Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 14, No. 5, 2015
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl
Into Eternity
When We Leave




So far, A & O film critics Nancy Snipper and Andrew Hlavacek have seen the following films. Here are their reviews and ratings, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] In his fifth documentary feature committed to social justice issues, Olivier D. Asselin focuses on the years long struggle of Québec environmentalists to block TransCanada’s vast EnergyEast pipeline project. The proposed pipeline would run 4600km to a deep water port built in a key beluga calving ground in the St-Lawrence estuary. All evidence points to a dangerous, ill-conceived and ill-engineered mega-project pushed through an emaciated public consultation process by vast sums of corporate lobby dollars. While Pipelines, Power and Democracy details the successful struggle to block EnergyEast, it more broadly describes the mechanics of environmental activism -- from highly public direct action to lobbying and political participation -- how they differ and how they intersect. In so doing, Asselin maps out the history and major players in Québec’s environmental movement. Pipelines, Power and Democracy reiterates what many documentaries of its kind have done: that the political process is being unduly influenced by corporate self-interest across the political spectrum. And though P.P. & D. offers hope in its documentation of a key victory, it shows the supreme importance of maintaining the struggle against all odds.

3.2 -- EL BOTÓN DE NÁCAR (LE BOUTON DE NACRE), Patricio Guzmán
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The director celebrates the element water and its relationship with the stars and the ground. But this artsy movie is really about the devastation of the four groups of indigenous peoples living in Patagonia. They were water nomads, and truly lived and breathed in and by the water. European colonist brought disease and religion, uprooting their very pantheistic beliefs. Then Pinochet's men came and tortured them in the most unbelievable manner. Their bodies were dumped into the sea via helicopter, each one of the thousand victims weighted down with two rail tracks that were laid across their stomach. One of the perpetrators was assigned in later years to dive down and retrieve what was left of these now water-logged pieces of rusted metal. A button was found near one, and this echoed the buttons of the British jacket that one of the tribe members was made to wear when, in the 19th-century, he was brought to England to be gentrified. When he went back to his home in Patagonia, he flung all his clothes far away. Today only a few very old people remain. Now dressed in modern clothes, they still speak the language of their tribe, and they still know how to make their canoes -- the iconic symbol of their survival. The film, poetic and quiet and beautifully narrated by the director, presents contrasting stunningly ethereal images of the galaxy and its connection to water with horrific scenes of human atrocity at ground level.

3.3 -- POLICE ACADÉMIE (COP CLASS), Mélissa Beaudet
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] In its closing sequences, Cop Class presents a frightening statistic: the high ethical standards of police academy graduates decline sharply once they join the force. This may explain the current disconnect between the ideals of public policing and its everyday practices. Mélissa Beaudet’s debut feature follows a group of young Collège Maisonneuve students from their 3rd year of their preparatory police course and through to their police academy training. Their reasons for wanting to become police are various. Most are very young; some have comically naive reasons for choosing law enforcement, and others are born into it. Regardless of their motivations, Cop Class dispassionately shows a system that does its best to breed professionalism and respect in its recruits. The students are made aware of their responsibility towards the public at every turn. While being drilled in protocols and legal justifications of arrest procedures, Beaudet quietly hints at more a fundamental shortcoming of a vocational model, which seems to ignore the need for more fundamental, academic education. Police training in Québec does not require higher education. Social sciences and humanities subjects are sidelined. While the public regularly experiences the schism between theory and reality of community policing, statistics show that the collapse of graduates’ ethical compasses is due to disillusionment with the realities of what is obviously very difficult work. In this light, perhaps more fundamental course work, and a little bit more maturity could make the difference in the practice of policing.

3.1 -- MAMAN? NON MERCI! (NO KIDS FOR ME, THANKS!), Magenta Baribeau
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] In general, parenthood so valued as to eclipse all other forms of self-realization. In an audacious example of Québec’s documentary tradition No Kids For Me, Thanks! confronts a taboo that continues to plague women in the 21st century: motherhood. In her debut feature, director Magenta Baribeau shows that women who choose to not be mothers swim against a very strong current of expectation. In many ways, adults who choose to not have kids often find themselves infantilized, second guessed and, in the extreme cases, living a closeted existence as non-parents. Even in a liberated society such as Québec’s, women's rights to reproductive choice are unquestioned only up to the point of not choosing motherhood. No Kids For Me, Thanks! explodes the myth of feminist advancement and shows through various testimonies that the core societal assumption of maternity remains unchallenged and expected of women even today. These expectations are inbred, beginning with close family and friends and extending to broader society whose members often feel justified in challenging what is in effect a personal choice. Baribeau’s film succinctly demonstrates that we live in a cult of motherhood, whose machine perpetuates nuclear family stereotypes and shrouds the reality of maternity in a cloak of idealized bliss.

