1999 Films

Rabbit Punch Canada 1999 Mary Lewis Taking its cue from the world of boxing, this short edgy drama tells a story involving the ambiguous relationship between a professional fighter and his troubled wife. Caught between an abusive past and an uncertain future, this feisty beauty jabs nervously at life. This film is a terrific study in intensity, an uncompromising exercise in character that never surrenders to the count.
Strangled in a Small Town Canada 1999 Vicky Hynes Most of this film records a conversation between Cookie--a woman more traveled than the Outer Ring Road, and Grace--a cranky-ise alley, and Cookie;s wacky old high school teacher. In some ways this very short character study speaks as many verses as a good bluesy-country ballad. In fact, this film is almost like an extended music video, interrupted by an interesting conversation.
In the Dollhouse Canada 1999 Ruth Lawrence A powerful little drama about a woman, a meal, and an exhausted candle. Actor Marion Cheeks gives a strong performance as the central figure who is all dressed up and has nowhere to go. The accompanying fiddle music fills the filmic space like a surprise guest. A surprisingly affecting drama for such a short short.
Limbo Canada 1999 Michelle Jackson, Renee Pilgrim This colorful short is obviously enjoying itself. You get the feeling that he directors had a terrific time playing around with the equipment, and the fun is infectious. Somewhere between a music video and a lively comedy, the result is, well, somewhat in limbo. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
New Neighbours Canada 1999 Anita McGee In a word--too cute for words. okay, that;s more than one, but this film insists on having its way with words, so why shouldn’t we? Watch the always convincing Maise Rillie rock her crocheted socks off as her usually ordered world reacts wildly to the alluring sounds of her apartment neighbours. If you have never seen your gyp-rock experience an rogasm you’re in for a treat. More to the point, check out the apartment wall as two pictorial icons do a bizarre mating dance. This description notwithstanding, New Neighbours is rated G--for Giddy.
A Clothesline Patch Canada 1999 Mary Lewis, Anita McGee Based on a script by Donna Morrissey, this film is a fully washed local production. Director Lewis focused the lens on a Newfoundland community steeped in the old ways. The story centres on a young girl who must pretty much figure out her initiation into womanhood on her own. The women who might otherwise instruct her circulate gossip as freely as tea, but they are superstitious and generally disapproving, not much help as sex educators. Men in this familiar culture are always heading out in trucks or to sea, near invisible figures in the domestic life of the family. The clothesline ‘patch’ is more than a line of laundered sheets. It also functions like the town pump, a site of exchange and revelation. The camera captures summer around the bay, where the rocky verdant land offers its wonders, a natural backdrop to the interior human drama of growing reluctantly into adulthood.
The Untold Story Canada 1999 Greg Malone, Marian Frances White There’s an irony here: as soon as you see this film you know so much more about the ‘story’ that the ‘untold’ part starts to seem irrelevant. The crew of this film have done something remarkable: they have turned silence into story. And what a grand story to tell. It is one thing to chronicle the history of the suffragists of Newfoundland; is it quite another to do so with this much grace and class. A near seamless blend of archival footage and present-day re-enactment conveys the full power of the formidable women who fought for the right to vote. It’s hard to imagine just how difficult that fight was, or how much ignorance these bread-baking child-rearing tea-drinking hat-wearing god-fearing placard-waving women had to face.
Women Are Not Little Men Canada Lisa Hayes This film openly borrows time-tested genres to gender, sexualize and critique their assumptions. this film actually lifts its title and text from a 1950s industrial; safety and training manual, layering it over both archival and contemporary images. This is a very clear device that works to show up the fifties as the demented post-war era it was and to suggest how much--and little--has changed. Today’s public discourse wouldn’t tolerate a language of the ‘weaker sex’, but what’s in an adjective? The more things change the more they hide the same old assumptions.
Drive She Said UK Ruth Novaczek There’s something about Arabic music that makes us want to sway, sing and swoon. This short video offers a rich montage of exotic images to compliment its sensuous score and its poem-rap text. the filmmaker likes to say that this is ‘an abstract meditation on hope’. Okay, whatever; we found it powerfully seductive all around. This film spins off a famous poem by Robert Creely (“I Know A Man”) but makes something totally new, sexed, and sexy of the original.
