Interview - 'Not a Movie, but a Movement': Davis Guggenheim Talks 'He Named Me Malala'

Director Davis Guggenheim, Malala Yousafzai, and Ziauddinuddin Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. 
  Caroline Furneaux / Twentieth Century Fox Film
“The first step is making an inspiring movie,” says director Davis Guggenheim, “and that was the hard part.” The Academy Award winning director of An Inconvenient Truth spoke about his latest documentary He Named Me Malala at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival where his passion and vision for the film palpably mirror the same humanist philosophy of his subject, young Noble Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Malala, who fights for women’s rights (particularly regarding education) after she famously survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban for protesting in favour of a girl’s right to go to school, shares her story in the film. Guggenheim hopes that He Named Me Malala inspires change one viewer at a time.

Contest: Win Tickets to 'The Last Witch Hunter' Across Canada!

Get excited, witches: Halloween is just around the corner! Vin Diesel goes a-huntin’ witches in The Last Witch Hunter and offers a fun horror show just in time for Halloweeb.  The Last Witch Hunter opens in theatres October 23 from eOne Films, but readers across Canada can attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!


Not a Contender

(Slovakia/Czech Republic, 75 min.)
Dir. Ivan Ostrochovsky, Writ. Marek Lescak, Ivan Ostrochovsky
Starring: Peter Balaz, Zvonko Lakcevic, Jan Franek, Stanislava Bongilajova
Slovakia’s Oscar submission Koza is not a contender. The Slovaks admirably put up their dukes with an unconventional candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film race, but Koza, even at an anemic seventy-five minutes, is a tiresome slog. The film follows a down-and-out boxer named Koza (Slovak for “goat”), played by Peter Balaz, as he goes back into the ring to earn enough money to pay for his girlfriend’s abortion (why not double team with Lily Tomlin?) and this story of a well-intentioned loser is no knock-out punch. It’s a harmless welterweight.


Degrassi: The Lost Generation?

People Hold On
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Michael Seater, Writ. Paula Brancati, Michael Seater
Starring: Katie Boland, Paula Brancati, Mazin Elsadig, Ashley Leggat, Jonathan Malen, Al Mukadam, Noah Reid, Chloe Rose
Photo: Theo Skudra

Is our generation a lost one? People Hold On finds a group of high school friends at a crossroads when they reunite for a traditional cottage getaway that puts them all at a junction. Without the direction or confidence to choose between the carefree recklessness of youth and the sobering responsibilities of adulthood, these eight friends create considerable tension as they confront the personal struggles that keep them from growing up. Aided by a confident cast and a strong indie soundtrack, this lo-fi film is The Big Chill for a generation of Canadians, minus the corpse of Kevin Costner that sets the 1980s classic in motion.

Contest: Win Tickets to See 'Meet the Patels' in Toronto!

Indian weddings are so much fun, but Meet the Patels shows that the business of matchmaking is an even bigger, crazier, and funnier affair.. This laugh-a-minute crowd-pleaser is a festival circuit hit (review here) and it’s bound to warm the hearts of audiences when it hits theatres next week. Meet the Patels opens in theatres October 16 from D Films, but Toronto readers can win tickets to a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!

An Outstanding Vehicle for Tomlin

(USA, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Weitz
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Sam Elliot
Lily Tomlin as Elle.
Photo: Aaron Epstein, courtesy SPC/Mongrel

Grandma is an outstanding star vehicle for Lily Tomlin. The 76-year-old comedienne gives one of the best performances of her career in Grandma playing a sassy granny. As 78-year-old Elle, a widowed lesbian who helps her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) collect funds for an abortion for an unexpected pregnancy, Tomlin channels the tricky road of motherhood as Elle revisits ghosts of the past and confronts the many women in her life. She is vibrant, out, and funny in Grandma, and she’s confidently in driver’s seat of this indie road movie. Tomlin’s performance in Grandma gives audiences everything they could hope to find in character study.


Contest: Win Tickets to 'Rock the Kasbah' in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver!

Calling all Bill Murray fans! The funny man teams up with Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) to play has-been rock manager Richie Lanz.  Rock the Kasbah opens in theatres October 23 from VVS Films, but readers in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver can attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!


Life on Mars

The Martian
(USA, 130 min.)
Dir. Ridley Scott, Writ. Drew Goddard
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong
Is there life on Mars? Well, yes and no. The Red Planet is a desolate and barren place in science fiction (and, admittedly, reality) and The Martian is no exception. However, there is life on Mars in this thrilling survival drama from director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) as stranded astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) shows that life endures in even the most unforgiving places. This smart sci-fi film brings the genre back to its roots and takes audiences to space without any of the gimmicks on which recent space outings rely. With or without the 3D glasses, The Martian is a thrilling trip. (This review considers the 2D version.)