2.8 -- STAR*MEN, Allison Rose
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Director of Love at the Twilight Motel, Alison Rose offers a very personal project through which we learn as much about her passion for astronomy as we do about the film’s subjects. The subjects of Star*Men are nevertheless exceedingly interesting. Together, Wal Sargent, Donald Lynden-Bell, Neville Woolf and Roger Griffin represent some of the 20th century’s landmark advances in the observation and understanding of the universe. In 1960 these men all found themselves on post-doctoral research at Cal Tech -- one of the world’s premier astronomy schools. Drawn together by their British roots, they became known for taking off on various rambles through the American southwest in a beaten up station wagon. The film follows their 50th reunion and return to their southwestern stomping grounds. For what may perhaps be their last ramble together they tour some of the country’s iconic astronomical installations. Touching, poignant, with spectacular time-lapse imagery and breathtaking images of the cosmos, Star*Men does get a little sentimental at times. Equally trying is the film’s music -- a documentary equivalent of elevator music -- which adds nothing to the overall quality of the film’s cinematography. Star*Men gives pause to consider the wider questions of our existence in a stupendously huge cosmos made slightly more concrete thanks in part to the contributions of these great scientists.

[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] As a long time centre of coal production, the northern Chinese city of Datong faces huge environmental and social challenges -- ones its mayor, Deng, hopes to overcome with a bold scheme to re-erect the city’s ancient walls. The scheme requires extreme determination and micro-management. Deng navigates a system whose vast financial investments trickle down to irresponsible and self-serving subcontractors. His is also a vision not everyone shares as thousands of homes must be demolished and thousands built in order to relocate the people. With unprecedented access to the mayor, director Hao Zhu turns the camera on the mechanics of centralized planning. Deng is ferocious in his desire to affect change. He believes that rebuilding the ancient city will rejuvenate the city’s cultural history and cement Datong’s future legacy as a tourist city. The Chinese Mayor is a difficult film to watch. It starkly presents the massive inequalities between ordinary people and the ruling elite. In so doing it goes on to show how everyone is, to a degree, trapped by system’s deep rooted corruption and lack of accountability. Though Deng wields tremendous power, he is at the mercy of the Party’s whims as much as the city’s citizens are at the mercy of his grand plans. Yet he is also critical of the structure of which he is part and desperate to implement change for the benefit of future generations. Gambler? Megalomaniac? Humanitarian? Deng is, if nothing else, passionate and deeply committed to finishing what he started.

3.0 -- AFTER CIRCUS, Viveka Melki
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] At once touching homage to the dying art of traditional circus and rumination on growing old, Viveka Melki presents the stories of a community of circus performers who have settled in Sarasota, a Florida city whose ties with circus go back to the beginnings of the art in the United States. What Montréal is to Nouveau Cirque, Sarasota is to its traditional big top grandparent. Unlike some forms of artistic expression, circus performance, especially in its more physically demanding disciplines, makes for short careers. The film focuses on, Circus Sarasota, the project of legendary aerialist Dolly Jacobs and husband Pedro Reis. Their goal in creating the circus is to preserve the traditional circus heritage while giving both rising young artists as well older masters in the twilight of their careers a place hone their craft. While, Jacobs, in her 50s, continues to perform, she is facing the inevitable reality of having to retire one day. Her Sarasota circus family keeps its heritage very close, never forgetting those who no longer perform. The loss of the circus lifestyle, as well as the act of performance represent fundamental losses to retired circus artists. Moreover, the loss of revenue from a non-traditional income source far leave many former circus artists hovering on the edge of poverty. After Circus gives a voice to invisible legends, whose often well-documented fame is likely never to penetrate into the mainstream.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An 18 minute short. What a brave little ten-year-old. Giovanni is determined to join the Netherlands' synchronized swimming team and make it to the championships. But gender -- aside from not being able to do the splits -- is his greatest deterrent; boys aren't allowed on the team. Still he trains with the girls, masters the splits, and actually passes the try-out for entry into the country's grand competition. Another entertaining side line to the story is the support he gets from Kim, his Goldie locks girl friend. Their banter is akin to two adults approaching marriage (which adds more amusement to this true story). However, the pull of the water is stronger than the pull of any long term commitment, and so, Kim and Giovanni change the status of their relationship to friendship. What a darling short -- a film that also sends an enduring message: unconventionality wins the day.