Keeper Canada 1999 Carole O'Brien The plot is uncomplicated but the lives of the central characters are not. The dreamy, boy-hungry Suzanne seizes the day while her older sister, Giselle, takes more mature care of Suzanne’s little girl, Maddie. This film focuses intently on the explosive tension between the two women, as the “keeper” Giselle is compelled to shake Suzanne out of her hazy complacency. In seventeen short minutes, the director clearly achieves a confident representation of characters in conflict.
The Moody Brood Canada Lulu Keating Being on of eleven children, director Lulu Keating explores the anarchic world of a multi-sibling childhood through a lively combination of home-movie footage, photography, and computer animation. The patriarchal sire was a staunch Roman Catholic who raised his family in Antigonish, otherwise known to us as the last major pit stop before the ferry to Port aux Basques. Mom was obviously very very busy being pregnant. The children all grew up to discover their destinies. And Lulu, the sixth child of the pack, grew up to be the filmmaker, writer, educator, organizer, actor and mother whose own creative energy has marked everyone she’s ever met. One of the most affectionate portraits of family dysfunction we’ve ever seen.
In My Father's House The Netherlands/Morocco Fatima Jebli Ouzzani This documentary crosses the filmmaker’s search for her father with the elaborate trappings of a Moroccan wedding ceremony. you’ll come to appreciate the connection between these two narrative lines, but you’ll be especially fascinated by the strange fusion of modern and traditional mores. Ouzzani is firmly rooted in the present tense world of Dutch feminism, but her roots reach back into dry and unchanging Islamic soil, where men are men and women are veiled and virginal. The hip couple who permitted intimate access to their nuptial preparations opt for a ceremony as removed from their real-life existence as the city is from the desert. This film centres on the astonishingly restricted world of Islamic women, but never condescends it’s subjects, who the director herself shares an unresolved past.
Up and Down She Goes Canada 1998 Elizabeth MacKenzie The director describes this work as a “meditation on child-rearing” and on “feeling of anxiety, loss and joy”. This two minute “essay” is more moving than a whole summer’s worth of mainstream features. Just follow the bouncing baby and you’ll see what we mean.
Missing Canada Candice Day What’s black and white and missing all over? This oddly touching and whimsical tale is of a young boy who must contrive creative measures to gain the attention of his preoccupied yuppy family.
Smile Pretty USA 1998 Carol Cassidy The resounding theme of this film on the culture of beauty pageants is that it “hurts to be beautiful”. Why else would adolescent girls submit to scalp-bruising hairstyles, breast-pinching ball gowns marathon makeup jobs, and a lifetime without french fries? The tricky business is to chronicle these girls’ almost desperate quest for the brass pageant trophies with sympathy and patience. It would have been too easy to sneer and snicker, although inevitably we found ourselves doing some of that, too. Cassidy’s access to the backstage world of these arguably trashy pageants is nothing short of uncanny.
The Dollhouse Diaries Canada Rae Staeson This “diary” offers a memory of childhood in a strikingly clever way. Unlike other autobiographical film journeys that make sense of experience by giving a past a beginning, middle and an end, this cinematic diary opts to alphabetize its contents. Good by intelligible story line; these are a few of the director’s favorite (and not so favorite) things from A-Z.
kalin's prayer USA DeSales Based on a true story, this multi award winning film dramatizes an unconventional tale in an appropriately unorthodox way. kalin grows up in the Bible-thumping deep South. As if that weren't enough of a handicap, she’s a crack-addicted lesbian model: not exactly the stuff of situation comedy. She eventually falls in love with a visiting New York lawyer and turns to the unwelcoming streets of Manhattan. Admittedly a “love letter”, this film is director-lawyer DeSales’ way of coming to terms with her own complex relationship experience with a woman just like kalin. ultimately, the ‘prayer’ is as much an expression of the filmmaker’s struggle to reconcile herself to her own experience as it is an expression of another woman’s psyche.
