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4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days



2.5 or more for a noteworthy film
3.5 for an exceptional film
4 for a classic.

1.4 -- THE SKY ABOVE, Sérgio Borges
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] A hybrid of documentary and fiction filmmaking, this non-narrative feature follows three distinct individuals through their day-to-day lives, showing them at home, at work, and in transit, enabling director Borges to showcase much of the beauty of Brazil. Unfortunately, that’s about all he does, as the films fails to build any kind of momentum or develop any sense of thematic purpose. Stories are not necessarily crucial to quality cinema, but when there’s nothing else of note in the film -- whether on a visual or thematic level --– the lack of a forward-propelling plot becomes all the more glaring. And that’s just the problem here, as the low-grade digital cinematography and rather uninteresting lives of these ordinary people (one of them even a transvestite prostitute!) leads to a terribly boring experience all-around. Boredom is not usually a valid criticism or reason for disliking a film, but in this case, it’s unfortunately the best descriptor. What a shame. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Brazilian Film Festival.

2.6 -- DIRTY HEARTS, Vicente Amorim
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] An account of Japanese immigrants in Brazil immediately following the end of the Second World War, this film details the problems the immigrants faced after Japan’s surrender, both within their own community and newly adopted country. Less a tale of Brazil than an insightful look at the highly honourable and divisive Japanese culture, it nonetheless tells a compelling story of the old guard clashing with the new, and how Japan’s defeat in WWII had wide-ranging consequences, even for those who had emigrated. By showing the conflict between those who refused to admit (or simply did not believe) that Japan had lost the war, and those who accepted this fact and simply wished to move on with their lives, director Amorim explores the far-reaching effects of war, and slyly decries it by showing a different kind of battle -- one much smaller, but no less bloody. Though it drags at times, and Amorim’s techniques aren’t always subtle, this is still a rather affecting and memorable work, albeit one that could’ve used a bit more refining and polishing. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Brazilian Film Festival.

3.0 -- THE CLOWN, Selton Mello
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] This critical darling (and Brazil’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at next year’s ceremony) is a fun, light-hearted tale of a traveling circus troupe and, specifically, second-generation clown Benjamin (played by director Mello himself), who longs for a better, or at least different, life. Having performed alongside his father, an experienced clown, for years, Benjamin yearns for something new, and eventually leaves the circus to explore the real world. Benjamin’s journey thus forms the heart and soul of the narrative, which is primarily concerned with physical comedy (the circus acts themselves) and linguistic humour (some of which is likely lost in translation). Nonetheless, this is not an overly serious film, and thus a refreshing change of pace from the other films at the festival. Like other circus movies before it (including, but not limited to, Tod Browning’s "Freaks", Ingmar Bergman’s :Sawdust and Tinsel," Alejandro Jodorowsky’s "Santa Sangre," and Tim Burton’s "Big Fish"), director Mello is not afraid to capture and depict the inherent strangeness of circus life (and its performers) however, his depiction is never critical nor judgmental, only genuine, and thus his film remains small and simple, though no less affecting. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Brazilian Film Festival.

3.0 -- THE BERLIN YEARS 1984-1992, Dagma Schultz
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Well-known Afro-American lesbian poet, Audre Lorde, goes to Berlin to assist Afro-German women to create a voice, cohesion and strong identity for themselves. She hooks up to the university there and several groups of writers and activists and initiates. Some of these women get together to write a book on the topic. Lorde is keen to involve white women from Berlin in a special meeting. She urges them to fight against racism and that differences between black and white women will remain if silence isn't broken. She attracts a lot of women to her side, as she is articulate and strong and very lively. Her hope is to have all Afro-German women unite though they all are different. Some of these black women can trace their roots in Germany as far back as the 1600s. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

3.0 -- LES INVISIBLES, Sebastien Lifshitz
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A close-up and personal kind of documentary that lets us into the lives of six gay and lesbian old time couples -- well into their seventies -- who reveal their coming out stories. It is very funny watching them interact with their partners -- especially the old men who natter at each other. In the documentary, there is also one man who is bisexual. He has the best message of all -- don't ask why; just enjoy. All the people we meet live in France. The countryside is beautiful, their own rural lives have given them longevity and happiness, even if it was a long journey to get there. Old photographs and film clips help to piece together the autobiographical stories each one tells. In the film one 83-year-old man is bisexual. He lives alone -- his own choice. He is a shepherd. He has the best message: don't ask why you homosexual; just accept it and enjoy. It's about love and nothing more. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

3.8 -- THE INVISIBLE MEN, Yariv Mozer
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A documentary where Israel and Palestine have one thing in common: the intense persecution of gays. Louis is Palestinian, but lives in Israel illegally. He has no permit to work or live there. Every day he hides from police because he is gay. His father who works in Israel tried to kill him for being gay, and he is often hunted down by the police. Louis and two other gays are the focus of this film that tracks their plight. Louis reluctantly gets asylum in an undisclosed Western country, as does his friend Abdu -- introduced to him by the leader of an organization that helps gays in the Middle East escape persecution. They take them through the process of seeking asylum. This small band of crusaders works outs of Tel Aviv University. So sad is it to leave Israel for Louis, he cries for the land he loves and may not see for a long time, once he begins his life anew in a cold climate with pople who don't speak Hebrew or Arabic. In fact, gays live like dogs in junk yards or hovel apartments taking each day as it comes. To be gay in Palestine is a living nightmare. To escape to Israel without permits, and being gay is a double risk. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A lesbian affirmation documentary, despite disconnected editing, details the important growth of the movement. There are many interviews with lesbians who candidly reveal what it means for them to live with other women in all-female communities, and the mirth that empowers them to declare and live as a lesbian. The energy and diverse challenges and talents within the lesbian culture are explored. The film condemns patriarchy and our society whose laws come from them, along with the violence, disrespect and abuse against women that seem to mark every patriarchal society. It discusses Jewish lesbianism and reveals that within lesbian separatism, there is anti-Semitism. It also reveals the obstacles that one faces as a black lesbian whose issues white lesbians are only beginning to understand. We meet some interesting women who have rejected their marriages after decades to join the separatist lesbian communities that are across the United States. These communities sometimes comprise a large piece of land where women build together their houses, shop and care for one another. It seems to be a 'femaletopeia.' The film shows the joy and comfort women experience without living with men. The film also talks about women who are lesbian but who wish to live with men and continue to fight abuse. So many lesbian leaders are authors, singers, dancers and poets. Leaders such as Gloria Escomel, Louise Tourcotte and Nicole Brossard form in the ranks of those who have pioneered and championed the lesbian cause and culture. Professor Lise Well and radio personality Laura Yaros and Marilyn Frye explain the significance of being a politicized lesbian. Oodles of brilliant books have been written about the movement and the whys of the lesbian culture. I was particularly impressed by the Buddhist American woman living in Vermont in a beautiful all-wood cottage in nature. As well, the Alabama Terre des femmes community was paradise -- as many of them seem to be as they continue to flourish in North America. There are so many lesbianism-demystifying facets in this fine film, I'm tempted to go down to Alabama for a while to live in nature and with those who celebrate your existence as a woman. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

3.8 -- MELTING AWAY, Namess Ba'geshem
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Assaf wants desperately to be a girl, but Shlomo, his super-macho, rather mean-hearted father kicks him out of the house after he discovers jewelry and bras pinned to the underside of his teenage son's mattress. There Assaf is standing in the rain crying for his mother to let him in, but the door never opens. Four years pass, and we meet stunning Anna (formerly Assaf) in a club, now a gorgeous woman singing. The mother misses her son and has hired a friend detective to hunt him down. That is when we first see the transformation when the detective enters the club with Assaf's best friend. He too has been tracked down to help give information as to Assaf's whereabouts. He is gay -- another interesting story in this film. The detective refuses to tell the mother anything about her son's new life, but tells her to back off and let her son come to her. But the mother must inform her son that the father has cancer and is dying. When the detective visits Anna to tell her about the illness, she feigns indifference. In the next scene, we see Anna introducing herself to her father lying in the hospital bed. She tells him she is the nurse hired by the insurance company to care for him and keep him company. When Shlomo's brother meets Anna, he comes on to her. Days later, the mother recognizes her son in Anna. She is appalled, and visits her telling her not to tell the father, as it will upset him. The uncle also visits her and tries to beat her up. As Anna and her father become close, the film gives us a surprise as great as Assaf's new appearance. This film touches upon parental rejection of gays and transgenders, and the final acceptance of the issue. The subplots are marvelous in this story that artfully unfolds with real-life transgender actor/model Yanni magnificently leading the way. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

 2.4 -- MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, Michael Shane
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A slight deviation from the novel by Gore Vidal, this campy, yet provocative 1970's film introduces a science fiction surgery room where Myron ( Rex Reed) is about to lose his private part with the hope of becoming Myra (Raquel Welch) and changing the world by ball busting every male that exists in order to create a new, perfect world. In fact, as Myra, he is as aggressive as an alligator on the attack. Myra is cocky gorgeous and really smart. She's a pit-bull business woman who tries to overtake the acting studio in Hollywood run by Buck (John Huston). She runs acting classes and makes good on her vow by humiliating every male around, focusing particularly on one stud who is in love with his lovely lady girlfriend (Farrah Fawcett). As nurse Myra trying to correct a back problem on her stud, she emasculates him in the most sexually vile way, and she then tries to seduce his girlfriend. The uber-campy Mae West plays a top acting agent who also uses the stud as she likes -- sent to her compliments of Myra. All around the theatre grounds, people are engaging in love acts when not listening to anti-communist propaganda espoused by Buck and his colleagues. Raquel Welch doesn't miss a second of perfect acting for the camera. She really had talent. The film is delightful as it sends up its own message: it splices black and white clips from the old movies -- talkies and silent classics -- in reaction to lines and events going on within the film itself. "Myra Breckinridge" is a cult classic which offers juicy jolly viewing. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

3.8 -- HORS LES MURS, David Lambert
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Imagination + Nation, now in its 25th year, is a festival is screening over 100 films this year, including such riveting documentaries as "Call me Kuchu'," "Emergency Exit," and "Lesbomundo." A gamut of gay topical films, including shorts and features effectively and artistically subvert the stereotypic collective consciousness most of the population holds on homosexuality. One example of a totally compelling film that depicted gay love inexorably glued to life's gritty realities is the film "Hors les Murs." I was moved by the gut-wrenching performances and plot in this film which was co-production: Canada, France and Belgium.

