Canadian environmentalist and conservationist Rob Stewart launched a movement with the 2006 release of his painstakingly made documentary Sharkwater on the devastation of shark habitats and their dwindling numbers. Stewart attracted people to the cause, to save the ocean’s largest predator that does great good in the biosphere. He swam with sharks when he was young and as an adult became their warrior. Tragically, Stewart drowned in the Florida Keys while making the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction, a no – holds barred investigation into 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 was gone, but he sheds light on worldwide industries that work in secret to kill or maim sharks for their fins (shark fin soup is a Chinese wedding delicacy believed to bring fortune). Stewart managed to get inside storehouses filled with hundreds of thousands of dead sharks, and bodies of sharks whose fins had been sliced off, floating in the water. Costa Rica and parts of Africa and Asia are the biggest producers of shark fins but Stewart also takes us on tourist shark killing excursions in Florida. He and his crew faced constant dangers while filming, as shark fins are big black market business. The film is highly dramatic, moving and overwhelmingly sad at times, enlivened by what some have called Stewart’s “magical” personality.
Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy, starring Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and Steve Carell, based on two memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff is painful, powerful and likely to bring the stars a truckload of nominations for their fearless work. Chalamet plays a young drug addict who lives at home with his parents and younger brother and sister who brings devastation to himself and his family over the course of a decade. Nic’s rehab stints and commitments to stop using had no impact on his addiction – he kept at it, nearly killing himself. Carell fights for him consistently and lovingly and takes his sons drug of choice to discover its lure. Chalamet’s Nic becomes different people as his life unfolds, the hopeless addict who takes his girlfriend with him and the loving brother and son who would like to quit but can’t. There’s a lot of love in this story but it’s up against the unstoppable force of addiction, but maybe enough love to fix him. Haunting, unsentimental and inspirational.
Halloween the direct sequel to the ground breaking 1978 original is a psychological study of Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as the 60-something survivor of the brutal “babysitter murders” four decades earlier in suburban Illinois. The events didn’t unhinge her; they made her smarter and stronger. Her woodland rural home is a masterpiece of do-it-yourself security traps and alarms because Michael Myers is never far from her thoughts. And rightly so, forty years to the day he escapes custody and comes looking for her. Like the original, this unnumbered Halloween is mature, smart and high on atmospheric, building tension and low on cheap exploitation. And incredibly rousing. And the same titles and credits font. New music and that tinkly theme are familiar and welcome. Best of all, Laurie’s psychological journey is vividly apparent in her rugged, powerful appearance; she is the eternal warrior waiting for that her moment, mano–a-mano to the death with Myers. She has a child and grandchild to protect. No spoilers here.
Tiffany Haddish nails drama in The Oath a timely thriller about a suburban USA family pondering its next move under a Trump-like totalitarian regime. It’s decreed that citizens sign a Patriot’s Oath pledging allegiance to the president. No one has to; it’s a democracy after all. But sign it the day after Thanksgiving, or face arrest. The idea divides a happily married and well to do biracial family. Chris (Ike Barinholtz) refuses to sign while his liberal wife Kai, played with dramatic force by Haddish, does her best to keep him from exploding with rage. It’s Thanksgiving and family’s arriving, amidst fires in the streets, chaos and curfews. It’s soon clear that no one agrees on politics or any hot button issue of today. Shouting matches erupt and officers show up to question Chris, because someone in the house has reported him. Thanksgiving turns violent and out come the tasers, guns and wholesale abandonment of reason. It is ugly regressive stuff, but not 100% surprising given the climate to the south of us. It’s a far cry from nostalgic Thanksgiving movies of the past like Hannah and Her Sisters and Home for the Holidays in happier times. It’s being marketed as a comedy, but don’t believe, it’s a mad-as-hell microcosm for the Age of Anger.
Rupert Everett stars in, wrote and directs a film that recounts the final tragic days of Oscar Wilde, once the most famous man in London, and a world renowned author in The Happy Prince. Wilde was a disciple pf aestheticism and wrote essays, the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and two plays, Salome and The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People. We find him released from prison in 1895 after serving time for homosexual acts “gross indecency”. His elevated position in society has collapsed; he’s shunned and lives in poverty on the fringes of society, frequenting bars where he can snag cocaine, absinthe and young boys, even as he dreams of reuniting with his wife and children. He moves to Dieppe for privacy and is taken advantage of by handsome young men, but always pays them, then plays them off one another. The wallpaper joke is well played early and often. Wilde was pardoned by the British Crown in 2017. As fascinating as the story is, Wilde’s faded glory is evident in every aspect of the film, giving an overall veil of decay and a need for fresh air.