Just A Wedding Canada Beverly Shaffer This riveting NFB documentary takes us back to the life of Nadia, who occupied the centre of Shaffer’s 1977 Oscar-winning I’ll Find a Way, where Nadia’s physical disability informed her spirited independence. Now she’s grown up and has fallen in love with Dennis, a deceptively sweet lug who is nuts about Nadia and all that that implies. This film follows the couple, determined bride and unsuspecting groom, as they go through the usual social pre-nup labyrinth. However in many ways, this is no ordinary couple and this wedding acquires a life of its own. This is a totally unforgettable, amazingly intimate, seductively absorbing examination of two very human individuals who feel like friends by the time the credits roll.
Siena Canada Lynn Smith This lyrical short is essentially a visual pun, imaging representations of the northern Italian city in the burnished hues from which the title derives. The effect is at once delightful and informative, a charming experiment in geography and paint.
Gorilla Girls Australia Fiona Cochrane A raw, even crude, quality to this drama perfectly captures the underdog realism of a group of misfitting basketball players. You ever notice how the world still insists on referring to such groups as “ladies sports teams”? Well there ain’t no ladies and they’re hardly a team, but they are hard-living individuals who are giving the game it’s last and best shot. Threatened with no sponsorship if they lose one more time, the Gorillas must beat the more glamorously spandexed opposition. Unlike the usual league-of-their-own women’s sports stories, these it nothing phony or inevitable about any of this. It’s not who wins; it;s who dribbles with the most dignity.
Charlie's Prospect Canada Ariella Pahlke Real-guy folk artist Charlie Norris is the titular figure of this short film performed by Elmer MacDonald. Charlie spends his time in Lower Prospect N.S., reproducing his tiny fishing village as an even tinier miniature model. Uncannily accurate and irresistibly cute, this teeny weeny copy of a village attracts a CFA who feels he simply must have it. Charlie this faces a moral dilemma: to sell or not to sell (out)? You can see the potential for allegory here, can’t you? Whoever thought dollhouse villages were for girls hasn’t met Charlie.
The Phonebook 1998 Christine Stewart A short and punchy treatise on the relationship between names and identity. This visual-savvy look of this wonderful short film is entertaining complement to the self-effacingly aware voice-over. Just shows you that a talented filmmaker can make anything interesting. We’d love to see what Stewart can do with drying paint.
Swell Canada Carolynne Hew This is a short experimental film that exploits several film techniques--hand processing, tinting, pixelation--with digital effects. The result is abstract, but not entirely inaccessible. The effect is powerful, but not entirely intimidating. The director is working with the theme of desire...and the swell that results. Let yourself go and take in the sound and images. Enough said: the rest is up to you.
Stiletto Canada Louise Leroux How come it took so long for someone to do a doc on the whys and whats of stilettos? You will be amused and appalled to discover some of the scary facts about shoes. This film is part whimsy, part study. If Toronto has a shoe museum is it any wonder that in New York you can visit a fashion therapist? The director wrestles with her personal inability to trade in her DOc Martens for a pair of phallic fetish objects, size 7. This is a fine documentary, amusing us with facts, respecting the choice of women (and some men!) who dare to strut their butts, and ultimately showing us a good slice of the world from street level--literally.
Straight From the Suburbs Canada Carole Ducharme A mock-doc comedy that turns the new world order inside out. In this parallel universe, everyone is gay, happy, and color coordinated. No wonder that young Mary--she who has two mothers--experiences shame and doubt over her stirrings of heterosexuality. This film deliberately invokes the fengre of fifties/sixties educational films, in which overbearing male voice-overs instructed audiences on everything from Cold War wardrobes to correct womanly behaviour. The text of this very film actually and directly borrows phrases from a 1998 Newsweek article about homosexuals who aimed to go straight. You’ll fully appreciate the satire.
Switch Canada Hope Thompson This film extends the modern film-noir approach to the whispering world of telephone operators. The plot is as twisted as your phone cord. Two operators experience the love that dare not speak its name. The boyfriend of one of them is involved in his own skuzzy secret games. Will this triangle make communications impossible? Will there by any service for the number they have dialed? Does Star-69 have anything to do with it? See this film for yourself and discover the secrets of a world long before the invention of instant redial.
