46th Toronto International Film Festival Reviews
 

Due to the length this page (and number of reviews from the festival) this webpage and its layout are optimized for reading on desktop and tablets. All Photos are Courtesy of TIFF.

As TIFF continues its festival, this page will be undergoing constant construction. (My movie watching schedule this week contains 55-60 features and 45 shorts. A lot of this website editing and capsule writing happens between films. I'll update it as fast as I can - I promise.)

#1 - Memoria

65 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

2hrs 15mins. Fantasy Drama Mystery.

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Starring Tilda Swinton, Jeanne Balibar, Elkin Díaz, Juan Pablo Urrego and Daniel Giménez Cacho.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 9th, 9:00am

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 1 (P&I)

Programme: Special Events

Country/Language: Colombia, Thailand, U.K., France, Germany and Mexico. English and Spanish.

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The loud, booming sound haunting Jessica (Tilda Swinton) is a powerful way to open this year’s festival. The first sound in the first film is so loud and commanding it woke up everyone in theatre; it doesn’t matter how early you got up, you’re staying awake now. Better still, the first spoken line in the film is “Hello there,” a beautiful sentiment to welcome people back into the theatres.

 

The sound design, including the creation of sound, its mixing and editing, are all spectacular. The use of sound to create fear, humour and high stakes for Jessica and her family is the clear highlight. Even in long, dialogue-free scenes, Tilda Swinton holds the audience’s attention for more than two hours.

 

Unfortunately, while the extended, one-take static shots are impressive to see, the pacing in the second half slows down dramatically. What begins as a complex story to figure out the source of the ominous sound turns into a two-character conversation playing out in real time for almost an hour. It moves much too slowly and kills most of the intrigue so effectively build up in the beginning.

#2 - Petit Maman

85 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

1hr 10mins. Family.

Written and Directed by Céline Sciamma.

Starring Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne and Margo Abascal.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 9th, 11:30am

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 2 (P&I)

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: France. French.

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Following up her magnificent film Portrait of a Lady on Fire was always going to be tough: but Sciamma has found an gentle, adorable answer in what to show us next. The basic premise of 8-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) befriending an 8-year-old version of her Mom is cute to begin with. But it gets even more touching (without being overly sappy) when the reason for the connection becomes clearer.

Most of the entertainment value comes from Sciamma's warmth and courage to show the girls just being adventurous kids. They go on tactile quests like paddling a boat and building a fort - but their cute plays, complete with dress-up, are equally charming as they are funny.

And while it's not specifically made for children, I do appreciate that this is one of the few films screening at this year's festival that will be appropriate for all ages. This would be a great first non-English film for young viewers.

#3 - Huda's Salon

70 of 100, 3 stars

1hrs 31mins. Thriller Spy Drama.

Written and Directed by Hany Abu-Assad.

Starring Maisa Abd Elhadi, Manal Awad and Ali Suliman.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 10th, 1:00pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 1 (P&I)

Programme: Platform

Country/Language: Palestine, Egypt, Netherlands, Qatar. Arabic.

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There's a pair of women who anchor Huda's Salon and provide most of the momentum: Elhadi's new mother Reem and Awad's hairstylist-turned-undercover agent Huda are polar opposites (especially in their value on loyalties) but they are both equally determined. And most interestingly, both are driven by the same thing: protecting the innocent from a war neither of them want to be stuck in.

Hany Abu-Assad has always been a better director than he has been writer, and his plot has a big problem where we, the audience, keep flipping between Huda's real-time interrogation that takes up most of her screen time and Reem's attempts to escape. Both are given equal treatment, but there's very little time where the two women's efforts truly overlap. It's still a tight, tense thriller with a great cast.

#4 - Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

80 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 54mins. Action Crime Romance Comedy.

Co-Written and Directed by Edwin.

Starring Marthino Lio and Ladya Cheryl.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 10th, 3:00pm

Seen Where: Press Lounge

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: Indonesia, Singapore, Germany. Indonesian.

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Edwin has created a genre-fusing, 16mm love letter to the late 80s, echoing the strange mix of action, romance and surprisingly deep comedy like the best parts of films from the era. Deep nostalgia courses through Vengeance is Mine, and even if the world surrounding the central couple is less interesting than our desire to see if the two make it out from their lives of crime together or succumb to it. Like one goon says, "There's nothing in the world more beautiful than dying the arms of someone you love."

The hurricane-like chemistry between Lio and Cheryl permeates more than just the classic, romantic interactions - you see it in their fight choreography, their intimacy, and the way their eyes turn widen when talking to each other. Is it weird to say it feels like an Indonesian mix of West Side Story, The Karate Kid and Scarface? Whatever the influence actually was, this is a film bursting with originality.

It's not a significant detail, but I really like the opening scene of the motorcycle joust. It also sets the scene really well: this is a world where courage and reckless power is valued above all else.

#5 - Dear Evan Hansen

85 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

2hrs 17mins. Musical Drama.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky.

Starring Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Colton Ryan, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani and Danny Pino.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 9th, 5:30pm

Seen Where: Princess of Wales Theatre

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: United States. English.

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The wise choices made by director Chbosky and playwright-now-screenwriter Steven Levinson make this an outstanding adaptation for the silver screen - even better than the Broadway show its based on.

The scale, score, realism and narrative devices have all been retooled to make both the plot feel warmer and most of the main characters more trustworthy. While specific details like some names, exact relationships and the final song list are different from the source stage show, the plot is almost exactly identical. What’s more significant are the changes in how the premise is set up (including Evan’s character now trying harder to avoid his “big lie”) and the climactic motivations (like the character of Alana's.)

The movie is much more effective than the show at getting audiences to understand and accept why most characters are lying to each other - even though we don’t agree with what they do, we understand their grief deeper and recognize they’re on track to making wrongs right.

Having a deeper background and context for why Evan (Ben Platt in a masterful performance) behaves the way he does and how he changes creates better drama and a richer payoff by the time he sings “Words Fail” - it reduced me to tears. That early, song-free exposition does go on a bit long, but the film more than makes up for it after the first half hour.

 

Read the full review here: https://oakvillenews.org/reviews/dear-evan-hansen-tiff-review/

#6 - Mothering Sunday

40 of 100, 1 1/2 stars

1hr 47mins. Romance.

Directed by Eva Husson.

Starring Odessa Young, Josh O'Connor, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Colin Firth and Olivia Colman.

Date/Time: Saturday September 9th, 9:30pm

Seen Where: Princess of Wales Theatre

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: United Kingdom. English.

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Less sexy and more snore-inducing, Mothering Sunday has everything it needs to be a hit movie. Yet the all-star cast can’t overcome a slow, unoriginal and confusing script that shouldn’t have been made into a movie in the first place.

