By Anne Brodie
Deepfakes alert! documentarians Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn’s chilling Another Body unveils the life-altering repercussions of abuse against women via faked porn videos. Two American college students who appear throughout as deep fakes with false names describe the hell they’ve endured due to a spiteful male friend who wanted revenge. They were mortified to learn they appeared in porn videos – their faces deepfaked over naked bodies. The effects on victims in these cases suffered from illness, and mental disturbance, they “became smaller” and felt death was easier than “living in this hell”. There was no way to remove the videos which could affect their future in finding jobs and living full lives. Unfortunately, there are no US federal laws in place to protect victims of this growing trend. “Taylor Klein” set out to unmask the man as police did nothing. There are no local laws in their region, but when they discovered other friends were also deepfaked, they undertook detective work themselves to see what man they had in common and what his motives were. The doc uses subtle flashes of deep fake giveaways in both real people and impersonations. Small details give it away – unnatural eyelashes, light flashes around the face, too-perfect features, and more. Kudos to “Taylor” and the other young woman who took a stand and helped get the message across in this extremely timely doc. In this case, the man in question, who is named and shown, targeted several women. They had been his college roommates and were the only two females in a university engineering program where they experienced chauvinism. Fortunately in Canada, work is ongoing to regulate the use of deep fake technologies and impersonation. Toronto Hot Docs Theatre, and Vancouver, Ottawa, and Saskatoon.
Disney+ seven-part series A Murder the End of the World is based on an ages-old trope but gives it new life, very much in the here and now. Emma Coran, who played young Princess Diana, shreds that image to become nightcrawling hacker and author Darby Hart. Seems Darby has a great gift for crime-solving and uses that drive as the basis for her hit podcast. True crime podcasts are currently the most successful of medium. Go figure. She reckons there are 40 thousand unidentified dead in the US at any given moment and more than half are women. Some deaths are accidental, the rest are murders. Darby gives a reading at her book launch about how she and her friend Bill (Harrison Dickinson) solved the cold case murder of the “Silver Doe” ” Their investigations and accurate instincts lead them to an abandoned home and a well-hidden basement grave with vital clues to ID a serial killer. The audience loves it. Out of the blue, she receives a hologram inviting her to a private symposium at a remote retreat owned by mysterious billionaire Andy (Clive Owen) she and 11 others, unique individuals all, will brainstorm on whatever Andy has in mind. Of course, someone is killed. And there is no means of leaving the place. Brit Marling who also stars, co-created the series co-starring Harris Dickinson, Alice Braga, Joan Chen (Twin Peaks alert!), and Law & Order’s Raúl Esparza. What makes it modern, updated from endless film and stage takes on the Agatha Christie stories And Then There Were None and Ten Little Indians, is Darby – she’s a feminist, strong, resilient, intuitive, and well-versed in human psychology and behaviour, she breaks all the rules,sets her own and she has nerves of steel. Nov. 14.
Cecilia Aldarondo had mixed feelings about her experiences in high school and felt there was unfinished business. So she set out to relive and recreate scenes from that “tortured” time in order to relieve lingering pain and self-doubt. So she stepped back in time and made You Were My First Boyfriend a documentary featuring re-enacted scenes she vividly recalls, standing in as herself, a grown woman in a sea of bright young things/actors. Aldarondo turned out fine, she’s a filmmaker, and she partnered with a nice guy but it wasn’t enough; she had to understand or correct the past. She staged sequences at the prom, in the lunchroom, classroom and hallways, and in her teenaged bedroom. It was a bold undertaking. She soon became focused on Joel, the one who got away, even though she only remembers a single conversation and one dance between them from Grade 6 to high school graduation. Why does she go there? She calls it an “emotional exorcism”, relief from the bad feelings she still carries in middle age. A high school reunion finds her reverting from an outgoing, smart, and confident woman to her teenage doubting self; she looks at the people and remembers their taunts. It’s hard for her and hard for us to witness. Still, her energy and desire to reset the past is intriguing and emotional plus she interviews Joel. Aldarondo has a patient partner. Would you go back in time? Nov. 8 on Crave.
Nedda Sarshar’s short film Unibrow screens Nov 11 at TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Reel Asian Film Festival and it’s a delight. Within fourteen minutes Sarshar develops lead Leyla (Lina Sennia) an Irani-Canadian girl as a free thinker, a traditional yet rebellious private school student in the GTA, who struggles between her traditional home life and school where her thoughtless patriarchal teacher seems typical, and with those complicated feelings that rise up when we are teens. Leyla cuts her nose attempting to tame that stubborn unibrow but a new schoolmate, newly arrived from Iran, offers to fix it. Leyla’s comforted by her Maman Joon (grandmother) whose deep understanding warms her bruised spirit. Sarshar’s mature direction in this subtle, moving short is empathetic, the cinematography is elegant, beautifully shot and lit. Highly recommended. Watch for more from Sarshar.
We Will Be Brave from documentarian Chrisann Hessing looks at a brotherhood of men who’ve lived with instability, difficult pasts and prejudice but they’re taking steps to turn their lives around. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ men in the West Eglinton area of Toronto got together and created the “Good Guise” collective to bravely step outside themselves and find healing, with one another’s help. The Good Guise use any manner of coping, healing, and relaxation techniques including sage smoke cleansing, yoga, group therapy, art, martial arts practice, mental health check-ins, discipline, openness, confession, sharing, and projects. They talk about suffering from loss and shame, striving for authenticity, and being able/unable to help themselves; they reach out and help each other, and through that, perhaps themselves. The group has become an ersatz family; most of them were raised by single mothers and didn’t have men to look up to as children; they now have huge holes in their knowledge of what makes a man. The conversations often steer towards the question – what is healthy masculinity, where have we gone wrong, gone right, or changed things? The Phone Artscape project, set in a park payphone, draws passersby; it’s decorated with photos of members who also perform in the booth. The project has helped widen the collective’s community of allies and documentarian Chrisann Hessing’s work will spread the word further; the Good Guise are trying hard to change for the better, and should be encouraged and embraced. Catch We Will Be Brave at the Reel Asian Film Festival on Nov.11.
On Remembrance Day, the HISTORY® Channel‘s Our War series focuses on “epic stories” of Canadians who sacrificed and contributed during the two World Wars. Shot across Canada, we meet their descendants who learn more thanks to the series’ research team. A young man about to enlist discovers his great aunt was a code-breaker with the Women’s Canadian Royal Naval Service. It digs into the war crime murder of a nurse and follows a Japanese WWII survivor who with his granddaughter delves into the dark history of Japanese internment camps in Canada and the family’s journey through the generations, finally, a son learns the truth about his father, a Royal Canadian Airforce bomb-aimer, who never spoke about his experience as a prisoner of war. uncovers the prisoner-of-war experience his father never spoke about. Also streams on STACKTV.