2003 Films

All the Real Girls USA David Gordon Green David Gordon Green Jean Doumanian, Lisa Muskat Written by a guy but produced by a girl, this film is earnestly sympathetic to both sides of the (hetero) romantic equation. Here, the focus is on two almost twenty somethings who inhabit the awkward terrain of young love. Zooey Deschanel is Noel, a young woman who has just returned home from an all girls boarding school; Paul Schneider, conveniently called Paul, is the town’s handsome rake and clearly down in the town’s books as the potential boyfriend. At once charming and painfully real, this film sometimes wavers as uncertainly as its subjects, caught in the slow and often confusing rhythms of first love.
All Things Nice Canada Elizabeth Belliveau, Lulu Keating Elizabeth Belliveau, Lulu Keating Elizabeth Belliveau, Lulu Keating Leave it to Lulu to take on the whole body beautiful industry in four ingenious minutes. As the title suggests, little girls might be proverbially made of sugar and spice, but in our twisted fat-anxious culture eating is really not considered an appropriate public act. Not for women. They are called Mr. Subs, after all. Belliveau and Keating defy the prohibition by challenging themselves to a contest: who can eat the most Cherry Blossoms? On screen, camera running, nothing but water to choke the chocolate and treacly syrup down, these two go at it like Willy Wonka on meds.
Anatomist in Situ Canada Lori Clarke Lori Clarke Lori Clarke Even wonder what physicians think about when they have to work on cadavers? This provocative film entertains the question with the help of any anatomy professor who offers her own reflections on the delicate business of working with the dead. Here Lori Clarke extends her cinematic work on the body, marking this film with her fresh intelligence and always cinematically interesting images of the life of the mind. Indeed, the film might have been called Six Feet Above.
The Ball Australia Anny Slater Anny Slater Lily Hamdon, Serafina Froio, Anny Slate A sign of artistic maturity is the ability to look at the world with razor-sharp wit. Belying the bad joke about women taking themselves too seriously, this film is a hilarious homage to and critique of Jane Campion’s The Piano, arguably one of the most serious and sensitive films ever made. In a few brilliantly crafted images, The Ball manages to score major laughs of recognition, as the mute heroine, Ada, travels to New Zealand to meet her new husband with her Scottish terrier and her soccer ball. Mistaking refugee-challenged Australian Prime Minister John Howard for her husband, Ada must deal with his strange demands and the loss of her precious ball. Need we say more?
The Bed Canada John Penhall John Penhall Sarah Phillips This comic short is a terrific little parable about how time stops still for livers in bed, good lovers anyways, not the kind with whom one needs to check one’s watch. How to keep such a blissful state, though, that’s the challenge. The young couple in this clever tale at first respects the bed, as they are cautioned to do, but they then fall into the trap of forgetting its power. Such forgetfulness leads to, well, the natural course of many relationships, not to mention bed death.
Bitter UK Tamara Tracz Tamara Tracz Tamara Tracz I’m not bitter--are you bitter? This inventive film gets at the denial in that familiar statement in a comically poignant way. Just because your life is miserable and the world sucks and no one understands you doesn’t mean you can’t sing about it. This film animates the state of whining like you’ve never seen or heard.
Bloodlines: The DNA Dilemma Canada Wendy Rowland Wendy Rowland, Barry Stevens Annette Clarke A compelling documentary about what happens when good people get bad genes. A clear presentation of a rather difficult subject, the vexing problem of how the essence of personal, one’s DNA, might be harnessed for very public (that is, medical and commercial ) advantage. Indeed, one might well ask whether such stuff the bodies are made of really shoud be bought and sold at all. The question resonates deeply in Newfoundland where centuries of kinship patterns have made the island a thriving research pool. There are more social; and ethical questions here than we might ever have answers for, but this film encourages the debate while it stirs the pool.
