By Anne Brodie
Disney+’s Hamilton was to open next year but given the dearth of live entertainment in the age of COVID, the company offers it now to stream on Disney+. The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical the brainchild of writer, musician, lyricist and singer-actor book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is out there for the masses. As you know it’s the story of the American Founding Fathers as they cobble together a nascent United States, independent of Great Britain, and its constitution. The fathers are played by Black actors giving new meaning to history and ideology and a platform for change. Inspired by the book “Alexander Hamilton”, the songs are rousing, the action is exciting and history-based and the book is meaningful in a contemporary way, successfully creating something altogether new: it doesn’t replace the live experience but it’ll do for now!
The BBC’s acclaimed relationship drama Trigonometry has landed at the CBC! This intriguing 8-episode drama follows a young couple (Thalissa Teixeira and Gary Carr) living in a tiny London flat. He’s a paramedic, she owns a restaurant and money’s tight, so they take in a lodger. Ray, a French woman (Ariane Labed) and Olympic synchronised swimmer forced to retire following an underwater head injury is looking for a fresh start; she takes the room, shocking her vaguely racist parents. Gemma, Kieran and Ray have chemistry from the get-go; the couple’s relationship doubts are somehow soothed by Ray’s presence, and soon the trio depend on one another for fun, validation an even completion. They enjoy nights out dancing, experience the unthinkable when Kieran’s stabbed, and work to help one another. And Ray becomes the “unicorn” of the group (see what that means). Individually they are saddled with doubts, together they are somehow healed. So how far will things go, that tension permeates this sensitivity made series. It is original, authentic and lifelike, and features a supporting cast as interesting as the leads. Your new addiction!
The late, great John Lewis stood for nonviolent protest and universal civil rights in the American Deep South of the 50s and 60s’. He was beaten, left for dead and harassed by mobs during his Freedom March, he stood on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and was beaten back by police. He was arrested forty times working to secure the vote and basic rights for African Americans but persisted, never raising a hand against another, standing up to the racist south saying, “use love, look him in the eye”. The late Congressman’s stellar career was defined by tireless activism, and a legacy as one of the greatest civil rights leaders in American history. The new documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble with its extensive archival footage and new interviews with Lewis reveal a complex idealist, an intellectual and spiritual man who lived what he believed, anti-gun, Iraq war, death penalty, environmental abuse, poverty, violence against women and fighting for health care. Interviews with Stacey Abrams, AOC, Beto O’Rourke, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Julian Bond and more, are revealing. Lewis is a fascinating, inspiring example of what we an aspire to be. VOD
Sundance Now’s juicy 8-part thriller series Blinded takes place in the world of high stakes finance in Stockholm, based on the book by Caroline Neurath. Julia Ragnarsson plays Bea, a financial reporter covering her beat with a hard, disciplined determination, Even so she’s breaking the rules, sleeping with bank director Peder Rooth (Matias Varela). Bea’s assigned to examine the bank’s quarterly report and finds suspicious activity, she believes he’s hiding losses and questions him; his radar goes up. An anonymous tipster lets her know there’s more to be learned. Meanwhile, the banker’s wife learns about the affair. A financial reporter helping Bea is beaten up by the bank president’s thugs. Bea’s fired, and a source tells her the bank is covering up potential losses in ten figures, so she keeps investigating, job or no job. And she’s now in the crosshairs. Blinded moves at a breakneck pace in its race to uncover the truth about people and what they’ll do to get what they want and get away with it.
Weather is king in the Icelandic Netflix thriller Trapped, ten episodes of a small northern community reeling from the discovery of a body relieved of its head and limbs. This as a crowded Danish cruise ship comes to port, and a massive mountain blizzard beats down. There is no help from city police as travel is impossible, and the passengers are now allowed to leave to be questioned. The harried but rather brilliant police chief (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) is also dealing with his ex-wife bringing her new boyfriend home to meet their kids. Meanwhile, the mayor and a development team are plotting to force townsfolk to sell them their homes in order to build “New China”, a superport and city to tie China and the US (look at a globe from the top) trade routes. Then things really start to go downhill, an arsonist sets a fire that kills the police chief’s sister-in-law then someone steals the torso. Townies are big surveillance fans with telescopes and cameras watch everything. Who says small towns are dull? Back to the weather – the sublime beauty of the rocky mountainous landscapes and actual (not digital) storms is positively stunning. And three children go missing in the middle of it. Brace yourself, this is a dense, circuitous and rewarding series.