Shift USA Kelly Anderson This compelling drama blew us all away. No doubt about the craft of this well-told tale of an unsatisfied waitress and a telemarketing prison inmate. Wit the full potency of social realism and not a trace of sentimentality, this film wisely unfolds the details of an intensively involving relationship. Drawn together through the sexy anonymity of the telephone, the two lead characters come to recognize their mutual need.
Slip Canada Deborah Kirkland, Girls With Big Guns Productions As in silk and Freudian. Aptly created by Girls With Big Guns Productions, this amusingly sexy short plays with the familiar notion that there is probably more to us all than meets the I. You’ll recognize the face of “Forbidden Love” here, but we also think the film might have been more suitably named Tease.You’ll laugh, you’ll cry for the feature version.
When the Day Breaks Canada 1999 Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis Cannes-winning masterpiece. This brilliant animated film manages to invent a completely credible anthropomorphic world, where scramble eggs and roosters buy lemons as if this were the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, the subject of the film is the very naturalness of the urban day’s rhythms, even and especially when tragedy hits. You really have to see the film to know what we mean, but we promise you an enchanted ten minutes. How did these animators dream this up? We’ll have whatever they’re taking.
Xiu Xiu USA 1998 Joan Chen A moving and subversive Chinese film. While Hollywood box offices churn out an infinite number of tickets for bigger, longer and uncut teen pron, here’s a movie about a fifteen-year old girl with enough hardship in her life to flatten your work. Set in 1975, the film takes place during the heat of the Cultural Revolution. As a “sent-down” girl, the result of a widely staged policy, Xiu Xiu finds herself forcibly removed from the province to a remote rural area near Tibet where she is supposed to be instilled with values of the proletariat. Shot in the forbidden zone of China, without government approval, cruel system, its omnipotent leader (Mao), and, by implication, its present-day strictures.
Desires on Hot Sand Greece Kalliopi Legaki We really love this charming dramatic comedy about two young women, Maro and Natalie, long-time friends who favour harlequin romances. They decide to take a trip to explore some adventurous possibilities, and along the way they encounter stupid hairy guys in cars and assorted surprises. The women are familiar, amusing, and lively; the men are, well, Greek. Best of all we love to listen to everyone speak the language of the gods while tooting through the Hellenic countryside. Makes you want to smash a plate and slather some tzatziki on your fish cakes.
Salami Heaven Canada Sue Riedl We couldn’t improve on this note accompanying the film: “Salami Heaven is a semi-autobiographical film based on the director’s experience with EAst European smoked meat”. Indeed ,a salami isn't just a salami when it occupies the central role in a creative memoir. Wherever the director goes, well...we wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun but you might rethink the way you cut your Shopsie after seeing this little psycho-drama.
A Calcutta Christmas Australia Maree Delofski A primer on post-colonialism, this winning Australian doc opens us up to a closed world of a senior’s residence in Calcutta, the Tollygunge Home. What’s unusual here is that the residents are Anglo-Indian, unprivileged descendants of a once powerful British presence. Over the course of the film we’re introduced to an odd “family”. It’s always astonishing just how intimate the camera can be in such contained quarters, and with such private people. The structure device here is the organization of Christmas festivities, in a place as far removed from the North Pole and holly-decked halls as it gets.
Some Ground to Stand On USA Joyce Warshaw This compelling doc tells the story of Blue Lunden, and her like as a working class lesbian activist. At age 61, Lunden reflects on “her” story, the baby she had and gave up for adoption (and getting her back), and the whole time, as she puts it, “doing what she wanted”. It's powerful and beautiful and you will be inspired.
Made in Thailand USA Eve-Laure Moros We’ve all heard about the abhorrent conditions in factories where Nikes and designer clothes are turned out. This powerful documentary takes you inside those factory walls and gives you a peek at the workers faces, which are mostly women. Who now are leading the fight for workers rights. This film will make you think twice before your purchase.
A Little Bit of Freedom Canada Lorna Kirk The director studies the lives of three Nepalese women, inexorably bound to each other by family and domestic reality. The richly nuanced treatment of this film moves as up close to these women as you can get without running them over. In following the diurnal round of domestic life the camera gleans so much. You get the feeling that these women treated the director as a welcome extension of their closed spheres, eager to show their lives to unknown audiences.
