Author Archives: Plot and Theme

June 07

CSFF 2017: Hillsborough

The worst sports disaster in the history of England occurred on April 15th, 1989 in Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield during a semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. During the match, overcrowding in a pen lead to an alarming number of deaths. Daniel Gordon’s documentary Hillsborough recounts the story of this disaster, its causes, and […]

June 02

Interview: Director Steve James talks Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the story of Abacus Federal Saving Bank and the Sung family that runs it. To date, the bank is still the only federal bank to be indicted for fraud in connection with the 2008 financial crisis. Therefore, the film is a tale of family, community, perseverance, and the unequal […]

June 01

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Thomas Sung owns and operates Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York’s Chinatown. The bank, with his daughters Jill (President & CEO) and Vera (Director), serves a clientele composed primarily of local small-business owners of Chinese descent, many first-generation Americans or direct immigrants. Hence, Abacus is an important part of this community, as it gives […]

May 25

Inside Out 2017: A Date for Mad Mary

Darren Thornton’s A Date for Mad Mary is a charming coming-of-age romance featuring incredible performances, unpredictable plot turns, and immense directorial skill. Thornton co-wrote the film with his brother Colin, based off of a play written by Yamine Akram that Darren also directed. A Date for Mad Mary appears to be your standard young adult […]

May 24

Inside Out 2017: Mansfield 66/67

The documentary Mansfield 66/67 trades in the same camp as its iconic subject: “Blonde Bombshell” Jayne Mansfield. The film focuses on the last two years of the starlet’s life, reveling in the rumors that swirled and the legends that the papers saw fit to print. The film is built from celebrity interviews, discussions with cultural […]

May 23

Inside Out 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, […]

May 04

Hot Docs 2017: Ramen Heads

In Koki Shigeno’s Ramen Heads, the homey Japanese comfort food is lovingly explored, revealing the complex quintessence of broth and noodle.  The documentary focuses on Osamu Tomita, the preeminent ramen chef in Japan and winner of three consecutive end-of-the-year awards for best ramen in the land. We delve into Tomita’s kitchen and learn his ramen […]

May 02

Hot Docs 2017: Integral Man

Writer-director Joseph Clement’s subject for Integral Man is the modern renaissance man Jim Stewart.  Stewart is a brilliant concert-level violinist with a contagious passion for music, but he is also an accomplished teacher of mathematics.  Spurred on by some students who told him that his notes on the chalkboard were clearer than the textbook they […]

May 02

Hot Doc 2017: Birth of a Family

Tasha Hubbard’s Birth of a Family documents the first meeting of a family torn asunder by racist government policies, decades after their separation.  As infants, Betty Ann, Esther, Rosalie, and Ben were taken from their indigenous mother and placed into separate white homes across North America as part of Canada’s “Sixties Scoop”.  The story of […]

May 01

Hot Docs 2017: Manic

It’s apparent that Kalina Burton’s Manic is made with passion, care, and respect for the mental health of its subjects: Burton’s own brother and sister.  It’s also clear that an amateur is at the helm.  Burton has a lot to learn about pacing, structure, and focus. The film opens with blunt white text on a black […]

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 […]