Having the timeline split and regularly shift is annoying because Jane's (Odessa Young) primary love interest and co-star only exits in one of the three timelines. This severely limits Paul's (Josh O'Connor) time on screen to influence the character of Jane, including both how she feels and why her time with him is so inspiring. It poses a central question: with the non-linear structure so devoid of major events, was the novel Mothering Sunday ever actually a good candidate to adapt for film? My answer is no.

Even Oscar winners Colin Firth and Olivia Colman can't fix it: despite being major characters, they do almost nothing. (If Firth's Mr. Niven remarked how pleasant the weather was one more time I would have screamed.) But the marvellously talented Glenda Jackson gets one heckuva cameo at the end.

Read the full review here: https://oakvillenews.org/reviews/mothering-sunday-tiff-review/

#7 - The Hill Where Lionnesses Roar

70 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 23mins. Crime Drama.

Written and Directed by Luàna Bajrami.

Starring Flaka Latifi, Era Balaj and Uratë Shabani.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 10th, 11:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: Kosovo, France. Albanian.

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It's pretty impressive that at only the age of 20 Luàna Bajrami is already directing her first feature film. It's even more impressive seeing how thoughtful and energized her work is. Simple in concept and execution, but still a complete work with a clear vision. This is bold and conscious girl power done right.

That doesn't excuse the girls' behaviour, though. Even though we can empathize with their tedious, unfair lives, it doesn't justify the thefts or violence they bring upon themselves. The girls make bad choices even if its a bad situation to start, and it's nice to see a movie where there's both a stark, realistic tone and also a hope that young people don't need to turn to bad people just to build a support network.

A short, amusing thought: this film would be fun to compare and contrast to Petit Maman from earlier today, of which Lionnesses is arguably the R-rated version of. But it begins what will be a continuing theme among the festival's offerings this year: the power, challenges and necessity of female friendship.

#8 - Attica

90 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

1hr 56mins. History Documentary.

Directed by Stanley Nelson.

 

Date/Time: Friday September 10th, 9:00am

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 1 (P&I)

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: United States. English.

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There's something really special about having this film premiere at TIFF - it's opening is timed exactly 50 years to the day when the protest uprising at Attica prison, the largest in United States history.

Attica has no central character or narrative and it’s a bit too long. But the extensive, wide ranging and contrasting firsthand interviews are remarkable. It’s a great primary source for a landmark moment in the history of law, journalism and American civil rights. The climactic scene especially, when the prisoners are told, “You Will Not Be Harmed”, told with the sound of whizzing bullets over the first hand interviews, is brilliant. We are learning by experiencing the dizzying horror the prisoners were subjected to.

If you don't know the story, this is a piece of history that will amaze and sadden you deeply. The ending is sadly predictable, and as one of the prisoners bravely says, "I chose not to die in Attica so one day I could tell this story." Now it's out job to listen and implement the change their protest couldn't.

#9 - Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11

75 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 33mins. Documentary.

Directed by David Belton and Bjørn Johnson.

Featuring the work of Ruth Sergel.

 

Date/Time: Friday September 10th, 12:30pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 9 (P&I)

Programme: Special Events

Country/Language: United Kingdom and United States of America. English.

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Speaking of timely documentaries, this weekend is also the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and this creative documentary follows the implementation of an art project where survivors and those impacted recorded their stories on video in an enclosed box. Now, that footage is compiled with the same interview subjects revisiting their stories 20 years later.

The film casts too wide a net, covering too many social and psychological ramifications without giving any of them the screen time this subject really deserves. But the third act reveal of people coming back to record their stories again is wonderful, and there's an important connecting thread as people talk about the lasting damage to American unity that traces back to 9/11 and how the commonality that once made America proud has now been damaged again and again. To honour the memory, the unity must be fixed.

#10 - Titane

70 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 48mins. Horror Thriller.

Written and Directed by Julia Ducournau.

Starring Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon.

 

Date/Time: Friday September 10th, 4:00pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 12 (P&I)

Programme: Midnight Madness

Country/Language: France. French.

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After making a big splash at Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer, I was equally excited and nervous to finally see Titane, especially knowing full-body horror can make me squeamish. The good news is that it's not terribly scary. The bad news is that it's unrelentingly intense, and Ducourneau's vision, love it or hate it, had me gripping my armrests as tight as I could the entire film.

While the now infamous inciting incident of "woman gets impregnated by a car" does pose some disturbing questions (thankfully without answers), most of the story focuses on the challenge of her metallic pregnancy and relationship with a firefighter who lost his son while hiding from a series of murders she's committed in blind rage.

I was in trepidatious fear and amazement the entire time - Agathe Rouselle's Alexie is an astonishing performance that takes fierce commitment and some really drastic story requirements, but she plays them all with gusto. The film is as slick as it is perplexing. Some of the moral lessons may still be lost on me, and my best guess is this teaches us that our relationships are all manufactured, meaning they need to be maintained in healthy ways or it leads to dangerous consequences. I could be wholly off base, though, and I'm not sure there are any definitive answers on this film we're entitled to.

#11 - As in Heaven

60 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 26mins. Drama.

Written and Directed by Tea Lindeburg.

Starring Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl, Ida Cæcilie Rasmussen, Palma Lindeburg Leth, Anna-Olivia Øster Coakley and Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt.

 

Date/Time: Friday September 10th, 6:30pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 4 (P&I)

Programme: Discovery

Country/Language: Denmark. Danish.

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The reality of what is and isn't literal in this cautionary 19th century tale is just vague enough to stay interested in how the girls, and namely Lise, will be at the end. There are some moments of mild fantasy, but they're also by far the most intense. Lindeburg has an eye for unsettling and powerful imagery on screen, and Lise's dreams are visually striking. It helps that Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl is a compelling, convincing performer, and she makes Lise's naïvety believable.

The concept of As in Heaven as a whole is more effective than its execution. It's an admirable allegory for the dangers of misinformation and fear (à la Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening) but there's nothing deeper beyond the focal comparison.

#12 - Becoming Cousteau

50 of 100, 2 stars

1hr 33mins. Documentary Biography.

Directed by Liz Garbus.

Narrated by Vincent Cassel.

 

Date/Time: Friday September 10th, 8:30pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 9 (P&I)

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: United States. English and French.

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Jacques-Vyes Cousteau is one of the great scientists and filmmakers of the twentieth century, and I'm not sure what he'd think of this documentary about his life and work. He was a man who took the ocean and his research quite seriously, which isn't compatible with this film's whimsical tone.

There are some great aspects here: the musical score is full of splendour and rich, bright strings that complement ocean footage so well. And the archive photos and video are great, which makes the collage-like Prezi layout of the footage a disappointment. This documentary has the length of a big-screen movie but the attitude and casual editing style of YouTube video or video that you would find playing in the theatre of a museum or aquarium. The content isn't bad, but the editing is so strange.

