By Anne Brodie
Delighted to report that Guy Maddin’s groundbreaking debut feature Tales from the Gimli Hospital Redux now restored in glorious 4K, will make its second debut at TIFF, thanks to Telefilm Canada, TIFF, and distributor Ron Mann, who describes it as ” including the replacement of a long-lost scene of the 1988 cult classic about blistering lust and seething envy during a 19th-century epidemic ravaging Gimli, a small Icelandic-Canadian fishing village on the shores on Lake Winnipeg.” Inspired by silent and early film techniques and film scores, Maddin’s ultra-surreal style and story are miles from home, figuratively speaking, and an important landmark in experimental film. Maddin told me recently that early screenings in 1988 found most audience members walking out and TIFF rejecting its inclusion in the fest that year. Different story now. Maddin is a Member of the Order of Canada and a Member of the Order of Manitoba with a legacy of iconoclastic films, a dedicated fan base and a sterling international reputation. Tales from the Gimli Hospital Redux screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sat, Sept. 10th, at 3 pm with Guy Maddin in attendance.
David Bowie’s estate handed documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen 5 million assets for his tidal wave of a film Moonage Daydream. The TIFF entry looks as though he used every one of them in this look at David Bowie from life to his death; it’s a brain-melting experience, overwhelming us with stimulating light, sound, and visions rarely seen in a documentary. It’s a sprawling look at the polymath’s artistic and personal journey, and what seems a total personal transformation he underwent in his fifties. We witness “unseen” performances, follow Bowie through a maze of tours as he’s swarmed by fans, or avoiding them altogether while teasing them walking about in the open – he says he liked to put himself in the middle of chaos to see if he could survive and is attracted to chaos. Although late in life he owned homes, he never bought one as a young to middle-aged, fabulously wealthy person, preferring to travel. It’s interesting to watch his interactions with interviewers over his lifetime, most challenging or disagreeing with their ideas and rejecting their questions, and in his later years, engaging in meaningful and frequent philosophical/religious /spiritual conversations. One of the chief highlights of Moonage Daydream is the artwork Bowie made of himself through costuming, makeup, movement, and lighting, always lighting, as his “characters” over the years. And then in his final years, simple well-cut shirts and trousers. His era-defining music speaks for itself. It premieres at TIFF on Sept. 12th at 9:30 pm at Cinesphere, before opening in select IMAX theatres on Sept.16th, and wide in theatres across Canada on Sept. 23rd.
A quirky, memorable and even irritating lead can make for a successful film! Isaiah Lehtinen is Lawrence in I Like Movies a comedy-drama about a disaffected high school cinephile who gets a job at Sequels Video in Brampton, based on the experiences of filmmaker Chandler Levack who worked at Blockbuster. Lawrence is a really bright kid, but a poor student obsessed with films. He realises that hard work could make him a successful person, like those kids getting diplomas onstage, so he applies himself and becomes one of them in order to study film at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts. He has difficult relationships with his bestie Matt, his widowed mother, and well, everyone. He’s scathing, dropping verbal bombs without considering the feelings of those bombed. For instance, he tells Matt (Percy Hynes White) he was only a placeholder friend and is surprised and angry when Matt gets a girlfriend and abandons him. Lawrence’s long-suffering mother refuses to pay his overdue debt at Sequels so he charms his way into a job there. His boss (Romina D’Ugo) feels sorry for him. It turns out his verbal sparring and showing off is a shell under which lies a lonely young man. This character study, tell-all, and comedy-drama seems fun ‘n’ games to start but develops complexity and emotional power in deep ways. Terrific slow burn. In TIFF‘s Discovery series.
Rising star, writer, director, and actor Devery Jacobs, a Mohawk from Kahnawa, tackles coming-of-age on multiple levels in the TIFF Discovery entry This Place. She is Kawenniióhstha, on a voyage of self-discovery that brings her to Toronto after a lifetime on the reservation. She grapples with the opposite of the sum of her experiences, separation from her mother, and falls in love with Malai played by Priya Guns, a Tamil from Sri Lanka. They don’t consider themselves Canadian or Sri Lankan due to historic government atrocities including genocide against their people; a connection between them. and to further complicate matters, Kawenniióhstha is furious with her mother for not telling her father that she was born; she finds him (Ali Momen). And Malai’s long-estranged father is dying so she goes to him. These young women experience the crumbling of a mountain of stored emotion and resentment which leads them to their truths. Toronto is well-represented.