After seeing the film, I spoke to a gay couple who candidly explained that the tortuous love affair revealed in the film and the situation that imploded from it was completely credible, but that it was outside their own personal experience as a gay couple. Both young men told me that in various pockets of gay communities, all kinds of obsessive and unhealthy experiences happen. Gays are driven by the same yearnings as heterosexuals: the need to connect, feel loved and exalt in joy. Indeed, as this film shows, gay love is not solely a sexual beast. Its source can be found in the need to survive, the quest for stability and the desire to 'fit in' without fear of ostracism. This movie touches upon these aspects of the gay culture, as well as highly profound emotions that affect gay love.. Above all, it tells a story of two men brought together by sheer happenstance and circumstances that both solidify and sunder apart their budding love. Sound familiar? Though we wish for a different ending in the film, it is one of the most powerful to stride across the screen in this festival -- North America's largest and one that attracts an exciting mix of really interesting people striving to make this world a far more just one.

Paulo falls madly in love with Ilir, a bartender at a small club who also plays guitar. Paulo had gotten drunk, and Ilir, who didn't know the young blond-haired man, takes him to his home to ensure he will be ok. Paulo seems schooled in the ways of gay sex, and he is quite taken by Ilir who comes from Albania. Ilir, however, is reluctant to get involved with his new human puppy who offers himself up so easily. But they laugh so much, and are good for one another they eventually embrace each other. In fact, Ilir did not have much choice to take it slow, since shortly after meeting Paulo, this blond beauty's girlfriend kicks him out of her apartment when she realizes he has no interest in her at all. Paulo has no place to go, so he heads for Illir's apartment. Ilir really does not want to live with him, but he accepts. What follows is a tortuous series of events.

Illir leaves on a trip; Paulo eagerly awaits his return, but he never shows up. Finally, he gets a letter form his lost lover. It reveals Illir is in prison for bringing drugs across the border. Paulo is beside himself. But he is a great and loyal boyfriend. Illir's slow descent includes rejecting Paulo's' obsessive visits. He feels seeing him makes him weak, which does not help him survive in prison. He forbids further visits. Paulo takes up with the owner of a sex shop owner who takes good care of him though their sex involves Paulo being subjected to some painful moments (S & M). Paulo seems to be a parasite. But he certainly has a heart of gold. One day, Paulo receives a call from Ilir requesting him to visit him once more in the prison -- though it's been months since he hadn't returned to see his ex-lover. He wants Paulo to smuggle in cocaine. Paulo is still in love with him, so he consents. Illir swallows the tiny plastic pieces in which the cocaine is wrapped. Illir who now has skin cancer has changed. No longer is he virile and happy; he is poor and sick. Finally, Illir gets out of prison and visits Paulo at the shop where they used to hang out -- the one owned by Paulo's present lover. Everything that Illir once knew has changed, too. Paulo has become a rich, dandy and his stunning boyish innocence has been replaced with studied coldness. His new lover has taken good care of him. Still, Paulo books a room for them in a swanky hotel, but is unable to be with Illir. He has made his choice. The reversal of roles and fortune is most striking. This is films is about a gut-wrenching love story between two men who fall in love, but bad luck and wrong decisions have sealed each of their fates. They will not be together again. In the end, both cry -- Paulo is walking down the street from the hotel; Ilir is standing on the balcony of the hotel room watching his ex-lover on the street below. Tears and regret are all that is left for Ilir, and perhaps for Paulo as well.

This remarkable film offers great acting. Matila Malliarakis put in a profound performance as Paulo. Guillaume Goulx as Ilir expressed the turbulent push and pull of love's emotional angst while portraying a smiling character ready for a joke that masks secrets and sadness. What a great movie! This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

3.8 -- STRUCK BY LIGHTNING, Brian Dannelly
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] High-school wannabe literary genius, Carson Philips (wonderfully acted by 'Glee's' Chris Colter) wants more than anything than to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The only problem is he is head of Clover High School newspaper that no one writes for -- let alone reads. He lives with a pill-popping mom, and his grand mom has Alzheimer's. She always tells him about her grandson who started a short story about a boy -- a boy who wanted to fly. Of course she is referring to Carson himself, but she is too far gone to connect the dots. This is a film of comedic hilarity with a serious message. The movie opens with Carson leaving to go home, but in the school yard he is struck by lightning and instantly killed. One big flashback about his life comprises the entire movie. His dream is to get into Northwestern University for journalism. The film pits him against many funny and mean characters: a cheerleader bimbo, two football fools, a best friend who plagiarizes brilliant writers, two gay guys who pretend to be macho and a Goth girl who barely talks. Carson has to deal with them all, but the biggest challenge is finding out that Northwestern University will only accept him if he comes up with a novel idea to showcase his writing, so he starts a literary magazine for which he must find funding and students willing to contribute their stories. No one does -- until Carson digs up all the dirt on many of them in order to blackmail them into writing for the magazine. Carson finds out his mother actually tore up the acceptance letter into the university, and he is devastated. There are so many funny characters in this movie with a realistic ending. In the end, he realizes that life is about the now, and that each day is special, that we must live with what we have. His mother is really in the villain in this story -- a depressive woman who ensures no one will succeed -- not even her own son. Her nemesis is losing him. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

1.3 -- CLOWN, Selton Mello
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Benjie and Waldemar are the clown duo Pangaré and Puro Sangue. Benjie has no social insurance number or proof of residence. Such is the life of a clown stuck in an aimless clan of circus performers. The tiny circus which is owned by his dad goes from town to town performing the same tired, boring acts. Benjie is fed up with his clown life. He leaves to get a nine-to-five job in some city after he finally gets his ID paper. But in the end, he returns to the life of a clown, joining his dad and the other pathetic members of the troupe. This film was boring, but the lead actor, Paulo José plays irony well. He is quite endearing, so he deserves a far better script that shows his tragic-comedy talent in a far more appealing film that doesn't drag on. After ten minutes of watching, you wanted the act to be over. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Brazilian Film Festival.

3.0 -- EMERGENCY EXIT, Mathieu Orcel van Velzen
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A charming documentary that introduces us to several Argentine gay couples -- some who have married, some who are with to transgendered partners. Some are very young; others in their golden years. They all have love in their heart for their partners. Their emergency exit is their safe haven. For one transgender, it's a shelter where she tends to Aids patients; for others it's a comfy apartment where their union can be sanctified as a married couple. Two lesbians are working together in a butcher business they have opened; another couple met as forest rangers in the park they oversee. Argentina allows for marriage, but transgenders face a problem because their ID card shows their male name, given at birth. It is interesting to hear their stories about how they met, their struggles and their courage to come out it -- a metaphor of an emergency exit where freedom to express love exists. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

3.8 -- CALL ME KUCHU, Katherine Fairfax-Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Ugandan President David Bahati is about to pass his anti-gay Bill. Support is given to him by several US fundamentalist (homophobic) groups along with the manager of Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper (no relation to the one in New York). This newspaper manager publishes outrageous fiction about gays, depicting them as freaks, men who coerce boys into sex. He along with the government also claims they are terrorists who belong to Joseph Kony’s Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Liberation Army. Support for the Bill is further boosted by ‘The Family’ -- a US-based evangelical movement whose key members travel to Uganda to fuel the hatred. In fact, the Bill will imprison for three years anyone who does not come forward to identify a gay person he or she might know. When noble crusaders such as David Koto along with lesbian activist friend protest the passing of the Bill going to the High Court, he is murdered -- and just when it appeared, the Bill will not be passed due to UN pressure and media. David had started a communal farm for gays, often giving food to all poor villagers, and had presented a case against this Bill to the High Court, thereby gathering global support form the UN and the media. Although David’s friends are taking up the gay gauntlet, they live in fear, but they persist. One feels that hope in this anti-gay country is covered in a massive lethally legal layer of gloom. This documentary follows David and his friends who crusade against the reign of terror against gays. Lesbians are raped and often forced to abort, even if they want to continue the pregnancy. Gays must party in secret, and work in the dark as Uganda continues to persecute all homosexuals. This country’s draconian dark-age mentality is most disturbing and dangerous for all mankind gay or not! This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Image + Nation film festival.

2.2 -- FATHER'S CHAIR, Luciano Moura
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Theo and his wife Branca are arguing terribly. Theo still loves his wife and does not accept the divorce she wants. Their 15-year-old son Pedro enters the house to hear the rage. The only bright thing in this cauldron of anger is the arrival of a new chair -- a present for Pedro from his grandfather -- Theo's father -- but Theo proceeds to smash it. His fury escalates when he sees his wife does not agree with sending their son away against his will to New Zealand to continue his studies. Pedro disappears one day, and Theo sets out to find him. He discovers Pedro has rented a black horse. The search takes Theo on his own journey across two states in Brazil. He travels in his car, on foot, even ends up in a field and on a stationary boat -- all because he is tracking his son down to bring him home. We watch the slow unraveling of a man who madly loves his son. In searching Pedro's bedroom, she discovers her son draws horses, and has been illustrating letters sent to him by his grandfather. Pedro is a great artist. He in fact is staying at his grandfather's house. Theo finds him and reconciles in an instant with Pedro along with his own father whom he hasn't seen in years. The film starts out in a compelling manner, but Theo's search lags into boredom for us. We want him to find his son, not because we care, but because we want the film to finish. This film was screened at Montreal's 2012 Brazilian Film Festival.


4.0 -- PORCO ROSSO, Hayao Miyazaki
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A brilliant 1992 animation work from the director's amazing Ghibli Studio (move over Walt Disney). This classic wonder introduces us to Marco Porcellino, a lone bounty hunter who flies the skies in his beloved vintage airplane to combat Fascist pigs who are sky pirates in the Adriatic. Porco, in fact, is a real pig who seems to resemble an English bulldog version of Winston Churchill. His character is a lovable, cynical loner who laps it up on a secluded beach hidden in a cove -- when he is not fueling up his plane to beat down the bad guys. Indeed, he takes nothing too seriously, but when they go after his friends, watch out! He is in love with Gina and is awfully fond of a clever girl named Fio who builds another plane for him -- with the help of her endless line-up of female relatives -- when his vintage plane is shot down by Donald Curtiss, a wannabe Hollywood star who sides with the pirates. He also wants to rule the United States and wins Gina's heart. Eventually, Curtiss and Porco duke it out in the skies and in the sea (a brilliant scene); Porco wins the match. He flies off into the blue skies, but we are left wondering how he became a pig in the first place. The story mentions his transformation without giving away the reason. But that is part of the mystery and depth in this film. The characterizations are brilliant; the cinematic animation breathtakingly inspiring (note the flashback when Porco, a handsome man, passes out in the sky, where he is surrounded by his dead flying buddies who once again are manning their cockpits: the scene evokes the silence and beauty of eternity). Disney revamped the film using Michael Keaton as the voice for Porco, replacing Jean Reno who voiced the French version several years ago. "Porco Rosso" is a timeless universal film that vividly recreates glimpses into Italy's Fascist period during the 1930s, all the while giving us the wonderful personal story of flying pig. He is a timeless, meaty hero, and I would hightail it with him anytime danger enters my life. Despite his appearance, you can't help but join the list of ladies whose hearts he has broken. Please, may I have more Porco Rosso! From Animation Masterpieces of Studio Ghibli. It runs from April 13th to May 3rd.

