Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Far from the Madding Crowd' in Vancouver and Calgary!

Calling all members of the Cinemablographer book club! A great adaptation of a literary classic is coming your way when Far from the Madding Crowd hits theatres this May from Fox Searchlight Pictures. Far from the Madding Crowd opens in Toronto on May 1 and expands in the coming weeks, but readers in Vancouver and Calgary can attend a sneak peek before the film opens in their city. Answer the trivia below to win tickets!


Hot Docs Review: 'The Amina Profile'

The Amina Profile
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. Sophie Desraspe
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (Toronto Premiere)
What kind of bait does it take to catch a catfish? The Amina Profile takes an absorbing look at a contemporary con that's spawning out of control in the digital age as director Sophie Desraspe joins subject Sandra Bagaria on a quest to uncover the truth behind Sandra's alleged girlfriend, whom she believe to be a Syrian girl named Amina. Amina, the voice behind the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, has her virtual lover worried when she disappears and leaves Sandra fearing that Amina's outspoken LGBT voice made her a target of Syria's oppressive regime. The truth is far worse and it leaves far more victims.

Hot Docs Review: 'Deprogrammed'

(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Mia Donovan
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
The endlessly peculiar world of cults come full-circle with the thought-provoking doc Deprogrammed.  Director Mia Donovan (Inside Lara Roxx) returns to the festival with the story of professional deprogrammer Ted “Black Lighting” Patrick, who made a significant, if notorious, career by extracting individuals from cults and using his deprogramming techniques to remove the ideologies brainwashed into them. Donovan’s brother Matthew is one of Ted’s last efforts, and her personal connection to this unorthodox saviour/sinner offers a wild springboard into the complicated world of unconventional organizations and the lifestyles they breed by deception and choice alike.

Hot Docs Review: 'The Cult of J.T. Leroy'

The Cult of J.T. Leroy
(USA, 90 min.)
Dir. Majorie Stern
Programme: Nightvisions (International Premiere)
I admit that might my archive of obscure Canadian film data betrayed me roughly a third of the way into The Cult of J.T. Leroy. At some point, I realized that this tale of fictional literary sensation J.T. Leroy is the same story that inspired the wacky 2008 comedy Who is K.K. Downey? Both films tell of a hack author who can’t get published and therefore invents the persona of a young reclusive transsexual drug addict truckstop prostitute. Both are relatively modest productions, but the difference between The Cult of J.T. Leroy and Who is K.K. Downey is that the former takes a fascinating subject and explores it in the least interesting way possible while the latter runs with the silliness of the situation in one goofily eccentric flick.  The former is dull at awkwardly shot, while the latter is a goofy microbudget lark. The groaner of the two is the non-fiction version, which doesn’t offer much for anyone familiar with the story aside from a very thorough explanation of what went down behind the adored “author” of books like The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.

Hot Docs Review: 'How to Change the World'

How to Change the World
(Canada/UK, 112 min.)
Dir. Jerry Rothwell
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)
It takes a lot of moxie to title a film How to Change the World.  That’s a bold name, for a “how to” guide to fix the planet is a large thing to tackle in one feature length film. The thrilling and inspiring How to Save the World, however, largely succeeds as director Jerry Rothwell recounts the rise of Greenpeace with five quick tips on how to make the world a better place.


Hot Docs Review: 'Sugar Coated'

Sugar Coated
(Canada, 91 min.)
Dir. Michèle Hozer
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
“In the most delightful way!” Yes, Mary Poppins was indeed correct when she flew into town on her brolley and sang that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Director Michèle Hozer gets the recipe just right in Sugar Coated as she whips up an intelligent argument with a dash of playful humour. This doc smartly articulates the dangers in consuming sugar in excess quantities, and audiences are likely to swallow this dose of what’s good for them given how succinctly and sweetly Hozer conveys the argument.


Hot Docs Review: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
(USA, 132 min.)
Dir. Brett Morgen
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)
I really like Nirvana's music, but I've never quite understood the mystique of Kurt Cobain. Fans and devotees characterize the lost poet of rock with prophetic affection. Cobain's, one of the 27 Club's most esteemed and tragic members, holds an immortal place in the canon of rock and roll thanks to his game-changing electric music and tragic death by suicide at the peak of his career. The phenomenal rock doc Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck doesn't tear down or deconstruct this mystique of Kurt Cobain (if anything, it affirms it), yet it undoubtedly builds a complex and fascinating character study of a brilliant and deeply complicated man in an equally brilliant production that elevates the art form. It's a stunner.

