It’s the Battle of the Pop Docs as Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift release their versions of the truths of their lives. Swift’s Miss Americana is an eye-popping visual diary that addresses some crucial fan points but the star remains at arm’s length. The “raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during a transformational period” includes her yearlong disappearance from the public eye as she dealt with anorexia nervosa caused by constant evaluations of her body by others. Swift is no stranger to controversy and tumult, and it’s clear the filmmakers were directed to go only so far. She stays where she is because she’s is one of the greatest performers in recent years, but I don’t feel I know much about her in the end. On Netflix now.
Justin Bieber: Seasons is a 10-episode original documentary series chronicling the making of our own pop star’s first album in four years, the most personal and intimate album so far. We stand with him on stage, in the recording studio, at home, with his posse and witness never-before-seen footage of his wedding to Hailey Baldwin. Certainly, Bieber’s had an unusual life, growing up in the public eye from a young age, with more than his fair share of highs and lows well covered in the media and now he’s an adult. Like artists who put everything into their careers, publicly and privately, burn out is possible and he’s not exempt from tears. He faces a huge promotional campaign with the record release and hints that afterwards, he may step back. Justin Bieber: Seasons releases new episodes Mondays and Wednesdays on YouTube Originals.
And in theatres, a husband and wife live in a car in Dublin with their four children because their landlord sold their home. They are solidly middle-class, he’s employed but due to social and housing problems in Ireland, with the highest family homelessness rate in Europe, there is nowhere to go. That’s the nightmare scenario of the incredibly touching Rosie. They’re unable to find a family room for a night, let alone a home. Roddy Doyle’s searing exposé of the country’s shortcomings is plainly told over a grim day and a half as Rosie reaches out for help. Family turn them away; her husband loses work hours and all efforts come to nothing. The kids get used to life in the car, washing up in fast food washrooms and avoiding school authorities who would put them in care. The core of the film is the family’s unwavering love. Sensitively directed by Paddy Breathnach and starring Sarah Greene this gut-wrenching, unsentimental study is powerful in its simplicity. And to think they are better off than most of the world because they have a car.
January 27th marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Allied forces. Hitler’s Nazi regime murdered six million Jews, homosexuals, “radicals” and others, while others became refugees. Thing is there was nowhere to go. Countries like Canada and the US closed their doors. Matthew Rosen’s multi-award-winning Quezon’s Game reveals the courageous campaign by President Manuel L. Quezon (Raymond Bagatsing) of The Philippines to rescue as many survivors he could. Manilla was struggling with its own domestic troubles, Quezon secretly battled tuberculosis but fought to the end. A young U.S. Army Colonel and future president Dwight D. Eisenhower, stationed in the Philippines, was Quezon’s confidant. And in the end, Quezon saved as many Jews as Oskar Schindler.
17th Annual Human Rights Film Festival, Six Days, Six Films, Works that Challenge Authoritarianism and Repression is on now in Toronto now, to bear witness to injustice around the world. Screenings will be augmented by in-depth panels with filmmakers, film subjects, Human Rights Watch researchers, and special guests in partnership with Hot Docs.
Garin Hovannisian’s I Am Not Alone which documents the popular uprising in Armenia against corruption.
James Jones and Olivier Sarbil’s On the President’s Orders an illuminating investigation into the inner workings of President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs” in the Philippines.
David Charles Rodrigues’s Gay Chorus Deep South. Chronicling the tour of the American South by a gay men’s choir to combat the new anti-LGTBQ laws.
Maryam Zaree’s Born in Evin takes viewers into the world of the notorious Iranian political prison where she was born.
Askold Kurov directs The Trial: The State of Russia vs. Oleg Sentsov, about Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, arrested by the Russian FSB in Crimea and sentenced to 20 years in prison on contrived charges.
The festival closes with Rubaiyat Hossain’s Made in Bangladesh a glimpse into fast fashion manufacturing and the changes needed in that industry.
The HRFF is on at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema now through February 4. Tickets are FREE but must be ordered at www.hotdocs.ca
As awards season builds to the Oscars Feb 9, you’re asking yourself if you can stand another show between now and then. Well, the answer is yes! Because the Brits may have a completely different take on things. That’s one reason. Another – Graham Norton, IMHO the most entertaining talk show host in existence, emcees, plus I can’t wait to see what Brit industry types will be on hand presenting, winning and applauding. Who knows, maybe some royals will show.
Maybe not THOSE two, but they might be watching the 2020 British Academy Film Awards live from London Sunday at 4 pm on Hollywood Suite, from their new Canadian home. Just five nominees for BAFTA’s Best Film – 1917, The Irishman, Joker, Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood and Parasite. Nominees include Saoirse Ronan, Charlize Theron, Rene Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Awkwafina, Florence Pugh, Taron Egerton, Johnathon Pryce, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, Scarlett Johansson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Adam Driver – a friendly Hollywood invasion of Old Blighty.
Speaking of Parasite, we have two DVDs for giveaway to celebrate its home entertainment release on Tuesday. And if you follow What She Said on Facebook, you can enter to win. Bong Joon-Ho’s nearly perfect, nerve-rattling comedy thriller Parasite is a shock to the system. It’s outrageous, comic, deadly serious and genre-bending, precise, poetic and mathematical, symmetrical in its construction, and deeply satisfying. Ki-taek Kim, his wife, son and daughter are desperately poor, with cell phones but no Wi-fi and earn pennies folding pizza boxes. But they’re cunning and undertake a scam on the wealthy Park family, insinuating themselves into their lives as servants in a con that ensnares the previous housemaid and a man living in a panic room under the house left behind by the previous tenant. Part social satire, class war and bloody thriller, an exquisite treat. Stars Kang Ho, Sun Kyun, Yeo Jeong, Woo Shik and So Dam.
Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet is also available on DVD and VOD. British born Broadway star Cynthia Erivo brings dynamism and a steely determination to the role of Harriet Tubman, one of the most important figures in the Underground Railroad movement. Five-foot nothing of pure power, Erivo radiates strength as the Civil War heroine, a scout, spy, nurse, suffragist, civil rights activist and slave emancipator. Tubman was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the War and led a raid that freed hundreds of slaves, and made countless trips by foot running slaves from the South to the abolitionist North and into Canada. The film avoids hagiography and aside from a few missteps, it’s solid. Erivo’s performance and subject matter resonate.
by @annebrodie – Critics Choice Association/AWFJ/TFCA/FIPRESCI