The stunning Danish film The Guilty from first time filmmaker Gustav Möller has been so successful in Europe that it’s under development for an American version. The action takes place over the course of a few hours in a single setting, a police emergency call centre. The police officer, Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is tough on callers, telling a drug addict it’s his own fault, as he waits his own date with trouble in a court date the following day for some unnamed offence. Then a woman calls in claiming she’s been kidnapped by her estranged husband and her children are at home alone and scared. He calls the children and calms them, then the kidnapper and has other police districts step in to locate the woman. He jumps into action with just a phone and help from unwilling partners, but suddenly the stories of the woman, kidnapper and children don’t line up. It interesting how a film with so few elements can hit so hard but it does, you’re next to Asger, trying to save lives feeling desperation and the ticking of the clock. Möller’s script was inspired by a real-life 911 call from a woman speaking in code, sitting next to her kidnapper. It’s on at TIFF Bell Lightbox and on iTunes and On Demand Oct 23rd.
Missing the twisted tales of Steven Avery? Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ award winning documentary series Making a Murderer returns to Netflix for a second season of ten episodes concerning the aftermath of the 2007 convictions of Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey and overturn their convictions. Better buckle up. Avery has a colourful new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, a tough as nails firebrand who has reversed more wrongful convictions than any private attorney in the US. Thing is, new word that Teresa Halbach’ cell phone was pinged leaving the Avery property has given Kellner a foothold to freeing him. Dassey’s post-conviction lawyers, Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin with Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth argue his confession was involuntary. Avery is an unlucky fellow, having served eighteen years for a rape he did not commit and remaining jailed now for Halbach’s murder which he claims he didn’t commit. The series has attained international acclaim and sympathy for the convicted. Still, Halbach’s family is “saddened to learn that individuals and corporations continue to create entertainment and to seek profit from their loss.”
Michael Greyeyes is to receive the 2018 August Schellenberg Award of Excellence Sunday, as part of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. Greyeyes is an extraordinary man, a Saskatchewan Nêhiyaw actor, choreographer, director and educator. Greyeyes says about Schellenberg “August ‘Augie’ Schellenberg is an icon, but to me he is much more than this. Augie was my friend and mentor. In his work, and the way he lived his life. I learned from him in countless ways. This award is a profound honour and affirms that Augie’s commitment to excellence and his spirit of generosity remain with me.” The annual award recognises significant professional and personal achievement by an Indigenous actor from Turtle Island (North America).
Greyeyes, most recently seen in theatres as Sitting Bull opposite Jessica Chastain in Woman Walks Ahead, can look back on a stellar 31-year career on stage and onscreen working with the likes of Terrence Malick, Bruce McDonald, and John Sayles and with The National Ballet of Canada, directing his own films including Pimooteewin (The Journey), the first Cree language opera. Greyeyes founded Signal Theatre and has created a number of full-length theatre works, and is an Associate Professor in the Theatre department at York University. Greyeyes will appear in the third season of True Detective, opposite Mahershala Ali. The full schedule for the 19th Annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is now available online at www.imaginenative.org/2018-schedule. Call – TIFF Box Office on +1 416-599-TIFF (8433) Online – TIFF Festival Partners and Third Party Events In Person – TIFF Box Office at 350 King St W,
Native America, a new four-part series premieres Tuesday on PBS, reveals the social networks of early North and South America and how they developed into powerful nations. It posits that ancients shared a foundational belief system with a diversity of cultural expressions.
The series looks at Native American traditions through oral histories and archaeological research, DNS analysis, geography, art, astronomy. Robbie Robertson a Mohawk and Cayuga from Six Nations Reserve in south west Ontario who went on the found The Band and advised on music for major Hollywood films narrates the series.
Native America reveals fascinating revelations – 500 years before the US Declaration of Independence, upstate New York warriors renounced war and formed America’s first democracy, inspiring Benjamin Franklin. Just outside Mexico City, the ancient city of Teotihuacan is home to massive pyramids built to align with the sun and moon. On the banks of the Mississippi, rulers created a metropolis of pyramids, drawing thousands to worship the sky. Learn how taming the horse changed life in the West. Check PBS’ website for companion websites, available for free for use in schools. pbslearningmedia.org
Pioneering Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman is the subject of a richly supported retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Bergman 100: The Ingmar Bergman Centenary is a traveling series that lands in our town as part of a yearlong international celebration of the boundary breaking filmmaker. Along with Bergman’s filmography on the big screen featuring dozens of rare, archival 35 mm prints and special-guests, his muse the actor Liv Ullman will present a screening of Shame, on Wednesday Oct 24th starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann as a musician and his wife, who flee to a Baltic island to escape civil war in an unnamed country. The war follows them there and they are pushed beyond limits.
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