Author Archives: Plot and Theme

April 28

Hot Docs 2017: 78/52

Psycho was a watershed moment in cinema, and not just because it was the first film to show a flushing toilet.  Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary 78/52 explores this cultural touchstone through interviews with a myriad of film people, from directors and editors to actors, composers, and critics.  The film begins by exploring the philosophies, style, […]

April 26

Hot Docs 2017: Let There Be Light

Today, the vast majority of the energy we produce comes from burning fossil fuels.  We generate smaller amounts by splitting large radioactive atoms, capturing a tiny percentage of the energy in sunlight, or other various techniques, but these are not currently capable of generating energy at the same cost and abundance of fossil fuels.  Let […]

April 26

Hot Docs 2017: Still Tomorrow

Jian Fan’s Still Tomorrow considers its fascinating subject in all its facets.  The film follows a year in the life of Yu Xuihua, a middle age woman with cerebral palsy who has worked on her parent’s farm for her whole life.  Her arranged marriage of 20 years is one of convenience, and her life is […]

April 25

Hot Docs 2017: 69 Minutes of 86 Days

The realities of refugee life are captured with stunning passivity in Egil Håskjold Larsen’s understated 69 Minutes of 86 Days.  The film follows a refugee family en route to Sweden, careful to observe the journey, not comment.  The brilliance of the film lay in a stylistic choice that forces the spectator into the perspective of […]

March 05

TIRFF 2017: Handsome Devil

Writer-director John Butler’s Handsome Devil favorably compares to other boarding school coming-of-age dramas like School Ties and Dead Poet’s Society. Butler’s film packs more irreverence than those films, and has a kind of tongue-in-cheek sensibility, but a lot of the elements are the same. Much of the drama is focuses on a pair of roommates, […]

March 04

TIRFF 2017: How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story

Directed by Des Henderson and narrated by Liam Neeson, How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story is an effective documentary focusing on the Project Children charity. The charity was founded in 1975 by an Irish immigrant bomb squad policeman named Denis Mulcahy, with the intent of bringing Irish children to live with host […]

March 04

TIRFF 2017: The Nation Holds Its Breath

A short film from writer-director Kev Cahill, The Nation Holds Its Breath, brilliantly captures the vibe of anticipation in parallel moments: 1.) the most important football match in Irish history, the 1990 World Cup elimination match against Romania, and 2.) the tumultuous birth of the main character’s child. The wonderful juxtaposition of the countrywide hullabaloo […]

January 27

The Red Turtle

In his feature film debut, The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge), Dutch-British animator Michaël Dudok de Wit conjures up a gorgeous story exalting the wondrous complexity of nature and where humans fit in that picture. This dialogue-free film uses the archetypal story of a man surviving on a deserted island, but adds interesting twists to […]

January 23

Interview: Michaël Dudok de Wit talks The Red Turtle

In his feature film debut, Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit has crafted a wonderful piece of visual storytelling in The Red Turtle.  Teaming up with the famous Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli and the French production studio Wild Bunch, Dudok de Wit’s story relies entirely on the animation to convey the mood and themes […]

January 14

Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival: Blind Vaysha

Blind Vaysha is an allegorical animated short from Theodore Ushev, and it is an absolute triumph. Narrated by Caroline Dhavernas, the film is an adaptation of a 2001 short story by Georgi Gospodinov about a young girl who is born with a peculiar affliction: her left eye sees only the past and her right eye […]

December 21

The Thoughts That Once We Had

Though ostensibly a documentary, it is disingenuous to cast director Thom Andersen’s The Thoughts That Once We Had as anything but a spruced-up video essay.  It is a YouTube video stretched to nearly two hours, with a more-practiced hand at the helm.  Andersen is unabashed about his love of cinema, and clearly states that this […]

December 19

Kaili Blues

Kaili Blues is a gorgeous film that interlaces realism and fantasy with the same grace as a Gabriel García Márquez novel.  The film is the feature debut of Bi Gan, a Chinese director born in Kaili, Guizhou, and it certainly announces him as a burgeoning talent. The story has a wandering and quixotic nature to […]

December 18

Kate Plays Christine

Kate Plays Christine is a confusing commentary on the public’s obsession with true crime drama.  The film is structured as a kind of documentary, focusing on an actress named Kate Lyn Sheil as she is preparing to play the role of Christine Chubbuck.  Chubbuck was a news anchor in Sarasota, Florida who infamously committed suicide […]

December 17

Hooligan Sparrow

In Hooligan Sparrow, director Nanfu Wang take great risks with her camera, and not just artistic ones.  Her film focuses on a woman named Ye Haiyan, also known as “Sparrow”, an infamous women’s rights activist who is known for viral stunts and art projects that shine a light on the abuse of women in China.  […]

November 12

Reel Asian 2016: The Lockpicker

Writer/Director Randall Okita’s debut feature film, The Lockpicker, is a haunted coming of age character study focusing on the tumultuous life of a teenager named Hashi (Keigian Umi Tang). Hashi is an expert lockpicker, but is reeling from the recent death by suicide of a good friend of his. Coupled with a home life which […]

October 30

Cinéfranco 2016: Certified Halal (Certifiee Halal)

The French and Arabic film Certified Halal (Certifiee Halal) is a peculiar little farce from writer-director Mahmoud Zemmouri, (co-written with Marie-Laurence Attias). The story they tell is a kind of Comedy of Errors full of misogyny, forced marriages, drugging, and numerous cases of mistaken identity. Unfortunately, the subject matter is likely a bit too serious […]

October 28

Cinéfranco 2016: Rebellious Girl (Insoumise)

Jawad Rhalib’s Rebellious Girl (Insoumise ) is an investigation of the spirit of rebellion, and how difficult it can be to quell. Rhalib tells this story amid the backdrop of migrant workers, many of them immigrants, who work on a Belgian orchard. Their cheap contracts are seen as a godsend for the farmer Andre (Benoit […]

October 23

ImagineNATIVE 2016: I Am Thy Weapon

Directed by Razelle Benally, I Am Thy Weapon is a quick short narrative about reconciling the past and learning to move on. This story takes the form of a pair of sisters, Reagan and Daya, and Daya’s desire to reconcile with her past. Their story is told in flashbacks while Daya returns to a place […]

October 22

ImagineNATIVE 2016: Me and My Little Sister

Kaisa West is a Lesbian who lives in Helsinki, Finland.  But, she lived much of her life among the Sami people, an indigenous group in the north of Scandinavia.  Like many indigenous peoples, the Sami have had their culture trodden upon by Christian missionaries.  The Sami communities express the same kind of anti-homosexual mentality that […]

October 19

ImagineNATIVE 2016: Three Wise Cousins

The first ten minutes of Three Wise Cousins is enough to convince you that you are in for a great time. The title card simply reads, “Somewhere in Samoa”, as a young nerdy man named Adam is intimidated by two larger men, who are ostensibly his cousins Tavita and Mose. Faux drama and tension is […]