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A United Kingdom is an ironic title for this film about Britain’s shame in dealing with “the race question” in the late forties. Interracial marriages were taboo in the UK and the US but were absolutely illegal in South Africa, then known as Rhodesia. So when Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland, now Botswana, (David Oyelowo) was studying in England in 1947 and met Caucasian Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and fell in love, an ages-old social order fell under threat. The Prince returned home to prepare for his future role of king of the British Protectorate but his arrival with his white wife sent shock waves throughout not just the two countries but the world as well. Amma Asante’s film details systemic racism, their will to navigate it and the power of love. Adding to the chaos was that neighbour South Africa was at that moment setting in motion the apartheid system of racist separation. It’s a big story with the same piquancy all these years later. The film takes a mild tone; it’s predictable and fails to deliver the intensity and urgency of the situation and its far-reaching influence.
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Jordan Peele, half of the satirical comedy duo Peele and Key, wrote and directed Get Out a horror film that closely follows the suburbia-as-hell concept of The Stepford Wives and all those Jamie Lee Curtis films. Daniel Kaluuya’s character and his girlfriend (Allison Williams) are weekending at her parents’ home in the burbs. He’s not delighted by the prospect because apparently all suburbanites are narrow-minded. But off he goes, reluctantly, through the gates to the big houses on tree-lined streets. He’s followed, stopped by police; he notices the only blacks are dead-eyed, robotic servants who appear to threaten him. His girlfriend’s mother (Catherine Keener is incredibly menacing) hypnotizes him to help him quit smoking; it works, but he experiences vivid nightmares and visions and a sensation of free-falling. His suspicions of danger are realised and things spin quickly, way out of his control and he wakes up chained to a chair. Get Out is unusually smart for a February horror outing, effective and bracing. Its well- scripted and directed and deeply satisfying even if it causes some politically correct discomfort. It’s being called a satire but I don’t agree – this is a rock solid feel-good thriller. British actor Kaluuya is an absolute sensation. This kid’s going places on this side of the Atlantic.
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The Oscar nominated I Am Not Your Negro is a must-see. It pays tribute to the brilliant social critic and civil and gay rights activist James Baldwin whose career spanned the early 40’s to the late 80’s. Raoul Peck’s searing documentary is authentic as it gets, taken directly from Baldwin’s own words and his unfinished book Remember This House, a memoir of his personal recollections of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Baldwin debated regularly on the university circuit and on television notably against William F. Buckley. He stunned an audience at Oxford, one of the films highlights. Baldwin was disgusted by life in America for blacks and other minorities and moved to Paris at age 24. He joined the Left Bank radical movement and wove its precepts into his own creative and intellectual tapestry. Baldwin was considered one of the greatest minds of his generation and this film is a fitting tribute. In fact, Raoul Peck’s work is so good and Baldwin’s words are so gallingly true and fiery it made me weak at the knees; it’s one of my favourite films in months. Samuel L. Jackson narrates, reading Baldwin’s own words.
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TIFF DIGIPLAY Space now until April 23 The award-winning digiPlaySpace exhibition returns for an extended nine weeks. At digiPlaySpace, kids, families and educators will discover a curated, interactive playground that includes multi-player installations and learning-centric videogames, robotics, mobile apps, green screen escapades and hands-on activities from acclaimed Canadian and international new media artists. With 23 installations from eight countries, digiPlaySpace showcases the evolution of play in the 21st century. Visitors can collaborate with friends and family to inspire creativity through playful, innovative, and educational installations! www.tiff.net
Select Cineplexes are screening Sharkwater (2008) today in honour of the renowned ocean environmentalist Rob Stewart, the activist and filmmaker who died while shooting underwater in the Caribbean two weeks ago. Stewart was preparing a sequel to Sharkwater, his landmark study of sharks and marine feasibility when he went missing. Stewart was obsessed with sharks from boyhood and was able to debunk myths of their being bloodthirsty man-eating beasts and proves that “they were pillars of evolution” through his own research and close proximity. His message was clear then and now, sharks are in danger of being wiped out due to human interference.
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Follow Anne Brodie on Twitter: @AnneBrodie