1.9 -- PEOMETEO DEPORTAD, Fernando Mieles
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Planeloads of Ecuadorans arriving in Spain are shoved into a holding room that ends up being their living quarters for days. No one is there to assist them; no one is there to read them their rights. Sounds like a movie destined to be a diabolical drama? No way! It is an absurd piece of drivel. Stereotypical characters lost in the 'invisible' realm they themselves call Ecuador, they form a civilized orderly line-up so that food is distributed evenly, and no one goes amiss. The main group consists of an Olympic swimmer, a doctor, a trio of sisters, one of whom suffers from dementia, a magician, a wannabe model, a middle class couple, a writer and more. Eventually, fighting over food erupts and a violent dictatorial situation ensues. To the viewer's relief (at the end of this absurd parody on Ecuador and Spain), everyone in the chaotic room steps into the magician's magic trunk; they all disappear. In this film, invisibility is a blessing. Was the filmmaker attempting to hold up a satiric mirror to his own people? The Orwellian "Animal Farm" scenario replicating Ecuador's own struggle of impoverishment and power failed to move anyone watching this film. The only action we chose to take was the odd giggle amidst a big long yawn. This film played at the Latin American Film Festival (Montreal).

1.4 -- TODAY I FELT NO FEAR, Ivan Fund
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The director of this go-nowhere film should feel a lot of fear if he has left his day job in order to make films. Fund is no fund of imagination, judging by this film which follows two sisters and their family in a series of unrelated, repetitive scenes. We watch them sew, party, ride on a motorcycle, meet their dad, go to a fortune teller and live out their very small lives within a rural Argentine area. We also meet the older generation drinking, visiting a swamp area and being tested for dementia. Fund has held up a video camera to the people in his life; even he is filmed along with his small crew. But the results are incredibly boring and meaningless to the audience. In fact, this film crosses out Argentina as a place to visit -- at least if you thought you might want to see the daily side of limited lives. There is such a thing as a film that brilliantly conveys content within a natural style, but this type of film demands an incredibly skilled filmmaker who merges plot and people within a moving context. This was not the case of the film I sat through for two hours; it was without artistic merit or interest. This film played at the Latin American Film Festival (Montreal).

3.0 -- MY FIRST WEDDING, Ariel Galardi
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This adorable Argentine absurd comedy is a pre-wedding fiasco. The Jewish groom Adrian and his bride-to-be Leonora find out that happiness is not about wedding rings, religion or flashy style, but good old down-to-earth chivalry and true love. The problem begins when Adrian tosses the marriage ring up in the air long before the ceremony gets under way, and loses it somewhere within a radius of hundreds of walls and flowers on the grounds of the estate where the marriage is to take place in a few hours. Most of the movie is about his attempts to retrieve it by shutting off water pipes, going down a well, climbing walls and down them. To make matters worse, the rabbi and the priest end up getting lost, thanks to Adrian. In order to derail the ceremony, he gives the taxi driver whose passengers are the two religious leaders -- the wrong directions. It's a true comedy of intentional errors where destiny overcomes chaos, and love prevails. It's a light-hearted film that shows off the wit and understated delivery of Argentine actor, Daniel Hendler. His boyish charm slips a wedding ring on any gal's finger. This film played at the Latin American Film Festival (Montreal).

4.0 -- CHICO AND RITA, Tono Errando, Javier Marsical, Fernando Trueba
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This superb animation is an uber-love story that coyly unites two lovers as they discover their mutual need to make music together (Chico is the pianist and Rita is the singer), then sunders them apart through jealousy, misunderstandings, hot tempers and performance engagements in New York, Nevada and Paris. But they finally reunite in their old age, thanks to the tenacity of Chico who constantly tracks down la Belle Rita. The story is told within the setting of the Batista era when Tito Puente and so many greats brought Cuban music onto the international scene. When Chico is framed by Rita's New York agent on a drug charge, he is deported to Cuba -- the very day he was to meet up with Rita in Nevada and marry her. He returns to a new Cuba of revolutionary fervor, and is relegated to becoming a shoe shine fellow. One day, his old piano is brought to the hall where he used to play and a beautiful young girl gets him playing again as she sings his trademark song, Lily. What is utterly remarkable about this story, is not only the musicians we meet along the way, such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, but the entire film is based on a true story. The singers representing Rita and her daughter were incandescent. They were Eman Xor Ona and Limara Meneses. This film played at the Latin American Film Festival (Montreal).

3.3 -- TIERRA MADRE, Roberto Dylan Verrechia
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Worthy of its ten international awards, this true-story film introduces Aidee Gonzalez, who raises her two children with her female lover in the border town of Tecate. Both are strip-tease dancers, and both women are highly independent and dedicated to one another -- until Aidee's partner goes to live with the father of her new-born baby. It seems that her lesbianism takes a side seat to her desire to raise her family in a traditional manner. This documentary film features all the people who impacted on Aidee's life; they all play who they are; no actors here. It is a compelling story that realistically breaks the stereotype of the unliberated Mexican woman. Such an unusual story, the black and white film courageously is revealed by the main character as she strips off every layer of her person and persona to show us the truth behind a daring life full of despair, hope, humour and generosity. In the end, Aidee ensures her children of a life far better than she has had. This 2010 film was a feature in Montreal's small but superb New Mexican Film Festival.

4.0 -- PRESUMED GUILTY, Roberto Hernandez & Geoffrey Smith
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Every person working in Mexico's justice system ought to see this documentary. But that will never happen. In fact, the film was banned in the country, but was eventually allowed to be shown. It is the highest grossing documentary in Mexican film history. It closely follows the tragic plight of Antonio, who has been wrongly accused of a murder. Without proper legal protocol, he is thrown into jail. In fact, this is what happens in 95% of arrests. He gets two lawyers to assist him in obtaining freedom. With a camera inside his jail which later tracks the goings-on inside the tiny little office where his trial is held -- after two years of rotting in jail -- we watch another lawyer who will speak for him and attempt to rip apart the false testimony given by Victor, a witness of ill repute, along with the horrific detective and his evil cohorts who pulled him off the street to make the arrest. All are liars, and as Antonio's lawyer attempts to ask pertinent relevant questions, the equally evil judge denies him any recourse to reassess the lies in the file on Antonio. Rather, the judge simply forces the benevolent and highly courageous lawyer to ask questions that have nothing to do with seeking his client's freedom. The female prosecutor looks like a tiny hunchback of Notre Dame as she sits laughing and smiling sardonically at the proceedings. There is what they call a face-off, where Antonio is allowed to interrogate his accusers. This is a terribly riveting scene, where evidence clearly shows Antonio is innocent. Through clever questioning, Antontio uncovers the lies. We expect him to get off, finally. But when the camera shows the judge and prosecutor reentering the room, they are both laughing. Antonio is read the verdict through the tiny window full of bars in which prisoners stand in court. He is found guilty! Evidently 97% of cases result in a guilty verdict, despite the total lack of evidence to prove such guilt. In fact, Antonio was working that day, a fact corroborated by three workers. Still, such evidence is not allowed to be admitted into court or is rebuked by the judges if heard.

Antonio's case dramatically exemplifies Mexico's travesty of justice. After rotting in jail for nearly three years, (during which time his child was born) his case is finally accepted by an appellate court (court of appeal). For that trial, the camera is not allowed in, but one judge reveals on-camera that there was a shadow of doubt about his guilt and he managed to convince the other judges, who pronounced him guilty, that they were misguided. Antonio is finally freed, and we are relieved, but angry at the suffering he had to endure. We discover the diabolical detective who arrested him and lied was promoted. We also find out that most of the youth rotting in jail in this lawless land have fallen under the law of presumed guilt; that everyone arrested is guilty and that innocence is a long and solitary road that goes unrecognized in Mexico's justice system.

In 2016, Mexico will overturn the presumed guilty law, but the filmmakers fear that not a single judge will support the new law that will still oblige the 'accused' to spend no less than 80 days behind bars. This immeasurably important film (2009) has garnered several awards, has been screened in 11 international festivals, and is one of the six films featured in the New Mexican Film Week offered by Montreal's Cinema Latino-americano.

Personally, I had first-hand experience, albeit minor, compared to this film, of Mexico's sham of a justice system. I was robbed in the casita by one of the three workers who entered to garden, fix the water pump and the non-working TV. I was abused by the rental agent of Roma Agency in Ajijic who wanted to get rid of me from the get-go as did the owner of the casita. "I want her out." She also told me not to make "trouble" whatever that meant. When the local police of Ajijic arrived, they did nothing, but informed me I had to go to Chapala city to file the police report. It took over two hours for the police to type out the report which I was to get in my hands the following day. Though the policeman writing up the report was told the name of the agency renting me the casita, plus the owner and the three workmen who had access to the place, an investigation was never carried out. There are too many absurd details to give you now, but suffice it to say, locals told me the police are often in on the robberies, and refrain from investigating. Who knows it could be one of their relatives who does the robbing. After all, Ajijic is a small town. Interesting, that the rental agent changed the locks immediately after I was robbed, threw me out on the street, rubbing in my face that I was never to come back to "her" town, and that the 120 dollars coming from "her own pocket" (she kept repeating this to me) was to help me find a place to stay for the remainder of my ten day stay. Because she instantly changed the lock without telling me or waiting for the police from Chapala to arrive -- nearly seven hours after the robbery -- they had no access to get in and inspect. I had been given two hours to collect my things; the phone was disconnected and I was without anything. The entire ordeal proved to me how totally despicable is Mexico's justice system -- that its corruption is insidiously entrenched at every level of the law, and that big or small crime will never be investigated correctly. This horrific robbery (I was sleeping when the perpetrators entered the casita) personally left me thinking Mexico is a grand place for music, sun and sea, but at the bat of an eyelid, you could end up in jail or be a victim of a crime -- left stranded without legal integrity working on your side. Be very very careful. Once in jail, minute are your chances of ever seeing the bright sun of the day that shines beyond prison bars. See the film to understand that the whimsy of Mexican justice is as frightening as crime itself.  

