Israeli Film Festival Screens in Ottawa June 4-14

Dancing Arabs opens the Israeli Film Fest on June 4.
Did you catch Hunting Elephants at The ByTowne recently and wonder where you can see more films like that? Well, luck may have it that Hunting Elephants actually screened in town last year at the Israeli Film Festival, which returns to Ottawa in June. The 2015 Israeli Film Festival, put on by the Canadian Film Institute, marks the 12th edition of the festival and runs June 4-14 at the River Building.


Canadian Screen Awards Set 2016 Date

Save the date! The Canadian Screen Awards will be handed out on Sunday, March 13. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced the news for #CdnScreen16 today for the big award show honouring the best in Canuck film, TV, and digital media. The annual Canadian Screen runs March 7-13 and looks to connect fans with homegrown actors and talent in a week-long event once again. The awards will once again be broadcast on CBC.


Submission Deadlines Approach for Ottawa Film Festivals

Deadlines approach for Ottawa film festivals like CDFF!
Now that Cannes is over, let’s get down to business: the Ottawa film festival scene is really exploding. Most of these festivals and others including the Ottawa International Film Festival and the Cellar Door Film Festival (of which I’m a programmer) are still looking for films and deadlines are approaching! (The Ottawa International Animation Festival, the biggest film event in town, has passed its deadline for entry forms but is still taking preview DVDs and URLs.) The culture of cinephilia in this town is growing and there are plenty of good events to showcase films, including the European Union Film Festival, Asinabka, and other film fests with a specific regional or cultural focus.


ONEFF Review: Friday Night Shorts

This Was My Son
Last night’s premiere of the Ottawa Northeast Film Festival (The ONEFF) featured a slate of shorts from Canada and the USA. The Friday shorts are a bit of a grab bag, loosely connected and with a range of style and skill. Some films are lacking, they also bring a notable range of diversity both in front of the camera and behind it, so one can see why they’re all appealing. One real winner later in the programme brings the end of the show to a high note.


Canada at Cannes: Co-Pro 'Fatima' Earns Positive Notices

Fatima, Canada’s second feature film at Cannes, has debuted and is receiving largely positive notices on the Croisette. This co-production between France and Canada is directed by French director Philippe Faucon and Canada’s only film in the Director’s Fortnight this year. Fatima has mostly earned praise in early reviews for its sober and realistic portrait of life for immigrants in multicultural France. The Moroccan-born and Algerian-raised Faucon is also earning some notices for drawing out natural performances from Soria Zeroual and Zita Hanrot, although some reviews say that the inexperience of the actors occasionally shows.  That’s it for Canada at this year’s fest, though, and a respectable finish... unless one of our films or talents brings home some hardware!


Ottawa Film Fest The ONEFF Launches Friday

Melissa Bergland and Aaron Poole star in ONEFF opener Relative Happiness.
Photo: Duncan DeYoung
Bust out your lobster bibs and crack open a Keith’s, the Ottawa film scene gets a taste of Atlantic Canada this weekend! The Ottawa Northeast Film Festival, aka The ONEFF, launches this weekend and brings a range of films from the East Coast (ish) to the ever-growing Ottawa film festival scene. I’ll admit that I only recently got the gist of what the ONEFF actually is after months of watching their friendly Twitter account quote/retweet everyone in town, but, being a new fest, these things take time. The festival spotlights films from northeastern regions of Canada and the USA with a particular focus on Ontario, and the Maritimes. The East Coast seems to be the most well-represented body, both in the programme and in the promotion of the festival, which fits well with the friendly vibe that the fest has been creating with the community.

TIFF Adds Juried 'Platform' Section for 2015 Festival

Jia Zhangke's Platform
The Toronto International Film Festival just got a little more competitive! TIFF announced today the addition of the new auteur-driven Platform section in its programming for the 2015 edition of the festival. This new program adds some prestige in the 40th year of the festival, as Platform will offer 12 films of “of high artistic merit that demonstrate a strong directorial vision by significant international filmmakers.” Platform offers a cash prize of $25 000 from a three-person jury. The name for the section is inspired by Jia Zhangke’s film Platform (a TIFF 2000 selection), and as Artistic Director Cameron Bailey notes in the release from the Festival, “It will offer audiences, industry members and media a new opportunity to discover high-quality international cinema while giving the next generation of master filmmakers a platform to reach audiences and increase their global profile.”


The James Bond of Journalism

(Canada, 76 min.)
Written and directed by Ryan Mullins
Anas in a field. / Hot Docs
If some journalists fight on the front lines to tell a story, then Ghanaian journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas is amidst a war of his own making. Sometimes a reporter needs to expose the baddies, while other times he or she needs to counterattack with stealthy drones to bring the story into the light. Alternatively, does fighting a battle, rather than witnessing it from a far, ultimately put a journalist on the same plane as a provocateur like Michael Moore?