The Bread Maker Canada Anita McGee Sherry White Jennice Ripley, Anita McGee The scriptwriter herself stars as Honey Reddigan, a young woman with longing so deep she has to write, sing, and generally fuss about it. White brings a marvelous complexity to the character. turning a sometimes stunned, needy, and alcohol-infused romantic figure into a genuinely sympathetic and familiar young woman. Her foil is Edmund Goobie, played with just the right mix of cad and uncertainty by Jonathan Torrens.At first the two hit it off like fermenting yeast and rising flour, but eventually the relationship goes sourdough as Honey’s needs incite Edmund’s commitment-avoidance skittishness. This film marks yet another triumph of local talent and pluck, the kind of triumph Honey herself could achieve.
Celesta Found Canada David McIlwraith Rina Fraticelli Rina Fraticelli This documentary comes as close to conveying the narrative power of drama as any fiction film we’ve seen. A woman named Celesta Taylor, living in Quebec’s eastern Townships, had diligently kept diaries of her melodramatic journey through life, first as a young mother, then as a widow, and ultimately as a middle-aged woman desperately in love with her doubtful cousin. Sure, Ceesta had a room of her own, but it’s doubtful that writing freed her completely from the loneliness she so often expressed. Yet her words, so raw and eloquent, speak to us in the present with a power and familiarity that belie the sixty odd years since they were first entered.
Discovering Dominga USA Patricia Flynn Patricia Flynn, Mary Jo McConahay There’s nothing predictable about this extraordinary profile of a young Iowa housewife who decides to trace her biological roots in Guatemala. Adopted and fully integrated into Midwestern American life, Dominga Sic Ruiz set out to recover a personal history that partakes of a tragic social and political reality. The film traces her own troubling confrontation with her dual identity, with all the assumptions and privilege she had been enjoying as a young woman, and with her own necessary quest for justice. The title therefore, plays on the difficult process that Dominga must experience to come to terms with nothing less than a search for her true home, her true family, and her true self--possibly an impossible search.
A Dog’s Life” A Dogamentary USA Gayle Kirschenbaum Gayle Kirschenbaum Gayle Kirschenbaum Chances are you’ve already heard about this film and the doggy-cam mounted ever so purposefully on Chelsea’s (the star Shih Tzu) head to allow for a full dog’s eye view of the world. Indeed, Chelsea does everything but actually speak although with “Mommy” Kirschenbaum holding the leash and calling the shots, why bother? As the director points out early on, she and Chelsea have so much in common: they hate snow, are easily startled, have “abandonment” issues, recognize how much there is to sniff out there...could we make any of this up? What might look for some time as a mockumentary eventually turns into something completely different. We won’t spoil the surprises, but we can advise that this at once hilarious and moving dogamentary is full of unexpected turns.
El Contrato Canada Min Sook Lee Karen King-Chigbo This is a fascinating documentary about a hidden subject, the exploitation of migrant Mexican workers in a country that boasts peace, order and good government. That’s right, we can easily blame Canada, and specifically those with capital interest in the lucrative greenhouse industry in Leamington, Ontario. Director Lee has an impressive track record as an investigative journalist for CBC so it’s not surprising that she marshals her art here to uncover the veil of racism in what is otherwise a quiet and self-satisfied community. She filmed the laborers over an entire growing season, following a group of Mexican men who have temporarily abandoned their families for the promise of a paycheque somewhere else. It's a struggle to understand why the greenhouse owners treat them so poorly, why the government welcomes them as laborers but not as citizens, and why they are patronized and even shunned by the white residents of Leamington. It’s not a pretty picture, but there’s something unflinchingly honest about the camera as it captures the faces of these men as they work.
The Eyeglasses Russia Irina Sitkova Irina Sitkova Nikolai Solovston This dramatic short comes to us from Russia with a love of surrealism, and specifically Luis Bunuel’s shocking Un Chien Andalou to which it indirectly pays homage. The central character requires a special pair of eyeglasses, but as in many dreams of desire and longing, he not only gets his wish but he also gets more than he bargained for. The world unfolds before his startled gaze in horrible clarity; he witnesses a murder, and must pay the price for such a vision. But does he? At once comic and disturbing, this film teases our perceptions with its recurring motifs, people, and plots. If life is like a movie, than is this what happens when the movie is Russian?