Hot Docs Review: 'Jesus Town, USA'

Jesus Town, USA
(Canada/USA, 80 min.)
Dir: Julian Pender, Billie Mintz
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (Canadian Premiere)
“I know how hard it is to be Jesus,” says one of the many kind townsfolk featured in the droll doc Jesus Town, USA. The wise old barman, a former portrayer of Christ in the annual passion play of a peculiar Oklahoma town that features a full-fledged reproduction of ancient Israel, gives his words of wisdom to Zach, who is the current incarnation of the Role of roles, as Jesus downs some wine coolers to soothe his troubles. A passion play of its own comes into play in Julian Pender and Billie Mintz wildly hilarious and enlightening Jesus Town, USA, but, thankfully, it doesn't end with a crucifixion.


Hot Docs Review: 'Tig'

(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Kristina Goolsby, Ashley York
Programme: Show Me the Funny (International Premiere)
Tig Notaro in Tig, Courtesy of Beachside Films
'Good evening, I have cancer,' sounds like the perfect line to kill the mood in a comedy club, yet Tig Notaro totally killed it when she opened a stand-up comedy routine with this unconventional lead-in in October 2012. Tig, which marks a notable opener for the 2015 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival as an LGBTQ-friendly film with a female subject and two female directors, looks at this woman who found life in the face of death. Tig's announcement and the comedy routine that followed it are natural moves for a comic--using life to inspire material--but the candour and vulnerability of her performance ignited a response from audiences so powerful that Tig became a viral sensation. Tig proves that laughter is indeed the best medicine.


LAFF Review: 'Panama Canal Stories'

Panama Canal Stories
(Panama, 106 min.)
Dir. Abner Benaim, Carolina Borrero, Luis Franco Brantley, Pinky Mon, Pituka Ortega-Heilbron; Writ. Alejandro Fadel, Martin Mauregui, Manuel Rodríguez
Starring: Lakisha May, Andre Morris, as Carlos Eduardo Goldstein Alemán, Ivan González, Hannah Schöbitz, Luis Manuel Barrios
We’ve strolled through the arrondissements of Paris in Paris, je t’aime, roamed the boroughs of New York in New York, I Love You, and heard tales of Hogtown in Toronto Stories. The next stop on the travel anthologies train lets audiences stamp their cinematic passports in Panama and learn the histories of the country’s iconic canal in Panama Canal Stories. This five-part anthology film, which opens Ottawa’s Latin American Film Festival on Saturday, differs from the aforementioned travelogues, since it offers not a tourist’s view of the city as it takes viewers through five moments in time, rather than to five geographical pockets. Panama Canal Stories tells about the people who live and thrive in the city and the characters whose lives are the lifeblood of the Panama Canal.


'Atanarjuat' Tops TIFF's List of the Best Canadian Films of All Time

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
Here's a surprise! The Toronto International Film Festival released its list of the Best Canadian films of all time, and the film stop the list is Zacharias Kunuk's Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, knocking Mon Oncle Antoine from the top spot. Atanarjuat is a landmark for First Nations filmmakers in Canada and was Canada's submission to the Oscars for 2001. Other notable additions to TIFF's fourth edition of this list are Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. and Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell. (I'm disappointed that Incendies didn't make it though.) The huge snub is The Barbarian Invasions, which is the best film ever to come out of Quebec, although Denys Arcand is on the list for Jesus of Montreal. Glad to see my favourite, The Sweet Hereafter, made the cut.

Who Made My Clothes?

(Canada/USA/India, 68 min.)
Written and directed by Jennifer Sharpe
“It's difficult for a new designer to come out with a new set of ideas when there is an established industry that is moving to a completely different logic that's about low price at whatever cost,” says designer and professor Lynda Gross in the fashionably progressive doc Traceable. Gross’s words perfectly summarize the conundrum in which forward-thinking fashionistas and designers such as Traceable's central subject Laura Siegel find themselves as they try to balance the wants of consumers with the practical needs of the other threads in the fashion chain. Siegel’s plight should be a simple one: to offer fashionable garments that better educate consumers and retailers about the stories woven within the clothes on their backs. However, consumer culture, especially the “fast-fashion” on which the garment industry thrives with impulse buys and quick turnarounds, doesn’t traditionally allow for new ideas other than those that popularize, say, The September Issue. We’ve seen all those fashion docs before, as famed eyes of the fashion world tell the stories of how they became trendsetters, but a new trend is beginning and it starts right here.


Contest! Win Tickets to 'Adult Beginners' in Toronto!

Funnyman Nick Kroll (“Parks and Rec”) stars alongside funnygirl Rose Byrne (Neighbours) in Adult Beginners, the directorial debut of indie producer Ross Katz (Lost in Translation). Adult Beginners opens in select theatres on May 8 from The Archive, but Toronto readers who want to attend an advance screening—with Nick Kroll in attendance!—are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!