Forget Pants: It's Time for Shorts!

Denmark's Oscar winner Helium
Forget pants: it’s time for shorts! The 2nd edition of It’s Time for Shorts!, the short film fête of the European Union Film Festival, returns to Ottawa May 28-30. This three-day event is FREE to the public and provides a great preview for the range of world cinema to expect when the EUFF returns this fall. Short stuff happens at Club SAW. Seating is limited is limited it Ottawa’s underground screening hole, so shorts fans are encouraged to join the party early with Taste of Europe offering refreshments from the EU Member States and providing a nibble before the show. Taste of Europe serves noms at 6:30 pm, while shorts are served at 7:00pm.

Cannes Review Round-up: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' on Target

Sicario Director Denis Villeneuve
Robyn Beck / eOne Films
Québécois director Denis Villeneuve is on a roll. Sicario, his first film in the Official Competition at Cannes, comes on the string of critical hits Incendies, Enemy, and Prisoners. Like Prisoners, Villeneuve’s Sicario is a Hollywood production, but Canada will surely cheer pretty darn loud if one of our own wins the Palme. (Although Todd Haynes’ Carol is probably the odds-on favourite at this point.) This new thriller starring Emily Blunt (who could be a Best Actress contender since Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara would be out of the running if Carol wins the Palme d’Dr), Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin is earning some wild praise. Cannes critics love the performances, technical finesse, and intensity of its action sequences with special citations going to a taut shoot-out and Roger Deakins’ cinematography. Some critics find the story lacking, but others seem to find the moral ambiguity of the film to be a highlight and are drawing comparisons to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. The film opens in Canada September 25 from eOne Films, so a TIFF North American or Canadian premiere is a good bet. Here’s a round-up of reviews so far:


Win Tickets to See 'Insidious 3' in Select Cities! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Get ready to scream! The third chapter of the Insidious franchise will have audiences in terror when Insidious 3 opens in theatres June 5 from eOne Films. Answer the trivia below to win tickets to a sneak peek of Insidious 3 in Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg!


Win Tickets to See 'Love & Mercy' in Select Cities! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Wouldn’t it be nice to win free tickets? Beach Boys’ songwriter/musician Brian Wilson gets the biopic treatment in Love & Mercy starring John Cusack and Paul Answer in a dual role as the famous pop star. Love & Mercy opens in theatres beginning June 5 from eOne Films, but readers in select cities may attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below to win tickets to see Love & Mercy in Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg!


A Tale of Sound and Furiosa

Mad Max: Fury Road
(Australia/USA, 120 min.)
Dir. George Miller; Writ. George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugo Keays-Byrne
Vroom! Vroom! Mad Max: Fury Road puts the pedal to the metal and kicks summer movie season into high gear. School’s not even out for the summer, so a film this crazy might have played even better six weeks from now in the brutal summer heat, but Fury Road is the loudest, wildest, most action-packed bonanza at the multiplex right now. It’s exhilarating escapism.


Canada at Cannes: 'Sleeping Giant' Stands Tall

2015 seems like a slow year for Canada at Cannes after the triple-header of last year (aside for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario in competition, which we’ll gladly take a bit of credit for if he wins the Palme), but a few voices in the sidebars should be noticed. One such voice is that of Andrew Cividino, whose debut feature Sleeping Giant recently screened in the Critics’ Week section. The film adapts Cidivino’s terrific short of the same name that screened at TIFF last year after debuting at Locarno and went on to earn a spot on TIFF’s annual Canada’sTop Ten list and a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Live Action Short. (Reviewhere.) As Cidivino’s first feature, Sleeping Giant is eligible for the Camera d’or prize at Cannes. Sleeping Giant stands tall given the generally enthusiastic response to the film so far. A few reviews have trickled in and are posted below along with two clips from the feature and the trailer for the short, but the film has additional screenings this week, so there will be more updates on the Canadian films at Cannes!


HAL Meets Samantha

Ex Machina
(UK, 108 min.)
Written and directed by Alex Garland
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac
Alicia Vikander as Ava, in Ex Machina. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.
HAL meets Samantha in Ex Machina. This sci-fi by director Alex Garland is the love child of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Her with its musing on artificial intelligence, love, and connection in the days of impersonal communication. Machines are becoming smarter and humans are becoming stupider, so it’s inevitable that the brainwaves of man and machine will outpace one another at some point in time. If Dave asks HAL to open the pod bay doors, then Ava, the AI being of Ex Machina, asks Caleb, the human, to open his heart to her. A heart and the doorway between safety and outer space are the same: they’re both portals to oblivion if humans don’t control them smartly.