One of my favourite days on our national film calendar is just a month away. National Canadian Film Day (NCFD) is April 17. Prepare to be entertained by Canadian films to be shown in community spaces, free of charge from sea to sea to sea in “the world’s largest film festival”. Eight hundred Canadian films will be screened with a special commemoration of the centennial of Canada’s first ever blockbuster and oldest surviving film, Nell Shipman’s Back to God, a “sassy, snowy adventure”. Libraries, community centres, retirement residences, film festivals, cinemas, art galleries, town halls, military bases and embassies here and abroad open their doors to you the Canadian filmgoer. High school students can log in to RCtv for the national webcast, hosted by Google at YouTube Space Toronto and all may sign up to participate. Homebodies can watch on Hollywood Suite, CBC, Bell Media, APTN, OutTV, and more. www.canfilmday.ca
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir stars as a woman leading a surprising double life in Iceland. Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War follows an athletic middle-aged woman as a secret eco warrior, singlehandedly taking out portions of the country’s electrical grid with her bow and arrow to protect Iceland’s beautiful mountains from industrial development. She’s eluded capture brilliantly, No one would suspect the popular local yoga and choir leader but when she’s given the chance to adopt a child, she must decide which path to take. Geirharðsdóttir also plays her twin, so there are three distinct characters, the terrorist, the community leader and the intruder. And then there’s her conscience, showing up every once in a while, as a musical troupe judging her from the sidelines. This is a helluva smart yarn about a warrior goddess brought to earth, with plenty of Sturm und Drang and humour.
Denis Coté who made one of my most admired Canadian films Bestiaire brings his unconventional style and point of view to the chilling Ghost Town Anthology. The action takes place in a village in rural Quebec beset by constant blizzards. Masked children in masks come across a wrecked car and a young man inside, dead. Gossip flies at his funeral and Adele who always says the wrong thing, wants to disappear. More deaths. The dead boy’s father runs away, a snowshoeing couple find a dead albino deer, the mayor resists outside help insisting her townsfolk can look after themselves, a woman wonders if something “bigger” than them is happening in the village, all to an insistent undercurrent of dread. Meanwhile, crowds of masked figures continue to appear on the edge of town. Coté’s arresting winter grey palette and heightened natural sound add to the otherworldliness of this ghost town. This is what a movie is capable of, in setting a connection between us and the profound natural world with such grace and simplicity.
CBC’s Diggstown is an impressive newbie series about a lawyer whose perspectives change drastically on the suicide of her beloved aunt. Vinessa Antoine takes the first black female lead in a Canadian prime time series with real power and finesse, as a strong woman dealing with injustice face to face. She’s a gifted lawyer in Halifax legal aid to firm to apparently to restore balance in her aunt’s memory. She’s committed to helping others who may have been railroaded by the legal system, like her aunt and there are more than enough cases to go around. And then her ex shows up as opposing counsel. Her escape – the big blue sea – surfing in the Atlantic. Co-stars include Natasha Henstridge as her boss, C. David Johnson, Stacey Farber and Brandon Oakes as her colleagues and Dean Wint as her concerned father.
Idris Elba is everywhere!! From replacing Will Smith in the Suicide Squad sequel, popping up in the talk shows and directing Yardie, he’s landed a disarming comedy in Netflix’ new series Turn Up Charlie. It’s an eight-parter about a former DJ superstar on hard times who reluctantly agrees to “manny” his best friends’ difficult pre-teen daughter. She’s a terror but confides in Charlie that her parents routinely “ghost” then “helicopter”’ her so that devastating but witty rebellion has solid cause. Charlie and the girl become unexpectedly close; he’s so darned charismatic and recognises her youthful pain. Her parents are superstars, one an actor, the other a music producer and Elba can only offer her the loving company of his auntie and a guy who may or may not be living in her armchair. This is sweet and bracing good fun, it’s entertaining and hey, its Idris Elba.
Super Channel Fuse offers up the third and final season of Fortitude, a wildly out there noir murder mystery series with a dash of black humour starring Dennis Quaid and half the cast of Game of Thrones. An investigation into the murder of the governor bring city officers to the wind whipped mountain town in the Norwegian Arctic where one’s likely to run into a man in a bunny suit shooting up the town in a blizzard, a cop in a relationship with a charred body, questionable hamburgers, thundersnow and folks on the edge of madness. Then there’s an elderly woman who uses a certain potion to youthify herself. Fortitude is a looney, dark and unforgiving series in its final bow and you’ll need all your fortitude to watch.
The Canadian Film Fest is underway March 19-23 at Cineplex Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, with another terrific lineup:
March 19 at 7:00pm – opening night Red Rover from Shane Belcourt. A lonely geologist enters to qualify for a one-way mission to mars with a musician who is just as lost as he is.
Wednesday, March 20 at 7:00pm Nose to Tail from Jesse Zigelstein starring Aaron Abrams as a talented but abrasive chef struggling to run a high-end restaurant in Toronto. Over the course of one day and night he faces life changing situations.
9:30pm Alone Across the Arctic from Francis Luta. Explorer Adam Shoalts sets out to cross the Canadian Arctic in 4 months, that’s 4000 kilometres, no firearms, on foot and by canoe. And he’s alone.
Thursday, March 21 at 7:00 pm Wolves Unleashed – Against All Odds from Andrew Simpson. The famous animal trainer goes to China to raise and train wild Mongolian wolves for the Chinese blockbuster film Wolf Totem.
9:45 pm The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova by Zack Bernbaum. Siblings Sarah and Aaron arrive in Poland to find and retrieve the bones of their dying grandmother’s beloved childhood dog.
Friday, March 22 at 7:00 pm Pond Life by Gord Rand, based on the play about two couples at war during a pregnancy announcement party following too much booze ad simmering ill will.
9:30 pm Nowhere by Thomas Michael. A widow and her daughter leave the big city for small town life but during an initiation party, the girl disappears.
Saturday, March 23 is all about Homegrown Shorts with The Riveters, Claire, Take Your Mark, The Desolation Prize, This Is Not A Drill, Screaming On The Inside, Shuttlecock, I Beat Up My Rapist, Woman In Stall, Spatss!, Engaged To Be Engaged, Christmas Green, A Snake Marked, Duck Duck Goose, Home In Time, Keep Coming Back, Hang Up!, Darkside, Be My Guest, Brotherhood, Brave Little Army, This Is North Preston, and No.3: In The Absence Of Angels. Learn more at www.canfilmfest.ca
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