2.1 -- WASTED YOUTH, Argyris Papadimitropoulos & Jan Vogel
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The film slowly moves stylistically and plot-wise like a documentary stalled in a time zone of boredom, apathy and desperation. It certainly doesn't say much for Athenian youth or the parents that raise kids in these depressing times. I loved watching it for the views of Athens, including landmarks such as Syntagma Square and streets we all recognize during our yearly visits to the capital. Therefore, I was more compelled by what was happening in the background than the characters in the foreground. Greece is getting some hard knocks, but this film was by no means a knock-out, despite the poignant rather predictable message that bursts open when the young and and not so young clash. It's an old tale told without the wit, profundity and audacity that characterizes similar messages made in antiquity by such playwrights as Euripides and his literary kin. Still, I am a sucker for anything Greek, so kudos for its natural style devoid of the hyper-kinetic ambiance that characterizes movies made about the frenetic capital and its folks. It gave us another side of Athens that no tourist would care to know. One more thing, If you are a skateboarding fan, then see this film. Most of the shots featured a teen skateboarding. This film was part the Montreal Greek Film Festival.

3.9 -- WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, THANASSIS? Giorgios Aranitis
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Thanassis is the little hero who finds a way to outsmart the German soldiers occupying his village. He gets into all kinds of trouble with the Nazis, but manages to hide and miraculously escape during the various times he gets caught -- carted away to a dive of a prison cell, only because he's in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, he is mistaken for a wanted resistance fighter, and that is where trouble never seems to end for this wily absolutely hilarious character, masterfully played by the great comedic actor, Thanassis Vengos. This is a tragi-comedy that makes us laugh and feel light headed, despite the horrendous horrors of the German occupation in Greece. We get a glimpse of it in the film. Thanassis, is a mere factory worker trying to survive on the soggy gruel he gets every day. We identify with this everyday hero whose hardships magically transform into moments of great character and plot humour. There is so much irony in the film. How can we laugh at such a bad situation, but we do, thanks to Vengos, a thespian veteran -- the Charlie Chaplin of Greek cinema, only he speaks, and that is what gets his character into so much trouble. We leave this film with love in our hearts and profound pity for the plight of all Greeks who endured the barbaric yoke of German Occupation. Made in 1971, it is a vintage black and white film classic. This film was part the Montreal Greek Film Festival.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This year (2011) Greece has endured tempestuous times raging with an economy on the verge of a Euro breakdown, and citizens losing money and their minds over the whole fiasco. Underscoring the enormous problem is the total disharmony of the government and the people. The problems are plenty and they date back to previous years. Not paying taxes throughout the past decade has culminated in a spectacular calamity not just for the country, but for all of us living in the free world. The movie "Welcome to All Saints" insidiously reflects the collective corruption and dismal mood of workers in a hospital. From doctors all the way to janitors, almost everyone is in it for the money. A handout under the table will get you up on the list for an operation and maybe more. At the center of the film is a young intern thrust into this situation that totally subverts the Hippocratic oath and his one reason for becoming a doctor. The one place that is supposed to be a sanctity for saving lives, is anything but. Of course, the movie is a black comedy, but we all know that there is so much truth to this insanity and it pervades hospitals not just in Greece. Greed and a total lack of empathy create chaotic doom. Director Sotiris Goritsas has made a feature that can be confusing, but this may be intentional in order to vividly capture the total lack of coordination, cohesion, conscience and competency that happen in hospitals full of saints and devils. This film was part the Montreal Greek Film Festival.

4.0 -- BRIDES, Pantelis Voulgaris
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This acclaimed director knows how to make movies. The epic and the intimate find their perfect balance in the story and the delivery of it. Majestically and with superb grace and compassion, Voulgaris takes us on a 1922 transatlantic journey on a ship carrying 700 brides who are destined to meet their American and Canadian grooms for the first time. Great pathos infuses the tragic events that happen during this ocean journey. "Brides" is a love story. Just as the waves of the ocean rise and fall, so too is the journey of love the two protagonists take. They come to love one another, yet they can never be together. Norman Harris, a photographer on that ship enjoying the benefits of first class, falls for Niki, a seamstress in third class who has been sent over to America to replace her sister who returned to Greece after having rejected the man she hated in America. Norman loves Niki, but her pride and commitment to familial duty override her love for Norman. She tries to reject his company, but at the end of the movie she is shattered by her loss. She has made a sad decision. She resigns herself to following through on her promise to marry the older man waiting for her. Powerfully moving, the emotions of this film are subtle and most effective. This film represents the very finest in filmaking. His selection of Damian Lewis as Norman and Victoria Charalambidou as Niki was inspiring. Both were awesome. Indeed, Voulgaris was honoured by the Museum of Modern Art in New York with a mid-career retrospective. Greece's finest. This film is a classic and was part the Montreal Greek Film Festival.

2.3 -- REMBETIKO, Costas Ferri
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The movie has great music that resonates the suffering of Greeks exiled from Smyrna, Turkey. Trying, but not successfully, to convey over 40 years of turbulent times which brought to these unfortunates two world wars and, prior to that, banishment from Turkey in ways that history chooses to forget did not stir audience emotions. We discover that amidst this horror a bright light was Smyrna-born Marika Ninou, a singer who ended up spending time in America -- so amazing was her voice. Although the movie captures the hatred and rawness of those times along with her suffering at the hands of men who exploited her, it failed to deliver a proper production that could have clearly and credibly intertwined her life and what she was up against. Made in 1983, this film was often was confusin, messy, and even amateurish in approach. However, the music was wonderful -- if you like rembetiko, which I do. This film was part the Montreal Greek Film Festival.


3.9 -- WITHIN A STONE'S THROW, Sebastian Hiriart
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Dreaming of living in another land can be dangerous if you follow that dream and are totally unprepared for its rules, climate and people. This is the situation for goat herder, Jacinto Medina who lives in the countryside near San Luis de Potosi, Mexico. Poor fellow finds a key ring depicting a small farm house in a small place somewhere in Oregon. Leaving all behind, he sets out on foot to go to the USA. Crossing the border, hitching rides, getting robbed, almost freezing to death in the snow, and finally getting beat up, he ends up in the exact farm house shown on the key ring. But complications ensue, and the mother who owns the farmhouse wants to know how Jacinto got her son's key ring. Jacinto's journey abruptly ends in the police office whereupon he is sent back to the place he came from. Gabino Rodriguez was a natural in the part. Too bad, there is a great divide between a dream and its reality. Jacinto must endure great hardship to understand that.

3.3 -- HABANA EVA, Fina Torres
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Eva works in a sweat shop sewing factory that makes wedding gowns which are uniformly designed to fit the code of dress for marriage. Eva wants to design her own, but in Havana, times are tough and having your own business is a near impossibility. She meets a Cuban ex-patriot who uses her as his guide to photograph old historical buildings. He lives in Venezuela and comes from rich Cuban stock. She falls for him, but her present boyfriend is deeply hurt by her betrayal. Her best friend Teresa has a way with men; it includes spending a night with the hottie from Venezuela. But both women are in for a rude awakening when it appears neither will land the hotties they have longed for. Teresa finally does meet the man she has missed so much in her life (he took off and wrote letters that she never opened). Sadly, she is fatally hit by a car when her man suddenly reappears after many years. As a ghost guiding Eva to make good decisions, Teresa does not abandon her friend -- even in death. Eva ends up with a business and marriage which involves her two favourite men: her Venezuelan Romeo and her boyfriend. This is a Cuban comedy with all the fun, frolic and fantasy to delight fans of Cuban films.

3.0 -- EVEN THE RAIN, Iciar Bollain
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A Spanish film crew, led by a greedy business minded producer, Costa, and his sympathetic director, Sebastian, has come to the Bolivian mountains to make a revisionist epic about Cristopher Columbus's exploitation of the Ameridian Indians during the 16th century. Sebastian casts Daniel, a defiant leader of the Bolivian village, in the role of Hatuey, chief of the Taino Indians to whom Columbus dealt terrible punishments -- along with all the people Hatuey led. Two actors play Bartolome Casas and Antonio de Montesinos -- two heroes who tried to protect the Indians, and stayed on to live with them after Columbus departed leaving a wake of blood in the jungles and villages he plundered. Ironically, these two actors are the first to abandon the film after a massive political uprising threatens the safety of the entire crew. The film team encounters never-ending difficulties that comprise financial, social and political complications. Daniel, the film's star, leaves his role to lead his own people in demonstrations against the multi-national sell-off of the community's precious water. Events turn nasty. However, Costa's priority is to get the film made. He goes to great lengths to do so, until he realizes that human life, and one in particular (the daughter of Daniel) is far more precious that a historical film -- despite its message. A double parallel plot-- one that recreates terrible events in Latin America's past collide with the present-day exploitation of its aboriginal people. It's a case of history repeating itself, only the costumes are different. An originally crafted film that is both captivating and memorable.

3.6 -- NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, Patricio Guzmán
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] The forward-looking rhetoric of Barak Obama’s recent trip to Chile did not entirely drown out the voices of young protestors, who continued the forty-year call for official acknowledgment of the American government’s overthrow of the Allende administration and the installation of Pinochet’s barbaric rule. One voice behind this call has always been Patricio Guzmán’s, whose activist documentary work, most famously “The Battle of Chile,” continues to guard against the disappearance of this history into the void. Disappearance, void and history play major roles in “Nostalgia for the Light,” a call against historical amnesia that is all the more affecting for its sober, measured tone. Like this year’s “Alamar,” an activist film in the guise of an observational documentary, “Light” filters its rage into a pervasive curiosity, circling its outrage for the present by entering at several points into the past. The film’s ostensible subject is the Atacama Desert, whose lack of humidity makes it an ideal location for astronomers seeking a clear view of the night sky and archaeologists seeking human fossil remains untouched by water damage. Between these vertical looks into the distant past is the horizontal gaze of the filmmaker and the actions of its most affecting subjects, a group of women who venture every week into the desert to dig for remains of their murdered loved ones. Among “Light’s” greatest achievements is to express the crisis of historical amnesia through the experiences of actual people, and to make concrete the cost of official denial through their pain. However, far from exploitation, “Light” finds as much wonder in its subjects as do astronomers in the stars, and implies without turning them into saints that their resilience tells as much about what is to be human as we are equipped to know. Guzmán traces history as a constellation of lived experiences, a portrait as luminous as any pattern in the night sky and, sadly, just as fragile; one need only blink or turn away too long for the lines to dissipate and the portrait disappear. “Light” knows the patience of the astronomer is a virtue that it cannot entirely embrace, and it shares the urgency that pervades its subjects’ desire to exhume the corpses of their loves ones before they too pass into history. One can never really live in the present, argues one of the film’s scientists, but it is entirely to Guzmán’s credit that he never stops trying.

