Ai Weiwei’s refugee documentary Human Flow is one of the most important films of the year. The Japanese artist, filmmaker and humanitarian has created a visual masterpiece following some of the 65 million human beings believed to be wandering the earth at this moment and refugee encampments in 23 countries including Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Palestine, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico and Turkey. There is no narration, just cards with brief notes, so you learn by osmosis, watching Syrian children disembark from a flimsy boat groaning under the weight of 700 people, meeting devastated Rohingyas attempting to escape genocide in Burma, American border guards shutting down Mexicans, elderly Turks who have never set foot outside their village now running for their lives – so many scenes of human suffering with an occasional whiff of whimsy, Ai Weiwei getting a haircut and giving a haircut, playing with children. The endless refugee camps, in hangars, in train yards, in deserts, garbage pits. It’s hard to take and a sad and unmanageable fact of life since the end of World War II and I’ll tell you the truth, we’re in such a tough space in time now, it seems there is no safe harbour anywhere. Ai Weiwei’s beautiful nightmare will get under your skin. 2 hours 20 minutes.
The timing of Only the Brave is uncomfortably co-incidental. Given more than two weeks of horrific images from the California wildfires, it’s going to be tough to get people into the theatres. This fact-based story of The Granite Mountain Hotshots – a photogenic crew – that battles forest fires for a living, an undertaking only certain people can manage – is a drama doing its best not to be a melodramatic. Josh Brolin leads the cast of Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch and Jennifer Connelly
Andy Serkis is a rarity in the industry. He is Lord of the Rings’ Gollum, he has written directed and starred in countless projects. At just 56, he’s amassed 96 acting roles big and small, from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes to teeny weeny indies. Serkis makes his feature directorial debut and co-wrote Breathe, the fact based story of courageous love starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy as Robin and Diana Cavendish. He’s an up and coming military man forced to leave when he is diagnosed with polio. They advocate for the disabled and invented techniques and devices to help people with paralysis live longer, better lives. Serkis has a remarkable personal connection to the story (See our interview).
Michael Fassbender’s Scandinavian noir murder mystery The Snowman is expected to do fairly well this weekend, despite dreadful reviews. It co-stars Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer and J.K. Simmons. The good news is that Fassbender married longtime girlfriend Ex-Machina star Alicia Vikander last weekend, so he’s preoccupied!
Also expected to well this weekend is Warners disaster adventure Geostorm which was not pre-screened for critics, so you’re on your own. It’s about satellites meant to protect earth from climate change that turn on the planet, sparking natural disasters at every turn. Not sure anyone’s in the mood for that, but, hey, I’ve been wrong before. It stars Gerard Butler, Katheryn Winnick, Ed Harris, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia, Jim Sturgess and Amr Waked. Anyhoo, here’s a peek.
Another opening at the worst possible time. Una stars Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn and Riz Ahmed in an emotional thriller about a woman who wishes to reopen a wound from her childhood by finding the man who sexually abused her and promised to run away with her. He served prison time but he’s out and a successful happily married man. Its years later and she’s on his trail, for reasons that are unclear at first, but as it turns out, to restart their affair. Her damaged soul is pitiful; and it’s hard to understand why she wants to rekindle their affair but we’re hoping it’s for some good outcome. He is horrified when she shows up and knows his charmed life could all unravel. Strap on your seatbelts – it’s a bumpy ride. This is the #MeToo gone really badly wrong.
Alexandre Bustillo’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre origins story Leatherface revisits the Sawyer family farm as alpha mother Lili Taylor sets the seeds of blood crazy in her sons, with special interest in the youngest Jed. He’s being initiated into the family hobby, chain sawing people to death, but with some hesitation. Authorities remove him from his criminal family and place him in a horrific, abusive reformatory. He breaks out during an inmate uprising, taking a nurse hostage with three other inmates. They hit the road and wind up at the Sawyer Farm where mayhem ensues. Level 10 violence – blood, graphic gore, chopping, sawing, throttling, shooting, slashing, beating and other inventive ways to dominate and lay waste to humans is the order of the day but guess what? It’s not terrible. It’s well made. And it’s so rabid, so insane and ridiculous that you’ll laugh out loud, what I call a feel good film. Leatherface is one of the most frightening characters in the horror film canon and I strongly suggest you watch neither the original film nor this one alone. Co-stars Stephen Dorff, Finn Jones and young Boris Kabakchiev as Jed. www.vvsfilmsmedia.com
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton is the story of a star surfer and an icon in American sports. He has toured the world all his life looking for the next wave to conquer and captivated the world. Handsome, charming and athletic, Hamilton’s done it all but never turned professional. See what drew him to surfing in breathtaking archival and contemporary footage, the challenges and triumphs he experienced. He paddled across the English Channel, stormed Maui’s notorious Peahi break and Tahiti’s Millennium Wave. He’s worked his way through many friendships burning bridges all the way, and calls himself “obnoxious” even though his longtime marriage to sports model Gabrielle Reece appears solid. Now 50, he no longer takes on the big waves opting for foil boarding or “riding a unicycle through a hurricane”, a sport few are willing to take on. Filmmaker Rory Kennedy is one of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children and was raised to value athleticism; she has a great eye and delivers a timely environmental message.
The 18th Annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is underway in Toronto with 100 feature films, documentaries, shorts, and music videos created by Indigenous filmmakers, 72% made by female directors. Among them are Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier a true crime documentary about a woman from a Manitoba reserve whose catfishing of an NBA superstar made international headlines; Sweet Country, from director Warwick Thornton and starring Hamilton Morris and Sam Neill in a period western set on the Northern Territory frontier; Juliana & the Medicine Fish, starring Adam Beach and Emma Tremblay; Kayak to Klemtu, the first feature film by Zoe Hopkins and Our People Will Be Healed, Alanis Obomsawin’s 50th film.
Other imagineNATIVE programmes includes The Witching Hour, the annual midnight horror/comedy series; Receptors, a series of experimental, dramatic, and documentary shorts; Ambient Light, shedding a light on the polar region with five shorts from Sweden, Greenland and North America; and Channel 51 Igloolik, celebrating 30 years of Inuit video art with a world premiere screening of Bowhead Whale Hunting with My Ancestors by Carol Kunnuk and Zacharias Kunuk – the first episode from the seven-part television series. Cree actor, humanitarian and activist Tina Keeper will receive the 2017 August Schellenberg Award of Excellence. Tomorrow night at TIFF Bell Lightbox. There’s also an Art Crawl taking place at OCADU, the spaces at 401 Richmond and Wallace Studios. www.imagineNATIVE.org
The Planet in Focus Festival is also underway in town. A few of the titles are Can You Dig This? about “Gangster gardeners” leaders in the emerging urban gardening movement emerging in South Central L.A. Screens Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 7:45pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
Also tomorrow night is 4 Wheel Bob a portrait of Bob Coomber who intends to be the first wheelchair hiker to cross the famed 11,845 foot Kearsage Pass hiking trail. Screens 3:30pm at Innis Town Hall. The Last Pig looks at animal treatment following ethical pig farmer Bob Comis as he moves away from raising animals for slaughter to animal activism. 2:30pm at The Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. Check out http://planetinfocus.org.
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