[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Through the voices and instruments of some of its most important musicians, They Will Have to Kill Us First is a bitter look at how the conflicts in northern Mali have destabilized the region’s essential musical culture. Schwartz follows artists from Timbuktu and Gao as they struggle with exile in southern Mali and other west African havens after their cities fall under Islamist imposition of Sharia law. The medieval interpretation of Sharia preferred by the extremists forbids any form of musical expression deemed ‘modern.’ Music is central to Malian cultural expression. In Abderrahmane Sissako’s stunning 2014 fiction film, Timbuktu -- also about the Islamist invasion of northern Mali -- the outlawing of music represents one of the key traumas. Schwartz’s film details these injustices and moves beyond music. The musicians feel a sense of social responsibility and their craft as a weapon against oppression and a tool for reconciliation. Beautifully filmed, focusing on the words of the participants with no additional narrative, They Will Have to Kill Us First is an admirable first feature effort and an important film that showcases an exceedingly admirable culture suffering the terrible fate of greater regional and historical instability.

3.0 -- JESUS TOWN, USA , Billie Mintz & Julian T. Pinder
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Jesus Town, USA introduces a cast of hundreds in what is America’s longest running outdoor passion play. Since the 1930s a small town near Lawton Oklahoma, known as the Holy City of the Wichitas, has been putting on an huge production of the Passion of Christ every Easter. Drawing, at times, crowds of tens of thousands, the production is a multi-generational community project that defines its participants through their involvement in the spectacle as well as by their Christian faith. Mintz and Pinder’s documentary, though unscripted, uses to a certain narrative ‘advantage,’ the huge amount of footage shot during their six-month immersion in the community, to tell the story of the production and of its current 'Christ,' Zach Little. Highly motivated and not at all camera-shy, Zach wins the audition to play Christ after the play’s long-time ‘Christ’ suddenly announces his retirement. The film’s original intention may have been to expose a quirky Christian event in small-town USA along with its cast of bumbling faithfuls. However, Jesus Town, USA ends up portraying the process of coming out against a community’s deeply held belief system to surprising results. Director Mintz -- on hand during this Québec première -- shies away from defining his film as a ‘hybrid’ documentary although the narrative bend inherent in the film’s editorial choices is clearly evident. Nevertheless, the film sets up an entertaining level of suspense as everyone struggles with the paradox of a ‘Christ’ who professes a different faith.

3.1 -- PEGGY GUGGENHEIM; ART ADDICT, Lisa Immordino Vreeland
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Thirty-eight years after the death of eccentric art collector and 'manizer' with the artists she befriended and promoted, Peggy Guggenheim is the focus of this stimulating, insightful documentary. It's a sterling mix of voice overs: the director and her subject engage in conversation bringing up all topics related to Guggenheim's two loves: art and the men whose paintings she exhibited in Paris, London and New York. Precious audio tapes were found of Guggenheim, and so the director made use of them while showing old stills and movie clips of her life. Enriching was the cornucopia of paintings shown in the film - of Europe's great modern artists, including Leger, Deschamps, Dali, Ernst and Pollack (her New York find, along with de Kooning). A woman of great vision and courage, she managed to find a way to save all the paintings in her museum in France during the war. Guggenheim will be remembered. Homely and having had a sad family life -- her father lost his life in the Titanic tragedy, and her sister killed her self and her two children -- this New York Jewish lady was and will always be a giant in galvanizing the status of modern art. Not only that, she brought over countless Jewish artists before Hitler could get to them.