#13 - Jockey

75 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 34mins. Sports Drama.

Co-Written and Directed by Clint Bentley.

Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker and Moises Arias.

 

Date/Time: Friday September 10th, 11:30pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: United States. English.

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Here is a deep character study into the lives that drive and influence the athletes. Unfortunately, there's very little sport in this sports-based story. The three principal actors all give masterful performances (especially Collins Jr.) as they confront changes in their professional lives. The insight into the work and why it matters to the jockeys, trainers and more is terrific. To fully appreciate the training, however, we need to see more of the resulting athletic performance.

That's where Jockey falls short. Both the human and horse interaction are well-shot, but there needs to be more racing - that's naturally what the story wants to build to. Finally, those beautiful Arizona backdrops (including those framed sunrises and sunsets) are spectacular to see. It's also a powerful allegory for the changing work of coaches and athletes; like the sun, so too does their time in the spotlight rise and fall.

Short Cuts Programme #1

Date/Time: Friday September 10th (Intermittent)

Seen: Various Locations (Press Lounge, Home, GO Train)

DEFUND -- 7/10

Directed by Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah and Araya Mengesha. 14mins. Comedy. Canada. English. 

Love, Dad -- 9/10

Directed by Diana Cam Van Nguyen. 12mins. Animated Family Drama. Czech Republic, Slovakia. Czech.

Fanmi -- 4/10

Directed by Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers and Carmine Pierre-Dufour.

14mins. Drama. Canada, French and Haitian Creole.

Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman's Apprentice -- 10/10

Directed by Zacharias Kunuk. 21mins. Animated Fantasy Adventure. Canada. Inuktitut.

Beity -- 3/10

Directed by Isabelle Mecattaf. 15mins. Drama. Lebanon, United States. Arabic.

Zero -- 6/10

Directed by Lee Filipovski. 15mins. Adventure Comedy. Canada, Serbia. Serbian.

Egúngún (Masquerade) -- 6/10

Directed by Olive Nwosu. 15mins. Drama. United Kingdom, Nigeria. English, Yoruba.

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Pictured: Love, Dad

#14 - Scarborough

95 of 100, 4 stars

2hrs 16mins. Drama.

Directed by Rich Williamson and Shasha Nakhai.

Starring Liam Diaz, Essence Fox, Anna Claire Beitel, Cherish Violet Blood, Eliie Posadas, Conor Casey, Kristen MacCulloch and Aliya Kanani.

 

Date/Time: Saturday September 11th, 10:00am

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Discovery

Country/Language: Canada. English.

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Catherine Hernandez has adapted her own novel into an incredible screenplay - the resulting film is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, showing tenderness and a stunning attention to detail in portraying life in the outskirts of the city forgotten by most. But what makes Scarborough come alive is the surrounding cast of people who breathe troubled yet hopeful life into the streets: the mural artist, the dog walker, the restaurant owner - all of them.

The film also boasts a flawless acting ensemble: the three kids as Bing, Sylvie and Laura are all great, but special credit goes to Anna Claire Beitel showing concentration, conflict and tactics of a six-year-old girl in crisis. Her and Kanani as the resilient Ms. Hina are the biggest standouts, and their scenes together build to a tearful crescendo I can't stop thinking about.

Ultimately, Scarborough is a love letter to communities uncared for and those brave enough to make them better. It's a fabulous story fabulously told, and it will leave you wanting to give the kids a H-U-G.

#15 - Night Raiders

100 of 100, 4 stars

1hrs 41mins. Sci-Fi Fantasy Action Thriller.
Written and Directed by Danis Goulet.

Starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Gail Maurice, Amanda Plummer and Suzanne Cyr.

 

Date/Time: Saturday September 11th, 12:30pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: Canada and New Zealand. English and Cree.

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Night Raiders is action-packed, brilliantly designed and has white-knuckle thrills from start to finish. Not only is it the best movie of TIFF 2021 so far, it’s one of the best movies of the year. The parallels between the militarized Emerson State authorities and legacy of residential schools that were in Canada for over 100 years are no accident, and while there is nuance is how the authoritarian power is described, the condemnation of their tyrannical privilege is far from subtle. 

 

Night Raiders is certainly timely, especially following the events in Canada this past summer. But it’s not just a film highlighting the conversation of Indigenous reconciliation - it’s also an outstanding movie on the merits of its filmmaking.

Conformity or murder is the expectation, and the world surrounding the kids and adults alike continues to rot because of it. We the audience can digest the comparisons to how Canada, the USA and beyond continues to disrespect Indigenous populations easier than a regular history lesson because the film is science fiction, but it doesn’t make confronting the problem any more comfortable.

 

This is Goulet’s first feature film and she’s got a home run. Her work is thematically strong, visually spectacular, and heartfelt throughout its pulse-pounding action. This is everything great cinema should be: exciting, engaging and deeply purposeful.

Read the full review here: https://oakvillenews.org/reviews/night-raiders-tiff-review/

#16 - The Gravedigger's Wife

80 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 23mins. Romance Drama.

Written and Directed by Khadar Ayderus Ahmed.

Starring Omar Abdi, Yasmin Warsame and Khadar Abdoul-Aziz Ibrahim.

 

Date/Time: Saturday September 11th, 3:45pm

Seen Where: En Route Viewing (London, ON)

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: France, Somalia, Germany, Finland. Somali.

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Stories from Africa rarely get shown with this kind of love and acceptance, and this is certainly the first time I've seen a romance in Somalia. The two leads, as is the premise of the couple's last days before tragedy, is full of optimism and a joy for life. This husband clearly cares so deeply about finding the money he needs for his wife's life-saving operation.

Aside from some excellent camerawork, there's a small problem not in the story but in its scale. Some shots, like walking to and from work or sitting and waiting, are stretched out too long. But the more I kept watching the more Abdi and Ahmed's sincerity continued to win me over. This is a deeply compelling romance with great actors well directed - and the high stakes are made very clear. It's just a simple plot that's short on catharsis beyond the face value of its conflict.

#17 - Neptune Frost

75 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 45mins. Sci-Fi Musical Epic.

Directed by Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman.

Starring Cheryl Isheja, Elvis Ngabo and Bertrand "Kaya Free" Ninteretse.

 

Date/Time: Saturday September 11th, 9:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Wavelengths (TIFF Next Wave)

Country/Language: Rwanda and United States. Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Swahili, French, English.

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There's something satisfying cinematic about the way Neptune Frost behaves as a musical. It's surreal and syncopated, but there are no traditional music numbers, traditional choreography or traditional plot. For most of the film, as one lyric goes, "Understanding is all that's missing." When the meaning finally becomes clear, the spectacle is worth the effort.