Tanya Tagaq and Chelsea McMullan’s absolutely shattering National Film Board documentary Ever Deadly spotlights Taqaq’s otherworldy throat singing in concert, intercut with the harsh, and otherworldly environs of Canada’s northerly Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), Nunavut where she grew up and remains today when she’s not on global tours. The Inuk performance artist’s concert is something to behold. I’ve seen videos and single performances but never a full concert and I’m not sure my heart could take that emotional spiritual and cultural profundity. But I’d like to try. Her music and personal, daily life on the shale shores of our Arctic coast are the primary focuses, but we learn of Taqaq’s activities, ranging from MMIWG to defending the seal hunt as a tradition and necessity for people living where there are no stores! The land is ever deadly, extremely dangerous, but real, she tells us. She walks over the shale and expresses her appreciation for the shimmering sound it makes, promising to add it to her next album. Through her elders, we learn of the Great Relocation when the Canadian government lured the Inuit population to new locations, promising food, education, and care only to find none of it. The government then took ownership of their land for its natural resources. Taqaq is a member of the Order of Canada, Polaris Music Prize and JUNO Award winner, for her singing and avant-garde composing and songwriting, although “song” seems too tight a definition for the ecstatic, pain-filled, gorgeous soundscape she produces. What an experience. In English, Inuktitut at TIFF.
The National Film Board‘s nearly 8-minute animated short The Flying Sailor (Le matelot volant) is gripping in its ferocity, simplicity, lyricism, and humour, it’s a rush of emotions, woven together, dreamlike. But it’s the true story of a man blown two kilometres through the air in the 6 December 1917 Halifax Explosion. Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’s 2D and 3D little miracle opens as a sailor witnesses the collision of two ships in the harbour, the explosion, the flying man’s ringing ears, and the chaos inside the guts of the man in flight. His clothes fly off as he seems to float over Halifax. His mind shows him a little boy in the grass, then the fish flying next to him, and then he’s drawn up, up, then down hurtling towards an exploding city. This is true; the film is an extraordinarily visceral experience.
Medieval in theatres today, follows the legendary Czech general Jan Zizka, a fifteenth-century warlord who defeated armies of the Teutonic Order and the Holy Roman Empire and is a national hero today in his homeland. He lived a relatively long life from 1360 – 1424 considering his position when the warring nations of Europe fought relentless battles for territory. Ziska was a Radical Hussite who led the Taborites when the area was torn apart by “violence tyranny, intrigues, power struggles… after the death of the Bohemian King”. Famine and endless chaos were the order of the day complicated by religious upheaval. There were two Popes, one in Rome, the other in Avignon, France. And intermarriage in royal circles, meant for landgrabs and power created an even more volatile environment, the search was on for a new Emporer to unite Europe. Ben Foster plays Zizka, Sophie Lowe Lady Katherine, a royal kidnapped by Zizka’s army, Michael Caine is Lord Boresh with Matthew Goode, cast against type as the vicious King Sigismond. It’s extremely complicated for those of us who aren’t familiar with medieval European history, and there is much to be learned so attention must be paid. It’s fast-paced, and gruesome reflecting life in that period and interesting.
Say hi to Season 2 of Reservation Dogs on Disney + the sassy sitcom about life on the rez, shot in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and starring a whole lot of Canadians, picks up after the tornado blows through. As roofers get busy and demolitions begin, Willie Jack (Paulina Jacobs) must reverse a curse to get her life back on track, such as it is. Elora (Devery Jacobs) and Jackie ” (Elva Guerra) are determined to get out of Dodge to the promised land – California but they should have put more thought into ways and means. Elora’s car breaks down and their attempt to steal one results in being terrorised by racist rifle-totin’ backcountry boys. A man picks them up but that ends in disaster and he pushes them out without their bags or money In the middle of nowhere. Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) is abandoned by Elora and attempts to grow up but looking to Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer) is a misstep. He finally lands a job roofing where he’s put teased by the team and taken under Leon’s (Jon Proudstar) wing where he’s actually taught what to do and how to navigate life. All this as Spirit (Dallas Goldtooth) looks on. The language is blue, that’s a given, but the writing is top level, elevating the ordinary, taking the mickey out of bad choices and reflecting the heart and soul of this tight-knit community like any other and also unlike any other. What a treat. And the music!!!