Canadian film industry veteran and creator Jennifer Dale stars in an intriguing film she made in partnership with director Shelagh Carter. Into Invisible Light follows the complex emotional journey of a wealthy woman whose husband recently died and left her in charge of his foundation. She is to choose artists to grant from his foundation but feels completely at sea, creatively stymied and overwhelmed. Memories of her desire to write dating back twenty-five years come to the surface and an old flame comes into her life because of the foundation. Things are awkward and it’s clear he’s angry she gave up writing, that his efforts to encourage her went for nothing. He pushes her mercilessly as they fall into an affair and she struggles to do what she knows she must. It’s a moody and challenging piece, a romantic drama about allowing oneself to receive and take second chances, the possibility of fulfillment, of being brave and loving oneself.
The late Rob Stewart reshaped the way we think about sharks and called for their preservation in his heartfelt, thoroughly researched and urgent documentaries Sharkwater and Sharkwater Extinction. The latter is now available on iTunes and Feb 5th on these services – Google Play, Cineplex Store, Bell VOD, Cogeco VOD, Telus VOD, Eastlink VOD, Shaw VOD and Rogers VOD. The Canadian environmentalist and conservationist launched a movement with the 2006 release of his painstakingly made documentary Sharkwater on the devastation of shark habitats, out of control shark hunting and their dramatically dwindling numbers. Stewart attracted people to the cause through his personality and passion to help save the ocean’s largest predator that does significant good in the biosphere and faces no predator greater than us. Stewart swam with sharks from childhood and as an adult became their warrior. Tragically, he drowned in the Florida Keys while making the sequel Sharkwater Extinction, in which he investigates the mysterious disappearance of 90% of the world’s sharks. He had gathered and organised enough video – and evidence – so that Toronto filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson was able to create an impressive, persuasive finished piece.
It’s hard to watch, knowing Stewart’s mighty spirit is gone, but he opened our eyes to the global industries that work in secret to kill or maim sharks for their fin. Shark fin soup is a Chinese wedding delicacy believed to bring fortune and sells for a fortune. Stewart managed to get inside storehouses filled with hundreds of thousands of de-finned shark corpses, and in the oceans, scores of similarly mutilated shark bodies, or floating helplessly in the water to their deaths. Costa Rica and parts of Africa and Asia are the biggest producers of shark fins but Stewart also takes us on tourist shark-killing sporting excursions in Florida. He and his crew faced constant dangers while filming. The doc’s dramatic, moving and overwhelmingly sad at times, enlivened by what some have called Stewart’s “magical” personality. Here’s our interview his film and conservation partners Regi Domingo and Brock Cahill.
The work of another Jacques Cousteau, another ecological hero who first brought oceanographic issues to our attention is celebrated in Wonders of the Sea 3D, narrated by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. As former California governor and now a private citizen, Schwarzenegger says he cares deeply about the ocean and earths ecosystems and wants people to get involved to save them. Cousteau’s son Jean-Michael takes us on an intimate voyage beneath the sea to meet its inhabitants with his children Celine and Fabien who are also marine ecology filmmakers. Stunning images are now possible courtesy new technology that allows visual capture of microscopic beings in all their glory. In Fiji we see the creatures who make up coral, waving plant fields that are actually animals, graceful predators grabbing at food, alien creatures like the Christmas Tree Worm and Basket Star, all diverse and unimaginably beautiful. There are 500-pound clams that live a century, peculiar looking warlike spiders, and fish brighter than rainbows. It’s incredible to watch and most worthy of an afternoon’s viewing with the family.
Feeling small? Well, I have just the ticket. Miniature premièring Sunday at 2 at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema celebrates the people who celebrate tiny things. Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher of Toronto traveled the world looking for small adventures with very little. Man has been fascinated by miniatures forever as cave drawings and objects show us. Miniatures could be amulets, charms, reminders or symbols but are above all, pleasant to see and touch. That fascination remains strong today. An artist shows her exacting miniature replica of the courtyard in Alfred Hitchcock’s claustrophobic thriller Rear Window, while a tiny village under perpetual construction underground in Germany just added a working airport. The 1920s and 30s craze for tiny country villages in the UK was discarded as corny in the 50’s but they’re making a comeback. A man carves figures inside a needle thread hole. Who knew we could be so small? You’ll love every tiny moment and marvel at man’s ability to entertain himself with something no bigger than a few grains of sand. Coleman and Meagher will be present for a Q & A following the screening together with miniatures from the film and a “mini-swag” sale.