 

Cinema really is the only medium a work of art like this could have worked in: it depicts the visual arts of scene, costume, movement and real-world locations with grandeur and style, but then shows the auditory arts of both vocal and instrumental music with sounds that ebb and flow in indecipherable soundscapes. I'll admit the artistry and allegorical meanings are maybe deeper than my comprehension, as it's more like a concert than a story-driven musical. All I know for sure is the team of online architects are fighting to be more than miners: "We have not authority, but maybe now we have a voice."

 

The product is a beautiful depiction of Rwanda, its frustration amid inequity, and the struggle to insist upon culture in a technology-driven world. This is a more scientific and (if you can believe it) more interpretive version of last year's Black is King from Beyoncé. If you liked that concert, you'll love this. And special mention goes to those awesome neon effects in "Fire in the Sky" and the extended, multi-song mid-film dance party scene with Neptune and Memory, both very cool scenes.

#18 - Wildhood

50 of 100, 2 stars

1hr 47mins. Adventure Drama.

Written and Directed by Bretten Hannam.

Starring Phillip Lewitski, Avery Winters-Anthony and Joshua Odjick.

 

Date/Time: Saturday September 11th, 11:30pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Discovery (TIFF Next Wave)

Country/Language: Canada. English and Mi'kmaq.

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A common crutch for movie with teenagers is relying too heavily on profanity in its dialogue, and the hardened Link and Travis spew it nonsensically - and in places where the sentences they day don't make sense. It's crude and unrealistic dialogue that doesn't get better, which really hampers this road-trip film.

There are a few well-shot scenes, including a car chase and dancing on the beach. And the soundtrack complements the driving strangely well. Then there are several other moments that just don't sit right. Joking about "Colours of the Wind" from Pocahontas? The skinny dipping? Delivering the cake? Several scenes add little to the boy's quest, nor do they contribute to making them more interesting, relatable or empathetic characters.

One lingering thought I have is trying to understand the title. Wildhood seems inappropriate when a wild life is exactly the opposite of what Link and Travis are searching for - the destination for them is about finding answers and stability the anger of the family is blinding them to.

Short Cuts Programme #2

Date/Time: Saturday September 11th (Intermittent)

Seen: Various Locations (En Route to London, ON and back, Home)

Displaced -- 6/10

Directed by Samir Karahoda. 15mins. Sports. Kosovo. Albanian.

The Infantas -- 4/10

Directed by Andrea Herrera Catalá. 14mins. Family Drama. Spain. Spanish.

Successful Thawing of Mr. Moro -- 8/10

Directed by Jerry Carlsson. 15mins. Sci-Fi Thriller. Sweden. Swedish, Luganda.

Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics -- 5/10

Directed by Terril Calder. 20mins. Animation. Canada. English, Anishinaabemowin.

Saturday Night -- 6/10

Directed by Rosana Matecki. 15mins. Music Drama. Canada. Spanish.

Charlotte -- 5/10

Directed by Zach Dorn. 13mins. Music Animation. United States. English.

The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night -- 7/10

Directed by Fawzia Mirza. 11mins. Holiday Comedy. United States, Canada. English.

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Pictured: Displaced

#19 - Listening to Kenny G

70 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 37mins. Music Biography Documentary.

Directed by Penny Lane.

Starring Kenny G (Kenneth Bruce Gorelick.)

 

Date/Time: Sunday September 12th, 10:15am

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: United States. English.

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What makes someone love or hate a piece of art? Penny Lane's central question is an interesting one, emotionally charged and effectively focused on trying to get to the root answer. Best of all, legendary jazz musician Kenny G is maybe the best living artist to profile as a case study on this subject.

Sadly, while it's a good central theme, the best parts of the documentary seem to be merely the biography of Kenny G and his musical talent. Footage of him rehearsing and breaking down what makes his work both creative and rigorous is fascinating to see, and Kenneth himself is great interview subject because of his wavering modesty and frankness when speaking. This is a man who has made peace with criticism against him and transcended the hatred to instead focus on his music to bring joy to others.

#20 - Montana Story

90 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

1hrs 53mins. Western Drama.

Directed by Scott McGhee and David Siegel

Starring Owen Teague, Haley Lu Richardson, Gilbert Owuor and Kimberly Guerrero.

 

Date/Time: Sunday September 10th, 1:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Platform

Country/Language: United States. English.

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This is a film of astonishing beauty: McGhee and Siegel have coached outstanding work from their actors so they all give quiet, focused performances, in a story about two siblings coming home, after seven years apart, to their ranch in Montana after their father has a stroke. There isn't a single moment of heightened reality - there is deep, detailed naturalism that makes Montana Story fully believable. Add in Giles Nuttgens' breathtaking Big Sky cinematography and this is a front runner for the Platform prize.

Owen Teague, as Cal, is giving not just one of the performances in the festival but one of the best this year. He's effortless interacting in every relationship Cal is being forced to contend with: as a brother, a son, and as suddenly responsible adult with a troubled family legacy on his shoulders. There isn't a weak player in whole cast, and the gentle fortitude of a great script makes this great cinema.

#21 - Murina

65 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 35mins. Drama.

Co-Written and Directed by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović.

Starring Gracija Filipovic, Leon Lucev, Cliff Curtis and Danica Curcic.

 

Date/Time: Sunday September 12th, 3:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (TIFF Next Wave)

Country/Language: Brazil, Croatia, United States of America, Slovenia. Croatian and English.

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Sure, Murina has a surface-level concept of a teenage girl longing for more than the crushing chauvinism of her father. But its executed incredibly well, with class and exquisite attention to human details. Murina's eyes have sunk so deep it seems her unhappiness is permanently ingrained.

Both the work of Filipovic as Julija and Lucev as her oppressive father Ante are endlessly engaging, and Ante is not an easy character to submit to. Javier and Nela, sadly, get less to do and play the same actions for the entire film - Javier just stares lustfully at Julija while Nela waits around nervously hoping nothing bad happens her daughter.

One thing that strangely kept my attention was the ongoing motif of the colour blue. It's not just the allure of the Adriatic sea surrounding the characters in paradise, but also Julija's bathing suit collection in different shades of blue, like a subtle suggestion that she'll always be sad and trepidatious so long as stays under her father's thumb.

#22 - Lakewood

55 of 100, 2 stars

1hrs 24mins. Thriller Drama.
Directed by Phillip Noyce.

Starring Naomi Watts.

 

Date/Time: Sunday September 12th, 4:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: Canada. English.

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The film is heavily focused on looking into the realism of what working through a school shooting situation might be, even if it’s presented in heightened, Hollywood circumstances. The story plays out mostly in real-time, but real suspense is missing because of gimmicky execution.

The concept of playing out what Amy’s experience might’ve really been like is an interesting concept for a movie, but the script and its oddly perfect timing comes off as insincere instead of a compelling drama.