3.8 -- DEMOCRATS, Camilla neilsson
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A superb film (2014) shot over a three-year period in which director Camilla Nielsson gained exclusive access to the inner circles of politics in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe by following the two political opponents: the bullish, buffoonish Mangwana of the long-time ruling party ZANU-PF, and the Movement for Democratic Change's progressive Mwonzora, from the MDC party headed by President Morgan Tsvangirai who won the 2008 presidential election. Refusing to accept the outcome, Mugabe's vote rigging efforts successfully forced a run-off election. To stop the subsequent brutal and widespread ZANU PF politically motivated violence, Dr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off election.
The stage is now set for the drafting of a constitution. Mwonzora is a former lawyer whose gentle manner, respect for people, diplomacy and evolved thinking are virtues that are completely in contrast to his adversary with whom he must now collaborate on writing a new constitution for the country. To do this they face people all over the country. The process is marred from the outset: sinister unfair tactics from ZANU-PF corrupt a nationwide consultation designed to hear the people's voice. Secret police and government supporters stymie people from expressing their real views about the present government and what they wish to see written in the constitution. The death of a teenager during a violent meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, adds oil to the already heated scene where Mangwana threatens to fire the writers who are drafting up the constitution. Why? Because one of the clauses states that no president can hold office for more than ten years. This horrifies the theatrical and now hysterical Mangwana and puts him in grave danger, as this clause implies that Mugabe must be ousted; he must go; yet Mangwana is the puppet representing and loyal to the president. Panicking, he actually gets Mwonzona put in jail for two months on trumped up charges from 2003. Interestingly and eventually, he begins to come on side with Mwonora, his collaborator whom he thus far he opposes; he see that the constitution is so important and that with the revision of that clause -- Mwonzora takes care of modifying the terms -- that limits the duration of a president in power will come into effect in the future. Mangwana gains great respect for Mwonzora, for making concessions for the greater good, for setting an example of democratic compromise. Both now are determined to push on. As the drama unfolds, the grave personal costs to reaching political victory become clear. Two years after due date, the constitution is finally written, Mugabe, nonetheless is suspiciously reelected. Still, the laws are now written, and dictatorial hell may one day diminish if not altogether disappear. A brilliant film with astonishing developments that pit two politically diametrically opposed men against one another; yet their mandate to work together triumphs. The outcome is riveting.

3.2 -- THE OTHER SIDE, Roberto Minervini
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Mark and Lisa are methane addicts, but function autonomously and with loving care towards each other. Mark is highly intelligent and able; he's a good soul who cares for his sister and niece, and most of the old timers he visits in the run-down backwoods of Louisiana. Mark and his kind are pretty darn isolated. We meet a band of self-appointed men who form a militia against the American government. They are armed and are learning training tacits to protect their families. All the men and women we meet are like red-neck, yet caring people from another part of the universe. Social and economic deprivation has shaped the impoverished minds of these folk who have been left to fend for themselves -- abandoned by society and shunned by Americans who live comfortably. Despite their problems, the family unit and family values remain intact.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The Bois de Vincennes comprises 2459 acres, and serves as a living hideout for those wishing to escape from society's pressures. In this documentary, we meet all kinds of sordid characters (prostitutes, voyeurs), some of whom use the park for clandestine homosexual encounters, or as a background for painting, or simply to stretch one’s legs. We meet tree specialists who take care of the trees, and biologists who study salamanders. This park is a universe unto itself right in the heart of Paris. Four lakes, biking paths, a bridal path and meadows everywhere, the park is a sanctuary for those who yearn for nature and the simple life. What enchantment!



Help Haiti = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
2015 Montreal International Documentary Festival Nov. 12th 22nd
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
CINEMANIA (Montreal) - festival de films francophone 5-15th novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082
2015 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 07-18st, (514) 844-2172
2012 Festival Montreal en Lumiere
Nuit d'Afrique: July 8th - July 20st
Montreal World Film Festival
2015 Montreal's Off Jazz Festival Oct 1st to 10th
2015 Montreal Chamber Music Festival
Andrew Hlavacek - Arts & Culture Blog (Montreal)
Listing + Ratings of films from festivals, art houses, indie
David Solway's Blood Guitar CD
Montreal Jazz Festival
2014 Montreal Francofolies Music Festival with Lynda Renée
2014 IMAGE + NATION film festival (Montreal)
2014 Space for Life Concerts @Montreal Botanical Gardens
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
2013 Montreal Chamber Music Festival
Arion Baroque Orchestra Montreal
April 25th to May 4th: Montreal
Bougie Hall Orchestera Montreal
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.
© Roberto Romei Rotondo
Photo by David Lieber:
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Canadian Tire Repair Scam [2211 boul Roland-Therrien, Longueuil] = documents-proofs
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis