journalists face worldwide. The film speaks to the larger state of news media and the challenges of breaking vital story when the credibility and security of the press is under attack from the very leaders who should protect it.
A hidden gem from last year’s Hot Docs, Firestarted offers an invigorating story of the arts’ role in truth and reconciliation. Directors Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin recount the story of brothers Stephen, David and Russell Page and the foundation of the Bangarra Dance Company. Bangarra situates the growth of the dance company within Australia’s larger reckoning with colonialism and a legacy of systemic racism. Using interviews, vividly shot dance footage, and archival excerpts, the film is a lyrical study of the healing and transformative power of dance. “The ghosts of the past echo throughout the Page brothers’ history as Firestarter looks at the different ways that the three brothers wrestled with trauma and the weight of forging sparks for reconciliation on the world stage,” we wrote back at Hot Docs.
ReFrame Film Festival streams across Canada January 27 to February 4.