Thursday 14 November 2019
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A Big Week for Horses, Dancing to Connect, Joaquin Phoenix’ Shattering Performance, Spies, Tennis and Human Rights

Stephen S. Campanelli, Clint Eastwood’s cinematographer directs the gripping and powerful Indian Horse, starring young Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck and Ajuawak Kapashesit. They play Canadian First Nations boy Saul Indian Horse over twenty years.  He is kidnapped from his family by government officials as part of a shameful 100 year plus government policy to eradicate Indians, and put into a residential home run by the church.  Indian children were stripped of their identity and forced into Anglo identities that churches and government deemed to be acceptable.  Saul endures torments at the school as so many did, but finds focus in hockey. He’s good at it and goes on to compete in the big leagues as he grapples with problems inherent to survivors, alcoholism, depression and thoughts of suicide.  Three on point performances as Saul, supple direction and top level cinematography make this an engrossing and important film.  It’s based on the book by the late Ojibway author Richard Wagamese, who died last year while the film was in post-production.

Contest: Win Tickets To See ‘Indian Horse’ Out April 13

Richard Loncraine ’s comedy Finding Your Feet brings together some of the UK’s leading actors – Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall, David Hayman and Joanna Lumley  – in a biting satire on class consciousness, the institution of marriage and sisters.  But it’s also a sweet-tempered, frothy study of connection, sex and family in one’s sixties and beyond.  Two sisters facing major life upheavals look to one another for comfort following a decade of estrangement.  When it seems nothing will ease the strain, they decide to take dance classes and soon, it’s like old times. Even so, more challenges lay head.  It’s charming, a fresh look at ageing and living well.

Joaquin Phoenix goes for broke in the devastating crime drama You Were Never Really Here. He plays a veteran who struggles with the idea of suicide, reliving the psychological wounds he suffered in war, as he cares for his ageing and ill mother.  His current personal mission, the thing that keeps him alive, takes him even deeper into the darkness, saving children ensnared in the sex trafficking industry.  Phoenix’ incredible eyes, his physicality and will drive this primarily visual and incredibly exciting story.  He is on fire, bouncing off a barebones script, a true accomplishment both for Phoenix and renowned Scottish director Lynne Ramsay. Unforgettable sequences and a hell of a performance; it is violent, and brings to mind the landmark film Taxi Driver.

Borg vs. McEnroe, takes us back to the tennis match that changed the game forever, at Wimbledon in 1980 when an ice cool Swede who ruled the world of tennis went up against a bratty American newbie in a cultural, sporting and personal war.  Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf star in Janus Metzsedge of your seat sports drama that shows the players in new light. Borg, the four time Wimbledon hero is crippled by anxiety as he faces the upstart American out to unseat him.  McEnroe is painfully jealous of the attention heaped on Borg, whose inability to express his emotions is real. When asked what it was like to win big, he says “I have no special feelings about it”.  His demons dated back to childhood when he was considered “not right in the head”.  As an adult, his face was stoic and expressionless and he was dogged by superstitions, to his detriment.  Stellan Skarsgård is the exasperated coach who recognises his charge’s vulnerability and is pained by his apparent disintegration. A fascinating story that played out on the courts as the world watched but that was really played out in the rivals’ heads. Also available oniTunes and On Demand.

I was weak and weepy as a kitten exiting Lean On Pete, a powerful, emotional and ultra-spare indie from Andrew Haigh. Charlie Plummer is as real as it gets as an impoverished teenager of indeterminate age. When asked on four different occasions how old he was he gave four different answers. His father was murdered, his mother left him when he was a week old and he’s fallen for a gentle race horse called Lean on Pete. He has nothing, but he is hardworking and resourceful. Pete is about to be butchered after injuring his foot; Charley kidnaps him and they head out to find his beloved aunt somewhere in Wyoming, working odd jobs along the way. He meets people spanning the moral compass then sets out with Pete to cross the desert sharing a milk jug of water.  It is clear that he’s made a bad decision. Lean on Pete takes its time but will mesmerise and carry.  It’s a universal story about love, the kind for which you’d walk across the desert.  From the man who brought us 45 Years. Travis Fimmel, Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny co-star.

I gave Warwick Thornton’s Australian 1929 outback drama Sweet Country a shot but its brutal violence, child abuse, racism, violent rape and dominant evil theme was too much. It tells the story of a preacher and his aboriginal farmhand whose quiet lives are disrupted when a new neighbour moves to an adjoining property.  The newcomer unleashes seething hateful attacks on the aboriginals whom he considers to be subhuman. The ageing farmhand murders him in self-defence and goes on the run with his wife and child, followed by a mob of vengeful racists. It’s a nicely made film and describes a time and place of racism that still exists.   Sam Neill, Hamilton Morris and Ewan Leslie star.  More horses.

BBC America’s limited series, the spy thriller Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh in the titular role and offers comedy, drama, secrecy, intelligence, double agents, corrupt bureaucracy, travel and a staggeringly evil young female assassin played by Jodie Comer.  Oh’s MI5 security officer is tasked with researching an enigmatic woman believed to be murdering high profile men across Europe.  Oh’s Eve may be just as assistant, but she chases the case and sets off against all warnings to find the killer.  Meanwhile a beautiful young Polish woman throws ice cream at a child, berates an elderly woman and shows deep anti-social tendencies.  Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge who gave us Fleabag, based on the novellas of Luke Jennings, it’s a refreshing change of pace for the spy genre and gender.  The hunted and the hunter are equally funny, talented and expansive thinkers; it’s a game like no other played by remarkably similar women at opposite ends of the moral spectrum.

Resilience Of The Human Spirit Comes To Life -15th Anniversary Of The Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival. One of TIFF Lightbox’ most popular programmes focus on stories of people attempting to overcome their circumstances in a world that’s stacked against them. These may be political, civil, sexual, or social worlds.  Female filmmakers created five of the seven films this year. Long-time Human Rights Watch activist and programmer Helga Stephenson says. “Our festival is a wonderful way to understand the world we live in, with its problems and with its heroes who never cease exposing abuses wherever they may occur.  It is a celebration of the human spirit, and of the ties that bind us around the globe. From Africa to the Middle East, from Eastern Europe to the LGBTQ+ world, this festival will inform you, shock you, and inspire you to become an active citizen as you meet some of the most extraordinary ordinary people who battle for human rights everywhere.”

Stefanie Brockhaus and Andreas Wolff’s The Poetess follows Saudi poet Hissa Hilal as she puts her safety on the line with wit and wisdom in a high-profile televised poetry competition.

Daniel McCabe’s This is Congo, on the political state of affairs in the African nation as told by four citizens.

Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman’s Muhi – Generally Temporary, about a Palestinian boy and his grandfather in immigration limbo in an Israeli hospital.

Mila Turajlic’s The Other Side of Everything, ponders a locked door inside a Belgrade apartment has kept one family separated from their past for seven decades.

Brandon Gross’ The Secret Life of Nani and Popi profiles his grandparents who are both Holocaust survivors. One of them reveals a major secret in the course of filming.

Iram Haq’s What Will People Say on Nisha’s duality as a fun loving Norwegian teenager and traditional Muslim upbringing whose parents kidnap her and send her to the old country.

Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman’s Silas follows citizen journalists as they lift the veil of secrecy from political corruption in Liberia.  As a third of the country is sold off to multinational corporations, they look for accountability and assurances the land and the country’s futures are safe.

by @annebrodie

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