Show Off You Canadian Film Smarts and Win an Ambassador Membership to the Canadian Film Institute

Can you identify this Canadian film?

Time to show off your Canadian film smarts! The Canadian Film Institute is giving away an Ambassador-level membership to the first lucky film buff who correctly identifies all 32 films in the CFI’s 80th anniversary trailer. The Ambassador Membership, valued at $250.00, offers free admission to all CFI events and festivals for a whole year! (For the Ottawa International Animation Festival, Ambassador Members receive a complimentary OIAF 6-Pack Admission.)


Making the Grade

National Diploma (Examen d'état)
(France/Congo, 92 min.)
Dir. Dieudo Hamadi
Programme: TIFF Docs (North American Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
A good observational documentary is sometimes hard to find. Interesting subjects might fall victim to formless fly-on-the-wall efforts, which can be effective if the fly observes them just right, but a better observational doc usually finds a voice and rhythm to match the urgency of its subject. Dieudo Hamadi’s National Diploma is a good example of a swell doc that does the latter. This rare and personal film gets close with its subject all the while maintaining enough of a distance to interrogate the system of which they are a part.


Canuck Co-Pro 'The Wanted 18' is Palestine's Oscar Bid

Three moos to a great choice! The Arab Press reports that The Wanted 18 is Palestine's official submission in the race for Best Foreign Language Film. The film is a co-production between Palestine, Canada, and France and is co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The Wanted 18 is an ingenious documentary about some unsung crusaders, dairy cows, in Palestine's fight for independence. The film, directed by Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan, features interviews with farmers and rebels as well as animated episodes that let the cows tell their own story in an amusing--and unexpectedly moving--caper. The film gives an empowering story through the parable of self-sustainability and agency afforded by the cows. The Wanted 18 premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival (review for Point of View) and previously made this blog's list of the Top 10 Canadian films of 2014. This unconventional film is an inspired choice for the race, since documentaries often struggle against dramas in the foreign film field, but it's a great one to root for alongside Canada's own official bid whenever it's announced.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Mountain Men
(Canada, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Cameron Labine
Starring: Chace Crawford, Tyler Labine
Tyler Labine and Chace Crawford star in Mountain Men.
Pacific Northwest Pictures.

“I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of these mountains,” my sister once said as our family drove through the Rockies on our first ski trip out west. Her oft-quoted (and oft-maligned) bit of rental car poetry perfectly captures that bizarre power of the mountains that transforms people into new beings. (The altitude and thin mountain probably help, too.) Sibling follies meet the magnitude of the mountains in the coming-of-age comedy Mountain Men starring Chace Crawford and Tyler Labine as two very different brothers who bond when a cabin trip gone awry inspires them to answer the call of the wild. They grow up to be the men their father always wanted them to be, and it’s hard not to feel a little moved—overwhelmed, say—by Mountain’s end.


'We're Moving.'

Learning to Drive
(USA, 90 min.)
Dir. Isabel Coixet, Writ. Sarah Kernochan
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Sarita Choudhury, Grace Gummer, Jake Weber

Ben Kingsley stars as Darwan and Patricia Clarkson as Wendy in Broad Green Pictures' Learning to Drive.
Linda Kallerus/Broad Green Pictures

“What happened?”
“We’re moving.”


'He Hated Pigeons' Trailer

A trailer's out for Ingrid Veninger's latest film He Hated Pigeons. Toronto's DIY indie queen does a Chilean romp in this intimate lo-fi odyssey starring Cristobal Tapia Montt, which features live scores by local artists on the screening circuit. The film looks promising, especially for some lovely landscape shots  that are Antonioni-eque, according to the trailer. (I'm paraphrasing.)  Festival and screening dates are still TBA. Flock to it, people!

TIFF Adds Discovery, 'Zoom', Moore, and More!

Zoom. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
The Toronto International Film Festival’s final announcement of its gargantuanly good 2015 line-up includes a last-minute addition of Zoom to the Vanguard programme (Zoom was one of ten films on this year’s “Canadian Film Wish List”), plus a host of first features in Discovery, and the A-list of the In Conversation With… programme. This year’s In Conversation With… (formerly Mavericks) features extended convos with Julianne Moore, Salma Hayek, Sarah Silverman, and Matthew Weiner. Check out the new additions below:


'Electric Boogaloo' Delivers Trash and Treasures

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
(Australia, 106 min.)
Dir. Mark Hartley
Programme: Midnight Madness (International Premiere)
Found footage films might employ one of the most tired devices in filmmaking, but the aesthetic works wonders for coaxing a mainstream audience into appreciating documentary form. These mockumentary shriek-fests have been a staple of the horror genre long since the days of Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project, so it is fitting move for a full-fledged documentary to illuminate the history behind the rambunctious beach ball throwing of B-movie fans. The madness of the midnight crowd, however, surely provides the ideal audience for the zany history chronicled in the off-the-wall doc Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, which comes to theatres this September after having its International Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. If you love hunkering down in the basement with a pile of old VHS tapes at two in the morning, this one’s for you!