2.9 -- AMOROSA SOLEDAD/LOVELY LONELINESS, Martin Carranza & Victoria Galardi
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Soledad is lonely. Her boyfriend has just left her. Her sweetness and vulnerability intensify her suffering; tears at every turn fill her life. Still, she is determined to try to go it alone without support from anyone who knows her. Her one solace seems to be visiting the hospital to get checkups for her pain and underlying anxiety. It is funny and sad at the same time. Inés Efron as Soldedad evokes fragility and instability with endearing subtlety. Utterly unique in making a quirky, refreshing, caring and neurotically lonely character, "Amorosa Soledad" honestly honours all of us whose heart lies broken -- with or without a mate. The ending brings her a smile as she seems to be entering into a new life with the promise of a man beside her.

2.4 -- MISTURA, EL POSER DE LA COCINA, Patricia Perez
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This documentary certainly wets your appetite for Peruvian food. It's a film feast that features hundred of tables, stalls and counters brimming with food while cooks prepare and serve their delicious fare. Mistura is Peru's annual gastronomic fair. People consume a myriad of national dishes. Unfortunately, the English subtitles move too quickly to catch the names of the dishes. You'll need to take shorthand or refer to a Peruvian food book. Mistura represents Peruvians' adoration and respect for their beloved country's cuisine. Indeed, it is a grass-roots event that collectively unites all the different peoples of this cuisine-conscious country. Moreover, it brings together all regional dishes that up the pride factor of its aboriginal farmers and partners from remote regions. Daily problems are set aside at Mistura's festive carnival-like feast. Music, dancing, a sea of smiles and loud laughter make Mistura a celebration for all who partake, including those of us salivating from afar in front of the screen.

3.9 -- THE TWO ESCOBARS, Jeff & Michael Zimbalist
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What's in a name? Everything, if it happens to be Escobar. This astonishing documentary unites good and evil in the persons of the diabolical, narc-terrorist, Pablo Escobar and Andres Escobar, the brilliant, shy soccer player who becomes captain of Columbia's national soccer team. The former buys the team, and two fates are sealed, each in his own murderous way. As this formidable film interweaves the rise and fall of the drug king and the violence in Columbia with that of the soccer team, we witness all the deeds both did for the poor, and in the case of Pablo, the power that allowed him to control and subvert the very laws of justice. He did, however, build soccer fields in every slum, even construct an entire community for the homeless. The film charts how cherished he was by the nation's poorest. Ironically, when he was killed, rather than being safer, Columbia became a free-for-all for every gang in the drug trade. The Pepes took hold where Escobar left off, and as the country spirals into a bloodbath, the soccer team loses its winning streak that has vanquished virtually every team in Latin America in the 90s. This stellar team earns its way into the World Cup, but personally tragic events affect the mood of the team, and the game goes to pot. Andres mistakenly puts the ball into his own net which seals his tragic fate: only a few days after his return from the States where the dismal match against the US was played, he is killed for his mistake by two gang brothers. Live interviews with both Escobar family members, along with hundreds of video clips that bring to life these two figures and the events that shook Columbia to the ground climatically build to create an intense documentary that powerfully impacts on your very being. What kind of a country teaches its children that if you make a mistake in a professional sport, your life is in grave jeopardy? That was the kind of darkness and drama that scourged the country of any hope during those terrible times.

2.2 -- PARAISO, Hector Galvez
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A barren rocky landscape outside Lima, Peru provides the setting for the desperate dreams of five teenagers. One of them wants to join the traveling circus that has recently arrived to entertain the villagers. He dreams of flying on the trapeze; another wants to become a lawyer and another wishes to avenge the killing of his friend. One tough boy loves the army. He finds a way to wear the uniform, testing his mettle in personal feuds. But opportunities have dried up; conflicts and a crumbling economy put an end to the future for these children who only have each other. Where are their parents? They are busy burying their dreams in the bottle or fighting with their kids. The movie's interest lies in its location and the youngsters themselves, but like these poor teenagers, it wanders with no direction in sight.

3.3 -- VÉNUS NOIRE, Abdellatif Kechiche
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Between 1817 and 1974, the Paris Museum of Natural History exhibited for all to see the molded casting, skeletons, and preserved brain and genitals of a South African Khoikhoi woman, Sarah Baartman, also known as the Hottentot Woman. Before being exhibited in a museum, Baartman was paraded as a traveling human freak show, her voluptuous body an object of curiosity. First in'Britain, where she acted the part of the jungle savage, for the great entertainment of its 'civilized' white audience, then in Paris where the less prudish French audience turned her performance into a peep show. Abdellatif Kechiche’s film documents Baartman’s miserable life in Europe, from 1810 until her death of pneumonia and venereal disease in 1815. Through her journey, the film investigates issues that far exceed Baartman’s personal story: the changing nature of slavery, the absurdity of the notion of personal consent when a human being is being exploited for money, and voyeurism disguised as scientific enterprise. There are many similarities between the events depicted in the film and today’s consumerist, pleasure-driven, society. And this is why the movie hits the viewer like a ton of brick: it makes it impossible for us to take comfort in the idea that things are different today. Kechiche’s film isn’t so much an investigation into a horrible historical event as it is of a horrible side of human nature. The polar opposite of a 'feel good movie,' “Black Venus” is at times extremely difficult to watch. Devoid of sentimentality, Kechiche’s frank and unrelentless style pursues his subject with admirable determination and a rare sense of urgency. “Black Venus” is a movie everyone should see.

3.1 -- I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS, Glenn Ficarra
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An incredible but true story, this romantic comedy tells a tale that matches all the tales (lies) told by the main character, Steven Russell. Played with great charisma by Jim Carrey, Russell ends up in jail and escaping four times, having devised all kinds of ingenious tricks to get out. And each time he escapes he dons a different conman career - mainly to gain access to his lover that he met in jail (beautifully played by Ewan McGregor). Here's the thing, Russell was once upon a time actually married with two kids, but after a near fatal accident, he realizes he is gay and lives accordingly. With all the brazen charm and flamboyance of a carnival dancer in Rio, Russell enjoys his gayness, escapades and deceptions. He poses as a lawyer, a top financial executive, a doctor and other white collar professionals, thereby proving criminals have superior minds. A pathological liar, he eventually gets thrown into the hammer for life. Don't mess around with fraud in Texas, especially when a Bush is the big boss! Jim Carrey is both funny and pathetic; in the end, we feel for Russell. No man was more determined than him to get his soul mate back in his life. He even faked getting AIDS as a way to achieve his goal. An entertaining film, and then you remember it all actually happened.

1.6 -- LAS MARIMBAS DEL INFIERNO, Julio Hernández Cordon
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Don Alfonso lives in Guatemala. He has been blackmailed. Escaping the gang, he has retreated to a room with a chair to sleep on, and his cherished marimba. He is in hiding. The film opens up here as he talks to the camera about what has happened to him. Most of the time he talks about his love for the marimba and how much the people love this instrument. But the poor man has no gigs nor any family with him. He has to wheel his marimba around town whenever he leaves his room. He knows it will be stolen if left unguarded. His glue-sniffing cousin introduces him to a heavy metal singer and together they all try to make a band happen -- one that include his marimba. Unfortunately, his cousin sells the marimba and gives the money to his girl friend. Everything falls apart. Don Alfonso steals a small marimba meant for beginners. The movie ends with all these characters fleeing from a bar without paying for the beer they have consumed. They run out without paying. The movie shows the hard life Guatemalans must endure. Playing out like a slow-moving documentary, the film captures your attention, but the slice of sad life portrayed in the film doesn't hold together with any tautness or intensity.

3.5 -- INSIDE JOB, Charles Ferguson
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] The sloganizing of politicians and popular media risks saddling “the worst recession since the Great Depression” with the weight of myth, delegating its causes and effects to some immediate and perpetual past. One of the great achievements of Charles Ferguson’s second feature-length documentary is to thrust the reality of this recession back into the present and expose the players and institutions responsible. Not one responsible party emerges unscathed – from the corporate financial sector’s derivative fiasco, to the banks’ predatory loaning, to the politicians who promise change and academics objectivity, Ferguson’s film situates its critiques of people and institutions within a broader critique of systemic corruption. As with “No End in Sight,” Ferguson forgoes the populist theatrics of Michael Moore and disguises his wide reach and personality by starting small, using Iceland’s economic collapse as a case-study and himself as an unobtrusive commentator. Exposition interchanges with interviews to build the viewer’s knowledge of seemingly complex economic systems alongside his distrust of seemingly trustworthy subjects; finally, an educated viewer and a now-combative Ferguson confront a disingenuous system side-by-side. When, in a later interview, Ferguson’s voice re-introduces Iceland and reveals for public scrutiny the second face of one of his many two-faced subjects, the pang of recognition is the viewer’s to share. But it is through the juxtaposition of the many interviews against one another, and the economic and cultural logistics spelled out between them, that the film avoids mere witch-hunting and achieves, like the best activist cinema, the therapeutic jolt that accompanies the sudden revelation of truth.

3.5 -- THE ILLUSIONIST, Sylvain Chomet
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] It is easy to forget that one is not watching Jacques Tati's latest film when being quietly entranced by Sylvain Chomet's ("The Triplets of Belleville") oscar-nominated animation feature. The film unfolds like a sad ballad, gently pulling the viewer along the sentimental magician Tatischeff's hard-luck route through Paris, London, the Scottish coast and Edinburgh. Fans will revel in the film's myriad aural and visual quotations which faithfully recapture Tati's trademark mood, physical humour and visual style. The film even features an impromptu meeting between Tati and Tatischeff! For those unfamiliar with the filmmaker behind "Play Time," "Mon Oncle" and "Les vacances de M. Hulot," "The Illusionist" is a beautiful initiation into the great Tati's melancholically beautiful world.





