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By Anne Brodie – Léa Seydoux and George MacKay star in The Beast, from Bertrand Bonello, as lovers who meet over a century of time space, and emotion but never quite gel. Both suffer from anxiety, and panic as catastrophes happen, again and again, 1910, 1990s, 2044, wherever their narrative lands us. Seydoux’s nouvelle vague-y face acting, with plenty of artful pauses for folks to drink in those beautiful planes, is a tad exaggerated, but I get it. Louis (one of the multiple characters played by McKay) has a fetishistic attraction to her hands; he loves and protects her as best he can. They tamp down emotion in the near future AI era as the machines do the thinking for humans; Gabrielle is guided by the pleasant but empty AI presence “Nanny”. They go out dancing to 70s disco hits (disco finally gets some respect in the 2040s) and she tries to stem Gabrielle’s anxiety and certainty of impending disaster. She’s advised to return to the past to “purify” her DNA and undergo therapies in the past, and future. She’d lived in the USA with her parents as the Civil War broke out. Which one? AI saved humanity and feels her lack of passion is a kind of fulfillment. Nightmarish events, real and imagined, and dreamed, are in the end, human. A devastating, deadly flood in Europe empties cities, and death abound, whereas there are “no disasters” in the AI future where memory is willingly erased. “It’s best”, she says. McKay’s American character shows up in Los Angeles as a 30-year-old grifter and virgin with a hatred for women. Perplexing and enlightening, The Beast digs up philosophical and emotional ground; it’s outrageous, beautiful horrific, tender, ugly, and shows us ourselves at our most vulnerable, most open to and reliant upon AI. An artistic triumph that serves as a warning to the future us in a seductive, sensual black bath of enclosure and “purification”. Beware. Theatres.

Irena’s Vow tells the remarkable story of Polish nurse Irene Gut Opdyke who was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal for courage in saving Polish Jews during World War II, a story she kept secret until 1978. Louise Archambault’s tribute to Gut, starring Windsor, ON native Sophie Nélisse beggars belief. Gut was a 19-year-old Catholic living in Warsaw when the Nazis invaded, and was forced to work in an armaments factory making weapons to kill her fellow Poles. She was reassigned to the home of Nazi Capt. Rugmer (Dougray Scott) and made a life-threatening decision to hide a group of Jews in his basement. She’d overheard a plot to massacre ghetto Jews the next day so she acted fast. Ruger was to assign a Nazi orderly to assist in caring for the massive home, but she refused for fear of discovery, proving she was capable of preparing a complex party feast alone e – that is, with the Jews cooking in the basement. Her many ruses worked, moving them when necessary; lots of scares followed. When Nazi vehicles approached the group moved three stories up to the attic in mere seconds. They became adept at playing life and death hide and seek. Gut had witnessed Nazi atrocities against Jews in Warsaw’s streets and this was her way of balancing life; it could have cost hers and theirs but she persisted. Further, she was forced to marry Rugmer. She believes it is just a matter of time before he discovers her betrayal. An astonishing tale that keeps going long after the war ends, but kept quiet for decades. Theatres April 19

The team behind 2008’s Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. follows up with a new chapter Food, Inc. 2 that looks at our vulnerable food supply, brought into clear focus during COVID. Food factories were COVID hotspots, baby formula disappeared from shelves, and things were hard to come by. Providers raised prices, hence ours, banks told farmers to produce more even as they were paid less. Monopolies systems that control formula, cereals, and beef plus many more of our basic food needs no longer fit. Tremendous waste occurred, dumped milk, buried crops, and herd culls, even as we struggled to find groceries. Low-paid immigrant factory workers were not tested for COVID per company policy, desert-grown crops depended on water pumped from precious aquifers, lakes, and rivers. synthetic fertilisers waged war on nature in service to profit over sustainability chipped away at our well-being. Many farmers have second jobs because there’s not enough income, or they succumb to corporate ownership and its questionable methods. New Jersey US Senator Corey Booker points to doubling diabetes rates in the African American community which often exists in food deserts, and Pop-Tarts are cheaper than apples. There are glimmers of hope. Brazil marks its food packaging with ingredient warnings, most of Europe controls unhealthy ingredients in processed food, and non-corporate farmers are learning new ways to find viability and create healthy products. One uses a “mobile” method of farming, goats on a kind of motorized gizmo that takes them to fresh crops, where they eat, followed by pigs tilling the ground with their snouts and dropping manure to ensure more fresh crops. This is must-see viewing for anyone who eats food and is highly recommended for children and young people. Toronto (Hot Docs Cinema) and Montreal then a national rollout.