 

Having all of the action focused on watching Amy run while she’s forced to do nothing but send and receive phone calls is a lot more restrictive than you think: by scripting more than three-quarters of the movie to be one actor alone in the forest and glued to her phone, it becomes a lot more challenging to add visual variety. To her credit, Watts does an excellent job with average material.

Read the full review here: https://oakvillenews.org/reviews/lakewood-tiff-review/

#23 - Dune

80 of 100, 3 stars

2hrs 35mins. Fantasy Sci-Fi Action Epic.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Dave Bautista and Javier Bardem.

 

Date/Time: Sunday September 12th, 7:30pm

Seen Where: Cinesphere IMAX

Programme: Special Events

Country/Language: United States and Hungary. English.

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When introducing the film to the audience, director Denis Villeneuve was explaining when he and cinematographer Greig Fraser were planning Dune, he pointed to the IMAX screen and said "We were only ever thinking of that. This is the future of cinema." Whether in fact his prophecy is right, Villeneuve's film maximizes the big screen experience like few modern movies do.

The sets are jaw-dropping. The scenery is big, beige and beautiful. The production designer really does look like a modern, medieval society 8,000 years in the future. I'd be shocked if this didn't sweep the technical Oscar awards later this year. Everyone in the large ensemble is perfectly cast, and many of them have undertaken radical physical and psychological changes to play these roles, and Chalamet's Paul is a grounded leader. (I also couldn't believe how much makeup Skarsgård had on!)

What's disappointing is knowing the Dune is unfinished. It's a good story inside a great blockbuster, but there's over an hour of (granted, interesting) exposition. This film is openly part one of a hopeful duology, but in the meantime this story feels incomplete. I wonder if this adaptation might've been better served as a six episode mini-series, but there really is magic in seeing this film in its proper IMAX home.

#24 - Dashcam

5 of 100, 0 stars

1hr 17mins. Comedy Horror.

Co-Written and Directed by Rob Savage.

Starring Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel and Angela Nahoro.

 

Date/Time: Sunday September 12th, 11:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Midnight Madness

Country/Language: United Kingdom and United States. English.

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This is the frontrunner for the worst movie of TIFF 2021. The "mobile footage" horror trope hasn't been effectively used since Cloverfield almost 14 years ago, and its justification as a creative project during COVID-19 doesn't excuse having a boring, lazy, and nonsensical story. It can't even be an effective horror movie because it's never made clear what the supernatural threat even is. When you think it can't get more unoriginal, the penultimate fight is in an abandoned carnival! Really?!

What makes Dashcam close to unwatchable, however, is that its main character Annie (Annie Hardy) is the most arrogant, rude, profane and unredeemable character I may have ever had the misfortune of seeing in a movie. Annie's craving for instigative attention and obnoxious, cartoonish self-obsession have no artistic or story-driven merit other than to piss off the audience, and it works. Worse still, her MAGA-driven politics was clearly a character choice simply to encourage division among the viewing audience.

 

If you by some miracle survive the first half hour, you'll be rewarded with an extended seen of watching a sick, elderly woman defecate on screen. This film is a mess conceptually, technically and in all forms of its reckless execution. Also: when your movie is only 77 minutes, having 11 of them be credits is pathetic, made only worse by having them delivered via more of Annie's half-assed wannabe rap music.

WL Shorts: Present, Tense

Date/Time: Sunday September 12th (Intermittent)

Seen: Home

Dear Chantal -- 5/10

Directed by Nicolás Pereda. 5mins. Mexico, Spain. Spanish.

The Capacity for Adequate Anger -- 8/10

Directed by Vika Kirchenbauer. 15mins. Germany. English.

Inner Outer Space -- 4/10

Directed by Laida Lertxundi. 16mins. Spain. English, Basque.

"The red filter is withdrawn." -- 7/10

Directed by Minjung Kim. 12mins. South Korea. English, Korean.

Polycephaly in D -- 3/10

Directed by Michael Robinson. 23mins. United States. English.

earthearthearth -- 1/10

Directed by Daïchi Saïto. 30mins. Canada. No dialogue.

Train Again -- 6/10

Directed by Peter Tscherkassky. 20mins. Austria. No dialogue.

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Pictured: Polycephaly in D

#25 - Beba

70 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 19mins. Biography Documentary.

Written and Directed by and Starring Rebecca Huntt.

 

Date/Time: Monday September 13th, 8:30am

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: United States and Mexico. English and Spanish.

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"You are now entering my universe," says Huntt, subject of herself reclaiming her own story and identity. "I am the lens, the subject, the authority." This begins her journey of family history and dissecting mixed races to understand and evolve how she sees herself, wanting to be as fully realized as she can be.

A small detail: I really like the use of woodwinds underscoring Huntt's narration. It gives an otherworldy feeling to her theories, like she's literally examining herself by watching her own film with us. A much bigger detail is Rebecca's scene confronting racial violence with her white friends late in the film - her fury is palpable and she makes a compelling case that "there is nothing honourable about trying to assimilate into a system trying to destroy you."

Huntt's exploration of her family history, stories and culture turns out to be less poignant and more sweet, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's a lot of heart and pride in Huntt's reflections of her past as she learns what that means for her today, even when her theologies sometimes expose her (sometimes extreme) opinions It's not a revelatory story. It is a reason to be proud of her family though, and there's a lesson about why it's important to learn about who we really are.

#26 - Quickening

75 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 28mins. Drama.

Written and Directed by Haya Waseem.

Starring Arooj Azeem, Bushra Azeem, Ashir Azeem, Owen Daniel Douglas and Quinn Underwood.

 

Date/Time: Monday September 13th, 12:00pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 12 (P&I)

Programme: Discovery (TIFF Next Wave)

Country/Language: Canada. English and Urdu.

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For this movie, the whole family's getting involved! Arooj A

#27 - Sundown

95 of 100, 4 stars

1hr 24mins. Crime Comedy Drama.

Written and Directed by Michel Franco.

Starring Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Iazua Larios and Henry Goodman.

 

Date/Time: Monday September 13th, 1:30pm

Seen Where: Scotiabank Theatre, Screen 13 (P&I)

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: Mexico. English and Spanish.

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Full review is coming soon.

#28 - The Wheel

80 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 23mins. Drama Romance.

Directed by Steve Pink.

Starring Taylor Gray, Amber Midthunder, Bethany Anne Lind and Nelson Lee.

 

Date/Time: Monday September 13th, 4:00pm

Seen Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox, Screen 2

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: United States. English.

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This is a great, intimate movie that works as comedy, drama and romance. The plot of a young couple on the verge of divorce taking a cottage weekend to save their marriage doesn't sound overly engaging at first, but the basic concept is elevated by Trent Atkinson's outstanding screenplay and four actors with phenomenal skill: focus, comedic skill, the courage to say things they don't mean, and most of all, heart.