2.4-- ELVIS AND MADONNA , Marcello Laffitte
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Madonna, a transgender cabaret singer by night and a hairdresser by day, lives in Rio's Copacabana neighbourhood. One day after a show, she gets beat up and robbed by Tripod Jo, her male porn film partner. Enter the pizza delivery gal, Elvis, who instantly falls in love with Madonna, when she delivers the pizza the moment the thug leaves Madonna with a bruised face. She helps her. Elvis, a lesbian moves in with Madonna. She becomes pregnant. Elvis is a fine fearless photographer and through her daily outings, she ends up shooting a crime scene that puts Tripod Jo in the picture and in jail. He is released, and pursues the two lovers. He meets his end, and so do Madonna and Elvis; they live happily ever-after. The funniest scene is when Madonna is introduced to Elvis's parents. Madonna cuts her hair to hide her real sex, and some of the family is fooled. Equally funny is the scene at the obstetrician's office. He is told that the ‘woman’ sitting in front of him beside Elvis is actually the father of the baby. This is a light-hearted unusual love story with a twist. It would seem that odd couples make the happiest ones.

2.7 -- ELVIS AND MADONNA, Marcello Laffitte
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Elvis (Elvira), an aspiring photographer, takes a job at a pizza parlour (Mozzarella and Co) as a delivery ‘boy.’ Madonna is a blonde transvestite who works at a beauty salon during the day and sings at a cabaret at night. Madonna orders a ‘heart of palm’ pizza to share with his boyfriend ‘Tripod Joe,’ a former porn partner. Joe decides to beat him up and steals his life savings. Elvis delivers the pizza and an immediate romantic bond develops between her and Madonna. This is a romantic comedy that is from a unique perspective -- a relationship between a lesbian and a transvestite. The film is strengthened by a tightly directed script, well acted and edited with just the right mix of comedy and human drama. The subtitles were a bit unclear.

3.0 -- BESOURO, João Daniel Tikhomiroff
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Forty years after the abolishment of slavery, the art of Capoeira dancing/fighting is still illegal in the Brazil of the 1920s. This fantasy, action thriller is an account of the greatest Capoeira fighter of all time -- Besouro (Manuel Henrique Pereira, 1895-1924) -- who is said to possess legendary powers such as flying and impenetrability. Set in the lush jungles of Afro-rich region of Bahia, the movie spans the life of this legendary and mythical figure, from his training with Master Alipio to his confrontations with local police (led by Colonel Venâncio) and his death in 1924. The film is also a strong social commentary on the struggle of Afro-Brazilians for dignity and equality.

2.3-- BESOURO, João Daniel Tikhomiroff
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The year is 1924, forty years after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, but in this film, it is as if nothing has changed. In this Afro-rich region of Brazil, little Besouro grows up to be an outstanding Capoeira fighter. Besouro becomes a legendary figure long after he is killed. That is because he overcame the ruling thugs of a suppressed town. The film artfully merges the magic of nature with Besouro's power to fly and throw up a near invisible shield around his supple body. Part Western and part "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" this movie blends the impossible with the real. "Besouro" is Brazil's answer to any Bruce Lee film with a lot of mystic moments integrated into the backdrop.

3.5 -- TIME OF FEAR, Sérgio Rezende
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A powerfully explosive and riveting complex thriller that is based on the prison riots that took place in May 2006, Sao Paulo. The story is told through the eyes of Lucia. She is a widowed piano teacher with a law degree. When her teenage son kills another during street scuffle and is convicted, Lucia decides to use her law degree to try and have him released from the penitentiary. During prison visiting hours she meets Ginger who agrees to help her in exchange for certain favours. It turns out that Ginger is the lawyer for a criminal gang known as ‘Primero Comando da Capital’ or ‘The Party.’ They are planning to overthrow the authorities and doing so in the guise of providing for the rights and dignity of the prisoners. As Lucia becomes more deeply involved in these activities, and also her son, the streets and prisons of Sao Paulo become soaked with blood as the violence and flames flare up between ‘The Party’ and the law. It is too late. Explosive performances throughout along with a tight script will place this among the classics of Brazilian cinema.

3.3 -- TIME OF FEAR, Sérgio Rezende
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This riveting film graphically shows how prison life in Brazil is nothing short of inhumane. The plot revolved around a teenager whose mother is desperate to get him out of jail. She becomes involved with ‘The Party,’ a rebel prison group of inmates that uses violence to gain prison rights and hopefully freedom. Their power extends beyond prison walls. The leader for the group, a lawyer, is a gritty, extremely strong woman who uses the mother as a go-between, promising her she will be able to get her son out of the overcrowded prison. Things fall apart when the mother falls for the ‘Professor,’ the scholarly ring leader of the group. He is in prison, and their romance takes place in the small cell. The warden arranges an ambush together with the police while the group is being transferred to another location. Everyone in the prison bus is shot, including her lover. Then all hell breaks loose as a result of this dastardly setup. Party members outside begin bombing police headquarters, stores and anything standing in their way. The mother's son is an unwilling participant, and ends up getting shot during a night of violence of which he is complicit. He is rushed to a hospital. Through his mother's determination involving bribing hospital personnel, her son escapes, hidden in an ambulance. This is a rich feature film whose suspense, and fine acting draws us in. We find ourselves rooting for the defiant ones, and when mother and son are finally united, the harrowing experience each has endured is the price they pay for survival in a city where corruption, chaos and crime are an everyday occurrence.

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2.8 -- THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD, Kim Jee-woon
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Set in Manchuria’s exotic and barren landscape, this Oriental Western comedy is a rollercoaster ride in search of buried treasure (from the Qing Dynasty). In the midst of robbing the train, Tae-gu, the thief (The Weird), comes into possession of a mysterious map. Chang-yi, a cold blooded hit man (The Bad), is also seeking to possess the map. In the midst of the ensuing gunfight, a mysterious man jumps into the center of it and rescues Tae-gu; that man is Do-won, the bounty hunter (The Good), and so proceeds a race to get to the location of the buried treasure. The Good, The Bad and The Weird chasing each other and being chased: Korean Resistance, mountain bandits and the Japanese army.

3.0 -- RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE, Scot McFayden, Sam Dunn
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Fascinating and insightful portrait of Rush, one of the most influential and important Canadian bands. Spanning their 40-year career and featuring archival footage along with interviews with the band members (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart) and many of today’s most respected musicians, the film delves into various aspects of the band: their background, musical development and the phenomenon behind what could be the world’s biggest cult band. Though many of their shows have been sold-out, they have been ignored by critics and overlooked by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

2.0 -- MOTHER, Bong Joon-Ho
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Dark and melodramatic, this latest from director Boon Joon-Ho explores how far a mother would go in order to protect her son. In a small country village a widow lives with her slow-witted son, Do-Joon, who goes ballistic when he is called a retard. She is very devoted to him and wants to protect him from harm. Since trouble seems to follow Do-Joon everywhere it is no surprise that when a local high-school girl is found murdered, he is quickly accused and convicted. Mother, refusing to accept the guilt of her son, starts her own investigation, going by her own rules, to prove her son`s innocence; she will go to any length to do so. Un-engaging and even inducing at certain moments, this film rates far below Alfred Hitchcock`s brilliant classic in the 'mother-son' genre ``Psycho.` A shoddy script, confusing editing and extremely slow pace contribute to this.

2.1 -- MOTHER, Bong Joon-ho
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Being called a retard pushes the buttons on Do-joon, a mentally slow teenager whose great protector is his overly-anxious mother. When a young girl is murdered, Do-joon becomes the town's only scapegoat, until his mother takes the strong arm of the law into her own hands -- a law she has devised to find the real culprit. Intrigue intertwined with characters' unpredictable behaviour makes this melodramatic movie somewhat compelling. Despite the attempts of Korean director Bong Joon-ho to create a film noir feeling, the only thing black about the film was what was in front of my closed eyes when I fell asleep during a rare moment when the mother wasn't ranting. This was her forte as was her subservient smiles. A manipulative mother for sure who got on my nerves as did her son. Still, I thought the ending would have been far more effective had the mother directed her fury at the real culprit whose name I will not reveal. That would have been a great Hitchcockian twist to surpass all the other dark moments in the film.  

2.8 -- LEBANON, Samuel Maoz
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] An Israeli war film set entirely in a tank. Four Israeli soldiers are cooped up in the tank, their mission, to clear a Lebanese area from hostile fighters. The view through the gun sight (every change is accompanied by the hydraulic whine) effectively and gruesomely portrays the carnage outside: inside we sense mounting emotional tension (fear, anxiety and anger) as conditions worsen. Heat, bad atmosphere, equipment failure and quarrelling all contribute. An anti-war film that is loosely based on the director’s personal experiences as a conscript during Israel’s war with Lebanon in 1982.


2.0 -- LIVERPOOL, Lisandro Alonso
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Seaman Farrel receives permission to go ashore when the freighter he works on arrives at the port of Ushuaia -- southernmost tip of Argentina. After a 23-year absence, he wants to return to his birthplace to see if his mother is still alive. We learn that Farrel drinks profusely, frequents prostitutes and has no friends but the film is devoid of meaningful action and purpose.

2.7 -- UNDERTOW, Javier Fuentes-Leon
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Miguel is a respected fisherman in a small seaside village in Peru who also performs the traditional burial ceremony that allows the deceased to 'rest in peace.' He has a beautiful wife, Mariela, and they are expecting their first child but he harbours a scandalous secret -- he is in love with Santiago who is a gay painter. Santiago suddenly dies (drowns) but Miguel can still here and see him. Miguel has to decide on whether to hold on to Santiago by not giving him the proper ceremony, thereby condemning him to eternal torment, or reveal his same-sex love to his wife and the village. "Undertow" is an original ghost story that addresses the issue of conscience.