Fool Proof Canada Marian Frances White Marian Frances White Marian Frances White, Paul Pope They say that clowns are basically unhappy people, masking their pain with a big honking red nose and a trick flower in their lapel. Nothing could be further from that cliche than Beni Malone, a professional clown from St. John’s who is as animated and lively off stage as he is when he’s wearing giant floppy shoes. This film explores the noble terrain of the clown with Beni as the informed tour guide. It’s all interesting and fresh, and the best thing to a film without a net we’ve seen in a long time.
If the Weather Permits/Si le Temps le Permet Canada Elisapie Isaac Elisapie Isaac Yves Bisaillon This film takes director Isaac, a young woman from Salluit who now lives in Montreal, back to her Northern roots. Her grandfather’s recent death in Qaqqaayummarik compels her to ask an important question: can Inuit culture survive in the modern world? In the shift from dogsled to SkiDoo, what has been lost and gained? This personal documentary is not so much an occasion for nostalgia as it is an honest questioning of what lies ahead for the Inuit.
The Home Front Canada Monica Kidd Monica Kidd Monica Kidd This short film depends on a set of oppositional principles to dismantle a house of cards: black and white, private and public, war and peace, international and domestic, sight and sound. The pun of the title is all the more intelligible when you see how the director works her creative magic, underscoring the weakness of official war policy via some brilliant juxtapositions. You’ll get the message but the real achievement of this work is that is refuses to be didactic.
In the Name of Love USA Shannon O’Rourke Shannon O’Rourke An excellent witty study of marriage, Russian style. Call it the ability to buy expensive gifts or treat a woman with at least enough respect to make life worth doing the laundry. but marriage agencies linking Russian women with foreign men are thriving. We’re permitted full and intimate looks at several of these women as they seek a brighter future than the one they believe a post-Soviet Union can offer. Indeed, our assumptions about what women should want are mightily challenged here, because for many women the choices leading to security and well being are not as obvious as they might seem to us. Told from the points of view of different women, this film is brilliant and often very funny in its unflinching examination of a cultural reality, the “mail-order” bride with a clear-eyed certainty about what she’s doing, and why.
Les Rossy/The Rossys Canada Jennifer Alleyn Elisapie Isaac Yves Fortin, Productions Thalie Let this short doc be a model for anyone who thinks you need a whole feature reel to tell your tale. In this film the titular family has owned a number of popular general stores in Quebec and the Maritimes. Michael and Celia Rossy are a hard-working couple who, by all appearances, are simply nuts about each other. Born Lebanese but fluent in both languages, as well as the language of retail, they have long worked side by side, building their expanding business out of the heart of Montreal for decades. This film celebrates their devotion to their stories and to each other, but warns ominously of the threat of the monster box stores which have put people like the Rossys out of business all over North America. Long live the little guys and the people who shop at their stores.
J’attendrai le Suivant/I’ll Wait for the Next One France Phillipe Orreindy Phillipe Orreindy, Thomas Gaudin Caroline Perchard, Eric Pattedoie Did you know there are some 5 million single women in Paris? One of them happened to take the metro one day, and there he was, pitching his piece like there was no tomorrow. Listen carefully and avoid eye contact.
Lonesome Joe Canada Mark Sawers Mark Sawers Lean Mallen This film is a canine story about a tow truck driver and his apparent need to find companionship. When he spots what he thinks is an abandoned dog, a sense of purpose enters his life. A tour de force of wordlessness that seems inspired by corny Western ballads, Lonesome Joe is guaranteed to give you something to wag about. T
Love Takes UK Jeanie Finlay Rachel Robey Have you ever described what it’s like to be in love without sounding like an idiot? Filmmaker Finlay uses a fetching inventive cinematic device to showcase a series of people, very young to very old, talking about the experience. Marrying words to the colorful portraits of their owners, the film develops a rich tapestry of expressions. Each speaker has a rightful claim on the truth of the experience whether terrifyingly palm sweatingly awful or achingly wonderful. You’re bound to find something of yourself in here somewhere.