Contest: Win 'Mountain Men' on DVD!

Crack open a cold one and fire up the home theatre for Mountain Men. This refreshing comedy (review here) stars Chace Crawford and Tyler Labine as two brothers who reconnect when a trip to the family cabin leaves them stranded in the Rockies. Mountain Men comes to DVD on October 6th from Pacific Northwest Pictures, and we have a few DVDs to give away to lucky readers. If you want to add a DVD of Mountain Men to your collection, answer the trivia below for a chance to win!


TIFF Review: 'This Changes Everything'

This Changes Everything
(Canada/USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Avi Lewis
Programme: TIFF Docs (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

“I’ve always kind of hated films about climate change,” says Naomi Klein as she introduces the eco-doc This Changes Everything. Klein drolly gives her condolences to the polar bears that often inspire sympathy in fire-and-brimstone climate chance documentaries that primarily deliver their messages through fear. As someone who watched over one hundred environmental documentaries this summer for a film festival, I appreciate Klein’s sentiment. Her rebuttal is even better.


TIFF Review: 'Eva Nova'

Eva Nová
(Slovakia, 106 min.)
Written and directed by Marko Škop
Starring: Emília Vášáryová, Milan Ondrik, Anikó Vargová
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

The winner of the FIPRESCI prize from this year’s robust Discovery programme at the Toronto International Film Festival is the Slovak drama Eva Nová. Eva Nová is a sobering character study. The film offers a portrait of the toll that alcoholism wreaks on families as Eva Nová (Emília Vášáryová) tries to quit the bottle and sees with fresh eyes how her years of heavy drinking devastated her family. Eva Nová sounds like tough stuff—and rest assured that it is—yet newcomer writer/director Marko Škop laudably handles complex subject matter with sensitivity and restraint. This film and its director are going places.


'When Will She Be Back?'

The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta?)
(Brazil, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Anna Muylaert
Starring: Regina Casé, Camila Márdila, Karine Teles, Michel Joelsas, Lourenço Mutarelli

“When will she be back?”

TIFF Review: 'Parisienne'

Parisienne (Peur de rien)
(France, 119 min.)
Written and directed by Danielle Arbid
Starring: Manal Issa, Vincent Lacoste, Paul Hamy, Damien Chapelle, Dominique Blanc
Programme : Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Do stories of migration need to be tragic in order to be compelling? TIFF’s Artistic Director Cameron Bailey raised a similar question this year while defending Kim Thúy’s book Ru in the 2015 edition of CBC’s Canada Reads contest, which Ru ultimately won, and it’s hard not to frame the TIFF selection Parisienne in the same light given that the programme notes bear Bailey’s name. Perhaps the most compelling thing about Parisienne is that the story of young Lebanese migrant Lina (Manal Issa) is anything but tragic. Even her lawyer observes that her narrative isn’t a sob story when she seeks advice on an imminent deportation. Parisienne frankly depicts a story of migration that feels perfectly ordinary. It’s defined by hard work, struggles, keen survival skills, and adaptation, but none of the tragedies that often polarize the subject. Parisienne dramatizes the everyday stories that make up the life of global cities that don’t make the headlines.


TIFF Review: Christopher Doyle's 'Hong Kong Trilogy'

Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous (Hoeng gong saam bou kuk)
(Hong Kong, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Christopher Doyle
Featuring: Connie Ming Shan Yuen, Thierry Chow, Ching Man Lip, Vodka Pal Hei Wong
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Grandmaster cinematographer Christopher Doyle makes his feature documentary debut as a director with the gorgeously bizarre film Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous. (There should probably be some commas in there, but it’s an arty one.) Calling HK: PPP a documentary doesn’t do the film justice, though, since this free-flowing and artfully democratic docudrama infuses elements of fiction, non-fiction, and (arguably) performance art for a truly contemporary film experience. Don’t look at Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous as straight documentary: this film defies convention for a fully immersive experience in a city framed anew.


OWFF Review: 'Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World'

Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World
(Canada, 74 min.)
Written and directed by Charles Wilkinson
Charles Wilkinson continues his string of BC-based eco docs with Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World and his latest documentary might be his strongest one yet. Wilkinson follows Peace Out and Oil Sands Karaoke with another look at the changing Canadian climate. This film shifts its focus from the Oil Sands (although they figure prominently) and the ravaged/ruined industrial scars of mainland Canada, and it turns its head to the idyllic archipelago of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. Haida Gwaii carries a rich cultural history and the area remains one of the most isolated regions on Earth in which the population of First Nations persons remains the majority. Wilkinson looks affectionately at the lush ecosystem of Haida Gwaii in all its complexities and this lovely documentary portrays the last sublime place in Canada as an ideal community to which Canadians should aspire.