Daily Archives: September 7, 2013

Palestine Stereo – Director, Rashid Masharawi

As I noted in my review of 12 Years a Slave I hurried to see this movie arriving just in time to find the escalator to the theatres broken and only minutes to get to cinema 14. Puff puff, I made it and it was really worth the effort. I do not think this movie will win any awards but not because it is not an charming and important film. The story is about two brothers living in Ramallah on the West Bank in occupied Palestine. The elder brother’s apartment block was bombed by the Israeli military to kill some terrorists but the collateral damage was that his wife was also killed and his younger brother was left deaf and dumb from the experience. Together they decide enough is enough and they work to raise $10K to fund emigration to…Canada. They raise the money by working as sound engineers for everything from weddings to government speeches to protests by Hamas or Hezbollah who however will pay them. In the course of raising the money they of course come to see that running away to Canada is ultimately no solution. The reasons to stay are multiple including family, love, politics and just helping their fellow Palestinians get by. It is a light film about a serious issue. I couldn’t help thinking and learning how hard it is to even think of emigration from your home. The other important message which the director emphasized to us in the Q and A afterwards was that most Palestinians are not interested in war or killing or politics (he makes wonderful fun of the Palestinian politicians) but are just people wanting to get by and be left alone. The sad thing is that the country has been divided since 1948 when the state of Israel was founded and war and separation is all they have known for over 60 years. I lived in Israel in the 60’s and we were friends with many Jews born in Palestine before the State of Israel was established also sometimes called Sabra. I remember looking at the Old City of Jerusalem with a Sabra friend of my father’s who pointed across what was then the border with Jordan and said that he had many Palestinian friends over there he had not seen in nearly 20 years and he missed them very much. I recommend this movie to anyone who would like to see a very human side to this long conflict.

12 Years a Slave – Director, Steve McQueen

One of the better movies I have seen in a long time and one that I think deserves a nod for Best Actor for the lead Chiwetel Ejiofor and Best Picture. The film is based on a true story of a black free man in 1841 New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Georgia where he suffers for 12 years before being rescued. The story is a horrendous portrayal of the life a slave in the south in the middle of the 19th century and it pulls few punches. It was hard to watch at times but worth the effort in the end. The film focusses on Solomon Northrop played by Ejiofor but has some wonderful cameo performances from Benedict Cumberbach, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Giamatti. There is a Canadian connection to this movie. Brad Pitt’s character who ultimately rescues Solomon confronts the plantation owner about his treatment of his slaves and the fact that he even has any slaves. Solomon hears this and asks him where he comes from. Pitt’s character answers that he is Canadian which drew some cheers from my audience. Slavery was abolished in Canada in 1833 when Britain officially outlawed it throughout the Empire. Canada became a haven for blacks who were lucky enough to escape the US. Once freed himself, Solomon Northrop became an advocate for abolition and worked the Underground Railway that brought many freed slaves to Canada. We can’t be too proud of our heritage even now but at least we started down the right path before the US. So this film is highly recommended by your humble reviewer. I had to leave before Steve McQueen’s Q and A unfortunately as I had to race from Ryerson to the Scotiabank Theatre in half an hour to see a film about another oppressed people.

Watermark – Directors, Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky

This is the second film in which these two have collaborated. Burtynsky is quite rightly identified as a great photographer and he is Canadian as well. Their previous collaboration was Manufactured Landscapes which deservedly won several awards including cleaning up at TIFF 2006 with Best Documentary and Best Canadian Film. This second effort has a chance to do the same. It spectacular to look at but… I have to say not very well written. The purpose of the film is to show us how closely we are tied to water. We are of course mostly water, water plays a huge cultural role in our lives, we use and abuse it in manufacturing, to create power, entertainment and of course we depend on it for agriculture. We couldn’t live much more than two days without it. All this is beautifully and powerfully illustrated by Burtynsky’s amazing photography but why they made the film is simply never clear. I think they may have meant to tell us that we are wasting and destroying our water resources by poor agricultural uses, trying to keep cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas going when they have no natural source of water to sustain themselves, by poisoning the water, by damming it up and so forth but they never really make it very clear. Still this movie is incredibly beautiful to watch (although it is about 20-30 minutes too long – and the sequence of the traditional washing away of sins in the Ganges I thought would never end). Nonetheless I do recommend it for looks alone but have your wand handy to fast forward when needed. Manufactured Landscapes is also definitely worth watching if you have never seen it and Burtynsky has a display of his photographs at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg until September 29th. Also something not to be missed.

Beyond the Edge – Director, Leanne Pooley

This was my first movie of the week and sadly not a winner. This is a New Zealand film by a relatively well known New Zealand documentary director and about a New Zealander – one Edmund Hillary. Hillary, for those who don’t know, was the first man to successfully reach the summit of Mt. Everest and this film is a docudrama of that expedition. I have to say that I really don’t have much use for mountain climbers. They are portrayed as heroes who risk their lives, as far as I can see, only to give themselves an adrenalin high. The trouble is they often put other lives at risk to do it and really to no end. I mean I think Neil Armstrong is a hero because going to the moon ended in the development of amazing engineering and scientific outcomes but climbing Everest to take a few photos to prove you were there is hardly the stuff of legend. At least in this reporter’s opinion. So, I hear you ask, why did you waste your valuable pass coupons on this film? Well… I guess I got hooked by the idea of understanding how they did it and I needed something to fill in Friday afternoon at the movies and this was the only thing that appealed – sort of. At any rate given my prejudice I was not disappointed. This was a pretty pointless movie. I knew Hillary made it, the film did not really make it appear all that challenging and the worst thing? It was shot in 3D and really poorly. So one more rant. I hate 3D movies. I wear glasses so the 3D glasses never really fit properly (and the ones at the TIFF Lightbox are the worst ever), the glasses darken the screen and take from the quality of the image and I almost always get a headache in these movies. The only movie I ever saw where the 3D actually worked was Life of Pi. Way to go Ang Lee but sorry Leanne Pooley you have a bit to learn. So there you go. Don’t bother watching this one if you get the chance.

TIFF 2013

Hello everyone and welcome back to my movie blog – renamed “Movies rants and raves”.

I hope to keep this going all year rather than just focussing on TIFF so stay tuned. However for now I am focussing on TIFF and I hope something like 20-25 films by the time next Sunday rolls around. First some of the upside. There are over 360 movies being screened from all over the world and there are some major new films available along with big stars (I don’t really need to see them live but if I do I will definitely crow about it) and lots of smaller films both dramatic and documentary and I hope to give you a taste of it all. The downside is the cost and the total confusion of the opening couple of days. The movies are super expensive and organizing the passes to help control the cost is complex and deliberately so I think to maximize income. The whole thing has become a huge money machine which can be really annoying to the average movie fan but if you are addicted to the glowing screen ultimately you put up with it. I have attended movies so far at the Lightbox, Ryerson and Scotiabank Theatre. The volunteers and staff have not figured out crowd control yet and to be honest it has been totally chaotic. The confusion at the Scotiabank Theatre is the worst and to top it off the up escalator broke down and if you have ever been there you know what that means. So they have another day to sort that out before I tear into them on the blog. Wait for it. But enough whining. I have been to the movies and here are the reviews.