By Anne Brodie
It was an astounding turn of events, when in 1974 William Randolph Hearst’s granddaughter Patty Hearst, a socialite and university student appeared armed with a rifle during a bank robbery apparently a willing part of the radical leftist terrorist group based on the Symbionese Liberation Army. Following a deadly shootout with police, she escaped with surviving members and went into hiding. How could a woman raised in the highest echelons of corporate and social America become a leftist terrorist? Semi Chellis’ American Woman, based on Susan Choi’s novel and starring Sarah Gadon, as a character called Pauline imagines some of that. We observe Pauline in hiding and try to make sense of what’s happening and what’s being hidden, from the perspective of a member (Hong Chau) charged with guarding her but inclined to be sympathetic. We see Pauline a “prisoner of war”, in fluid relations with her captors, a young woman trying to survive and as the most wanted woman in the US. The group’s alpha male convinces them they’ll be shot if they leave the safe house, that they’re being watched and only he can protect them. She undergoes “ego reconstruction” while writing secret letters to her parents that she is a prisoner of war. It reflects a time of political and social upheaval like this time, and the story seems deeply modern. The film undersells itself and its lowkey/intensity shifts are jarring, but I guess that’s life. Gadon’s feisty performance highlights Pauline’s strength of character and self-determination in extreme circumstances. VOD.
Steve Carrell is a man on a mission in Irresistible a political comedy with a kick in the pants twist written and directed by Jon Stewart. Carrell’s a Democratic strategist and city slicker intent on persuading a mid-west farmer (Chris Cooper) to run for local election, based on a viral video of the man’s fiery address to the local council. He pegs him for a future in politics and a boost for himself, as he helped blow Hillary’s election campaign and needs redemption. So, it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy set in the world of rural naivete and Manhattan smarts, or so he thinks. Off he goes with all his city ‘tude to this vaguely hostile Wisconsin town; he listens to the locals and hey, they’re not stereotypes! They’re up against a locked-in Republican; and when his strategist (Rose Byrne) Carrell’s rival and occasional lover, show up, guns blazing, it’s not good for his fragile ego. There’s a lot to chew on and many wonderfully timely political references and outrages; how about local nuns logged as a large group of single women demanding birth control, and old-fashioned political chicanery reminiscent of Tammany Hall. No one does frantic like Carrell. Lots of witty fun, smashed stereotypes, and cool insults. Also stars Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, and Natasha Lyonne. VOD
HBO’s six-part docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark should be watched during daylight hours because it scared me silly. It’s based on Patton Oswald’s late wife’s book of the same name. Crime podcaster Michelle McNamara’s years-long investigation into the so-called Golden State Killer sent her way down the rabbit hole. He’d begun his reign if terror in the70s and was still at large, responsible for at least 50 home-invasion rapes and 12 murders in California in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Director Liz Garbus follows McNamara and fellow crime podcasters as they tirelessly investigate but sadly, the pressure got to McNamara and she died of an accidental overdose of anxiety medication. The doc’s extra poignant as we meet the man’s surviving victims and hear their stories. Oswald and McNamara’s crime posse finished the book and documentary for her. Just shattering, this true-life story.
The hilarious eccentricity of Topic’s comedy series The Year of The Rabbit is not to be missed. Set in a richly detailed, bizarre London hellhole 150 years ago, it’s all about taking things to the limit – purposeful anachronisms, “baroque” profanity – well that’s one way to say it – and unique characters, crooked cops, body snatchers, angry women, town drunks and child labourers. Foul-mouthed, witty, and generally drunk Detective Inspector Rabbit (Matt Berry) doesn’t care to be directed or reigned in and manhandles his way through the criminal element. He and his sidekicks, a wide-eyed innocent upper-class twit rookie cop (Freddie Fox currently starring in CBC’s White House Farm) and a fiery, determined female cop, who’s smarter than the men (Susan Wokoma), investigate the weird crimes and backstreet doings in olde London town. There’s his boss (Alun Armstrong) and a wicked local madam (Keeley Hawes) the Elephant Man John Merrick appears as a slaphappy police source and a mélange of street people that beggar the imagination. Due to the expletives, there aren’t any bon mots I can repeat here, but trust me, you’ll have a wild time!
Protests are at an all-time high. The Black Lives Matter movement against racist police discrimination and brutality and malfeasance has the world’s attention. People are demanding change and we can’t trust the White House. It’s nothing new, the 60s and 70s were hotbeds of activism; radicals helped bring about humane societal change. Today, the fight against racism, the white patriarchy and systemic injustice is blaring up as people grow weary of the status quo. Topic celebrates freedom here and around the world this month with a festival of documentaries about protest. Carefully curated North American and international films look at historic and present-day calls for freedom and offer ways to protest from silent resistance to running for office. On offer:
Silent Rose explores serious issues that today’s American teenagers face including lockdown drills, disinformation campaigns, and racial injustice. The murder of Trayvon Martin, school shootings and Trump’s win set in motion a youth movement.
Frame by Frame, a five-episode docuseries on news photographers including Chester Higgins, who documented the ACT UP movement that raised awareness about the AIDS crisis in the ‘80s.
Invisible Heroes like Finnish diplomat Tapani Brotherus who in 1973 defied his government to save 2,000 Chilean refugees during Pinochet’s bloody military coup.
Braddock, PA Sometimes it takes a village to create change in a struggling town. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-tZWZpZ4Oo
Beauty and the Dogs A Tunisian woman raped by a cop fight for her rights.
These C*cksucking Tears Pat Haggerty’s protest platform of choice is country music.
Edith+Eddie A heartbreaking story of injustice.
Against the Law One man’s contribution to the UK’s legalization of homosexuality.
The Naked Civil Servant A biopic on legendary author and eccentric Quentin Crisp.
China’s Artful Dissident An artist takes on the Chinese government.
If a Tree Falls goes inside the radical environmentalist group, the Earth Liberation Front.
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes Life inside across the US.
Burma VJ A rare look at the Burma uprising of 2007.
Rigged One person, one vote? This documentary investigates election fraud and limitations.