Ottawa's One World Film Festival Announces Line-up

Hot Docs champ Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World screens OWFF
Ottawa’s One World Film Festival offers a slew of docs n’ stuff to engage audiences in the 613 just in time for the election. The film fest, which runs Sept. 24-27, includes a spread of short, mid, and feature-length documentaries that tackle a variety of topical subjects from Canada and around the world. OWFF kicks off its festivities with a programming preview on September 10th with the Ottawa premiere of the Canadian doc Chameleon at The ByTowne.

Bosnian Oscar Bid 'Our Everyday Life' is Subtle and Symbolic

Our Everyday Life (Naša svakodnevna priča)
(Bosnia and Herzegovina, 89 min.)
Written and directed by Ines Tanović
Starring: Uliks Fehmiu, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Jasna Ornela Bery, Vedrana Seksan
Bosnia and Herzegovina enters the Oscar race with the country’s official selection to compete for Best Foreign Language Film, Our Everyday Life. This quietly observed slice-of-life drama offers a contemporary snapshot of one family and their-day-today life in Sarajevo. Small dramatic acts shape and twist the characters, and their destinies largely mirror by the contemporary history of the city. As the lives of the four family members converge, the subtle and symbolic Our Everyday Life uses poetic realism and compelling characters to create a collective act of healing.


'Bang Bang Baby' is Out of this World

Bang Bang Baby
(Canada, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules
Starring: Jane Levy, Justin Chatwin, Peter Stormare, David Reale
Justin Chatwin and Jane Levy star in Bang Bang Baby.
Search Engine Films.

What the actual heck?

Bang Bang Baby sings a song from space as writer/director Jeffrey St. Jules (Let the Daylight Into the Swamp) creates one of the strangest and most delightful trips to the lunatic fringe you’ll ever see. The film comes to theatres after scooping the prize for Best Canadian First Feature at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and the Claude Jutra Award for Best First Feature at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards, and it’s easy to see the merit in these prizes. Bang Bang Baby is a bizarre anomaly in a summer of mostly indistinguishable movies: this is wild, original, and audacious filmmaking.


Contest: Win a DVD of 'Miss Julie'!

The stage is set for high drama in Miss Julie. Academy award nominee (and Cinemablographer favourite) Jessica Chastain gives a ravishing performance as the titular Miss Julie in this adaptation of the classic play by August Strindberg. (Her co-stars Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton are equally splendid.) Miss Julie comes to DVD on August 25th from Pacific Northwest Pictures, and we have a few DVDs to give away to lucky readers. If you want to add a DVD of Miss Julie to your collection, answer the trivia below for a chance to win!


Funky Beats and Tired Notes

(France, 131 min.)
Dir. Mia Hansen-Løve, Writ. Mia Hansen-Løve, Sven Hansen-Løve
Starring: Félix de Givry, Pauline Ethienne, Greta Gerwig, Arsinée Khanjian
The Butabi brothers meet Llewyn Davis in the EDM drama Eden, and co-writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve spins a broken record with this film about music lovers who can’t quite keep the beat. Like folksman Llewyn, electronic dance music DJ Paul (a forgettable Félix de Givry) is that unfortunate artist who falls short of fame. Whereas Llewyn plays just a set before Bob Dylan and barely becomes an afterthought in music history, Paul struggles in the shadows of hit EDM guys Daft Punk and never spins to the top. Like the Butabis, however, Paul’s a loser who thinks the party keeps going long after it’s stopped. So too does Hansen-Løve, as Eden spins a serpent on its turntable that swallows itself.

CFI Invites Ottawa Film Buffs to Cut the Cake on its 80th B-Day

The Canadian Film Institute invites local film lovers to come cut the cake in celebration of Canada’s longest running film club. The CFI turns 80 this year, which makes it the oldest non-profit and non-government cultural organization devoted to film, and cinephiles from Ottawa (or elsewhere, if they want to join the party) can come cut the cake on Thursday, August 27 at Jean Pigott Place, Ottawa City Hall from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm. “We are proud to have been supported by receptive, generous, and sophisticated Ottawa cinema audiences,” said Executive Director Tom McSorley in a release from the CFI. “It’s a way of saying thank you to the city, our sponsors and embassy partners, and all who come to our events. It's also a moment to look ahead to, hopefully, another 80 years.”