And now to the CBC DOCS POV Original Documentary Cottagers & Indians. There’s an ongoing war in the Kawarthas between Anishinaabe and Ojibway food sovereignty activists and non-First Nations “cottagers” on Rice and Pigeon Lakes and it’s getting ugly. Indigenous playwright Drew Hayden Taylor who wrote the play of the same name lives on Curve Lake First Nation reserve and is a long-time friend of wild rice advocate James Whetung. Taylor looks at the issue of native food traditions of raising rice and the rights of homeowners on the shores, whose lifestyles are negatively impacted by rice fields clogging the waterways. A First Nations businessman is opposed to Whetung seeding the lakes as rice fields prevent his customers from accessing his services, and elderly white residents who built their year-round homes on the shores, erroneously referred to as “cottagers”, can’t use their beachfront; Whetung thunders into their property in his motorboat planting rice seed and taunting them, sealing them in. Whetung won permission from the local Band Office to seed the lakes and profits from its sale but plants far more than he can hope to process. He feels it’s his sacred duty to do so, as his ancestors did, but has created an untenable situation. Hayden Taylor sets up a meeting with both sides which becomes a high-tension standoff; the doc concerns an important issue, but it lacks impartiality and feeds the fire between the groups, exploiting both sides. This unfortunate battle’s been going on for ten years. Taylor points out that there are similar cultural wars going on elsewhere in Canada.
Anishinaabe chef Shawn Adler has news for you! Those weeds in your lawn? Don’t kill them, eat them! He stars in Forage now on CBC Gem. He lives in the bush and has access to organic, delicious fruits, vegetables and roots and shares his passion for them with us. The three rules – take a knowledgeable guide, get permission to go on the land and don’t over-harvest, leave food for animals. He eats rosehips, parts of pine, fiddleheads and gooseberries and shows us how to find wild ginger to make syrup, tender plantain and dandelions for salad, watercress and wild organic apples, loaded with pectin with the bonus of nuanced flavours. This exciting series shows us that biodiversity is good, pristine green lawns would benefit from biodiversity, ingenuity and local food is good and mother nature provides.
Secrets of the Dead: Viking Warrior Queen, asks interesting questions and challenges the status quo. A 10th-century chamber grave Bj 581 was discovered in Birka, Sweden in 1889, and it was clear the occupant had been an elite warrior because of the vast numbers of metal weapons of war in the chamber. In 2017, researchers took DNA tests and discovered the skeletal remains were those of a woman. PBS’s latest episode of Secrets of the Dead looks at the cultural bias that surrounds the new reality that an honoured warrior was female, not male. Archaeologist Neil Price and a team of scientists examine one of the most significant Viking graves ever found, one that changes our perception of Viking society and a women’s place in it. Valkyries and armies of women left without men are featured in mythology, but this is the first intimation that women fought in the real world Tuesday.
The search for Canada’s first drag superstar has begun on Crave’s Canada’s Drag Race. Celebrity guest hosts for this first season are Brooke Lynn Hytes, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, and Stacey McKenzie with guest hosts/critics BIDDELL, Amanda Brugel, Deborah Cox, Elisha Cuthbert, Tom Green, Jade Hassouné, Traci Melchor, Michelle Visage, Mary Walsh, Allie X and guests from Canada’s and the UK Drag Races. Competing for this first season of Canada’s Drag Race are Anastarzia Anaquway, BOA, Ilona Verley, Jimbo, Juice Boxx, Kiara, Kyne, Lemon, Priyanka, Rita Baga, Scarlett Bobo, Tynomi Banks, until the last queen stands.