There’s a line in Netflix’ Velvet Buzzsaw that says it all “Creativity plays with the unknown”. And how. The series, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Renee Russo, John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette and rising star Zawe Ashton concerns a mindset that if it’s for art, it’s acceptable. Anything goes. The contemporary art scene Los Angeles – the galleries, exhibits, artists, agents and egos is a toxic place. Rivalries, drugs, fluid sexuality and fear are the subtext. An elderly man dies suddenly, leaving instructions that everything in his flat must be burned. An ambitious art gallery employee breaks in, finds his devilish paintings in their originality and strength, and steals them to improve her position at the gallery. They seem to have a life of their own, and the art world is thrown into a tizzy. Strange things happen. People reveal their true selves, some die in extraordinary circumstances. Blame the paintings! Its darkly satirical, ironic and over the top, and leaves a bitter taste. Life’s hard enough these days without unwittingly inviting in unknown terrors.
Renowned film scholar and journalist Elvis Mitchell goes around the world with filmmakers in EPIX’s new docuseries Elvis Goes There debuting Monday at 10pm. Mitchell opens with actor, producer, director and writer Paul Feig whose wealth of credits includes Bridesmaids, The Heat, Ghostbusters, Spy – basically Melissa McCarthy’s playlist – plus The Office, Nurse Jackie, Weeds and the beloved and seminal Freaks and Geeks. Next week, Mitchell joins Black Panther director Ryan Coogler in Oakland, CA, where, ironically, the Black Panther Party was formed. Boots Riley, Cheryl Dunye and Daveed Diggs share the ways Oakland informs their work. Sofia Coppola and Guillermo del Toro follow with their Mitchell talks.
PBS celebrates Black History Month with new content including Independent Lens Black Memorabilia airing Monday looking at the practice of collecting certain “black” historical items that were once acceptable but now, under the light of 2019, reveal sinister racism.
Say It Loud is a new PBS Digital Studios series hosted by YouTube’s Evelyn Ngugi of Evelyn from the Internets and Azie Dungey, creator of Ask a Slave. Part cultural critique, part talk show and part history lesson, the show explores American culture, the origins of black cultural tropes and social media trends like #GrowingUpBlack and #BlackGirlMagic.
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., returns to PBS with a new season of ancestral stories from twenty-five guests including Michael Strahan, S. Epatha Merkerson, Kehinde Wiley, Michael K. Williams, Joe Madison and more over 10 new episodes.
Austin City Limits Buddy Guy/August Greene mixes blues and hip-hop Saturday night. Thrill to an hour Guy and Greene as they find their musical common ground. Guy plays hits and songs from his latest album, The Blues is Alive and Well.
Alfred Hitchcock’s study of psychosis in the intriguing 1964 thriller Marnie gets the orchestral treatment on PBS’ A Symphonic Winter/Great Performances, Saturday night. Marnie is based on the 1961 Winston Graham novel that inspired Hitchcock’s semi-erotic psychological drama starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Isabel Leonard stars in the iconic titular role with Christopher Maltman and Robert Spano conducting. This version debuted at the Met last fall; its set in England as Marnie adopts new identities to steal from smitten employers.
When I was an impressionable young thing, I happened on the films of Terrence Malick and they hit me hard. Days of Heaven remains my favourite film and Badlands, starring Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen isn’t far behind. This violent road movie is based on serial killer Charles Starkweather’s violent reign of terror in 1959; a handsome young charmer convinces a teenager to join him on a quest for thrills. Malick’s love and respect for the natural world as it frames and moves characters is palpable and on full display, the film heightened by superb performances and Malick’s incredible direction. See Badlands on 35 mm Saturday night at 9 at TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Cinematheque programme.
Glenn Close dominates awards season and rightfully so, considering her crystalline bright performance in The Wife. Close plays the wife of a Nobel Prize for literature winner who has kept bottled up her rage at being his handmaiden for forty years, swallowing her intellect and making do for him. She gave up a promising career as a writer to feed his ego and ambition and the time come to get real. The Wife is available now on Digital and DVD. Watch Close restrain herself with almost surgical precision as she comes to an earth-shattering realization. Costars Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons and Annie Starke. All kinds of wonderful featurettes included.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI