By Anne Brodie
In honour of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, The History Channel presents the documentary, True Story, from Eagle Vision, a comprehensive study of Indigenous history in Canada, culture, and life before and after colonialism. Kaniehtiio Horn narrates this ambitious history beginning with the Indigenous origins on Turtle Island (North America) millennia ago, the Sky Woman in Haudenosaunee. When a tree in the air was uprooted, she saw a place below with birds and animals, she fell through, landed safely on a turtle’s back, and found dirt to make the earth. There she set up life, and traditions continued to this day. This narrative differs from the Bering Land Bridge from Asia theory of their arrival in Canada, and other post-contact diminishment theories based on the white invasion of culture, and the church. Interviews with Indigenous scholars, historians, academics, and writers introduce a wide world of information. Indigenous culture in Canada is said to be 23,000 years old, with evidence in birchbark scrolls, maps, songs, healing techniques, petroglyphs, totem poles, wampum belts, all forms of recording history, and of course, oral histories. From the arrival of Europeans, the focus turns to various treaties with Indians that effectively handed over control of their lands to Canada, foreign entities, and the Hudson’s Bay Company which acted as government throughout the huge territory of Prince Rupert’s Land. We learn about the white bison genocide meant to starve Indians and the Catholic and Anglican residential schools system that so deeply, and still negatively impacts survivors and their descendants today. True Story is an eye-opener, and because it is so well made, is also a superior documentary that may promote understanding, communication, and fellowship.
Guy Maddin’s groundbreaking debut feature Tales from the Gimli Hospital restored in glorious 4K, made its second debut at TIFF22, and now moves to select theatres including TIFF Bell Lightbox. It’s gorgeously crisp, the sound pure perfection, and includes 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 of 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 88 found most audience members walking out and TIFF rejecting its inclusion in the fest that year. Different story now. Maddin a Member of the Order of Canada and a Member of the Order of Manitoba with a remarkable legacy of films, a dedicated fan base and a sterling international reputation. Tales from the Gimli Hospital Redux a must-see.In select Canadian theatres.
Sigourney Weaver is a leading real estate agent in Wendover, Massachusetts (actually Lunenberg Nova Scotia) in The Good House. Her family’s lived there since 1629 and her ancestor Sarah Good was hung in the infamous nearby Salem witch trials. She’s Hildy and she drinks a bit. Hildy finances both her daughter’s lives out of guilt; they sent her to rehab. It didn’t take. She says she was born three drinks less than comfortable, but she’s a skilled, award-winning realtor but it’s tough keeping up a sober false face. Kevin Kline is Frank, a “garbage man” and the town’s wealthiest citizen through his canny business sense; they were once lovers. The attraction resurfaces. He tells her he likes her sober and she tries, but all roads lead to the case of wine in the basement. She’s especially drunk one night and calls on him, he takes her keys, sneaks back with her spares, and hits something on the way home. Was it a missing child? How bad must things get before she commits to sobriety? This story about redemption and love and taming recklessness is a gift and Weaver’s wonderful, speaking to us directly about her reality. In theatres.
It’s a hardscrabble life on the rocky coast of Ireland. There aren’t a lot of prospects outside fishing and oyster farming, and most locals spend their free time in the pub. It’s a tight, generational community with breathtaking ocean views and equal dramatic dangers. Even the dogs know their masters face danger going out to sea. The tides are strong and deadly. A mother buries her son who was carried off by it. Such is the world of God’s Creatures, by Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer as they focus on Emily Watson’s Aileen, who cares for her father with dementia, an abusive husband, her daughters, and grandchildren. Her adored son Brian (Paul Mescal) suddenly appears at home, following a five-year silent absence in Australia. She’s delighted, the others not so much. He’s reintegrated into the community and Aileen steals equipment from her workplace so he can build illegal oyster traps. She’s then summoned by police to account for him when he’s accused of sexually assaulting a young woman; she lies, saying he was home with her. Darkness falls on the community pitting neighbour versus neighbour, family against family, and Emily her religious faith versus her lies and knowledge of her son’s true nature. Gripping, heightened tension provides the engine for this unusual character study of a woman, her son, and a community. In select theatres and TVOD Sept. 30
Sinéad O’Connor. One of the greatest pop talents of the late 80s and early 90s, an iconoclast, a pioneering feminist, an abuse survivor, and mental health advocate, and, after ripping the Pope’s photo on SNL, a pariah. Filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson’s Nothing Compares, a no-holds-barred portrait of an artist years ahead of her time, illustrates what made her a success and what happened when she had it. Her phenomenal voice had range; she used it like a caress and a weapon in the same musical phrase and brought meaning to the artfully simple lyrics she wrote. The assumption is that this ferocity comes from what she refers to but doesn’t state, crimes and abuses against her both at home and in the Roman Catholic institution she was sent to at age 14. O’Connor’s contradictory relationship with the Church included dedication and love of the Bible and God and repugnance due to church abuses of children. The doc follows her from 1987 – 1993, as she relocates to London from Ireland, finds a band and manager, makes her first record, then her second, and her rise to global superstardom. O’Connor created trouble for herself often, stating her views in conservative Ireland that didn’t sit well, creating stirs at music awards shows by speaking out against political and social ills. At once empowering and alarming, Nothing Compares reminds us how wonderful raw talent can be and that we must appreciate it and the person with the gift. Recently O’Connor converted to Islam, goes by the name Shuhada Sadaqat, and continues to tour and record. Crave Oct. 2.
They made us wait 29 years but Disney brings us back to Salem, Massachusetts (actually Providence, Rhode Island) for Anne Fletcher’s Hocus Pocus 2 another scary-go-round with our favourite bloodthirsty witches the Sanderson Sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) plus Doug Jones and others from the original. Three high schoolers (Lilia Buckingham, Belissa Escobedo, and Whitney Peak) accidentally summon the Sandersons by lighting the Black Flame Candle and all heck breaks loose. It’s Hallowe’en and the entire town turns out for Salem’s annual Scarefest, unaware the Sandersons are back and looking for delicious children like the teens who distract them with an hilarious visit to Walgreen’s for modern beauty products that will replace babies as beautifiers. And they have the advantage because they get hold of the Sisters’ book of spells and do their best to rid the world of Sandersons. Limited luck because Midler’s Winifred is just too powerful, sneaky, bossy, and relentless to go away. Midler’s fabulous theatricality is the film’s sweet spot, her delivery and physicality are off-the-charts funny and yes there are drag dance numbers! The final chapter’s a tad dark but what do you expect when you venture into the woods with a headless zombie and the Sandersons? Watch for Hannah Waddingham. On Disney+ now.
I wonder how much sugar and butter has been creamed in six seasons of The Great Canadian Baking Show. It’s back Sunday night and continues to delight with the sweet creations concocted by ten contestants vying for the Great Glass Cake Plate. Fittingly it launches with Cake Week, challenges including Friands, an Australian almond cake, Brazilian Rollo de Bolo de Rolos, a Brazilian rolled guava cake, and a breakfast-themed cake, all of which challenge the skills and spark the imagination of the competitors. Judges Bruno Feldeisen and Kyla Kennaley and hosts Alan Shane Lewis and Ann Pornel bring their lively commentary and encouragement to the bakers. CBC and CBC Gem Oct 2.