'The Grand Seduction', 'The Lunchbox' Win TIFF Film Circuit People's Choice Awards

Taylor Kitsch and Liane Balaban in The Grand Seduction, an eOne Films release
The people have spoken! The winners have been named for this year’s champs of the TIFF Film Circuit! The winners of the 11th annual Film Circuit People’s Choice Awards are The Grand Seduction and The Lunchbox. The Grand Seduction, directed by Don McKellar, nabs the prize for Best Canadian Film, while The Lunchbox, directed by Ritesh Batra, scoops the title of Best International Film as voted by Film Circuit audiences across Canada. Both films hit the circuit after enjoying Gala Screenings at TIFF 2013.


Latin American Film Festival Gives Hungry Cinephiles a Nibble

The 2015 Latin American Film Festival kicks off with Panama Canal Stories.
Me pica el bagre! I really hope somebody shrieks this line during the Latin American Film Festival this year.  I randomly discovered this Argentine expression today whilst chatting with some colleagues at the temp job I’m doing in Toronto in the weeks before Hot Docs, and I’m hooked. One doesn’t often get to shout, “The catfish is biting me!”Where does that line even come from? Me pica el bagre!


Canadian Cinema Editors (CCE) Nominate 'Wet Bum', 'Backcountry'

Wet Bum
The Canadian Cinema Editors (CCE) have abounded their annual nominations. These industry awards, the Canuck equivalent if the ACE Eddies, honor the best editing in film, television, and digital media. There are some surprises here, but it's nice to see film like Wet Bum, Backcountry, and Monsoon recognized for their superb tech work. Here's what films made the cut:

Vancouver the Gritty

Down Here
(Canada, 88 min.)
Dir. Teach Grant, Writ. Dean Wray, Teach Grant
Starring: Dean Wray, Tantoo Cardinal, Martin Cummins, Rebecca James, Teach Grant
The gritty drama Down Here takes audiences to the dark underbelly of Vancouver’s Eastside. Beneath the sprawling mass of ugly, towering condominiums sits a lost character of the city. Hidden, forgotten, and overlooked citizens survive in the shadows, and this film by Teach Grant explores how the unseen members of society are often the most vulnerable ones.


True Story: Jones (Almost) Saves It

True Story
(USA, 100 min.)
Dir. Rupert Goold, Writ. Rupert Goold, David Kajganich
Starring: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones
Jonah Hill as Mike Finkel and Felicity Jones as Jill in True Story.
Mary Cybulski © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Three cheers go to Felicity Jones for almost saving True Story. The British actress, Theory of Everything star, and LEGO Oscar-winner dons a deep American accent for her turn as Jill, the wife of ex-New York Times writer Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill), and she gets the one big actorly moment in a film that should rightly be an actors’ showpiece. It’s a great scene. Jones owns it.

Canadian Film Gets Big Boost with New and Improved NFB.ca

Incendies is one of the major Canadian films now available on the NFB's VOD.
Canadian film gets a huge boost today with the major expansion of the National Film Board of Canada’s VOD streaming services. In addition to the crop of 3000-odd shorts and docs freely available at nfb.ca, the NFB now offers two new VOD channels bringing the finest in Canadian independent cinema and independent documentaries alike. The new Canadian channel marks a partnership with the newly launched Canada Screens effort from First Weekend Club, which brings the best in Canadian film directly into homes across the country. The new Canadian channel offers some Canada’s strongest contemporary dramas including some of the decade’s best Canuck flicks like Incendies, Barney’s Version, and Mommy, just to name a few of the films hand-picked by guest curators including Atom Egoyan, Robert Lantos, and Sarah Polley. (Stories We Tell has been there for a while given its NFB parentage.) Canuck classics like Naked Lunch are now available, as are hidden gem indies like Gary Burns' Waydowntown. Canadian docs are also well-represented with some of the best recent Canuck non-fiction like Julia Kwan’s Everything Will Be and Canadian Screen Award winner Super Duper Alice Cooper. There's a lot worth exploring, especially for the upcoming 'Canadian Film Day' on April 29!


Contest! Win Tickets to 'While We're Young' in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg

Readers in Toronto and Vancouver had great things to say about Noah Baumbach's While We're Young after last month's sneak peek, and readers in the rest of Canada now get their turn to catch Baumbach's latest starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. While We're Young expands April 24 from Elevation Pictures, but if you want to attend a sneak peek in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton or, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below to win tickets!


Ottawa Independent Video Award Winners

Cody Campanale's Jackie Boy, which won the OIVA for Best Director - Narrative
The winners for SAW Video’s inaugural Ottawa Independent Video Awards were handed out last night in a ceremony at the Arts Court Theatre. The awards were hosted by Derek Diorio, comedian and creator of the series Hard Rock Medical, who seemed to win over the crowd well given the energy at the event, and the night included presenters such as CBC’s Adrian Harewood, Ottawa Indie Fest’s Jith Paul, and more. I was actually volunteering at the event, which was fun, so I can’t really comment on the ceremony itself, but the awards and the event saw a great response from members of the local film scene, as they brought together talents from different corners of the city and helped create a sense of community through a celebration of local artists.


