Category Archives: TIFF

December 21

Expect the Unexpected: Mad Detective

It’s not always an easy thing to understand what is going on in Johnnie To’s and Wai Ka-fai’s psychological mystery Mad Detective – and that’s definitely on purpose. The film is like a hyper-stylized melding of Seven and Fight Club, a seedy and violent noir detective story with an injection of the supernatural. The film […]

December 20

Expect the Unexpected: PTU

PTU follows a group of police officers patrolling the city of Hong Kong who are asked for help by another officer, Lo Sa (Lam Suet), who lost his gun in the area during a fight with a street gang. Lo Sa is hesitant to report the loss to HQ as he is worried that it […]

December 14

Expect the Unexpected: Running on Karma

Released in 2003, Running on Karma by directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai is a delightfully strange action thriller film masking as a parable on the mysteries of karma. At the center of the story is Big, a Buddhist Monk turned body builder and male stripper. One night, during a raid on his strip club […]

December 13

Expect the Unexpected: Needing You

One only needs to see the undeniable chemistry between Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng to understand why Needing You was a massive hit in Hong Kong when it was originally released. Their charisma is undeniable and often infectious, even in the silliest of moments. Make no mistake there are plenty of silly moments in this […]

December 11

Black Star: Rude

In a previous piece on TIFF Cinematheque’s Black Star series I had mentioned that Clement Virgo’s Rude had a profound impact on me when I was younger. It changed the way I looked at Canadian cinema, especially in terms of whose stories could be told. A captivating debut feature whose creativity and passion still resonates […]

December 08

A Look at Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival

This week TIFF unveiled its selection of films that will screen at their annual Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival in January. The festival is designed to celebrate the best in Canadian cinema. Over at In the Seats, I examine this year’s selections and what they say about Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival overall. You can […]

December 06

Black Star: Six Degrees of Separation

Fred Schepisi’s Six Degrees of Separation, the adaptation of John Guare’s play of the same name, is a film that puts me in a happy place. I have lost count of how many times I have watched the film, and yet it still makes even the gloomiest of days slightly brighter. To this day I […]

November 23

Expect the Unexpected: The Heroic Trio

Johnnie To’s The Heroic Trio breaks every rule I thought applied to film. From the opening credits it warns me not to take it seriously, with the surprisingly catchy theme song taking me on a trip backwards through time to the 1980’s-ish land that apparently was 1990’s Hong Kong. The introductory scenes quickly establish that […]

November 18

25 Years Later Malcolm X Still Resonates

25 years ago today Spike Lee’s Malcolm X was released in theatres. The fact that it even made it to theatres is remarkable. Unlike Martin Luther King, who has benefitted from revisionist history, Malcolm X was a figure not looked upon with the same rose coloured glasses. X’s use of his platform to bring awareness […]

November 13

Black Star: Lime Kiln Club Field Day

As the nimble fingers of jazz pianist Thompson T. Egbo-Egbo glided across the ivory keys of the piano on the side of stage, my eyes were transfixed on the images being projected on the screen in front of me. It quickly became clear that what I and others in the theatre were witnessing was a […]

November 12

Black Star: Imitation of Life

John M. Stahl’s 1934 version of Imitation of Life may be a product of a certain era, but some of its themes still feel relevant today. It is a film that speaks to all those who, even for a fleeting moment, wished they were born into different circumstances. Adapted from Fannie Hurst’s novel, Stahl’s film […]

November 10

Black Star: Black Mother Black Daughter, Whitewash and Black Soul

Three vastly different films. Three female directors. One enriching experience. This was not the official tagline for this particular Black Star shorts program, but it could have been. Though the centerpiece of the program was Sylvia Hamilton and Claire Prieto’s 1989 documentary short Black Mother Black Daughter, there was a thematic link with the two […]

November 09

Expect the Unexpected: Justice, My Foot!

In Johnnie To’s 1992 action comedy Justice, My Foot!, justice is far from blind. In fact, it is downright crooked. The convoluted plot centres around Sung Sai-Kit (Stephen Chow) a lawyer in Guangdong who has a track record of winning all of his cases. Part of Sung’s success comes from the fact that he is […]

November 08

Black Star: Carmen Jones

One cannot help but think about what could have been for Dorothy Dandridge while watching Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones. Dandridge was the first African-American actress to ever be nominated for any Academy Award in the best actress category for her work in the iconic musical, but she was never able to cash in on her […]

November 04

Black Star: Jean of the Joneses

Do not be fooled by the jazzy New York vibe of Stella Meghie’s multigenerational comedy Jean of the Joneses. While it is reminiscent of the works of Woody Allen and Whit Stillman, Meghie’s film has its own wonderfully distinct voice. The film follows the mishaps of Jean (Taylour Paige), a promising young writer who is […]

November 03

Black Star: In the Heat of the Night

Growing up my mother was not a big fan of movies, but she loved Sidney Poitier. If To Sir, With Love or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on, we would be in front of the television. Oddly enough, of the three iconic films Poitier was a part of in 1967, Norman Jewison’s In the […]

October 31

What To See at TIFF’s Black Star Series

This weekend marks the start of TIFF Cinematheque’s Black Star series celebrating 100 years of black excellence on screen. Running from November 3, 2017 to December 22, 2017, and featuring a slew of feature length and short films curated by Ashley Clark, a writer and senior programmer of cinema at BAM in Brooklyn, the series […]

October 27

Expect the Unexpected: Election II

Johnnie To’s Election II: Harmony is Virtue is one of those sequels that not only builds on its predecessor, but surpasses it. If the original Election was about the quest to gain power, then this film is about the problems that come with trying to evolve that power in the face of historical legacy. The […]

October 26

Expect the Unexpected: Election

When one thinks of elections images of debates, grand promises and slanderous television advertisements often come to mind. In the criminal underworld where the characters in Johnnie To’s Election reside, campaigning is taken to a whole other level. Bribery and promises of expanded territories are the tactics of choice. If that does not work, you […]

October 05

BLACK STAR: CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF BLACK EXCELLENCE ON SCREEN

From Dorothy Dandridge to Queen Latifah, Sidney Poitier to Denzel Washington, throughout time Black actors have forged inspirational careers in an industry that was not designed to help them prosper. Whether the big screen offered hostility, ignorance, or empowerment in its depiction of Black subjects, film history has presented a vast spectrum of Black representation. […]