[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] During the past 30 years, Nora has on many occasions attempted suicide After preparing an elaborate Passover meal, she finally succeeds. José, her ex-husband who lives next door, is charged with the funeral preparations. Reuben, his son, is a practicing, devout Jew while José is an atheist. Rueben wants to bury his mother according to Jewish tradition, but José couldn’t care less. Since Nora died from suicide there are complications. What results is a deliciously hilarious black comedy that addresses religion’s approach to suicide and the viability of tradition in daily life. Though the film tackles these issues from a Jewish perspective, the dilemma is universal: does a victim of suicide have a right to a proper burial? This is a heart warming and delightful film that touches faith and family.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The table is set for Passover, and guess who's coming for dinner? No one -- not even Nora, the hostess who set the table in elegant fashion, because she's lying dead in her bedroom. She's taken an overdose, but she's left meticulous instructions to her maid, sister, her ex-husband José and her son, Reuben with his family that the show must go on. And what a show it is! All the fabulous food is sitting in the fridge waiting to be prepared, and the wine is ready to be poured. But José is a non-believer, and the clash that ensues with the rabbi and José, a stubborn atheist is enough to send us all to the grave -- laughing. Things really get complicated and more hilarious when the Catholic wreath and coffin shaped in a cross, ordered by José arrive at the apartment while the young Jewish convert sent by the rabbi can't believe his eyes. He's in charge of watching over Nora`s body and delivering non-stop prayers over a four-day period. It seems Nora will never leave this world with a proper Jewish burial in a proper Jewish coffin. The rabbi has seen to that. According to the Jewish religion, no Jew is permitted to be buried during the Passover holiday, and when it finally ends, Nora is denied a proper Jewish funeral in a proper Jewish coffin; suicide is a grave sin that cannot be dismissed, especially by Nora's rabbi who has influence in the community. But all`s well that ends well, and this film ends particularly well for everyone. Even in death, Nora has brought everyone she has loved together over a delicious meal. Superb acting and the funniest take on death caught in between two religions. 

3.0 -- THE MAID, Sebastian Silva,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Never was there a meaner maid than Raquel. She mistreats the children of the Chilean family she lives with, and is jealous of the three other maids who enter the house at various times to assist her. She never smiles, but this is not a gloomy dark film, for the funniest scenes arise when Raquel masterminds amusing scenarios in order to banish the unlucky maids. She locks them out of the house, disinfects the bathroom with a pungent chlorine detergent, so they can't bathe, even goes so far as to get rid of the family cat, hoping the younger Peruvian maid helping her will be blamed for its disappearance. However, when Raquel's health takes a turn for the worse -- she temporarily loses feeling in her legs -- Lucy, another maid of a different ilk enters the house and almost immediately finds a way to soften Raquel's hardened heart. Twenty years of taking care of the family finally pays off for Raquel who has always remained overly possessive of her position as maid to the appreciative family. Lucy jogs at night, and when she returns to her own family far away in Chile, Raquel discovers she is a maid with a new outlook. She takes her first independent step outside the house; she goes jogging. She is, in fact, moving forward into personal freedom. In the role of the maid, Catalina Saavedra was moving, amusing, riveting -- in short -- exceptional. Raquel captured our hearts despite her gritty personality. Her dull uniform, grim face and sad eyes masked the deep soul of a 41-year-old -- an 'old maid' yearning to find a way to unlock her loneliness.  

3.0 -- THE MAID, Sebastian Silva
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A comedy drama, character study of a housemaid. Racquel has worked for the Valdez family for 23 years. More than just a maid but not quite family, Racquel has become the de facto head and takes her duties seriously. Film opens as the family celebrates her 41st birthday. From excessive use of chlorine, Racquel suffers migraines and dizzy spells. The family decide to hire a second maid to assist. Feeling threatened, Racquel torments the new maid until she leaves in tears. Another, more experienced, is hired. A fight ensues and the patriarch’s model ship is destroyed. The second maid is dismissed. A third is hired and a bond of friendship develops and Racquel begins to transform. A well scripted, insightful and engaging film about family, class and self-discovery. The performances (in particular Catalina Saavedra as Racquel), were all very credible.

2.8 -- GIGANTE, Adrián Biniez
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Jared is a 35-year-old security guard working the night shift in a supermarket on the outskirts of Montevideo, along with Julia, a 25-year-old cleaning lady. Jared, who is shy and lonely, is infatuated with her and monitors her throughout his whole shift. When off work he secretly follows her. Minimalist dry humour gives the characters an engaging charm.

3.0 -- GIGANTE, Adrian Biniez,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Jara's job is a security guard; he remains glued to the multiple spy screens that film the supermarket night workers below. Little do they know, their antics fall under his eagle-eye. Sometimes, their actions prove entertaining: a ton of toilet paper piled up to the ceiling gets knocked over, and all kinds of liquid products fall on the floor -- to name a few of the mishaps that happen. But on the odd occasion, misunderstandings and unresolved issues cause Jara distress, particularly when it concerns one girl whom he begins to 'stalk' using his trusty screens. Becoming bolder by the week, Jara begins to follow her. Wondering what her days consist of, he finds out they are as lonely as his nights are. Both of these quiet people have that in common; surely this is a match waiting to happen. But it doesn't. There's one big problem. Jara, a hefty, burly fellow with limited people skills is painfully shy. Yet his introverted personality belies both his inner and physical strength. He is a patient, kind soul and a brave man ready to take on the big cheese at the company for blatant abuse. Still, this hero can't muster his strength to face the mysterious yet simple maiden whom he is aching to meet. Eventually though, he finds a way to approach her while she sits like a lonely waif on Montevideo's long stretch of urban beach. The film ends when this meeting finally takes place, and even then their backs are to the camera, but distant gestures and profiles of laughter let the viewer know, their fate is happily sealed. ‘Gigante’ is a masterpiece in character study and one that any shy man can relate too.  

1.5 -- THE HEADLESS WOMAN, Lucretia Martel
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] An upper middle class woman has an accident on her way home. She hits something -- animal or child? The intent of director of the highly acclaimed "Holy Girl" is to explore the intricacies of class in a male dominated society. The result disappoints due to: to poor lighting, too many close-ups, choppy editing and poor character development.

2.7 -- ILLUSIONES ÓPTICAS, Cristián Jiménez
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A dry, absurdist, dark comedy that explores the very real confusing of reality and illusion. Set in the winter in Valdivia (Southern Chile), we follow the connecting stories of individuals as they cope with their perception of reality. This is the director's first feature. The appeal and development of the characters was uneven: those least engaging -- and some of the subplots -- could have removed from the final edit.

2.6 -- ERA UMA VEZ (ONCE UPON A TIME IN RIO), Breno Silveira
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Dé, a young man, lives in the favela (Brazilian slum) of Cantagalo in Ipanema. Surrounded by poverty and violent crime, he is trying to make an honest living by selling hot dogs on the beach. One day he meets Nina, the only daughter of a wealthy lawyer. They fall in love. What results is an inferior "Romeo and Juliette" tale mixed with "City of Men."

2.9 -- BLOOD APPEARS, Pablo Fendrik
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A slow-paced, multi-layered, tragedy about an Argentinean cab driver, whose eldest son -- now living in Houston -- calls, in desperate need of $1,000 to return home. Meanwhile, the cabbie's younger son is planning to steal the family’s life savings, which the wife keeps hidden away, in order to buy drugs and run away. Film features violent imagery, over-the-top characters and an explosive conclusion.

2.7 -- PARQUE VIA, Enrique Rivero
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Beto is a widower who takes cares of an empty mansion owned by a wealthy elderly woman who wants to sell the place. Grown accustomed to his daily routine, Beto lets very little of the outside world into his own: the daily news -- comprised of violent headlines; the owner; and a prostitute that visits once a week. With the thought of losing his job and having to deal with the real world, Beto's response will translate into a slow-cooking, black comedy.

3.2 -- THE WIND JOURNEYS, Ciro Guerra
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] The final journey of Ignacio Carrillo, a master accordionist whose legendary instrument is said to have been cursed by the devil. Accompanied by Fermin, a teenage boy who wants to learn how to play, Ignacio sets off to return the accordion to its previous owner in order to remove the curse. Beautiful shots of Colombian mountains and coast. The traditional Latin American music played on the accordion and percussion is worth the price of admission.

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2.7 -- FISH TANK, Andrea Arnold
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Director`s second feature film (Red Road) centers on Mia (Convincing performance from first timer Katie Jarvis) -- a rebellious free-spirited teen who lives in a working class neighbourhood in Essex, England with her single mom and younger sister. She is excluded by her mates and doing poorly with her grades. One day Connor (Michael Fassbinder), her mother`s new boyfriend, bumps into her in the kitchen. The promise of love(?) -- will it change Mia forever. A powerful and convincing look at British working class mentality and the search for love in the faces that surround us. Lighting was a bit dark. Heavy working class accent difficult to comprehend especially when dialogue was fast and furious.

2.4 -- REVANCHE, Götz Spielmann
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Hardened ex-con Alex works in a brothel in Vienna as an assistant. He and Tamara -- a Ukrainian prostitute who also works at the brothel -- become involved. The pimp approaches her to work in a more private setting. She refuses. Alex robs a local bank. Tamara is killed during their attempted escape. Alex hides out at his father's farm which just happens to be located next to the home of the cop and his seemingly contented wife. A slow paced and brooding film that lacks emotional content; unconvincing, unexpected conclusion.


[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A delightful yet typically Czech full length animation about a group of toys residing in an attic, going about their day to day routine unaware that an evil tyrant desires to kidnap the beautiful Buttercup -- a doll who takes care of all the household chores -- to be his wife. After it happens all of her friends get up and set off on a treacherous mission to rescue her from the tyrant -- a huge ceramic head surrounded by bugs with human heads. Ingenious animation of real life objects yet story line was all too common and formulaic (i.e. many such films abound).

3.4 -- GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD, Michel Hozer, Peter Raymont
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Who was the real Glenn Gould? This black and white documentary attempts to show his hidden side through testimony given by his two best friends, colleagues, lovers and letters which blatantly lacked compassion. A complicated curmudgeon, he possessed off-the-wall humour, oodles of silent moments, and a fascination for studio engineering. His need for solitude and nature defined him as an artist beyond his musicianship. A wife stealer and a louse of a son, Gould however did have long lasting loves: his true companions were the gloves and coat he never stopped wearing and the dilapidated chair he toted around for his performances. He was one hell of a pianist, best remembered for his "Goldberg Variations" and his staccato-like hammering of the piano keys. Locked in his own loneliness, no one was able to reach him in a meaningful way when his paranoia and obsessive compulsive behavior kicked in, along with his hypochondria and pill-popping. Clearly, Gould was able to emote much easier with a piano than people. (Asperger syndrome, though not mentioned in the movie, may have been partly to blame). The most touching scene in the film is when he asked his sound engineer to become his brother through legal adoption. A tragic genius for sure whose legacy -- one imagines -- will live on as long as Bach’s has.

3.0 -- GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD, Michel Hozer, Peter Raymont
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A must see, intimate portrait that documents the inner man we know as Glenn Gould, who took the classical world by storm at the age of 22 with his electrifying 1955 recording of Bach`s "Goldberg Variations." Excellent montage, blending archival footage with his own words and those of entourage.