The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam Canada Ann Marie Fleming Ann Marie Fleming, Svend-Erik Erikson Ann Marie Fleming, Svend-Erik Erikson This is a spirited biography of the director’s great grandfather. She knows that Sam who was Chinese married Poldi the Austrian, and that eventually she came into the world as a result of the union of these two culturally different characters. But as the title suggests, Sam’s life was decidedly charmed. Famous in his time as a magician and a stand-up trickster, Sam endured a huge range of showbiz indignities, especially as a Chinese performer,even while establishing himself as a first -class act on many a high price ticket. The result of the director’s mission is an amazingly entertaining film, which acknowledges that memory works like magic itself, recovering the past for the present and making what was once long dead come alive with fresh perspective.
The Man Who Studies Murder Canada Barbara Doran Kent Martin Whoever said that “living well was the best revenge” must have met Elliott Leyton, the straight talking subject of this fascinating documentary by Barb Doran, produced for the prestigious CBC series, The Nature of Things. As millions of readers all over the world know, Leyton made his international reputation by studying the nature of murder, particularly of the sick, sensational, and serial variety. In a world saturated with images of violence, our need to understand what ignites the engine of psychosis is greater than ever. Doran’s study of Leyton’s research takes them both to many corners of the world, from pre-intifada Jerusalem to the cocky southwestern United States. Interestingly, much of Leyton’s work is informed by a strong sense of the relatively homicide-free world he inhabits in Paradise, Newfoundland. Living in a small rural community by the edge of the sea has given this professor perspective and insight. If all humans share the same basic genetic code, why do some places breed more violence than others?
Pink Canada Ed Gass-Donnelly Judith Thompson Marco Pecota It’s Soweto 1976 and the film opens with what appears to be a close up shot of blood dripping in a pillow. A fuller shot reveals we are looking at a bowl of something white and cake-like being prepared with elaborate pink icing. What follows from this ambiguous opening is a startling monologue delivered by Lucy, a young white South African girl, a monologue driven by confusion, fear, and a profound sense of loss for her nanny. To hear it is to believe in this dramatic performance, haunting and full of the contradictions besetting the reality of apartheid. The political is personal, after all.
Playing House USA Jane Gray Jane Gray This documentary is director Jane Gray’s school-year long study of a group of girls who are somewhat randomly thrown together at a prestigious boarding school. Framing her view of five girl in particular, Gray manages to follow them around from class to dowm room to shopping mall and school dance as comfortably as a scarf. No one seems to mind her being right up their noses and so she manages to capture an amazingly candid set of experiences/ The big thing is what should be an ideal experience for a bunch of smart teenage girls at a cozy progressive school turns out to be as fraught with the pressures of body image, peer pressure, and the perils of not belonging as any Mandy Moore ballad.
Portrait of a 70-Foot Artist Canada Anita McGee Annette Clarke, Linda Fitzpatrick Who was that Amazonian woman striding over St. John’s like Godzilla in a bra? Why it’s the creation sprung from artist Andrea Cooper’s psyche, no less, and a figure we’ve seen on our screens before. In this extended documentary portrait directed by Anita McGee, we learn more about the woman who has haunted our telephone poles, billboards, and our galleries. Implicit in all of this reworking of familiar images is the self-conscious ridiculousness of trying to be a high-heeled Sugar, Texas, or Marilyn in a climate more punishing than any melodrama. We grew up modeling after Barbie but one couldn't really wear one of her Malibu outfits without damaging one’s moveable parts. Cooper has made fine art of this girly girl dilemma, and we’re glad she’s faced it all down instead of moving to more shoe-friendly climes.