Win Run of Engagement Passes to 'Mistress America'!

Get ready for more Gerwigian goodness with Mistress America! Greta Gerwig reteams with Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach for the contemporary comedy Mistress America. Mistress America opens in Toronto this Friday from Fox Searchlight Pictures and expands in the weeks to come. If you want a chance to catch GG’s latest in theatres, answer the trivia below to win a run of engagement pass to see Mistress America!

First Trailer for 'The Witch'

Photo courtesy of TIFF
A24 just released the first trailer for the upcoming horror film  The Witch! This Canada-US co-production is set to make its Canadian debut at TIFF this fall after premiering at Sundance where it won Best Director (Dramatic). This Mattawa-shot film is making waves!


TIFF Adds More Titles Including Closing Night Gala of 'Mr. Right'

Mr. Right is the Closing Night Gala of TIFF 2015.
Photo Courtesy of TIFF.
The list keeps on growing! More films add themselves to the impressive tally for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. New TIFF titles include the Closing Night Gala of Mr. Right, which is directed by Paco Cabeza and stars Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick. Other notable newbies include the Canadian Premiere of the Canuck co-pro and Sundance winner The Witch, plus the World Premiere of Catherine Hardwicke’s Miss You Already starring Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore, the World Premiere of Truth starring Cate Blanchett (which makes it extra disappointing to see that Carol isn’t in the line-up if Blanchett could be at the fest), and the Canadian Premiere of 45 Years starring Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, which brought acting prizes for both actors at Berlin earlier this year. The fest also announced its City to City programme, which spotlights London this year, and the Contemporary World Cinema and international titles of Short Cuts. The last wave will come out next week with the In Conversation With… (formerly Mavericks) programme and the guest list.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes for 'Samba'!

(France, 118 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Starring: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim, Izïa Higelin
Tahar Rahim and Omar Sy star in Samba.
Les Films Séville

Put on your dancing shoes and get ready for Samba! Samba, the new film from Intouchables directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, is a warm-hearted crowd-pleaser about the ever-changing face of multicultural France. The directors reunite with their Intouchables star Omar Sy, who gives another commanding and charismatic performance in the lead role. Sy stars as the titular Samba, an illegal alien living in France and surviving on the sly to provide for this family back in Senegal. When the immigration police nab him, though, luck turns his way by bringing him face to face with a case worker named Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who’s instantly smitten by his presence. The two don’t quite dance the samba, but Samba offers nimble footwork as the love story grows step by step alongside a nuanced portrait of multiculturalism and migration.


Looking Forward/Looking Back: Where Does Canada Stand in the Oscar Race Pre-#TIFF15?

Monica Bellucci stars in Ville-Marie, one of the most promising Canadian World Premieres at TIFF.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
It’s time to ask the annual question: where does Canada stand in the race for the Oscars? With less than a month to go until this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, a launch-pad for award contenders and Canadian films alike, and six weeks until the Academy’s submission deadline, the field of Canuck contenders for Best Foreign Language Film needs appraisal. Say what you will about awards, but this particular competition, undeniably flawed as it is, helps a film stand out from the crowd. It’s a marketing tool, a rallying point, and a source of pride.


Reminder: Ottawa International Film Festival Screens Oct. 16-18!

Local award-winner Jackie Boy screens OIFF.
The line-up is out for this year’s edition of the Ottawa International Film Festival! OIFF 2015 moves to Cineplex Lansdowne this year and brings a crop of films from Ottawa and abroad. The local front includes Cody Campanale’s Jackie Boy, a gritty drama about a self-destructive womanizer, and two shorts by local up-and-comer Morgana McKenzie—the music video We All Go the Same and the thriller Kurayami no Wa. Jackie Boy and We All Go the Same hit OIFF after taking home awards for Best Narrative Film and Best Film by a Director Under 25, respectively, at the inaugural Ottawa Independent Video Awards back in April.


Golden Years and Silver Foxes

The Last Gigolos
(Germany, 87 min.)
Dir. Stephan Bergmann
Get your mind out of the gutter. The gigolos of The Last Gigolos aren’t those kind of guys. These gentlemen dance vertically.