Visions of Yankalilla Australia Rosie Jones A freaky interesting story. What beings as a straightforward doc about a small Anglican church in Yankalilla, South Australia, turns into a surprisingly smart and very human treatment of the perils of change. Filmmaker Jones wisely keeps as much of her own opinion out of the frame as possible, permitting us the luxury of watching and judging for ourselves. Clearly, Yankalilla becomes a microcosm for similarly conflicted sites all over the Western world, where congregations dwindle and priests lack the power and popularity they once commanded.
Just Watch Me Canada 1999 Catherine Annau Annau’s critically acclaimed feature doc on the PRime Minister who once pirouetted behind the Queen, married a gorgeous hippie, and patented the shoulder shrug as the gentle forerunner of the Shawinigan handshake is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. A creative filmic essay on the social and cultural influence that Pierre Trudeau had on so many of our developing lives. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that we did, indeed, watch him. This film looks back in curiousity, reclaiming the Canadian sixties and seventies through the reflections of several articulate, deeply thoughtful men and women whose lives were consciously altered by Trudeau's dream of a swinging bilingual Canada. Just Watch Me freely captures the mod of a time, and sets it up against the living present with irony and gusto--a fitting combination for such a man.
Lisa's Hope Canada 1999 Kathleen Winter In this short candid documentary, the director captures the extensive journey of a group of determined Labrador natives from Northwest River to Quebec City. It’s not geography being tracked so much as the personal journey of Lisa Penashue whose hopes of making it with her rock band on the competitive main stages of the country take a lot more mileage. This film is a refreshingly spare treatment of a subject that nonetheless speaks volumes about the Innu struggle for dignity.
The Other Side of the Picture Canada Teresa MacInnes This illuminating documentary openly challenges the androcentric rules of the art market, showing us how off the wall most women artists remain--that is, only 8% of the art in Washington’s prestigious National Art Gallery is women’s art, a statistic as staggering as it is pathetic. This doc is both critical and celebratory, persuasively framing the art world as a regulating system that keeps women firmly out of the picture. You’ll love to hear the unguarded comments of MOMA’s director in chief as he rationalizes why women don’t seem to have made much of an impression. For all its claims to the liberationist effects of its products, the art world is a lot like any other, owned and operated by the boys holding the paint cans.
Resiliance USA Amy Happ A personal doc with a lot of heart, this profoundly candid treatment of the filmmaker’s struggle to accept her alcoholic mother moved us to screen it. Relying on home movie footage, memory, and photographs, Resilience expresses itself in an intelligently non-traditional way, one that acknowledges the discontinuous nature of memory itself. Identifying themselves as Alaskan “Eskimos”, the people who flicker before us on the screen assume the full dimensions of human struggle We admire the unusual presentation of this film, including several sustained moments of dialogue over a blackened screen, like the empty spaces between remembered fragments.
But You Speak Such Good English UK Marjan Safinia, Parisa Taghizadeh This fast paced and entertaining film speaks with an English accent, and explores the different aspects of first generation Iranian immigrants and their experiences from the inside out. Not to be missed.
Divorce Iranian Style UK/Iran Kim Longinotto And you thought we had problems? This searing documentary takes us deep inside the (in)justice system in Tehran. Iranian women seeking divorce have better odds of being hit by lightning. Filmmaker Longinotto relentlessly pursues the files of several articulate women whose domestic lives have become so unbearable they’d rather suffer public humiliation than endure another married minute. This all sounds pretty grim, and it is, but it’s also powerfully interesting, especially to Western eyes. There’ something encouraging about the sheer determination of these women, in spite of a religious system hell-bent on grinding them into submissiveness.
Righteous Babes UK Pratibha Parmer Listen in as outspoken female musicians like Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco kick the collective butts of Ally McBeal and THe Spice Girls over the commercialization of feminism. Rock on Sisters!
My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts Canada 1999 Toril Kove The title pretty much tells the story. The king was Norwegian, however, and the shirts were pressed to perfection by the filmmaker’s grandma. This sweet animation is all the more interesting because, well, apparently every words of it is true. Creases and all.
Elling Lien