Contest! Win Tickets to Sneak Peeks of 'The Age of Adaline' Across Canada! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Is eternal youth all it’s chalked up to be? Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) confronts the double-edged dilemma of being able to live forever in The Age of Adaline, a new romantic drama from the director of Celeste and Jesse Forever. The Age of Adaline opens in theatres April 24 from eOne Films, but readers across Canada who want to catch a sneak peek are in luck. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!

Contest! Win Tickets to 'The Water Diviner' in Toronto and Vancouver!

We all know that Russell Crowe is one of the best actors of his generation, but can he direct? The answer seems to be yes, as the Oscar-winning actor’s directorial debut The Water Diviner has already scooped the Oscar equivalent in its native Australia before heading to theatres in over here. The film opens April 24th from eOne Films, but readers who want to attend a sneak peek are in luck! Answer the trivia below to win tickets!


Cinemalinks: Weekly Reads

Ned Rifle
Things have been a bit slow on the movie front lately, but here’s a quick round-up of reads from the web:


Ottawa Independent Video Award Nominations

A still from Christopher Rohde's Odd One Out, which is nominated for 2 OIVA awards.
The nominations are out for the inaugural Ottawa Independent Video Awards, which are spearheaded by SAW Video and celebrate the best independent filmmaking in the Ottawa/Gatineau area. The list of nominees was first released last week, but now that the films have been named in addition to the directors, I’m happy to give a rundown of the local stuff in competition for the awards. Here are the nominees for the first OIVA awards (which I’m calling the Ovies until something catchier comes along) with links to films, clips, or trailers where available. Overall, it's a good mix of films from established independents and up-and-comers alike with some strong works from a diverse group of filmmakers. The awards will be handed out Saturday, April 11 in Arts Court Theatre.


X Marks the Spot with 'Kumiko'

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
(USA, 105 min.)
Dir. David Zellner, Writ. David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Starring: Rinko Kikuchi
THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.
-Fargo (and Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter)


Contest! Win Tickets to see 'True Story' in Calgary! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Here’s some unexpected casting! Funny guys Jonah Hill and James Franco play against type in the upcoming psychological drama True Story. The film opens April 17th from +Fox Searchlight, but Calgary readers who want to attend a sneak peek are in luck! Answer the trivia below to win tickets!


A Portrait Both Past and Present

Woman in Gold
(USA/UK, 109 min.)
Dir. Simon Curtis, Writ. Alexi Kaye Campbell
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Tatiana Maslany, Katie Holmes, Daniel Brühl, Max Irons.
Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds star in Woman in Gold.
Photo: Robert Viglasky / eOne Films

The spirit of Philomena lives on in Woman in Gold! This crowd-pleasing historical dramedy puts Dame Helen Mirren in Dame Judi Dench’s shoes as Maria Altmann takes a cue from Philomena Lee by confronting the past to find peace in the present. Altmann enlists the help of rookie lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds, an unexpected co-star for Mirren) to reclaim a painting of her aunt Adele that was taken decades before and was assumed to be lost to an Austrian museum forever until new details surfaced in the letters of Altmann’s late sister. The case isn’t so simple, though, since said painting is Gustav Klimt’s famous “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” which is valued at over $130 million, and it was stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

'Stop Being a Benny!'

Pretend We’re Kissing
(Canada, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Matt Sadowski
Starring: Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Zoe Kravitz
Benny & Jordan (Dov Tiefenbach & Tommie-Amber Pirie).
Photo: Erin Simkin

[ben-ee] Noun. Slang
1. Benzedrine, especially in tablet form.
2. A tourist who visits the Jersey shore from Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, or New York (or anywhere near these places.) These tourists pollute the beaches and are rude to the locals. (Hat tip, Urban Dictionary)
3. Abbrev’d name for Eggs Benedict.
4. A meek guy unlucky in love.


'Just Because Something Isn't Supposed to Be True Doesn't Mean It Can't Be'

Cast No Shadow
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. Christian Sparkes, Writ. Joel Thomas Hynes
Starring: Percy Hynes-White, Joel Thomas Hynes, Mary-Colin Chisholm
“Just because something isn’t supposed to be true doesn’t mean it can’t be,” says Jude (Percy Hynes-White in Christian Sparkes’ Cast No Shadow. Jude wrestles with imagined things as monsters lurking in caves came out to haunt him. Not all things creeping in the shadows are the Babadook, though, and sometimes an imagination can be a beautiful thing. Make believe can be a saviour when the scariest monsters exist in real life.