Escapism is Always in Fashion

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
(USA, 116 min.)
Dir. Guy Ritchie, Writ. Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki
Alicia Vikander, Armie Hammer, and Henry Cavill star in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Warner Bros. Canada
Audiences looking for a swinging time at the movies need not fret if they haven’t seen the old TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Guy Ritchie’s new film of the same name resurrects the 1964-1968 television drama from obscurity and gives it a stylish revamp with Henry Cavill as suave American spy Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as gruff Russian operative Illya Kuryakin. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. improves upon some misguided efforts to adapt TV for the big screen, as it creates a story that precedes the original work so that one can appreciate the effort whether one’s a fan of the series or hearing of the show for the first time. Origins stories are all the rage these days, anyways, but this stylish actioner set in the swinging 60s gives summer movie season something new. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an action caper of the Mad Men era—it’s chic and sexy entertainment.

Maestro, If You Please!

Around the World in 50 Concerts (Om de wereld in 50 concerten)
(Netherlands, 94 min.)
Dir.  Heddy Honigmann
Photo: Mariss Jenkins
Maestro, if you please! Let the conductors of the Hot Docs hit Around the World in 50 Concerts be your guide to sonorous world tour that hits a high note. This behind-the-scenes music doc travels the globe and connects subjects around the world with the glissandos and trills of the Dutch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Director Heddy Honigmann acts as a conductor of this musical train as she tours the world while keeping the orchestra in time with the global pulse of classical music. It’s no wonder that the double meanings of conductor have such a strong presence in the film, since Around the World in 50 Concerts conveys how music transports us to places we can only imagine. Music is the universal language and Honigmann finds a common voice around the globe using the music of this wonderful orchestra.

Alan Zweig's 'HURT' Reps Canada in TIFF's Platform Competition

HURT. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Director Alan Zweig (15 Reasons to Live) is set to rep Canada in the inaugural edition of TIFF's Platform programme with his new film HURT. The new competitive sidebar at the Toronto International Film Festival offers an international showcase for films from talents on the cusp of being recognized as auteurs. TIFF aims to use this platform to boost filmmakers to the next level by making them stand out in the festival programme. Zweig previously won the prize for Best Canadian Feature at TIFF 2013 for his highly popular doc When Jews Were Funny and he’s one of the more established filmmakers in this programme that also includes festival favourite Ben Wheatley. The competition carries of prize of $25 000 CAD, which will be assigned by a panel comprised of acclaimed filmmakers Jia Zhang-ke, Claire Denis and Agnieszka Holland.


If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

The Sound of Trees (Le bruit des arbres)
(Canada, 79 min.)
Dir. François Péloquin, Writ. Sarah Lévesque, François Péloquin
Starring: Antoine L’Écuyer, Roy Dupuis, Rémi Goulet, Willia Ferland-Tanguay
Photo: Christian Mouzard / K Films Amérique

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Director François Péloquin asks this philosophical question in his stirring dramatic debut feature The Sound of Trees (Le bruit des arbres). This subtle and understated slice-of-life drama gives a relevant portrait of life in rural Quebec as Péloquin gradually reveals an intergenerational story of a family and community on the cusp of change.

Everyone Needs a Little Guidance

(Canada, 80 min.)
Written and directed by Pat Mills
Starring: Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham, Tracey Hoyt, Kevin Hanchard, Alex Ozerov, Eleanor Zichy
Everyone needs a little guidance, so local filmmakers searching for inspiration should look to Ottawa native Pat Mills. Mills, an ex-pat of the 613 now living in Toronto, makes his solo feature directorial debut with the upbeat black comedy Guidance. This Toronto-shot film boasts a great sense of character as Mills plays an actor moonlighting as a guidance counselor at a Parkdale high school. There’s a little bit of a bad teacher in everyone, but Mills’ saucy substitute is no rotten apple.


TIFF Unveils Titles for TIFF Docs, Midnight Madness, and More!

Malala Yousafzai in He Named Me Malala.
Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
TIFF adds more titles to the festival with a solid list of specialty programming in the TIFF Docs, Midnight Madness, Vanguard, and Masters programmes! I’m especially excited for the impressive doc slate that’ll comprise most of my coverage at POV. This year’s fest includes new films from Barbara Kopple, who debuts her new film Miss Sharon Jones and screens her landmark doc Harlan County: USA at the fest. (It’s the best doc ever made, so don’t miss it.) Other notable documentaries include recent Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala, Morgan Neville’s The Music of Strangers, Amy Berg’s Janis Joplin doc Janis, Emmanuel and Daniel Leconte’s Je Suis Charlie, and the Arcade Fire doc The Reflektor Tapes.


'The Tribe' Doesn't Say Much

The Tribe (Plemya)
(Ukraine, 132 min.)
Written and directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Starring: Grigory Fesenko, Yana Novikova

Photo removed due to Google and Ad Sense's ridiculous censorship.
Evidently they object to seeing the deaf embrace!

