By Anne Brodie
A startling documentary out of Norway may reveal more than its subject ever imagined. Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova’s weird emotional journey with addict and criminal Karl-Bertil Nordland is at the heart of this spellbinder. Fortuitous archives, incredible access and footage shot over years describe their fraught relationship in Benjamin Ree’s The Painter and the Thief. Two of Kysilkova’s large-format paintings are stolen from an Oslo exhibit, and clear CCTV images of two thieves result in the arrest of Karl-Bertil. During his trial, Barbora befriends him admitting later that she fell in love with him the moment they met, despite her marriage to novelist Øystein Stene. She overwhelms Karl-Bertil with attention, love and support and paints him; he can’t tell her where the paintings he stole are because he has no memory left. It’s a gripping unfolding of two broken individuals in a fragile relationship that seems so unwise. Her husband reminds her she has been attracted to dangerous people in the past. Ree’s access to Karl-0Bertil’s prison life is astounding, as his time in hospital where he lands after crashing a car while high. As sweet and tender as their relationship seems on the surface there is significant cause for alarm. Reed beautifully balances their public and private faces and leaves us space to reach the inevitable conclusion. On VOD
FX and FX on Hulu’s AKA Jane Roe directed by Nick Sweeney is another jaw-dropper, this time on a national scale. Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” whose unwanted pregnancy led to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in the US is the focus. A lively and funny woman, McCorvey’s early years were tough (“my mother was a two-faced bitch!”) she was an addict and street person but not stupid. She was handpicked by the Pro-Choice movement to be the face of their battle to legalise abortion and was represented by Gloria Allred. McCorvey was verbally abused and threatened by right-wing fundamentalists and one ambush TV interviewer told her she was responsible for the deaths of 35M babies. But she was made of stern stuff. She marched in Washington with Whoopi G., Gloria Steinem, Valerie Harper, and Cybill Sheppard and did 56 interviews in a single week. Then just like that she jumped to the Pro-Life side, aided by a reverend who’d harassed her for years, and finding Jesus. What a story! McCorvey died recently but not before making an astonishing statement for the doc.
Joey Berlinger executive produces Netflix’ sobering documentary Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, a hell of a thing to absorb. Lisa Bryant’s four-part docuseries goes behind the scenes in this widely publicised case. Epstein was in the news for more than fifteen years. The “filthy rich” serial child sex abuser and friend of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Prince Edward was eventually sentenced to 45 years in prison on sex trafficking of minors charges based on extensive victim testimony. But he died by hanging in prison, robbing the women of justice. The circumstances of his death remain a mystery, but two days before Epstein transferred his $577M fortune to a trust fund in the Virgin Islands, ensuring the victims would get none of it. The series gives a voice to the victims, some of whom were just fourteen when Epstein trafficked them for sex. Their testimonies are heart-rending, each brought into the snare by another young one. His longtime “girlfriend” Ghislaine Maxwell, who took part in the sexcapades has since disappeared. It’s a brutal tale with many complexities, irrefutably laid out. It also covers the nascent #MeToo movement. Take a shower after.
Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden may or may not be friends in real life, but they’ve just released their fourth Trip to mockumentary in ten years, this time to Greece. Having eaten and snarked their way through Spain, Italy, and the UK, they’re off to retrace Odysseus’ steps with longtime collaborator/ director Michael Winterbottom. The Trip to Greece is typical of the series, they eat, drink, and make moody at the finest restaurants in the areas, walk about and compete for comedy supremacy. They’re truly hilarious with dead-on observational humour, sharp retorts and anger-driven competition. Coogan’s the mean, megalo and Bryden’s the happy family man whose domestic bliss irritates Coogan. Between them, they get off some remarkably astute and funny lines. And it’s all very inside; one of the characters from Coogan’s earlier mockumentary Greed shows up, a refugee he’d left on the beach. They visit his refugee camp then carry on eating fine food with a side of bitchy repartee until something real happens. These films are just funny and uncomfortable enough to be a reliably good time. On VOD May 27.
Unforgotten the gripping British crime series, brilliantly reinvents the cold case police procedural. It’s in its third season on BritBox, and you’ll be transfixed. Each season deals with a single group of people in shared complicity and secrecy in crimes committed decades earlier, their silence, and the impact of the shared secret on their lives. It looks at the criminal act, the ripple effect on each person who did the deed or knew, suspected, or encouraged it, and the impact of keeping toxic secrets.
Season three opens with the discovery of a body under a highway median, that of a sixteen-year-old girl who disappeared almost twenty years earlier. Nicola Walker plays the lead detective on the case whose dogged work leads her to four men with a lot to lose and they’re not talking. This is good stuff, engaging, unpredictable, and smart with a big end shocker. Read our interview with Kevin McNally who plays one of those men.
Another cautionary expose in Toronto documentarian Jon Hyatt’s Screened Out on VOD May 27th. Businesses hire psychologists to make us increasingly addicted to our devices and their ads. Check. MRI scans reveal that device addiction brain wave activity is the same as cocaine addicts. Check. Our collective attention span has dropped to the level just beneath goldfish. Check. A former Facebook inventor says he regrets creating the “like” button for the damage it has done. Check. Another ex-social media developer says it rips the social fabric apart. Check. Children have had brain damage and psychotic breaks being online too much. Check. Silicon Valley professionals don’t let their children have devices until they’re around 14. Check. A couple who went gaming left their child in the car to die. Check. And you won’t put your phone down?