Arab Women Say What?! Is the intriguing title a new feature-length doc now available for free on the National Film Board of Canada’s streaming platform , no subscriptions or passwords are required. Nisreen Baker follows up 2016’s Things Arab Men Say, shining a light on eight Arab women living in Canada as they begin a “counter-mainstream narrative” of experiences, perspectives, and even food, with much laughter. In this vein, they jump into feminism, politics, exile, dating, stereotypes and belonging.

Despite recent administrative upheavals, Hot Docs returns from April 25 to May 5, with 168 documentaries from 64 countries in 16 programs and premieres.

Luther: Never Too Much a biography doc on Luther Vandross opens the fest which features within its The Big Ideas Series Barry Avrich’ Born Hungry

The Day Iceland Stood Still – 90% of the women walked off the job and out of their homes one morning in 1975, bringing the country to a standstill then known as “the best place in theworld to be a woman” today.

An Unfinished Journey – Four Afghani women now living in Canada – two former members of parliament, a TV reporter and a former Minister in the Afghan government – shine a light on gender apartheid against women; all four were forced to flee after the Taliban takeover and tell their stories and those of others under oppression.

Streets Loud with Echoes looks at the tragedy of Denis Ten first ever Kazakhstani figure skater to win an Olympic medal. His murder in his own country set off years of protests and generated new movements aimed at forcing the government to practice justice and work toward freedom.

Mexican Dream concerns motherhood, relationships, family, and friendship in its international premiere from Laura Plancarte, as Maria Magdalena experiences IVF, estrangement and the threat of job loss, she begins to build her own business with the support of the communities and loved ones.

A New Kind of Wilderness follows the Paynes who live off the land in a Norwegian forest “to be wild and free”. The family of six is self-sufficient including home schooling. But tragedy strikes forcing them out of their comfort zone; forcing them to consider their choices, responsibilities and loss.

Among other guests and storytellers – director Pete Sillen and subjects Martine and Bina Rothblatt of Love Machina; co-directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau and subjects Julia Botelho Morgan and Amber Forte of Fly; director Gary Hustwit of Eno; and director Lucy Lawless of Never Look Away. The Special Presentations world premieres of Red Fever, which sees Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond travel to the four corners of Turtle Island and across Europe to explore the world’s fascination with Native Americans and pure catnip for many of us out there, American Cats: The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly, The Ride Ahead, from Samuel Habib, Lost in the Shuffle, with world champion magician Shawn Farquhar as he simultaneously devises a new trick and delves into a medieval murder cold case; Le Mans 55: The Unauthorized Investigation, which explores the tragic Le Mans race in 1955 where more than 80 spectators were killed. Other crammed programmes include the Canadian Spectrum Competition, the International Competition, Festival Favourites, Made In Spain, World Showcase Breaking the Cycle, The Pop/Life, Nightvision, Persister, Land|Sky|Sea, Emergence, a new program highlighting our relationship with technology and AI, The Changing Face of Europe,  and The Art of Resistance. A very special event, a free commemorative screening of Mighty Jerome in memory of the work and legacy of Charles Officer, with some of his closest collaborators and friends in attendance.  And watch for special “surprise screenings”!



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