Monday, August 27, 2018

Suggested Screening : A Woman's Block

Well August is almost over but summer doesn't officially end until September 22nd. So even though it's back to school and business for a lot of folks, why not try to enjoy the next few weeks to the fullest? Instead of packing up the outdoor gear and returning to a routine, it'll be good to relax and enjoy yourself and the city as much as you can while you still can. In the Toronto film community there's an exciting screening this week: Rebeccah Love is premiering her new short A Woman's Block, which has her team up again with Sarah Swire from Acres and is shot in her own neighborhood of Regal Heights but with a new improvisational style. It'll be on Tuesday, August 28th at The Pilot and it starts at 7:10PM sharp. There will be some special guests, too. See this great MUFF interview with Love for more information about the new short film and her process. Hope to see some of you there and enjoy the next few weeks!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Listening to Others: On Antoine Bourges’ Fail to Appear

It starts with a photocopier in a dimly lit supply room: a fax is slowly being printed out with the report of a young man Eric (Nathan Roder) who has been charged with theft and who’ll need a social worker. The fiction begins and throughout Fail to Appear it’ll continue onward through subtle visual details in a setting that’s actually the one that it’s exploring. Antoine Bourges’ project, just like it was in his earlier East Hastings Pharmacy, is to use fiction to better articulate some of the world’s realities. To not simply document but to slow things down, really focus to better see and to think with the changes occurring around us. It’s at this formal level that Fail to Appear is really interesting. It’s the story of a young social worker Isolde (Deragh Campbell) trying to help her patients while also learning the tasks and responsibilities that go with the job. The great idea here is to cast someone unfamiliar with the milieu so that you can see the struggle to keep up, that of a mixture of care and confusion, eagerness and awkwardness. The film’s exploration of the world of social workers and its client’s matches the beginner’s journey that Isolde is going through. Then there’s the opening of the film up to the real world: there are the clients and other practitioners, its offices and community centres, courtrooms and neighbourhood surroundings. The world keeps intruding onto its fiction so that the film never ends up being self-contained. Its style also adds to its contemplation as the long-take form allows for the scenes to play out for as long as it’s necessary – for a person to say what they need to say, and for them to properly represent themselves – and its framing and stillness distils an emotion into the people that it portrays. Fail to Appear perfectly blends art-house cinema techniques with observational documentary and conceptual photography. It imagines a new way to look at the relationships between people and how they interact with their surroundings. If the actors in Fail to Appear remain somewhat impenetrable, whose motivations are never really clear, it instead proposes a good first step on how to create positive changes in people: that of listening and caring about others. So it is only after Isolde, who had already helped Eric avoid his charge, sent him a kind email that he would start to participate more in his family’s life. The film proposes that change and affect takes place at the level of these small gestures and how these can have a lasting positive influence. And in a province that overnight, with the Ontario elections, became a majority conservative government it’s even more vital to have these reminders of the personal struggles of the already underappreciated health care and social worker professionals and the people that they serve. It’s time to not turn away.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

TFR Presents : Now It’s Dark

Not to be too glib, but one gets the feeling that if you’re a young Canadian filmmaker wanting to make a mark, there’s almost something of an algorithm to follow. Simply make a film in the mould of the Dardennes Brothers or Michael Haneke, then expect a few festival appearances followed by polite word from local press desperate for a thriving Canadian art cinema.

And this is not to say that many fine films aren’t being produced in this tradition, but is it not a little depressing to find a certain mix of naturalism and cynicism as the standard for Canadian film? That’s why with its latest screening, Toronto Film Review is shining a light on recent films (well, dating back to 2012 in some cases) that have shown a strong inclination towards a wholly different cinema.

While the eights films on display in this program wildly vary in scope and resources, they’re undeniably all exciting. Many of them taking place in less glamorous corners, be they cramped apartments, dank city streets or hellishly cold landscapes, the overriding theme of the works could seem like yet more variations on millennial despair. Yet they’re filtered through utterly unique visions that don’t rely on mundanity as a crutch. That being said, they render a Canada that’s highly recognizable to this writer, meaning quite fucking strange. - Ethan Vestby

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Springtime in Toronto

In Natty Zavitz’ Edging (now available on iTunes) a young man is in a period of transition in his life. Having just bought a house, he’s having a housewarming party with friends from throughout his life but where instead of hosting he’s stubbornly focused on a home maintenance problem in his garage. Edging is a tale of springtime in Toronto. Where the rest of the city, and the world too, is moving forward with confidence, after a harsh winter, in what should be a period of renewal, its protagonist Jordan (Shomari Downer) gets stuck on one of the immediate problems at hand: The garage door is broken. Throughout the film, old friends come and go, recollecting about their youth and current anxieties, while new acquaintances come through, enjoying themselves and getting into trouble, but for Jordan, to make sense of the confusion and chaos around him, he has to remove himself from the social center, contemplate and discuss, so that he can eventually regain self-confidence and grow.
            This narrative of anxiety and growth is a great metaphor for how I’m experiencing the Toronto film culture in the Spring of 2018. By all accounts it’s thriving: Every night there’s an exciting screening, on weekends a new festival and publications are putting forward relevant polemics. Some positive recent examples: There’s the publication of the new André Bazin’s Selected Writing, the film magazines Cahiers, Positif and Cinema Scope are on point, CBC’s new shows Workin’ Moms and Caught exceeded expectations, and there’s the upcoming What The Film Festival and Canadian Film Fest. Regardless of the problems in the world, the consensus seems to be that Toronto film folks are forming communities, pursuing goals and achieving results. All really great things.
            But sometimes it’s important to step back a little and figure out what you need to do before you can go out to join others.