After a rich, interesting first 75 minutes, husband Walker and wife Albee must confront all their conversations, revelations and their experiences from eight years of marriage (that started at age 16 for them!) to decide whether they stay together or not. That final scene, when they take a ride on a ferris wheel to discuss the future, is spellbinding. It's an eight minute continuous take that will have you hooked right until the fantastic final moments.

#29 - The Survivor

85 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

2hrs 9mins. Sports War History Drama.
Directed by Barry Levinson.

Starring Ben Foster, Vicky Krieps, Billy Magnussen, Peter Sarsgaard, Saro Emirze, John Leguizamo and Danny DeVito.

 

Date/Time: Monday September 13th, 5:30pm

Seen Where: Roy Thomson Hall

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: United States, Hungary, Canada. English and German.

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I had never heard of Harry (or Hertzka) Haft before, an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor who went on to be a championship lightweight boxer. Having seen his story on the big screen, and told with such extraordinary talent, his story has left me deeply moved.

Harry Haft’s story is often a melancholy one; director Barry Levinson has taken great care to show most of Haft’s life with a strong sense of dignity, understanding that hope was his driving motivation. That respect is important because the Holocaust and its aftermath are rightly sensitive subjects. There have been endless great WWII movies before and several great boxing movies, so none of this is new territory. The Survivor, however, is told with such conviction and earnestness that it overcomes dismissive tropes. Like Harry’s brother Perez says to him, “Why did you survive if not to live?”

What impressed me the most was how Levinson explores Harry’s lasting trauma, showing how easily survivors can be triggered by every day life and how impactful the damage was for Harry day-to day. This social exploration of Harry’s behaviour showcases the long-term impacts of surviving genocide, giving his movie a unique commentary on the horrors of war. And this portrayal is only made better by Ben Foster's incredible lead performance of Harry at all points in his life.

Read the full review here: https://oakvillenews.org/reviews/the-survivor-tiff-review/

#30 - Julia

65 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 35mins. Biography Documentary.

Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West.

 

Date/Time: Monday September 13th, 10:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: United States. English.

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Here's a documentary that's more fun to watch than it is well-made cinema. Julia is a detailed biography of Julia Child's life at all stage, teaching us what was important to her and showing interviews with those who knew her, explaining what she did.

 

In other words, it's a by-the-book documentary. Other than literally depicting Child's life story in chronological order, it doesn't do anything else. The good news is the archive footage of Julia over the years, coupled with her narrating some of her own diary entries, is so much fun to watch that this movie about her is heightened by having showing off how much fun she was. It's a well-produced history lesson, even if it never transcends beyond its literal self.

Short Cuts Programme #3

Date/Time: Monday September 13th (Intermittent)

Seen: Various Locations (GO Train, TIFF Lightbox)

Some Still Search -- 8/10

Directed by Nesaru Tchaas. 15mins. Drama Thriller. United States. English, Spanish.

Bhai -- 5/10

Directed by Hamzah Bangash. 7mins. Comedy. Pakistan, Canada, United Kingdom. Urdu.

Anxious Body -- 9/10

Directed by Yoriko Mizushiri. 6mins. Animation. Franch, Japan. No dialogue.

Astel -- 9/10

Directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy. 24mins. Drama Epic. France, Senegal. Pulaar.

You and Me, Before and After -- 7/10

Directed by Madeleine Gottlieb. 12mins. Family Drama. Australia. English.

Little Bird -- 8/10

Directed by Tim Myles. 15mins. Drama Comedy. Canada. English.

I Gotta Look Good for the Apocalypse -- 6/10

Directed by Ayce Kartal. 6mins. Animated Sci-Fi. France. English.

Shark-- 8/10

Directed by Nash Edgerton. 14mins. Comedy. Australia. English.

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Pictured: ASTEL

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Pictured: Shark

#31 - The Rescue

85 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

1hr 54mins. Adventure Documentary.

Directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.

Starring Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Dr. Richard Harris and the Thai Navy SEALS.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 9:00am

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: United States and United Kingdom. English and Thai.

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It starts slow, but just as the volunteers got a boost from finding the kids, so too does the film once they begin planning the intricacy of the rescue mission. When we get to the last half hour, when it's the do-or-die moment of the mission, the footage and soulfulness of the interview subjects is spellbinding.

"Generosity is the beginning of everything."

Full review is coming soon.

#32 - The Odd-Job Men

50 of 100, 2 stars

1hr 25mins. Comedy.

Co-Written and Directed by Neus Ballús.

Starring Mohamed Mellali, Valero Escolar and Pep Sarrà.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 11:15am

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: Spain. Catalan, Spanish, Berber.

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Mohamed (Mohamed Mellali) is doing a one-week trial run with a family business in Barcelona as a general repairman. Neus Ballús' comedy is about that one week on the job between Mohamed and his potential new boss, through their successes, failures, and the quirky characters they meet across the city.

Mellali is charming as the main character, reeling from his recent immigration and finding the humour from being a "fish out of water." The trouble is, where many of the one-liners are really funny, there really aren't a lot of events that happen in the story. At its worst moments, it feels like a series of vignettes on the job, with a 50/50 chance pf being funny or boring. Just when there's almost a climax to the story, with the co-workers forced to get along or quit, the conflict is resolved too fast and with little effort.

#33 - Burning

80 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 26mins. Nature Documentary.

Directed by Eva Orner.

Starring Greg Mullins, Tim Flannery, Daisy Jeffery and Scott Morrison.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 1:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: Australia. English.

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Oscar winner Eva Orner has made a great report about the history of climate change in Australia and its relationships to bush fires, and why this is such a critical impasse today. Her interview subjects have their extensive knowledge corroborated, juxtaposed over terrifying photos and video of the fires that are naturally cinematic.

 

When the film moves to covering the "Black Summer" fires in late 2019 and early 2020, the footage only gets more striking. Nearly 60 million acres of land burned, but a narrated quote from a news station sums it up best: the area size of the smoke plumes from these fires were larger than all of Europe.

 

I was also impressed how Orner unapologetically shows the weariness of her subjects, both from their frustrations over the natural problem continually worsening and the stubbornness of conservative powers in Australia continually suppressing the problem. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, unsurprisingly, is painted as perhaps too outlandishly a villain, but seeing the footage of the natural damage and his lack of response, it's hard to make the case he isn't the villain after all.

#34 - The Humans

75 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 48mins. Drama.

Written and Directed by Stephen Karam.

Starring Richard Jenkins, Jayne Houdyshell, Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun and June Squibb.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 2:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: United States. English.

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Full review is coming soon.

#35 - Oscar Peterson: Black + White

65 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 23mins. Music Biography Documentary.

Directed by Barry Avrich.

Featuring Kelly Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis, Quincy Jones, Jackie Richardson, Jon Batiste and Jon Batiste.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 4:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: Canada. English.