Prison Lullabies USA Odile Isralson, Lina Matta Odile Isralson, Lina Matta This film follows four women who occupy lives inside the caged walls of penitentiaries, bringing us deep inside the personal stories of these four hapless women, all pregnant at the time of their various arrests for one ill-fated crime or another. Permitted to take their babies to jail with them for a year in a relatively progressive New york correctional facility, they are temporarily relieved of loneliness and pain by caring for their unsuspecting newborns. But what happens when the babies are finally taken to stable environment, when old habits return to undo the promise of rosy futures, and ill-timed cycles of defeat set in like the locks on their prison cells? This film is not only a probing portrait of these women, but it’s also a study of the limited options available to these inmates as they must play the roles of both women and prisoners. This documentary is not so much a indictment of a system that often gives lip service to rehabilitation as it is to the hard choices these inmates must make to realize a better future for themselves.
Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story Canada Jari Osbourne Jari Osbourne Karen King-Chigbo While this is a baseball story, it’s also more importantly a story about what the Japanese on the West Coast of Canada experienced during the Second World War. We know something of this sad government legacy through literature and an emerging official history, but it takes a documentary like this excellent production to capture the force of that ignoble experience. Before the war the Vancouver-based Asahi baseball team was a formidable championship operation. After Pearl harbour, when Japanese became enemies of the state and were corralled into internment camps, the community was disbanded and all the natural pleasures of their once comfortable lives were surrendered to the regulated and closely guarded realities of survival. This film is a deeply moving and highly intelligent documentary that recovers a shameful legacy in this country, but gracefully restores honour and dignity to those who suffered from it.
Street Gallery USA Sandra Pike Sandra Pike Sandra Pike One person’s trash is another person’s art. It;s one thing to know that and another to live it. New York based Newfoundland born filmmaker Pike captures something universal and familiar in her parable of this time-honoured axiom. This short quirky film captures something real about the transformative nature of urban experience.
The Sweet Spot USA Victoria Foyt Victoria Foyt Judith Wolinsky Borrowing heavily from Bunuel with apologies to Catherine Deneuve, this film pins a bored woman up against her fantasies of how to get rid of her boringly preoccupied stockbroker husband. Such freedom would allow her to escape with her hot-blooded Latin lover, and the imagined compromising positions they'd enjoy. Grounding these fantasies are the interventions of the film’s other characters, the contrast between real and not so real resulting in a hilariously told tale.
Tales of the Night Fairies India Shohini Ghosh Shohini Ghosh This is a hard-hitting documentary that comes straight from the just-when-we-thought-we’d-seen-it-all department. This film follows five sex workers who navigate the sometimes treacherous streets of Calcutta. Rather than a tale about misery or oppression, this film is about a struggle to organize a sex worker trade union, thereby asserting their rights and their solidarity with each other. Controversial in a way, but ultimately persuasive as an argument for better protection on a world where HIV/AIDS is too scary to contemplate.
That's Pretty Special Canada Dara Gellman Dara Gellman Dara Gellman Man, this is good--and we do mean “man” because no movie argues why ,em are from Mars any more than Fight Club. The question is, what’s the female equivelant? In some ways, the answer is...Pretty Special.
This Boy Canada Amy J. Burt Amy J. Burt Deanne Foley How many of us lip synched to Beatle tunes? Well, here it’s 1965 and young Kit is a tomboy who idolizes John Lennon and secretly dresses like him. This likeable drama captures something both confused and giddy about that period, a time when boys were boys and girls were girls and pop stars made sure to sing about the difference. But Kit has a crush on Holly and wants to hold her hand. All you need is love but a more enlightened decade wouldn’t hurt either.
With All My Love USA/Bulgaria Milena Grozeva Levy Milena Grozeva Levy Milena Grozeva Levy Another film about loss, memory, and recovery; the triple-header of so much women’s art, this film signs off to us from Bulgaria. therefore, we get a refreshingly different take on a familiar theme, particularly the strained relationship between an old woman and her daughters and granddaughters with whom she will soon be visiting. The contrast between old world reality and the imagined new world of the younger generation is evocatively suggested through words and images. War and change have torn families apart, but in the gesture of writing there is hope for reconciliation and a promise of continuity.
Elling Lien