There’s a “Two Thumbs Up” joke to make about The Tribe, but this film set in the world of the deaf doesn’t quite merit it. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy makes a significant debut with The Tribe, which features no audible dialogue and invites the audience to watch drama play out in sign language without the aid of subtitles, translation, intertitles, or narration. The film shows audiences a world and an experience that generally aren’t included on film, so there’s no denying that The Tribe is a bold, landmark experiment. This sensation from last year’s festival circuit, however, is ultimately a bold, landmark experiment that disappoints. Give it the universal sign of one thumb wiggling horizontally between ‘yay’ and ‘nay’.


Contest: Win Tickets to see 'No Escape' Across Canada!

Get ready for an international thrill-ride with No Escape! Owen Wilson stars alongside Pierce Brosnan and Lake Bell in the intense new thriller No Escape. No Escape opens in theatres August 26 from VVS Films, but readers across Canada can attend a sneak peek. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!


Contest: Win Tickets to See 'A Walk in the Woods' Across Canada!

Ready for a fun summer hike? The star-studded journey A Walk in the Woods starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Emma Thompson takes audiences into the woods in this adaptation of the bestselling book. A Walk in the Woods opens in theatres September 2nd from eOneFilms, but readers across Canada can attend a sneak peek. If you want to take a trip to the movies, answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets to see A Walk in the Woods!

'My Love Will Not Let You Down'

Ricki and the Flash
(USA, 102 min.)
Dir. Jonathan Demme, Writ. Diablo Cody
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer
My love will not let you down, Meryl! Even a die-hard Streep fan approaches Ricki and the Flash with a degree of trepidation—can the sixty-six-year-old three-time Oscar winner really play a rocker?—and one has to admit that Meryl looks both sexy and strange decked out in hot leather, funky pants, and a wild ’do of side braids. Any worries, however, quickly drift away as soon as the film begins. Meryl Streep gives one of her most unexpected and surprising performances as aging rocker Ricki Randazzo and she belts out some of the greatest rock songs ever written with enough gusto to share the stage with Bruce Springsteen. Ricki and the Flash, perhaps more than anything the actress has done in her continually impressive career, proves that Streep can really play any part that comes her way.


TIFF Announces Canadian Films for 2015 Festival (Updated)

Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood star in Into the Forest.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
The Toronto International Film Festival has announced the list of Canadian features and shorts for the 2015 festival. This year’s fest includes new films from Patricia Rozema, Guy Maddin, Philippe Falardeau, Mina Shum, and Stephen Dunn. I'll have a full report on the press conference from a doc perspective up soon over at POV featuring chats with TIFF Canadian film programmer Steve Gravestock, Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis (This Changes Everything), Brian D. Johnson (Al Purdy Was Here), and Katherine Monk (Rock the Box), but yesterday's event promises a strong crop of Canadian content for fiction and non-fiction films alike. With big names like Deepa Mehta (Beeba Boys), Paul Gross (Hyena Road) and Atom Egoyan (Remember) announced previously, the Canuck presser was an opportunity to spotlight a lot of up and coming voices. "Our films may be somewhat different," said TIFF CEO Piers Handling during the introductions, "but they challenge us with their uniqueness."


'I'm Awful.'

Diamond Tongues
(Canada, 99 min.)
Dir. Pavan Moondi & Brian Robertson, Writ. Pavan Moondi
Starring: Leah Goldstein, Nick Flanagan, Leah Wildman, Adam Gurfinkel 
"I'm awful," says Edith (Leah Goldstein, best known as July Talk vocalist Leah Fay) to a friend in Diamond Tongues. This revelation comes too late in the game to redeem this disappointing maplecore drama. Edith, an actress, is awful both as a dramatist and as a person. She's spoiled. She's whiney. She's boring. Admitting how much Edith sucks, however, doesn't make Diamond Tongues any better. It’s an ambitious lo-fi drama that doesn’t match in execution what it brings in passion.


Cocksure Lads Bring the Funk

The Cocksure Lads
(Canada, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Murray Foster
Starring: Lyndon Ogbourne, Luke Marty, Edward Hillier, Adam McNab
Photo credit: Robin Cymbaly
The Brits invade Toronto in the eclectic musical-comedy The Cocksure Lads. This funny rock musical brings the funk with a side order of bangers and mushy peas as Brit rock group The Cocksure Lads lands in Hogtown for its first North American concert. The lads can’t believe that they’re finally making it in America—or, no… “Canada,” as they frequently correct one another—and they bring a dash of budding Beatlemania to the city in this irreverent comedy. The Cocksure Lads is a rocking lark and an unconventional Canadian indie comedy.