2.8 -- A TOWN CALLED PANIC (PANIQUE AU VILLAGE), Stephane Auber, Vincent Patar
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] First feature length stop-action animation based on cult TV series that aired in 2003 prior to receiving critical acclaim in the festival circuit. About a cowboy and Indian who reside with a horse. Everything they do results in catastrophe and this holds true for this feature. It is Horse's anniversary and they order bricks to build a BBQ. What transpires is a hilarious, hyper-active romp as one disaster leads to another. Family fare at its best featuring plastic toy figurines set in a countryside made out of paper mache.

2.7 -- HERB AND DOROTHY, Megumi Sasaki
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A film that clearly shows that great collectors only need to have a love and passion for their collection, that the true collector is guided by aesthetic and not monetary considerations. Manhattan couple Herbert and Dorothy Vogel live in a one-bedroom appartment. He is a postal worker, she a librarian. Together, they have built up one of the most important collections of minimalist and contemporary art: a who's who of post-modern. Comments and observations on collecting ring true no matter what you collect -- and to which I can personally attest.

2.5 -- A WINK AND A SMILE, Dierde Allan Timmons
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Fascinating documentary that profiles the burlesque scene in Seattle, Washington. Incudes a look at Miss Indigo Blue's "Academy of Burlesque" whereby ten students of various ages, body shape and background learn the art. Clips of performances a little short.

3.8 -- DAY AFTER PEACE, Jeremy Gilley
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] An extremely important film documenting one man`s quest to establish a day of non-violence and ceasefire as a stepping stone for peace (Sept. 21st was voted by UN to be that day). Deeply emotional and moving. A powerful testament to the power of individual determination.

2.4 -- LITTLE ASHES, Paul Morrison
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] An account of the stormy friendship between artist Salvador Dali, poet/ playwright Federico Garcia Lorca and film maker Luis Buñuel. Begins in 1992 at a Madrid university and ends in 1936 when Lorca was executed. A potentially powerful filmed marred by unacceptable linguistic oversights: strong Spanish accents speaking in English; recital of poetry in Spanish with voice over in English. Strong performances by entire cast and a well written script.  

L'INTÉGRALE "JOHN CASSAVETES" COMPLETE WORKS played at Cinema du Parc July 31st to Aug 13th 2009 with a special presentation by Gena Rowlands (his wife) before each film.

3.1 -- DEPARTURES, Yojiro Takita
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Tokyo Orchestra is disbanded leaving cellist suddenly unemployed. With his wife in tow, he returns to his deceased mother's home in Yamagata, northeastern Japan, where he answers an employment ad that highlights the word "departures," and assumes it's a travel agency. The owner hires him on the spot. But the work turns out to be "encoffination" -- the ceremonial preparation of a corpse for cremation. Initially hesitant to accept the position, and then having to deal with rejection from his social milieu and taunts from his wife, everyone is gradually drawn into his new world that deals with the philosophical implications of life and death. Lightly comedic yet emotionally stirring. Beautiful classical (diatonic) cello soundtrack slightly marred by scratchy vinyl (when cellist is playing live).

3.2 -- TETRO, Francis Ford Coppola
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Family saga about an Italian immigrant family living in Venezuela torn apart by sibling rivalry and a family secret hidden in a cryptic code written by older brother Tetro, whose daily routine is threatened when younger sibling Bennie (beautifully executed by Vincent Gallo and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich ) pays him a visit, wanting to know more about his father and mother. The casting of Klaus Maria Brandauer as the patriarch was a bit of a stretch -- strong Austrian accent lowered credibility as Italian. Beautiful black and white cinematography interspersed with colour flashbacks.

[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Biopic about photographer Maria Larssen, a Finn living in Sweden. Having won a camera in a lottery, she tries to sell it but is convinced by store owner Sebastian Pederson (aka "Piff Paff Puff) to keep it. Her developing passion for photography gives her the strength to overcome poverty and an alcoholic, abusive, womanizing husband. A touching portrait of working class life in Sweden in the early 1900s. Account based on interviews with eldest daughter Maja along with director's wife, then turned into a book.

1.8 -- THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, Steven Soderbergh
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Social drama set in October 2008 about an upscale Manhattan call girl who offers her clients a simulation of a full romantic relationship -- the "girlfriend experience." Interesting premise presented in an unengaging, monotone manner.

2.7 -- OBJECTIFIED, Gary Hustwit
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Second feature documentary (following"Helvetica" -- the world's most ubiquitous typeface) that examines the complex relationship between us and the OBJECTS we choose to surround ouselves with and what they reveal about who and what we are. Fascinating interviews with the major designers of these everyday objects we take for granted. An engrossing film that after 75 minutes, ends too soon.


2.5 -- ZRUBAVEL, Shmuel Beru
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Social drama centering on a multi-generational Ethiopian immigrant family living in Israel. Generations clash over Israeli culture versus Ethiopian tradtions. Average handling of subject.

0.5 -- O'Jerusalem, Elie Chouraqui
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Historical drama recounting the battle for Jerusalem and the birth of the state of Israel. Begins just after WWII and continues until the cease fire on June 11th 1948. It follows two freinds -- one Jewish and the other Palestinian. Potentially potent film RUINED by dubbing all primary dialogue into French (linguistically unrealistic). Original version would have rated much higher (3.2)

2.4 -- OUT OF THE BLUE, Igal Bursztyn
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Comedy revolving around a junkdealer in Tel-Aviv who has a recurring dream about a beautiful red-haired woman who falls for him. As it turns out, she is real, and is famous cosmetics provider. Along with his "scruffy and compulsive liar and thief" partner, they finally meet, but things don't work out as expected. The result is very funny yet somewhat cliched.

2.6 -- FOR MY FATHER, Dror Zahavi
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A young Arab man is sent to Tel-Aviv on a suicide mission. While in the the market square, the bomb fails to go off and he is forced to spend the week-end in Israel. He is befriended by the locals. Potentially an emotionly engaging film somewhat weakened by shoddy script and editing. "Paradise Now" by Hany Abu-Assad is far superior.

2.0 -- NAF: THE STREET KID, Moshe Alfi
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Documentary that follows a young man who, after being thrown out at 14 by his father (an ultra-orthodox Jew), takes up life in the streets of Jerusalem where he is exposed to crime and drugs, politics and rap music. Pales when compared to "Leaving the Fold." Film glorifies kids' lifestyle; script and editing were choppy; issues were unclear.

2.6 -- THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME, Emmanuel Naccache and Stéphane Belaisch
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Title refers to the presence of a "religiously themed" idea that is both obsessive and delusional, triggered by a visit to Jerusalem. A French diplomat is convinced that he is Jonah -- the prophet swallowed by the "big fish." He enters a synagogue and asks for "prophet asylum." In a collective taxi, he joins a Rabbinical student and five other strangers all from completely different backgrounds. Hilarious and enjoyable.

2.4 -- SHIVA, Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Dysfunctional Jewish family comes together in the home of a deceased loved one in keeping with the tradition of SHIVA -- seven days of mourning. As the days and nights unfold, tension, bitterness, resentment and rivalries between brothers and sisters begin to surface creating an emotional rollercoaster that oscillates between the comedic and tragic. Over-dependence on threatrical props combined with vagueness on the custom of SHIVA detracted from the film's overall effect.

3.1 -- THREE TIMES DIVORCED, Ibtisam Salh Mara'ana
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Documentary that vividly brings to light the all too frequent occurrence of conjugal violence, especially when complicated by religious and political values that effectively deny the rights and even the existence of the victims.


[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Historically accurate account of the developement and building of the Devarim -- the first car to be manufactured in Turkey (the year is 1961). Well crafted scenario, exquisite score, good performances throughout. A compelling rendering of the productive synthesis of unity and determination.

[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Day to day look at Turkish society that does not quite engage despite low key humour. Rambling and unfocused.

[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Social, political and economic comedy about a local ice cream vendor struggling to succeed against a huge competitor. Delightfully engaging characters. Amusing plot lines.

2.6 -- CLOUDS OF MAY (MAYIS SIKINTISI), Nuri Bilge Ceylan
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Human drama about a film maker who returns to his village to shoot a film, which upsets the apparent happiness of his parents and relatives. Slow to engage but does seep in. Beautiful landscapes shots of Turkish countryside.

3.2 -- TAKVA - A MAN'S FEAR OF GOD, Ozer Kiziltan
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Social drama exposing the potentially destructive power of religiously induced guilt. Although set in an Islamic context, this film has a universal application. A stricly devout and humble man is given a position of responsibility by a rich and powerfull religious group. This puts him in conflict with his concepts about his responsibilties towards God. Convincing performance from the lead.

2.6 -- DISTANT (UZAK), Nuri Bilge Ceylan
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] A photographer in Istanbul opens his home to his younger cousin from the country. Continuing with the themes taken up in the director's previous film, "Clouds of May," Ceylan's latest allows him to productively contrast city versus country life, which evolves into meditation on life. To great effect, he uses the same two actors, Muzaffer Ozdemir and Mehmit Emin Toprak.

[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Set in Southeast Turkey in the early 1980s during marshal law, this bittersweet, politically charged comedy centers on a group of musicians trying to make ends meet. The commander decides to draft them into serving their country. Humour is light-hearted but not immune to the uncertainty of the times. Ample use of Turkish folk music.



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Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
2013 Festival Montreal en Lumiere (Feb. 21st - Mar. 3rd)
Arion Baroque Orchestra Montreal
IMAGE + NATION film festival Nov. 22 - Dec. 2nd (Montreal)
2012 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 10-21st, (514) 844-2172
Nuit d'Afrique: July 10th-22th
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal Jazz Festival
CINEMANIA (Montreal) - festival de films francophone 4-14th novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082
2011 Longueuil Percussion Festival: 450 463-2692
2012 Montreal International Documentary Festival Nov. 7th - 18th
Bougie Hall Orchestera Montreal
2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL (Montreal) North America's Premier Genre Festival July 3-21
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101
CD Dignity by John Lavery available by e-mail: - 10$ + 3$ shipping.
Montreal World Film Festival
© Roberto Romei Rotondo
Festivalissimo Film Festival - Montreal: May 18th - June 5th (514 737-3033
April 29th to May 8th: Pan African Film Festival-Montreal
2011 Festival Montreal en Lumiere
Photo by David Lieber:
Listing + Ratings of films from festivals, art houses, indie
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Canadian Tire Repair Scam [2211 boul Roland-Therrien, Longueuil] = documents-proofs
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
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