Apple TV+ game-builders mockumentary series Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet takes place in a claustrophobic open space facility where millennials – and F. Murray Abraham create top video games. They’re currently polishing Mythic Quest and then the lockdown happens. So what to do? Zoom! The new episode Mythic Quest: Quarantine is fresh and funny following the staff as it rethinks the project in isolation in their homes. Watch for a Busby Berkeley-worthy finish!! Created, written by, and starring Rob McElhenney the game creator alpha male who dares bare his butt on Zoom.
Things are tough for a middle-aged wife and mother. Her son just died while tripping through Thailand, her husband’s having an affair and she needs space to take it all in. Sundance Now’s British psychological thriller Penance starring Julie Graham and Nico Mirallegro ramps up the heat further when her troubled daughter’s male friend comes over. He bears a strong resemblance to the late son which shocks the family. He’s charming and caring and moves in; he seems the ideal house guest, looking after the daughter and being helpful around the house, Soon mother take shim to the country cabin to “check on security” and well…. Things are awkward. She searches him online and finds he is not who he says he is. Standard cheesy women-in-peril stuff but really nice landscapes.
Toronto’s beloved annual documentary film fest goes virtual this year. Hot Docs Festival Online begins May 28 to offer at-home viewers a rich array of titles from its 135 official selection and carries on till June 6th. Some titles will be available till June 24th. More than 135 official selections are on offer. Go to HotDocs and check out descriptions here.
Shakespeare for all!! BritBox launches the full BBC Television Shakespeare Collection on May 26, the first time all 37 adaptations have been available in one place. The Bard’s greatest plays starring among others Helen Mirren, Robert Lindsay, Brenda Blethyn, John Cleese, and Alan Rickman feature the finest writing in the English language.
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK with Derek Jacobi, Claire Bloom, Patrick Stewart, Geoffrey Bateman
WINTER’S TALE with John Welsh, David Burke, Robert Stephens, Jeremy Kemp, John Bailey
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL with Celia Johnson, Ian Charleson, Michael Hordern, Robert Lindsay
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA with John Paul, Jonathan Adams, Jane Lapotaire, Ian Charleson
THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS with Paul Jesson, Ray Roberts, Leon Lissek, Patrick Godfrey, Russell Kilmister
HENRY IV PART I with Jon Finch, David Gwillim, Rob Edwards, Clive Swift, Robert Morris, David Neal, Richard Owens
HENRY IV PART II with Jon Finch, David Gwillim, Rob Edwards, David Neal
HENRY V with John Abineri, Robert Ashby, Trevor Baxter, Brenda Bruce
HENRY VI PART I with John Benfield, Brenda Blethyn, Peter Benson, Michael Byrne, Anthony Brown
HENRY VI PART II with John Benfield, Peter Benson, David Burke, Arthur Cox
HENRY VI PART III with John Benfield, Peter Benson, Gerald Blackmore, Michael Byrne, Antony Brown
HENRY VIII with John Stride, Julian Glover, Ronald Pickup, Timothy West, John Rowe
JULIUS CAESAR with Richard Pasco, Charles Gray, Keitch Michell, David Collings, John Sterland
KING LEAR with Michael Hordern, John Shrapnel, Brenda Blethyn, Norman Rodway, Michael Kitchen, Penelope Wilton
LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST with Jonathan Kent, Christopher Blake, Geoffrey Burridge, David Warner, Paddy Navin
MACBETH with Brenda Bruce, Jane Lapotaire, Anne Dyson, Mark Dignam, Nicol Williamson
MEASURE FOR MEASURE with Kenneth Colley, Kate Nelligan, John Clegg, Tim Pigott-Smith, Christopher Strauli, Eileen Page
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING with Lee Montague, Tim Faulkner, Cherie Lunghi, Jon Finch, Robert Lindsay
PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE with Edward Petherbridge, John Woodvine, Edita Brychta, Patrick Godfrey, John Bardon
RICHARD II with Derek Jacobi, John Gielgud, Jon Finch, Clifford Rose, Charles Keating, Richard Owens
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS with Michael Kitchen, Roger Daltrey, Cyril Cusack, Charles Gray, Nicolas Chagrin
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING JOHN with Leonard Rossiter, William Whymper, John Thaw, Mary Morris, Phyllida Law
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE with John Franklyn-Robbins, John Rhys-Davies, Alan David, John Nettles
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR with Alan Bennett, Richard O’Callaghan, Tenniel Evans, Judy Davis, Ron Cook
THE TEMPEST with Michael Hordern, Derek Godfrey, David Waller, Warren Clarke
THE TRAGEDY OF RICHARD III with Ron Cook, Peter Benson, Antony Brown, David Burke, Michael Byrne, Arthur Cox
TIMON OF ATHENS with John Fortune, John Bird, Tony Jay, Jonathan Pryce
TITUS ANDRONICUS with Paul Davies Prowles, Edward Hardwicke, Walter Brown, Neil McCaul, Eileen Atkins
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA with Suzanne Burden, Charles Gray, Anton Lesser, Tony Steedman, Geoffrey Chater
TWELFTH NIGHT with Alec McCowen, Robert Hardy, Felicity Kendal, Sinéad Cusack, Robert Lindsay
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA with Frank Barrie, Tessa Peake-Jones, Tyler Butterworth, Michael Byrne, Daniel Flynn
BritBox is available on Roku®, Apple TV 4th Gen, Samsung, LG, Chromecast and all iOS and Android devices, and online at www.britbox.com/ca