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Full review is coming soon.

#36 - Jagged

85 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

1hr 23mins. Music Documentary.

Directed by Barry Avrich.

Starring Alanis Morissette.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 7:00pm

Seen Where: Roy Thomson Hall

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: United States. English.

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Full review is coming soon.

#37 - Official Competition

95 of 100, 4 stars

1hr 54mins. Comedy.

Written and Directed by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat.

Starring Penelope Cruz, Oscar Martinez and Antonio Banderas.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 9:30pm

Seen Where: Princess of Wales Theatre

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: United States. English.

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Full review is coming soon.

#38 - Drunken Birds

70 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 45mins. Thriller Crime Drama.

Co-Written and Directed by Ivan Grbovic.

Starring Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Hélène Florent, Claude Legault and Marine Johnson.

 

Date/Time: Tuesday September 14th, 11:59pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Platform

Country/Language: Canada. French, Spanish, English, Mandarin.

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Willy's quest from gangster to migrant farmer trying to do better is a relatively slow burn, with an ordinary conflict for most of the film. But after an interaction with one of the other characters (who I won't spoil here) things get intense quick. Not scary, not shocking, and not gruesome. This special intensity comes only from smart stakes, conflict, and circumstance in storytelling. The line-up in athe rain, along with most of the last half an hour, is the best part of Drunken Birds by a mile.

Full review is coming soon.

#39 - Wochiigii Lo: End of the Peace

55 of 100, 2 stars

1hr 25mins. Documentary.

Written and Directed by Heather Hatch.

Starring Diane Abel, George Desjarlais, Roland Willson, Sarah Cox and the Peace River People.

 

Date/Time: Wednesday September 15th, 10:30am

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: Canada. English.

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Documentarian Heather Hatch has admirably spent five years following the social issue of building British Columbia's Site C electrical dam on protected treaty lands, following the locals, councils, tribes and peoples trying to stop the huge flooding and homelessness the construction would cause.

Unfortunately, this story need to be told and for people to learn about the cause is muddled by almost all of the interview subjects repeating the same information. There's about half an hour of substantial material that gets watered down by less articulate repetition. Hatch stretches out the story by adding dozens of empty, black title cards instead of showing the events actually happening, and the environmental cinematography of the natural areas is mediocre at best.

 

The most impassioned moment is watching Elder Albert  (Joseph) Brooks, who cries through tears, "I love my people. I'm going to Ottawa stand up for the Peace River people." It's the most effective moment at showing Site C's severity of damage. Even though the stories are impassioned, having them repeated in the same way by more sources doesn't justify padding the run time. This would have been much more effective (and objective) if it had been a documentary short instead of a feature. 

#40 - OUT OF SYNC

35 of 100, 1 1/2 stars

1hr 44mins. Fantasy Drama.

Co-written and Directed by Juanjo Giménez

Starring Marta Nieto.

 

Date/Time: Wednesday September 15th, 12:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: Spain, Lithuania, France. Spanish.

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An unnamed woman, working as a foley artist and sound technician for the movies, has suddenly developed a strange problem: the sounds she's hearing in her everyday life no longer match - it's either a second too early or too late. Marta Nieto has a fine lead performance, but that's the only good part here.

The sound editing and wizardry are terrific, as they critically need to be for the plot device to work. The coolest sequences are the ones where we experience the same affliction she does, and suddenly we're watching this literal film with the sound...you guessed it, out of sync. One very funny moment is when she turns off an alarm clock which then continues blaring.

Beyond the neat effects, the story never evolves into anymore more than its elevator pitch. The mystery into her condition doesn't explore any particular concept and the pacing is really slow. Aside from one inventive scene walking out of a coffee shop, the cleverness gets old fast. I did also like the film's score.

#41 - Zalava

80 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 33mins. Horror Drama.

Co-Written and Directed by Arsalan Amiri.

Starring Navid Pourfaraj, Pouria Rahimi Sam, Hoda Zeinolabedin, Baset Rezaei, Fereydoun Hamedi and Shaho Rostami.

 

Date/Time: Wednesday September 15th, 2:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Midnight Madness

Country/Language: Iran. Kurdish and Persian.

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In most cases, I would find unanswered questions annoying and unjustified in trying to make a bad story seem better. But it makes a lot of sense in Zalava, about a town in Iran where there are rumoured to be supernatural demons possessing the villagers. What makes the film interesting isn't its horror elements (though it is effectively scary) but its mystery elements: is there or isn't there a curse?

Navid Pourfaraj anchors a strong ensemble as Masoud, the local police constable trusted to protect the town but mistrusted by the locals. The best moments of drama hold hat tips to The Crucible and others to Paranormal Activity. What's undeniable is how polished, bright and just creepy enough Zalava is - the colourful, earthy human village has great contrast to the evils that lurk at nighttime. 

 

Maybe I found it easier to sit through because I watched it in the afternoon in a bright living room with lots of sunlight, but this has been my favourite horror film of the festival. 

#42 - Ali & Ava

65 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 34mins. Drama Romance.

Written and Directed by Clio Barnard.

Starring Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar.

 

Date/Time: Wednesday September 15th, 4:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: United Kingdom. English.

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Full review is coming soon.

#43 - Whether the Weather is Fine

40 of 100, 1 1/2 stars

1hr 44mins. Adventure Fantasy.

Directed by Carlo Francisco Manatad.

Starring Charo Santos, Daniel Padilla and Rans Rifol.

 

Date/Time: Wednesday September 15th, 5:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema

Country/Language: Philippines, France, Singapore, Indonesia, Germany, Qatar. Waray-Waray.

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This abstract film about a city trying to nonchalantly prepare for a hurricane just after one came through town is way too drawn out. The absurdity doesn't work, and it's often confusing. The characters are treating the fantasy and abstract details with sourness, making it really hard to stay interested in lead heroes Andrea and Miguel. I will say, I like the moral message about the danger of misinformation, and hiding the danger of an impending storm from the citizens of Talcoban is a great allegory for this.

Why is the introductory title card in the middle of the movie? What is the purpose in showing us the title (which we already know) 45 minutes into the runtime? And what in the world was the point in the flash mob dance number outside the evacuation centre? There are two many incoherent details to keep the audience interested over the snail's pace walking around hurricane debris.

#44 - Three Minutes - A Lengthening

85 of 100, 3 1/2 stars

1hr 9mins. War History Documentary.

Written and Directed by Biance Stigter.

Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter and Glenn Kurtz.

 

Date/Time: Wednesday September 15th, 9:30pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Documentaries

Country/Language: Netherlands and United Kingdom. English, Polish, German, Yiddish

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Footage of this rarity doesn't come along often, making it all the more amazing that this footage of a Jewish village in 1938 was found almost 80 years later in someone's closet in Florida. That man is Glenn Kurtz, who's grandfather David shot the 16mm film in some of the final days because the Nazis invaded and most people in three minutes of painstakingly restored footage were sent to a concentration camp.

Helena Bonham Carter narrates a series of interviews with scientists and historians to talk about how the footage was restored and how clues were found in the pictures to identify key details. It does get a bit repetitive re-watching the same clips several times or more, though it's necessary to show the work.

The longest scene in the film is also its most powerful. Almost ten minutes is spent creating a collage of faces on screen - highlighting a portrait image of every single person who appears somewhere in the footage. As its narrated, "most memories focus on names - the last thing people they leave behind. But here, with no names, we have faces."

Short Cuts Programme #4

Date/Time: Wednesday September 14th (Intermittent)

Seen: Home

Srikandi -- 5/10

Directed by Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto. 9mins. Family Drama. Canada, Indonesia. Indonesian.

The Future Isn't What It Used To Be -- 7/10

Directed by Adeyemi Michael. 22mins. Sci-Fi Adventure Thriller Epic. United Kingdom. English.

Motorcyclist’s Happiness Won’t Fit Into His Suit -- 6/10

Directed by Gabriel Herrera. 10mins. Drama. Mexico, Spanish.

Dust Bath -- 7/10

Directed by Seth A. Smith. 2mins. Animation Comedy. Canada. English.

White Devil -- 10/10

Directed by Benjamin Dickinson and Mariama Diallo. 15mins. Horror Comedy. United States. English.

Trumpets in the Sky -- 4/10

Directed by Rakan Mayasi. 15mins. Drama. Palestine, Lebanon, France, Belgium. No dialogue.

Nuisance Bear -- 9/10

Directed by Jack Weisman and Gabriela Osio Vanden. 14mins. Documentary. Canada. No dialogue.

Together-- 5/10

Directed by Albert Shin. 13mins. Drama. Canada and South Korea. Korean.

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Pictured: White Devil

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Pictured: Nuisance Bear

#45 - Yuni

50 of 100, 2 stars

1hr 35mins. Romance Drama.

Co-Written and Directed by Kamila Andini.

Starring Arawinda Kirana, Kevin Ardilova, Dimas Aditya, Marissa Anita and Asmara Abigail.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 16th, 10:00am

Seen Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox, Screen 3

Programme: Platform

Country/Language: Singapore, France, Indonesia, Australia. Serang-Javanese.

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Full review is coming soon.

#46 - Belfast

95 of 100, 4 stars

1hr 37mins. Comedy Drama.

Written and Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Starring Jude Hill, Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Colin Morgan, Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 16th, 12:00pm

Seen Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox, Screen 2

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: United Kingdom. English.

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Full review is coming soon.

#47 - St. Anne

60 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 20mins. Family Drama.

Written and Directed by Rhayne Vermette.

Starring Rhayne Vermette, Isabelle Deschambault, Jack Theis, Valerie Marion and Dolorès Gosselin.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 16th, 4:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Wavelengths

Country/Language: Canada. French.

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Shooting this must've been an incredible challenge, and the merit having the actors behave so naturally is really impressive. The thin plot looks into the seasonal changes of a Métis family at their aging home in Manitoba's Territory 1. The film is shot and convincingly looks like it's a compilation of home video footage strung together, and not at all (as it actually is) like rehearsed actors recreating scenes.

Unapologetically long and ordinary shots of things like house chores, repairs and seemingly meaningless tasks around the house are common. Then there are other windows into the lives of this family: long takes of the Manitoban wilderness and unkempt angles of family events. There's minimal narrative, and it's hard to find much of it entertaining. What it lacks in impression it makes up for in insight, especially in showing how relatable and grounded the lives in Territory 1 really are.

#48 - Where is Anne Frank

65 of 100, 2 1/2 stars

1hr 39mins. Animated Family History.

Written and Directed by Ari Folman.

Starring Ruby Stokes, Emily Carey, Sebastian Croft and Ralph Prosser.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 16th, 5:45pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Special Presentations

Country/Language: Belgium, France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Israel. English.

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Ari Folman's distinctive animation style fits so well into the Anne Frank story, even if its a fictitious version of the story (her diary come to life as imaginary friend Kitty) mixed into the real-life history. His style of colourful, elongated characters and props against bleak, story backgrounds makes perfect sense for a bright person like Anne Frank in the dismal setting of her home in WWII.

 

War stories have always been a compelling subject for Folman's animated work: it was the inspiration too for his acclaimed animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. A special appreciation also comes to the story from its director because Folman himself is proudly Jewish. It gets a bit weird when the action then moves to the present day, when Kitty goes looking for Anne without knowing she's missing.

Even though it's great to see Anne and Kitty's relationship as a model for children, there is a small weirdness around the concept of Kitty come to life, and Folman's story is better than his sometimes stilted dialogue. It'll also take a some adjustment not having the mouth movements precisely match what the characters say, but that's a small detail.

#49 - The Good House

75 of 100, 3 stars

1hr 54mins. Drama Comedy.

Written and Directed by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky.

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Morena Baccarin, Rob Delaney and Rebecca Henderson.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 16th, 9:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: United States. English.

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Based on Ann Leary’s 2013 novel of the same name, we follow several months in the life of Hildy Good (Sigourney Weaver) as she’s recovering from a drinking problem and trying to get her small town real estate business back on track. Great taste can come even in less reputable wines so long as it’s the right bottle and you’re in the right mood. Having stars like Weaver and Kevin Kline as your leads helps, and it gets even better when you watch them having so much fun flirting together on screen.

That doesn’t seem like there’s much plot to be had, but there’s a terrific set of neighbours in an interconnected web as romances, sales and setups are sorted out. The worst part is the predictability of the story's trajectory; it's obvious we're waiting for something bad when Hildy slips up in her relapse.

 

It’s easy to like Hildy, especially as she effortlessly oozes charm both with her friends in Westover and directly with us, the audience. Good’s slight recklessness is easily forgiven because Weaver plays her so sly to the camera; every time she talks directly to the viewer, it’s like she’s telling us her new favourite secret, and you can’t resist wanting to know what she has to say. Even though Hildy drinks mostly red, the film is like a good sauvignon blanc: familiar, a dry taste, and thoroughly pleasant.

 

Read the full review here: https://oakvillenews.org/reviews/whole-souls-in-the-good-house/

#50 - Snakehead

??? of 100, ??? stars

1hr 29mins. Crime Thriller.

Written and Directed by Evan Jackson Leong.

Starring Shuya Chang, Jade Wu, Sung Kang, Perry Yung, Yacine Djoumbaye and Devon Diep.

 

Date/Time: Thursday September 16th, 11:00pm

Seen Where: Home

Programme: Gala Presentations

Country/Language: United States. Chinese and English.

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Full review is coming soon.